Auto Underdogs

Over at Instapundit, he linked to a Popular Mechanics article on “the 100 sexiest cars of all time.” I started reading the list, but DAMN their site is a pain in the ass to negotiate. However, it inspired me — I figured that, on my own, I could pick five cars that I thought were both quite attractive and not likely to make the standard lists of good-looking cars.

I mean, we can all agree on the Jaguar E-Type, the Ferrari Testarossa, the 1963-1968 Corvettes, and whatnot. But how about some lesser-known exotics, or even downright mundane vehicles that nonetheless looked really good?

After I assembled my list, I discovered that I’d actually picked one that made their list, too. But I don’t care; it’s still a fairly obscure car.


In no particular order:


The second-generation Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable Station Wagons. These actually looked better than their sedan counterparts; the wagon body was a flowing, aerodynamic extension of the passenger compartment that seemed more organic than the betrunked siblings, who looked like they’d had their rear ends pared down. They just looked right. At least to me.


The second-generation Mazda RX-7. They took the first generation and rounded off the sharp edges, making it a nice, curvy, distinct little sports coupe. It already came with a unique engine (the beer-keg-styled rotary engine); the lovely bodywork just added to its distinctiveness.


The Chrysler LeBaron GTS. A spiffy-looking little sedan that was also an uber-practical hatchback. Yeah, it was still basically a K-Car, with the unsurprisingly mediocre performance and reliability, but it just looked nifty. It looked both elegant and sporty at once, while actually being neither, but I’m going strictly on looks.


And while I’m trash-talking Chrysler’s endless K-Car variants, their stylists also did a great job with the Dodge Daytona. Once they got the kinks worked out, it really looked good — from the front, it looked an awful lot like the aforementioned RX-7; from the side, especially without the spoiler, it was oddly reminiscent of the Porsche 928.


Finally, the one true exotic on my list, the Lamborghini Miura. This was Lambo’s first “supercar,” and it led the way for all the supercars to follow — and not just Lambos. Pretty much every mid-engine V-12 (or bigger) pure performance machine was inspired, at least in part, by the gorgeous Miura.


So that’s my five oddballs. Well, four oddballs and one certified wow-machine. You think you can do better?

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  • Anonymous

    I had a Taurus SW.
    Sonafabitch burned up 5 alternators.

  • Anonymous

    ’57 Chevy

  • PBunyan

    The 57 Cadillac Eldorado’s always been one of my favorites.

  • herddog505

    Some of the major car companies are doing very well at designing “average” cars that, IMO, have an appealing style:

    — Honda Fit

    — Honda Accord, especially the coupe

    — Ford Fiesta, especially the hatchback

    — Kia Soul

    — Hyundai Genesis, especially the coupe

  • Anonymous

    Don’t have any nominees for your list Jay, but the PM list was shit. 100 cars and they didn’t list the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato? Piss-ant pretenders! Brainless pond scum! Posers!

  • jim_m

    Honda crx second generation. The styling informs todays fit and the toyota prius

    The porsche 944. The cars that have imitated this style are too numerous to list.

    BMW 2002. It made the three box shape sexy.

    The VW gti vr6. With an aftermarket chip it was a car that could humiliate a v8 mustang off the line.

    Citroen DS. Still looks modern today.

  • Ken in Camarillo

    I liked the Mazda Miata (the British sports car that the British never learned how to make). Also the 67/68 Mustang fastback GT or the 2011 Mustang 300 hp V6 model (probably show that VWgti vr6 who’s king of the jungle!)

    • jim_m

      It’s not just power it’s the weight.  The ’97 VR6 doesn’t weigh much (500 lb weight advantage and 192HP with the engine chip (dyno HP at the wheels) and I was comparing against the 1997 mustang – only 215 HP in the 4.6L V8 —it works out to almost an extra pound per horse for the mustang)

      The VR6 does do well at high speed though.  I can assure you that it feels as solid at 140 as it does at 80.

    • I drive a 2008 Mazda MX% Miata. More fun than any car I ever owned. Didn’t see it here but the greatest auto of all time is the Shelby AC Cobra.

  • Anonymous

    ’66 GTO.  ‘Nuff said.

  • davidt

    Late ’80s Mercedes SLs.

  • Anonymous

    Mid 90s Impala SS – very nice lines, a great looking car
    mid-late 70s Mercedes 450 SL – all that nice chrome trimwork
    early 70s Cadillac Eldorado convertible.
    Jaguar XJ12 – love the lines on that car

  • Anonymous

    Datsun 280 ZX

    Opel GT

    Chevy Sprint…well, my first girlfriend thought it was sexy

    • Anonymous

      My first car was an Opel. Funny to see it mentioned.

  • Anonymous

    Replying to PBunyan above….

    The straight Eldo or the Brougham?

    The Brougham was an amazing car. Always liked the suicide doors.

    And the accessories. It actually came with stainless steel magnetized glove box drink tumblers, cigarette and tissue dispensers, lipstick, a ladies’ compact with powder puff, comb, and mirror, a leather notebook and a STEP atomizer with 1 oz. bottle of “Arpege” perfume extract made by Lanvin,

  • Anonymous

    How could that list have every model of Lamo EXCEPT the Countach?  And it leaves off the Charger, ChallengerGTO, Mangusta, Cord…  There are a lot of cars that are more deserving to be on that list.

  • Anonymous

    1970s AMC Gremlin.

    (Sorry, I just had to throw that out for comic relief.)

    • herddog505

      Well, it IS a classic.  Sort of…

      It DOES have a distinctive and instantly recognizable (ahem) style.

      And I’d wager that former owners and mechanics have VERY vivid memories of them.

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  • Spartacus

    Bugatti Veyron SS

  • The Le Baron GTS was a decent little car, especially in the 2.2 turbo variety. I tested a used mid-80’s model that had lots of electronic gadgets, that turbo, and a 5-speed stick. Nice little kick in the pants around 3k RPM when that turbo spun up. Pretty similar in the ’84 Daytona my brother had, with the same 2.2 turbo.

    To the list of awesome mundanes I submit the 1995 Nissan Altima. 2.4L 4cyl; mine had the 4sp auto, and man oh man would that thing fly. I once hit ~125mph for a short time in that thing, and it was still going strong when I had to slow down. I had put over 227K miles on the clock when I finally sold it because I kept burning up starters and distributors and alternators every few months.