Cars That Defined America

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The birth of the automobile created a different world for transportation, as well as a whole new sector of economics and technology. Karl Benz, a German engineer, is considered the inventor of the modern car. However, as the United States grew during the 1900s so did automobiles. From the start of the 20th century American cars created their own lane on the world stage. Here are some of the cars that defined the United States of America.

Oldsmobile Model R (aka Curved Dash)

This car is credited with the title of the first mass-produced automobile. More than 12,000 were produced between 1901 and 1904. This Detroit classic had an impressive top speed of 20 mph with a 5 hp, water-cooled, single-cylinder engine.


Ford Model T

Of course when you think about the Godfather of American automobiles, this invention of Henry Ford comes to mind. The Model T was produced from 1908 through 1927. This car allowed middle-class Americans a new way of transportation, which is why it is credited as the first “affordable” automobile. Over 15 million were sold.


1931 Chevrolet AE Independence Six

The Six was introduced in 1929, just after the release of Ford’s Model A. This car was one of the only Chevys to outsell Ford. The reasons for this being its 6 cylinder engine and 50 hp, which was 10 more ponies than Ford. The Six was the starting point for the back-and-forth battle for dominance between Ford and Chevrolet.


1949 Ford

This was the first Ford built without Henry Ford at the helm. Over 1 million were built; this includes two different models and two different engines. The design of the body and the replacement of leaf springs for coil springs marked a new direction for Ford


1953 Corvette

As automobile companies began creating a “sports car”. Chevrolet, in competition with Buick and Pontiac, decided to go for a two-seater, inspired by Jaguar’s XK-120 roadster. With its 150 hp and 236 cubic-inch engine, America’s “first sports car” was created and would go on to be a mainstay in American automobiles.


1955 Chrysler C-300 (2 Door Hard Top)

The C-300 could be considered as the “first real muscle car”. The design of this car is what really sets it apart, even when you compare it to the popular ’55 Chevy. Its design, horsepower, and sporty suspension left its mark in American history. The 331 cubic-inch engine pumped out a standard 300 hp, more than any other American car that year. When the C-300 made it into NASCAR its almost 130 mph top speed made it the “world’s fastest stock car”.


Shelby Cobra

This was the brainchild of driver and entrepreneur Carroll Shelby and was the ultimate hybrid of America and Europe. It told the world you could never have to many ponies under the hood. The Shelby Cobra came about as Ford was looking for a car that would compete against the Corvette; in 1962, the Windsor 221 cubic inch, lightweight, small-block V8 did just that.


1964 (and a half) Ford Mustang

When the design first rolled out it was just a Ford Falcon with a different body. However four months before 1965, the fastback version was introduced and Ford had created a whole new category-- “pony car”. This car became the forefather of a whole line of iconic American automobiles.


Pontiac GTO/Pontiac LeMans

Released in 1964, the first GTO was an optional package for the LeMans. This is considered by some as the “prototype” for muscle cars with big engines and mid-sized chassis and starting the trend between the four domestic manufactures for varieties in different models. From ’64-'74 more 500 thousand were built, with a starting price for the 2 door hardtop (GTO) at just below $3 thousand dollars.


1984 Plymouth Voyager, Dodge Caravan (Minivan)

Chrysler launched the first-generation minivan in ’84, creating a whole new breed of transportation and redefining the family car. The new look of the van was all about compact size, “car-like” noise and vibration, and removable seats for cargo. The significance of this car is primarily about the shift in culture and what consumers wanted during this time.


Also check out 8 of the Coolest Classic Cars.