Els Sc S looks at some
Since the inception of motor car a long line of exceptional designs and models came into market but some of them became legendary in their own right. These cars encapsulated the history and ethos of its maker and such outstanding models proved to be iconic in their wider cultural impact and their unique designs and features.
The small, open two-seater sports car with a front-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive, of which so many had been produced earlier in the century, was almost extinct when Mazda launched the MX-5 in 1989. The Japanese company therefore had this sector of the market almost to itself but that was no guarantee of success.What made the MX-5 an instant hit was not that it had much power as it actually had very little in the early days but it was outstandingly good in every other area and wonderful to drive. Mazda has kept the basic concept going for four generations, and was rewarded in 2016 by reaching a production milestone of one million units. No other car of the same type has ever come remotely close to this.
Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing
The 300 SL was an outlier in the Mercedes line-up of the 1950s and was not originally planned as a road car at all. It started out as a not very powerful, but exceptionally light and aerodynamic, sports racer which finished first and second in both the Le Mans 24 Hours and Mexico’s Carrera Panamericana in 1952.A road-going version was suggested in September 1953. Mercedes had one on display at the New York International Motor Sports Show just five months later and offered it for sale from then until 1957.
In each of its ten generations, the Evolution derivative of the Mitsubishi Lancer was a four-door saloon with four-wheel drive and a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine. In 2014, Mitsubishi built 40 examples of the Evo X FQ-440 MR, which produced440bhp. At 220.2bhp per litre, this is the highest specific output of any four-cylinder road car and second overall only to the Koenigsegg Jesko. Evos were fabulous high-performance road cars but their greatest value was the publicity they gained for Mitsubishi due to their success in international rallying.
Nissan Skyline GT-R
The Skyline GT-R is an outlier in the Nissan range. There have been Skyline GT-Rs in six generations since 1969 and the legacy has been carried over to the current GT-R, which no longer bears the Skyline name. All versions produced since 1989 have been outstanding and, worthy of the icon title.
Rolls-Royce Phantom (seventh generation)
Over nearly a century, though with some gaps, there have been eight generations of Phantom. As the most iconic Rolls-Royce, it was nominated 7th and was launched in 2003. It was the brand’s first model after the takeover by BMW and remains its flagship. Of all 21st-century Rolls-Royces, this one and its eighth-generation successor are the ones most closely aligned to the super-luxury vehicles of the past.
Until the late 1980s, Subaru was a subject of only mild interest outside Japan. The Legacy moved things forward a long way but the big change came with the introduction of the smaller Impreza. While the Legacy had done well in international rallying, the Impreza became one of the dominant cars in the sport, bringing Subaru unprecedented levels of global publicity.All Imprezas have had a low centre of gravity thanks to their flat-four engines and most have had soft but well-damped suspension. Turbocharged versions perform very well, but even an Impreza with very little power can be wonderful to drive, as in the casethe superb 1997 Impreza Sport.
Toyota Land Cruiser
The Land Cruiser name was first used in 1954 but it was applied to a vehicle launched three years earlier. There is almost no connection between the current model and the original Jeep-like military vehicle but that’s part of the point.Toyota has evolved its off-roader to meet changing requirements so at any time in its history there has always been someone somewhere in the world who would rather have a Land Cruiser than anything else on four wheels. The Weekender