Top 25 Must-Drive Classic Cars Before You Die

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Classic Mercedes SL 300 Gullwing
Mercedes SL 300 Gullwing

Most people have a fantasy in which they drive a high-performance classic cars. Learn how to get behind the wheel with this guide.

  1. 1. Jaguar E-Type
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Enzo Ferrari once referred to the 1960s Jaguar E-Type as “the most beautiful car ever constructed.” Hagerty CEO McKeel Hagerty states, “If you only chose one automobile from this list to drive, this is the one,” referring to the world’s largest collector vehicle insurance provider. Despite its age, this British driving icon still has plenty of zip: it has a top speed of 150 mph and better brakes than other cars of the day. Pay for a day of driving historic Jaguars at the Jaguar Heritage Driving Experience program in Kenilworth, England.

2. Chevrolet Corvette Classic cars

 Chevrolet Corvette Classic cars
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The Chevy Corvette is the most sought-after automobile in the United States and a symbol of the “Big Three” muscle car manufacturers. According to Keith Martin, publisher of Sports Car Market, the second generation, from 1963 to 1967, is “the most iconic American car ever manufactured.” This is still awe-inspiring today.” You can search auctions, collector car dealerships, and websites like classiccars.com for bargains on early generation Corvettes in the United States.

3. Lamborghini Miura

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The Miura debuted in 1966 as a sleek mid-engine speedster designed to compete with Ferrari. It is considered by some to be the sexiest car ever made. “Piloting the Miura is more than a driving pleasure; it’s a life experience,” adds Hagerty. “If the sound of six carburetors feeding a thirsty, trembling V-12 moored just behind your head wasn’t enough, it’s also perhaps the most gorgeous car ever created,” says the author. Contact the Lamborghini Club America or an auction house such as RM Sotheby’s or Gooding & Co. to purchase one. They are frequently the first to know about new cars before they are released to the general public.

4. Rolls-Royce Dawn Drophead

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The first Silver Dawn drophead debuted in 1949 and was decommissioned in 1954. It was based on Rolls-first Royce’s full-size car after WWII. The name was chosen to symbolize the start of a new age in the world, as well as Rolls-standing Royce’s within it. The Dawn, which was slightly smaller than pre-war cars, aided the British bespoke carmaker in reintroducing motoring craftsmanship while also moving the company into the modern era. Only three of the original 28 dropheads survive in the United States, and they’re all owned by private collectors. After a 60-year sabbatical, the automaker is reintroducing a successor model.

5. Porsche 911

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The Porsche 911 epitomizes vintage driving at its finest, particularly prior to the car’s 1974 facelift. “In the early 911,” Hagerty adds, “there’s magic.” “It’s an incredibly well-built machine that provides one of the most authentic driving experiences of any sports car ever created.” Even by today’s standards, first-generation Porsches have plenty of power and can compete on the racetrack. On eBay, you can find one in near-mint condition.

6. Mercedes SL 300 Gullwing

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Among the earliest postwar sports automobiles, the Mercedes SL 300 Gullwing was released in 1954 as the quickest production car of its day. The SL 300 was the world’s first series production automobile to include direct fuel injection with a top speed of 160 miles per hour. “No one expected that from Mercedes,” says Constantin von Kageneck, a historic car marketing specialist at the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, California.

Though around three-quarters of the original SL 300s remain on the road today, many remain in the hands of their original owners. Visit the Classic Center or an automotive museum such as the Petersen in Los Angeles to see one.

7.BMW 3.0 CSL

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If any part of you harbors a desire to drive on a racetrack, this is the automobile to seek out. BMW introduced a quartet of cars to America in 1975, including the 3.0 CSL coupe. The car won the 12 Hours of Sebring that year and Daytona the following year, driven by racing veterans Brian Redman, Sam Posey, and Hans Stuck. BMW’s performance credentials were established in the United States with these two victories. Apart from its engineering and performance history, the 3.0 CSL pioneered a slew of technology that were incorporated into subsequent BMW models, ranging from the world’s first four-valve six-cylinder engine to the first anti-lock brake system. BMW gives the opportunity to take a spin behind the wheel as part of its BMW Classic Center in Munich.

8. Aston Martin DB4

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The Aston Martin DB4 is a famous workhorse and the predecessor of James Bond’s getaway car. “The DB4 is a thoroughbred that is unflappable,” Hagerty explains. “I’d gladly drive one across the country. It’s unsurprising that James Bond preferred the DB5.” They’re in short supply, so your best bet may be to become friends with a collector.

9. Ferrari 250 GTO

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Between 1962 and 1964, Ferrari produced only 39 of these beautiful race cars, making them incredibly rare. “The 250 GTO is undoubtedly the holy grail in terms of value and recognition, but the fact is that only a select few individuals will ever have the opportunity to drive one legitimately,” Hagerty adds. Two years ago, an early model sold for $38 million at Bonhams’ Quail Lodge auction during the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. If that is out of your price range, any 1960s Prancing Horse equipped with a V12 engine is deserving of inclusion.

10. Shelby GT350

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Additionally referred to as the Cobra, this high-performance descendant of the Ford Mustang was a late 1960s rage. With Ford’s V8 engine, the Shelby GT350 was a street-legal racecar. “When you get in and turn the key, the car not only rumbles audibly, but it also shimmies slightly side-to-side and up-and-down,” Hagerty explains. “And that is while the vehicle is still parked. When you press the accelerator, it leaps and roars.” You’ll quickly see why Carroll Shelby is regarded as a 20th-century automotive genius. Visit a high-end historic automobile auction house, dealer, or specialized broker to drive a vintage Cobra.

11.Ford Model T

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This is the car that gave birth to the American automotive industry. It was manufactured from 1908 until 1927. The Model T, which was affordable by mass market standards, spawned car culture and road excursions. “Everyone needs to understand their origins,” Hagerty argues. “When it comes to American automobiles, the Model T is the beginning point.” With a temperamental hand-crank engine and a two-speed transmission (except the reverse gear), the Model T is not an easy car to drive, even if you can find one. However, rest certain that 27 mph will never feel quite as exhilarating.

12. VW Beetle

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The vintage VW Beetle is a counter-culture icon that epitomizes simplicity and fun–in other words, motoring at its finest. “Aside from the effortless driving experience, the Beetle’s inviting look attracts people wherever you go, and it appears as though everyone has a Beetle tale to tell,” Hagerty says. “This is not the automobile for the timid.” If you’re interested in getting behind the wheel, you may readily find vintage Beetles on eBay and in classified advertising.

13. Volvo P1800

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In the spy thriller TV series The Saint, Roger Moore drove one of these odd Volvo P1800s. This two-seater sports automobile is incredibly durable, with one surviving example clocking in at over three million kilometres. Its siblings are privately owned, but if you’d want to find one for sale or make an offer to an owner, contact the Volvo Owners Clubs.

14. Acura NSX

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The NSX was Acura’s halo car from 1990 to 2005, and it’s still going strong. “While it may not be as flashy as its European counterparts, the Acura NSX demonstrated to the rest of the world that supercar specs and everyday driving manners can coexist,” adds Hagerty. “It gives you the confidence to keep pushing, braking later, and turning harder. It’s possible that it’s the most underappreciated vehicle on our list.” Its successor, the new Acura NSX, will be available to consumers later this year, and it is expected to rekindle interest in the original. Because Acura only produced 9,000 first-generation NSX automobiles, finding one online is simple.

15. Austin-Healey 3000

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The bulbous British roadster debuted in 1959 and was the last of the “huge Healeys” to be built. The Austin-Healey 3000 was a Swinging Sixties automobile icon. With its strong six-cylinder engine and overdrive, Martin claims this was the final Big Healey. A 75 mph interstate trip is no problem. A late-model Austin-Healey 3000 can be found on Hemmings and other classic automobile websites.

16.Fiat 124 Spider

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The Pininfarina-designed Fiat 124 Spider made its US debut in 1968. The roadster’s large trunk and roomy cabin made it a road trip favourite. “It’s adorable, but it’s weak,” Martin remarks. “It’s a summer automobile.” If you can’t find an original online, Fiat will upgrade the 124 Spider for 2017.

Scroll down to see more another set of Classic Cars

17. Vintage Jeep

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Jeep gained popularity as a GP (general purpose) vehicle used by the US military during WWII. The Civilian Jeep, believed by some to be the first mass-produced SUV, was introduced in 1945. In a nutshell, it’s “the automotive expression of democracy,” says Hagerty. “For off-roading, the Jeep’s simplicity and toughness are unsurpassed.” The Jeep is as much a part of American history as internet classified advertisements.

18.Chevrolet Camaro

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Camaro was Chevrolet’s answer to the Mustang, but with a little more style and a little more horsepower. An eight-cylinder pony war of American muscle power began with the introduction of the Camaro by General Motors in 1967. The internet is awash with first-generation Camaros. You can find one on eBay or AutoTrader Classics, if you’re interested in purchasing one.

See more about Chevrolet Camaro

19. Ferrari 308 GTS

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With the 1980s, Tom Selleck’s Thomas Magnum was shown driving around Hawaii in a targa top on Magnum, P.I. in one of these vehicles. The two-seat V8 Ferrari 308 GTS, which was in production from 1975 until 1985, embodied the best of both worlds. Even if you can’t find one in a museum or on display at a theme park, you may be able to find one in a car museum in Cumbria or Universal Studios Hollywood.

20. Datsun 240Z

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When the Datsun 240Z debuted in the United States in the early 1970s, it sparked the Japanese sports car craze. Toyota, Honda, and Nissan would all acquire a foothold in the American market thanks to the Datsun’s affordable power and attractive cabin. Many Datsun 240Zs are listed for sale in classified advertising from Hemmings and AutoTrader Classics.

21. Porsche 356

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After four high-flying generations, Porsche’s first production car, the rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive Porsche 356, was laid to rest. The 356 is considered by vintage car enthusiasts to be the most fun to drive of the four-cylinder Porsches. Procuring one isn’t difficult: nearly half of the 76,000 automobiles were made survive.

22. McLaren F1

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When the McLaren F1 was introduced in 1992, it marked the company’s foray into modern racing. Later, in 2007, at 242 mph, it set a new record for the fastest production automobile in the world. “The McLaren F1 was Gordon Murray’s high-tech supercar answer to Porsche and Ferrari,” Hagerty says. “And it didn’t simply go above and above; it demolished the benchmarks they set. Driving an F1 is a symphony of breathtaking acceleration, deceleration, and precision.” McLaren only produced 64 of these, but the 60th model, chassis #69, has recently been put up for sale.

23. Dodge Viper GTS

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The V10 Dodge Viper GTS of the 1990s couldn’t be made today. It’s just as savage as its predecessor, the Shelby Cobra, with no anti-lock brakes or traction control to correct driver error at 450 horsepower. When it comes to cars, Hagerty likens the experience to drinking whiskey neat: “There’s no pretense, just one hell of an experience.” You can look for one online or through a collector car auction business like Auctions America or Mecum.

24. DeTomaso Pantera

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With its Italian style and Ford V8 engine, the DeTomaso Pantera is a worthy alternative to Lamborghinis and Ferraris from the same period. In the early ’70s, “you’d expect an Italian car to be flamboyant, loud, and difficult to drive,” Hagerty says. In spite of its flamboyant appearance, the Pantera is actually quite simple to operate.” A classic car auction company like Barrett-Jackson or Bonhams is a good place to find one.

25. Cizeta-Moroder V16T

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The Lamborghini Diablo was the original concept for this Italian V16 supercar, which was built from 1991 to 1995. When Chrysler bought a stake in Lamborghini and the Diablo’s designers changed the idea, mastermind Marcelo Gandini brought his original plans to automotive engineer Claudio Zampolli, who built it as a Cizeta. Cizeta produced just a few of the automobiles during its first manufacturing run, but they periodically reappeared on the market after that time period.

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