A car qualifies as ‘iconic’ by being a force of change in society – ie ‘motorising the masses’ and by being so recognisable in design that is as easy to identify (even to the uninitiated) as the sun or the moon.
1.The Mini: Designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, in response to rising fuel costs caused by the Suez Crisis in 1956 – this economic family car quickly became a British icon. First produced in 1959 by the British Motor Corporation (BMC), the Mini would become synonymous with the decade that followed; think Swinging London, Mod Culture and the car chase in The Italian Job (1969). By 1965 a million cars had been produced, with 4 million by 1976. But production had slowed dramatically by the end of the century and the last Mini was produced in October 2000. Since late 2000, BMW have produced the Mini Hatch, a vehicle not technically related to the original – but it still maintains the transverse 4-cylinder, front wheel drive configuration and overall impression.
2.The Jaguar E-Type: Such a work of art that it is on permanent display in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The E-Type was designed by Malcolm Sayer in 1961, built in Coventry, England and said by Enzo Ferrari to be ‘the most beautiful car ever made.’ This stunning design, high performance and competitive price made it a very desirable vehicle to own. With a racing style design of a front subframe to carry the engine, front suspension and unusually for the period, no ladder frame chassis – the car was lightweight at 1315kg and its top speed was an impressive 150mph. Around 72,000 Jaguar E-Type vehicles were produced between 1961-1975, with 83% of these being exported.
3.Volkswagen Beetle: Often associated with the hippie movement in the USA, the artist, the ‘alternative’ driver or perhaps ‘Herbie’ the movie star; the Volkswagen Beetle began life as Hitler’s ‘people’s car.’ Designed by Ferdinand Porsche, the concept was to ‘motorise’ the German population by producing an affordable family car – as the Ford Model T had done for the USA (by 1930, 46% of households in America owned a car). Between 1938-2003, 21.5 million cars were built, 15.4 million of these in Germany. Annual production peaked at 1.3 million in 1971. The last original Volkswagen Beetle was made in Mexico in 2003, its final production was serenaded by a mariachi band. In 1998, Volkswagen introduced the ‘New Beetle,’ this was succeeded by the ‘Beetle (A5)’ in 2011 – so the ‘Bug’ lives on in a retro look/modern design.
4.The Ford Model T: Before the Ford Model T, automobiles in the USA were scarce, expensive and unreliable. The Model T changed everything. Credited as being the first ‘affordable’ car in history, the ‘Tin Lizzie’ set about changing the horizons of the average American, and later the world. Ford revolutionised the assembly line - first used by Ransom E Olds for the ‘Oldsmobile Curved Dash’ in 1901. Between 1908 and 1927 16.5 million Ford Model T’s were sold. Henry Ford’s vision was that, “it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.”
5.Citroen 2CV: Literally ‘two steam horses’ – deux chevaux-vapeur - the Citroen 2CV was made in France between 1948-1988, then Portugal from 1988-1990. Like many cars on this list it was conceived to motorise ‘the masses,’ this time by the Vice President of Citroen, Pierre Boulanger. Designed by Andre Lefebvre, Flaminio Bertoni and Paul Mages; this cheap, simple to run and comfortable to drive automobile sold over 3.8 million during its 42 years in production. The market initially concentrated on those with jobs that required travel (in 1930s France, many farmers were still using a horse and cart as transport) “Priority is given to those who have to travel by car because of their work, and for whom ordinary cars are too expensive to buy.” Doctors, midwives, country veterinaries and priests also qualified as high priority.
11th of February 2020