Article: The Most Popular Classic Cars in the U.S.: HowStuffWorks
The Most Popular Classic Cars in the U.S.
By: Ian Fortey
Image: Wiki Commons by Softeis
About This Article
With over 100 years of automaking behind us, and literally thousands of cars to choose from, what do you figure the most popular ones of all time might be? How would you even choose? What makes a car stand the test of time more than its competitors? There are so many factors, some of them easy to figure out, like the power and performance of the Chevy Camaro, and others less easy to understand, like the quirky looks of the timeless Chevy El Camino. Lucky for us, several classic car websites have tallied up data over the years based on car sales, online car searches, and user poll data to determine which classics out of the thousands and thousands you could choose from to be the most popular.
While it's pretty easy to guess that a car like a Dodge Charger or a Pontiac Trans Am has a special spot in the hearts and minds of drivers across the country, there are definitely a few surprises you might not have seen coming. But whether you're an absolute classic car expert or just someone who once saw a 1964 Mustang and fell in love with the power and style, why not take a look and see which ones are the most popular ever?
Bet on the Vette
According to Hemmings, the classic car auction site, Chevy Corvettes are one of if not the most popular classic cars in America based on how often they're listed for sale. Classic Corvettes are the number one car in many states, and it makes sense. You don't get called America's sports car for no reason, right? They've been in production since 1953, and they weren't all that popular at first. In fact, Chevy almost canceled the Corvette, which just goes to show that you can't predict which car will become popular at first glance.
Must have a Mustang
When it comes to muscle car searches by state, the Ford Mustang is on everyone's search list across the country. Based on data compiled from ClassicCars.com, Mustangs are at the top of the list on at least 14 states. That can range from the 1965 Mustang in Washington to the1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 in Montana to the 1971 Mustang down in Louisiana. These cars are huge all over.
Touchdown for the TD
Believe it or not, but one of the most popular classic cars in Wyoming is the MG TD. That's an obscure one that a lot of people haven't even heard of before, but it is well worth checking out. Produced from 1950 to 1954, the MG TD is an exceptional old-school automobile with British styling. Nearly 24,000 of them were exported to the United States from the UK during their production run. You should be able to pick up one in excellent condition for under $30,000.
Thunderbird's the word
Few classics are as iconic of their age as the Ford Thunderbird, one of the most recognizable cars of the 1950s. When you strip away Corvettes and Mustangs from sales at Hemmings, the Thunderbird becomes the number one classic people are interested in. Ford started producing the Thunderbird back in 1955. When Ford added a second row of seats to the T-Bird in 1958, it essentially created the personal luxury car segment.
The fresh car of Bel Air
The Chevy Bel Air was made from 1950 until 1975 in the US, with an extra six years tacked on in Canada. The original Bel Air in 1950 was a convertible with a non-detachable hardtop, which was revolutionary in the auto world. Such cars had existed before, but no one really cared. The Bel Air was the one that set the standard and created a style that had lasted for generations.
No need to call 9-1-1
Few cars have endured through the years like the Porsche 911. In production since 1963, over one million of these cars have been made so far, so you can get a brand new model if you like, but the classic 911 is what you really want. The 911 was ranked 5th in a 1999 poll of the greatest cars of the century, and it was also named number three in the top sports cars of the '60s by "Sports Car International."
Hurray for A
When some people go for classic cars, they go for very classic cars. The Ford Model A is a favorite among collectors across the country, even more so than its much more famous cousin, the Model T. The Model A was Ford's first run at making an automobile, and it dates back to 1903. Mr. Burns on "The Simpsons" drives one of these once in a while.
Smoke this bandit
The Pontiac Firebird Trans Am probably never would have been as popular as it was if not for "Smokey and the Bandit." That hood emblazoned with a phoenix just draws the eyes of anyone who sees it, and the 1977 Trans Am is the one people desire most thanks to Burt Reynolds. Ironically, the Trans Am wasn't really all that powerful a car, but sometimes looks are more important.
Next to the Corvette, the most popular classic Chevy is definitely the Camaro. Introduced in 1967 as competition for the Ford Mustang, these pony cars have always looked and performed like nothing else. In particular, the 1969 Chevy Camaro Z/28 is a standout as a defining muscle car of the era. The styling of the '69 was only available for that one year and offered quicker steering, racing stripes, rims and more.
Go for Bronco
You may not think of Ford Broncos when you think of the classics. Still, you better believe a lot of people do, especially in Colorado, according to Hemmings, where it's the most popular model after Mustangs and Corvettes. The Bronco was in production from 1965 to 1996, and then Ford brought it back again for 2020. Those early Broncos were some of the first SUVs on the market and are highly sought after.
The importance of the Impala
The Chevy Impala started life as a trim package on the Chevy Bel Air in 1958, and it was a massive hit its first year out. In fact, even during a recession, Chevy sold so many Bel Air Impalas that first year the company took the top spot for sales. Throughout the '60s and '70s, they continued to be remarkably popular, and these days years like the 1963 and 1965 Impala are highly sought after.
The road to Eldorado
If you have a passion for classic luxury cars, then you have a passion for Cadillacs. And if you have a passion for Cadillacs, then you have to be a fan of the Eldorado. This car had a solid 50 years of production from 1952 until 2002, and it was one of the most popular vehicles of the age. Named for the Lost City of Gold, this was top of the line stuff from a smooth driving experience to the most pristine interior. It's no wonder it's a classic — it's still amazing by today's standards.
Are you down for Turbo R?
The Bentley Turbo R isn't as old as some classics, as they date back to 1985, but that's still old enough to qualify as a bit of vintage flair. When Hemmings checked out the most popular car with private sellers after eliminating Corvettes and Mustangs, it turned out that the Turbo R is the most listed car in the state of Mississippi. Just over 7,200 of these cars were produced, and "Motor Trend" called them "the first Bentley in decades deserving of the famous name."
The Clipper is hipper
The Packard Clipper is definitely a car worth a second look even though it doesn't get as much love as the Cadillacs and the Fords from back in the day. Introduced only months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, it seemed doomed from the start and not timed well to launch on the market, but that hasn't stopped it from being one of the most popular classics in the state of Alaska.
The 88 was great
Oldsmobile introduced the 88 back in 1949. It was named to fit in between the 76 and 98 models and was manufactured for half a century. No car gets to stay in production for 50 years without having some charm. From 1949 to 1951, the Oldsmobile 88 was a standout with its overhead-valve high-compression V8 that was extremely advanced at the time and made the 88 a performance beast when compared to others on the road.
MG B good
MG's MGB was made by the British Motor Corporation from 1963 until 1968 and then by British Leyland after that. One of the most classic British sports cars of the era, it was also one of the first to feature crumple zones to try to give the drivers a little bit of extra safety on the road. Despite their incredible appearance and that crumple zone, it's worth noting these are not particularly safe automobiles.
Any lover of classic cars has to have a soft spot in their heart for "The Dukes of Hazzard," one of the most fun car-themed shows of all time. Bo and Luke Duke drove a 1969 Dodge Charger that was bright orange and emblazoned with the Confederate flag, which most people were cool with in the 1980s. Decorative choices aside, the car itself was amazing and inspired a lot of car lovers who have long sought that same model though they grow increasingly rare.
The "Breaking Bad" movie didn't get called "Corolla" or "Prius." It was called "El Camino," and that's because the Chevy El Camino has a power to it. Some people thought it was a hideous car, some people thought it was the coolest thing on four wheels, but everyone thought something about it. From 1964 to 1987, this was the half car, half pickup truck that made everyone look twice. Weirdly enough, the El Camino was not a truck; it was born from a station wagon, and according to vehicle standards, it qualifies as an SUV.
Must have Custom
Have you ever seen a 1949 Ford Custom? Favored by hot rodders and Sunday drivers alike, Ford started production of the Custom in 1949, one of their top-line cars that had been fully redesigned after World War II. In Connecticut, this is still the most searched for classic car on the internet. In 1960, Janet Leigh was driving a Ford Custom in the movie "Psycho," though hers was a later model than the '49.
Take a ride in the Fairlane
The Ford Fairlane dates back to 1955 and was actually named not for a road or a driving experience or whatever might come to mind when you hear the word "Fairlane," but the estate of Henry Ford near Dearborn, Michigan. You can always tell an early model classic Fairlane from that long stainless steel line down the side that looks like a distended checkmark.
Pick up this pickup
Ford has a long history of amazing trucks, maybe the most incredible of all the major manufacturers. When it comes to the classics, though, few are going to top something like the 1935 Ford Pickup, a favorite of classic collectors in places like Idaho, where it's the most searched for classic car model. Why 1935? This was the year Ford gave its trucks a sleek makeover complete with skirted fenders and that very cool curved grille, among other changes. It still looks great after all these years.
Is Monte Carlo your car though?
From 1969 until 1987, Chevy made the Monte Carlo, somewhere between a personal luxury car and a muscle car depending on the production year. In the 1970s, they introduced the Monte Carlo SS, the most sporty and powerful option on the road, and it even had a decent showing for a spell in Nascar until regulations changed and the Monte Carlo body no longer qualified for racing.
GTO is A-OK
No conversation about classic cars is complete without a nod to the Pontiac GTO. In 1964, this is where muscle cars came from. Sure, there had been other big-block V8s out there before, but nothing as serious and as awesome as the GTO. This was the first real muscle car from the big automakers and one that set the bar for both style and performance. If you're a muscle car fan today, you want a GTO.
Gee, that's a nice F
Ford's F-series of trucks are still the most popular trucks in America to this day, so it's no wonder that the classics have also stood the test of time. The Ford F-100 dates back to 1948, but if you're looking for a seriously desirable car, you want the final production year, the 1956 Ford F-100. That was a one-year-only style with vertical window pillars and the wraparound windshield and even a rear windshield, too, if you wanted.
No, duh, it's a Nova!
The Chevy Nova, sometimes known as the Chevy II Nova, depending on the production year, was made from 1962 to 1979. The production team absolutely raced it through the development, and word is that from the moment they began designing the Nova, it was 18 months later when the first one was actually rolling out of the factory. It was not meant to be a revolutionary car design, but rather a basic, simple, get-the-job-done automobile. And people loved it.
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