1957 Ford Thunderbird
Although it was designed to compete with the Chevrolet Corvette, the first Thunderbird evolved into something that Ford called a "personal luxury car." Futuristic sheet metal, plush interiors, and big engines were part of the recipe; sharp handling, sadly, was not.
1962 Ford Thunderbird
In designing the early-'60s T-bird, Ford wanted to combine the look and feel of missiles and jet aircraft to create the ultimate luxury convertible. It did so, and the end result still looks futuristic.
1969 Oldsmobile Hurst/Olds 442
In 1968, GM corporate policy dictated that only "full-size" cars could receive an engine larger than 400 cubic inches. To get around this, Oldsmobile implied that the 390-hp 442 was installed in the mid-size Cutlass by aftermarket firm Hurst. (It wasn't, but Hurst did provide some accessories.)
1970 Buick GSX
GM licensed The Doors's "Light My Fire" to help promote the 510-lb-ft GSX, but the General overlooked one key point: Some fires simply refuse to be lit, and even in 1970, no one wanted a Buick muscle car. Just 975 were sold.
1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator
Dubbed "the road animal" by Mercury's marketing department, this stretched and softened Ford Mustang was worth it just for the names of its optional speed packs: the Impressor, the Controller, and the Dominator. If you had half a brain, you'd also order the Boss V-8, which added to the silliness. ("Boss Cougar Eliminator Impressor?")
1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III XY
An American muscle car drunk on outback moonshine. The GTHO Phase III offered a 380-hp V-8, competition brakes, a thirty-six-gallon fuel tank, and stiff suspension. A Phase III won the Bathurst 500 its first year out, and the model's 155-mph top speed made it the fastest car in Australia for several years. Hoonheads, this is your grail.
1974 BMW 2002 Turbo
The fat fender flares, the three-box proportions, the grunty turbocharged four — the 2002 Turbo is the craziest iteration of BMW's legendary 2002. Hefty lag and skinny tires made for seemingly endless laughs. OBRUT!
1974 Ford Escort RS1600
This one's easy: Dog-bone Ford Escort plus Cosworth BDA — a detuned version of Ford's period Formula 3 engine, and one of the most spine-tingling four-cylinders ever built — equals old-school rally car par excellence. One of the winningest British Fords of all time. Can also be seen and heard getting its slide on here .
1979 Lancia Montecarlo
Before making boring, poorly built hatchbacks, Lancia made exciting, poorly built affordable exotics like the mid-engine Montecarlo. The Montecarlo was assembled by Pininfarina using little more than bubblegum and tinfoil, but when properly sorted, it would shame much more expensive iron.
1980 Lotus Esprit Turbo 2.2
James Bond may have installed a speed-sapping ski rack on his, but the 1980 Esprit Turbo was Lotus's first true supercar. Top speed was 152 mph, and the Giugaro-penned body cladding brought a bit of weird Italian flair.
1980 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC AMG
For some reason, Stuttgart chose to campaign the 450 SLC as a rally car. AMG, however, saw the model's potential as a road racer, modifying its engine and chassis to suit. Oddly, the three-speed automatic was left largely intact. Panzerslush FTW?
1988 Pontiac Fiero GT
In 1988, Pontiac finally abandoned the notion that the mid-engine, V-6-powered Fiero was a commuter car. The resultant attention to detail fixed many of the model's problems, and while it was a case of too little, too late — production ended that same year — the '88 GT is still the best and most talented of the Fiero bunch.
1988 Mitsubishi Starion ESI-R
To many minds, the Starion is the last word in technologically advanced 1980s coupes. The '88 ESI-R took that theme one step further, adding an intercooler, five-bolt wheels, and electronically adjustable suspension to the package. (Star of Orion or Engrish-ized "stallion"? We'll leave that one up to you.)
1989 Toyota MR2 SC
145 hp, a Roots-type blower, and a 0-60-mph time just below seven seconds: The first-generation MR2 was already a one-third-scale exotic with pin-sharp handling, but the addition of a supercharger upped the game.
1992 Jaguar XJR-15
Most hypercars start life as road cars and then get tweaked for racing duty. Not the XJR-15 — it was essentially Jaguar's Le Mans-winning XJR-9 fitted with turn signals. Unlike Coventry's most famous supercar effort, the V-6-powered XJ220, the XJR-15 used a naturally aspirated monster of a V-12. Predictably, it wasn't cheap; in 1990, it cost an eye-watering $960,165.
1992 Mitsubishi Galant VR-4
In 1992, Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution was homologated for rallying. This left the Galant VR-4 as the company's tech flagship, and the model didn't disappoint: The VR-4's turbocharged, 2.0-liter four could be coupled to an adaptive automatic, and four-wheel steering, active above 31 mph, was standard.
1996 Audi RS2 Avant
If a turbocharged, Porsche-built station wagon that can hit 160 mph and out-sprint a McLaren F1 to 30 mph doesn't get you excited, then you should probably just shoot yourself in the head.
1997 Honda Civic Type R
To make the original Civic Type R, Honda dropped a naturally aspirated, 1.6-liter, 185-hp four into a strengthened and lightened Japanese-market Civic. The package then lost most of its sound deadening and gained red Recaros and a limited-slip differential. Widely considered to be one of the best-handling and most capable front-wheel drive cars ever built.
1998 Aston Martin V8 Vantage V600
There is one word for Aston's V8 Vantage V600: bonkers. This massive beast packs a twin Eaton supercharged 5.3-liter V-8, and it makes a mind-bending 600 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque. That it does this while looking so good? Criminal.
1998 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6
To make up for a lackluster GTI that was both heavier and slower its predecessor, Volkswagen transplanted the Corrado's 2.9-liter VR6 into the Golf. The resultant Frankegnugen offered gobs of torque, a 7.1-second 0-60 time, and frustratingly unaffordable insurance premiums. Danke, unpimp.