SCM’s editors have put together a list of the 50 cars we think are the most influential ever built. These are the cars that changed the world in one way or another, either through what they accomplished or what they represented.
This week we’ve listed out our first 25; next week, we’ll present our final 25.
Now, since we only allowed 50 spaces on this list, we’ve almost certainly left things out. Think we’ve overlooked something important? Let us know in the comments below. And after all our cars are listed out next week, we’ll have you, our readers, vote on which car you think is the single most influential of all time.
These valuations all come from our Pocket Price Guide. The median (the middle value in a series of values arranged from smallest to largest) represents the midpoint of the market, looking at cars sold in the past two years.
Here is the first group, in no particular order:
|1. 1909-27 Ford Model T
Current SCM valuation: Median, $22,900
The first Model T was start of an automotive boom that spanned nearly two decades and resulted in the production of over 15 million cars. Ford’s T was the car that put America on wheels.
|2. 1932 Ford roadster
Current SCM valuation: Median, $30,780
The first Ford to feature a V8. Cheap, plentiful, and easily modified, the 1932 Ford line became the car to hot rod and customize in the years before and after WWII, defining a new automotive movement in America.
|3. 1945-49 MG TC
Current SCM valuation: Median, $30,800
Small, simple and agile — all definitions to fit MG’s T-series. The C was the first post-war MG. Exported to the U.S., it was a hit with returning American GIs who had fallen in love with small sports cars while overseas.
|4. 1950-55 Porsche 356 Pre-A
Current SCM valuation: Median, $330,100
The 356 was Porsche’s first production car. Its well-thought-out design, with a low center of gravity and fantastic handling, set the stage for a performance legacy that continues to this day.
|5. 1946-67 Volkswagen Beetle
Current SCM valuation: Median, $13,800
Volkswagen’s “People’s Car” was a Model T for the post-war era. Cheap, simple and reliable.
|6. 1951-54 Jaguar XK 120
Current SCM valuation: Median, $105,300
The 120 brought a svelte shape and astonishing performance to market, with a claimed 120 mph top speed actually underrating reality. Race wins backing up the sporty looks cemented its popularity.
|7. 1953 Chevrolet Corvette
Current SCM valuation: Median, $247,500
Corvette was GM’s reaction to a growing post-war sports car movement, and the 1953 model was the start of an American performance dynasty. Only 300 were built that year.
|8. 1954-57 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing coupe
Current SCM valuation: Median, $1,333,800
Mercedes’ grand prix car for the road, with distinctive gullwing doors and an advanced fuel-injected engine. Usable, fast and reliable even on modern roads.
|9. 1955-57 Chevrolet 150/210/Bel Air V8
Current SCM valuation: Median, $40,500
The legendary Tri-Five Chevys introduced the world to the small-block Chevrolet engine.
|10. 1955-57 Ford Thunderbird
Current SCM valuation: Median, $29,200
New for ’55, Ford’s sporty two-seater was aimed at buyers looking for an upscale cruiser, and it wound up creating an entire new market segment: the personal luxury car.
|11. 1955-62 MGA
Current SCM valuation: Median, $27,500
Sleek, low-slung and contemporary, the MGA represented a fundamental shift in MG’s sports car design.
|12. 1955 Chrysler C-300
Current SCM valuation: Median, $77,000
Chrysler’s Hemi-powered C-300 could arguably be the very first American muscle car, and it pushed the envelope of performance in NASCAR stock car competition.
|13. 1957 Chrysler 300C
Current SCM valuation: Median, $43,200
Big fins and big chrome dominated America in the 1950s, and it didn’t get much bigger than the Exner-designed and 392 Hemi-powered 300C.
|15. 1957-62 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
Current SCM valuation: Median, $1,210,000
With all of the performance innovations of the Gullwing, as well as a cooler open cockpit, the 300SL Roadster is arguably even more usable than its sibling as a driver’s collector car.
|15. 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz
Current SCM valuation: Median, $183,600
Cadillac’s finned icon took styling to a new level, marking the height of the rocket-obsessed 1950s.
|16. 1960-62 Ferrari 250 SWB
Current SCM valuation: Median, $10,547,500
Ferrari’s GT racer featured a howling V12, crisp handling, disc brakes and fantastic looks. A true dual-purpose car that was both competitive and road-usable.
|17. 1961-67 Jaguar E-type
Current SCM valuation: Median, $209,600
The E-type had a monocoque frame, triple-SU engine, fully independent suspension, and disc brakes on all four corners — in 1961.
|18. 1962-80 MGB
Current SCM valuation: Median, $12,400
A solid evolution of the MGA, with a monocoque body structure, upgraded suspension and roll-up windows — an MG first. Ubiquitous, with over 523,000 built from 1962 to 1980.
|19. 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split-Window
Current SCM valuation: Median, $129,800
The Sting Ray rewrote the book on Corvette, with independent suspension on all four corners and an all-new Bill Mitchell and Larry Shinoda-designed body.
|20. 1959-76 Austin/Morris Mini Mark I
Current SCM valuation: Median, $15,600
Small on size and big on character, the Mini has been a British motoring icon since its debut.
|21. 1963-71 Mercedes-Benz 230/250/280SL
Current SCM valuation: Median, $55,000 (280SL)
The pagoda SL exudes sophistication and quality in addition to performance. Faster than the 190SL and cheaper than the 300SL, the 230/250/280 served a wide market.
|22. 1965 Ford Mustang
Current SCM valuation: Median, $25,000
The Mustang was the perfect car for young baby boomers, built with Falcon parts under a sporty all-new body. The start of a performance dynasty for Ford.
|23. 1964 Pontiac GTO
Current SCM valuation: Median, $38,100
Big motor, small package. The GTO is widely considered the first true muscle car. The buying public loved it, and the industry quickly copied it — kicking off a decade of American power and styling innovation.
|24. 1964 Ferrari 250 GT/L
Current SCM valuation: Median, $1,980,000
The Lusso represented a shift in thinking for Ferrari: Rather than building another dual-purpose car to replace the SWB, the GTO became the racer, while the Lusso was built specifically for the GT driver.
|25. 1965-97 Porsche 911
Current SCM valuation: Median, $253,000 (1965)
Offered in a variety of configurations, Porsche’s air-cooled 911 has stood the test of time as arguably the greatest sports car ever built.