Automaking is a game of constant progress. With precious few exceptions, car companies are always looking for the next step forward. Sometimes a few steps get taken together and a serious technical masterpiece arrives. What are the most advanced cars — by decade — in automotive history?
We're going to play this one a bit differently. Instead of simply having a top-ten list of choices, we will pick one per decade: 1911-1920, 1921-1930, 1931-1940, 1941-1950, 1951-1960, 1961-1970, 1971-1980, 1981-1990, 1991-2000, and 2001 to the present day. Time to dig out those history books (or search around online) and figure out what "progress" really meant in the 1930s.
What the 1930s meant, of course, was a degree of mechanical refinement that belied the relatively crude materials and production techniques of the day — and no one did mechanical refinement better than the Germans. Although the motivation and funding for their efforts is a source of some legitimate discomfort today, the products of that era remail technically dazzling. And nothing was a far-out advanced as the Auto Union Grand Prix cars, with their mid-engined designs and howling V-16 engines. They weren't as successful as their more orthodox Mercedes cousins, but they remain lessons in the state of the art of the time.
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