Beautiful craftsmanship, an undeniable charm, and a sense of freedom with a hint of nostalgia: the best old-school cars have ubiquitous magic that’s hard to put into words.
As any fan of vintage cars will tell you, there’s nothing quite like the purr of the engine or the smell of the leather when you’re lucky enough to get up close and personal with one of your favorite antique cars. And that feeling when you spot a perfectly restored, rarely-seen model? Unbeatable.
A history lesson in a vehicle, these cool vintage cars tell a story before you’ve even sat down on the faded leather or run your finger approvingly across their pristine paintwork.
While part of the fun of these retro cars comes from driving them, the rest of it comes from simple admiration. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an avid car collector or a window shopper with a big interest in the most expensive cars, you can still appreciate these types of vintage cars and old-fashioned mechanics.
Read on for our round-up of the best classic cars—including the most beautiful vintage car, the most affordable classic car, and the most reliable classic car. Because, of course, that incredible antique car might not seem quite so incredible if it breaks down in the middle of the road.
The 21 best classic cars of all time
- Aston Martin DB5 1964
- Ferrari 250 GTO 1962
- Jaguar E-Type 1961
- Porsche 911 1963
- Chevrolet El Camino SS 1970
- Oldsmobile Starfire Convertible 1962
- British Motor Corporation Mini 1959
- Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 1965
- Mercedes 300SL Gullwing 1954
- Chevrolet Corvette 1963
- Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic 1938
- Rolls-Royce Dawn Drophead 1949
- Ford Thunderbird 1971
- Jaguar XJS 1989
- Dodge Viper 1991
- BMW CSL 1972
- De Tomaso Pantera 1970
- Lamborghini Miura 1966
- Land Rover 1948
- Volkswagen Beetle 1938
- Ford Model T 1908
Aston Martin DB5 1964
The Aston Martin DB5 was designed to be a talking point and that’s something that’s never really changed. Not only is this one of the most impressive classic cars, it’s also one of the rarest and the most iconic.
Name dropped in the James Bond franchise as well as elsewhere in popular culture, its sky-high price has grown an estimated 790 times since this classic car first arrived on the market. Conceptualized by the Italian designer Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera in Milan, this cool old car was always designed to make an entrance. The more time passes, the bigger the entrance promises to be.
|First release year:||1964|
|Current sale value:||$990,000|
Ferrari 250 GTO 1962
The sleek, stylish Ferrari 250 GTO is one of the most famous classic cars of all time and for a very good reason. This one-of-a-kind model sits worlds apart from the rest, both in its modernized design and expensive price tag (just like the world’s most expensive cars).
When it first appeared, this classic sports car didn’t even have a name. Before it was christened officially, it was known internally as “Il Mostro”—the monster—because of its strange design. From its launch in the 1960s through to modern times, it’s a car that’s pushed forward full throttle, with a current value that even most millionaires wouldn’t be able to justify. Discover the history behind Ferrari to learn more about the brand and the incredible supercars that followed in the 250 GTO footsteps.
|First release year:||1962|
|Current sale value:||Upwards of $48 million|
Jaguar E-Type 1961
No self-respecting list of classic cars could be complete without mentioning the Jaguar E-Type. This iconic car has a history of its own that would still break some records nowadays, with impressive top speeds of 150 mph and a sleek design to match.
Enzo Ferrari described the Jaguar as the most beautiful car in the world, and we’d be hard-pressed to disagree. Many of Jaguar’s future designs were inspired by the E-Type, from the body shape to the internal mechanisms and everything in between. It’s a classic car with a legacy that’s lived on arguably further than any other Jaguar in existence.
|First release year:||1961|
|Current sale value:||$125,000|
Porsche 911 1963
The Porsche 911 is described as a nearly perfect classic sports car—because there’s always room for a little bit of improvement. A long-time staple of the classic car community, this universally loved vehicle takes plenty of prizes when it comes to impressive statistics.
The design of this luxury supercar actually stemmed from the Volkswagen Beetle, as both were designed by the same person: Ferdinand Porsche. And, even nowadays, the 911 continues to take the record of being the world’s most popular classic sports car. All of those cars have been produced in the same factory, in Stuttgart, Germany.
|First release year:||1963|
|Current sale value:||Starts at $101,000|
Chevrolet El Camino SS 1970
Think of old-time American movies, and you’ll probably find a vague image of a 1970 Chevrolet El Camino SS springs to mind. This American classic was a national and international icon even before the years passed, and it turned into a classic car rather than an everyday vehicle.
Released as the high-performance version of the standard El Camino, this American coupe was famed for its surprisingly powerful engines and unique design. After the success of the first release, the Chevrolet El Camino SS was re-released in various new generations, all with slightly more power but the same bespoke body.
|Model:||El Camino SS|
|First release year:||1970|
|Current sale value:||$33,000|
Oldsmobile Starfire Convertible 1962
The 1962 Oldsmobile Starfire Convertible was the pride and joy of General Motors when it was first released in 1960. It quickly rose to fame as one of the brand’s best-selling models, with its ubiquitous open top and sleek and stylish design.
Its unique trim and luxurious interiors also helped to set it apart from many other General Motors vehicles—something which any proud owner would show off about at the time. Production ceased in 1980, paving the way for new designs to take on the market. But show any self-respecting car fanatic the Oldsmobile Starfire Convertible, and they’ll still be as impressed as people were in the ’60s.
|First release year:||1962|
|Current sale value:||$26,400|
British Motor Corporation Mini 1959
There’s no classic car quite like the classic Mini. Modernized time and time again with new colors and features, this is the classic car you’re most likely to still see in action in the 21st century. Shortly after its initial release, the Mini quickly became one of the most popular classic cars of all time.
Originally, it was known by the name “Austin Seven and Morris Mini-Minor.” Luckily the far more palatable name “Mini” caught on after its two creators merged. And, while new Minis fight for speed and attention, the original Mini was considered too fast, with an engine that was reduced to 850cc, taking 26.5 seconds to reach 60mph.
|Brand:||British Motor Corporation|
|First release year:||1959|
|Current sale value:||$31,000|
Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 1965
The Shelby Mustang was designed to look good and drive fast. It wasn’t specially designed for comfort, and it definitely wasn’t designed for family days out. But at least it excelled in the area it originally chose. This stylish, high-performance classic car came in plenty of different variations, with edits made over the years to encourage faster speeds (well, just not quite like the fastest cars in the world), cooler designs, and everything in between.
Its name came from its collaboration between well-known and loved Ford Motor Company and Shelby American, the high-performance vehicle manufacturer founded by former race car driver Carroll Shelby. You’ll spot a cobra symbol on many of these vehicles: a nickname it was given early in its time.
|Model:||Mustang Shelby GT350|
|First release year:||1965|
|Current sale value:||$575,000|
Mercedes 300SL Gullwing 1954
Mention the Mercedes 300SL Gullwing 1954, and you’ll undoubtedly see ears prick up, especially if you’re in a circle of classic car fans. One of the most stylish and iconic classic cars in the world, the Gullwing firmly cemented its place as a premium offering as soon as it launched.
Capable of reaching a top speed of up to 163 mph, it was the fastest production car in the world at the time. The “SL” in its name translates in German to super-leicht, or “super light”. That racing-ready body was designed to be as light as possible to hit top speeds.
|First release year:||1954|
|Current sale value:||$1.9 million|
Chevrolet Corvette 1963
The Chevrolet Corvette 1963 was a rare car even when it was first released, which means sourcing a journey in one of these nowadays—let alone even trying to buy one—is an adventure in itself. This famous American muscle car was known best for its “split-window coupe”, offering a unique perspective both from the inside and the outside.
It was considered to be one of the most powerful cars of its time, with strong engines and buttery soft leather on the inside. A time capsule back into the 1960s, it’s worth the hunt if you can source access to one of these classic cars, even just for a quick glimpse.
|First release year:||1963|
|Current sale value:||$80,000|
Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic 1938
Thought an older Bugatti might be more budget-friendly than a recent model? Think again. You need no better proof that the 1938 Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic will ever go out of fashion than by the knowledge that Ralph Lauren owns the very last one to ever be produced. First created as an entirely new design by Jean Bugatti, there were only ever 710 of these models produced.
Known equally as a style icon as well as known for being one of the world’s most valuable cars, the Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic is still around and functioning today, more than 80 years after it first came to life.
|Model:||Type 57 Atlantic|
|First release year:||1938|
|Current sale value:||Up to $1.4 million|
Rolls-Royce Dawn Drophead 1949
The 1949 Rolls-Royce Dawn Drophead was originally sold after the war, in an effort to redefine luxury and bring back the heightened levels of comfort from before. While it quickly rose to popularity, it was noted for a few peculiar features, including a lack of seatbelts and an engine that doesn’t actually fire.
Then there were the buttons, which had subtle markings that made the first few drives something of a make-your-own-adventure challenge. These cars could be customized from conception and were initially brought out as affordable luxury vehicles. The most famous color was the Silver Dawn variant, of which 760 were produced.
|First release year:||1949|
|Current sale value:||$400,000|
Ford Thunderbird 1971
The 1971 Ford Thunderbird is one of those classic cars that come with endless conversation and bursts of nostalgia. It’s an old car you can’t help but smile at as soon as its outsized body and unique charm find their way into the topic of conversation.
A car that underwent multiple personality changes throughout the main period of its life, the Thunderbird drew together all of the classic Ford features and combined them with something a little more luxurious. In General Motors’ opinion, the bigger the better was the way forward when it came to cars. Known for consistently outselling the Buick Riviera, Oldsmobile Toronado, and Cadillac Eldorado, it firmly kept itself in the limelight for years.
|First release year:||1971|
|Current sale value:||$50,000|
Jaguar XJS 1989
An unbreakable passion for adventure: that’s what you’ll be reminded of as soon as you’ve made yourself comfortable behind the wheel of a 1989 Jaguar XJS. A classic car made for fun days out and spontaneous decisions, this cool old car is one that kept itself remarkably together and refused to ever break down.
When it first came out, the XJS was pitied for its trailing rear buttresses, but, as time has passed, that overall opinion has taken a complete 180. While it’s still one you’ll be able to find nowadays, that wasn’t always the case: the XJS was almost pulled from the overall Jaguar lineup at the start of its life.
|First release year:||1989|
|Current sale value:||$20,000|
Dodge Viper 1991
The Dodge Viper takes things a little further than your standard classic car in pretty much every way—from speed to sleek design, to almost all other capabilities. This new classic car comes with a love/hate relationship, with some adoring it for its tenacity and others dismissing it as a loose cannon.
A brilliant example that falls somewhere in the middle comes from its initial conception, which took Chrysler CEO Lee Lacocca a mere 30 minutes to sign off. That’s compared to the long, lengthy process it’s taken to sign off virtually every other car in the world.
|First release year:||1991|
|Current sale value:||$60,000|
BMW CSL 1972
Take a quick look at the BMW 3.0 CSL and you might be reminded of another famous vehicle: the Batmobile. Designed to be just as happy driving on racetrack or road, this beast of a car came in limited numbers and only 1,265 have ever been produced.
Lighter than not only its BMW siblings but also many other cars of a similar nature, the CSL had all the characteristics to promise one incredible drive. It’s one that’s taken the crown plenty of times, winning three rounds of the 1976 World Championship for Makes and competing against the likes of the Porsche 911 and Ford Capri.
|First release year:||1972|
|Current sale value:||$216,000|
De Tomaso Pantera 1970
The DeTomaso Pantera fused together two of the best parts of the car industry: that sleek, ubiquitous Italian design and the sturdy, unbreakable mechanics from the United States. Marry the two, and you’ll find yourself with a Pantera, or “Panther”.
The Pantera was designed by the Italian design firm Carrozzeria Ghia’s American-born designer Tom Tjaarda and quickly became one of the coolest mass-produced cars of its time. Its 20-year production run ensured plenty of Panteras on the streets after its first reveal at the 1970 New York Motor Show. Ford requested to buy the rights to the vehicle, which ensured an even greater production run than before.
|Brand:||De Tomaso Automobili|
|First release year:||1970|
|Current sale value:||$125,000|
Lamborghini Miura 1966
Sure, the Lamborghini Miura might look a little different to today’s interpretation but, for its time, this beautiful classic car was truly ahead of the game. Often regarded as the world’s first supercar, thanks to its advanced designs and powerful performance, the Miura has kept its legendary status long after production ran dry.
Its name comes from that of a particularly ferocious Spanish fighting bull, thought to represent the vintage car’s tenacity and speed. This cool old car is one that’s had more than a few adjustments over the years, all released in a range of vibrant and personality-filled colors.
|First release year:||1966|
|Current sale value:||Upwards of $2 million|
Land Rover 1948
You’ll see plenty of Land Rovers on the roads nowadays, but none are quite as attention-grabbing as the original Land Rover 1948. This British-made all-terrain vehicle is now known as the Series 1, although the design hasn’t changed drastically over the years. With its boxy, utilitarian design, the Land Rover was originally the brainchild of brothers Maurice and Spencer Wilks, who took inspiration from the WW2 Willys Jeep.
As steel was in short supply during its conception, the body of the Land Rover was crafted from aluminum. A few things have changed over time, including the steering wheel, which initially sat in the middle.
If you prefer a contemporary alternative, check out our round-up of the best luxury SUVs of the year.
|Brand:||Jaguar Land Rover|
|First release year:||1948|
|Current sale value:||$169,000|
Volkswagen Beetle 1938
Volkswagen’s most iconic car is definitely the Beetle, first designed in 1925 by a Hungarian student and applauded for its lightweight design. While most competing cars at the time were known for being heavy and difficult to drive, the Beetle was lightweight and free, a joy to drive for anyone who sat behind the wheel.
It’s also one of the few classic cars with an original design still in production. If you head to Mexico, you’ll still see plenty of original Volkswagen Beetles driven around in almost perfect condition. As well as the millions of them across the rest of the world, of course.
|First release year:||1938C|
|Current sale value:||$18,000|
Ford Model T 1908
The Ford Model T 1908 is such a classic car, it not only has its own car-focused history pages but also rightfully owns a place in more generalized history features. Sold by the Ford Motor Company from 1908 to 1927, the Ford Model T was the first car available to the public to buy, in the famous “any color as long as it’s black” model.
Known as the first affordable car, it quickly became an American household staple, with an original selling price of $850. As well as being known for its low price, it was also a regular topic of conversation for its unusual publicity stunts.
|First release year:||1908|
|Current sale value:||$21,000|
Frequently asked questions about the best classic cars
The Chevrolet Impala SS, the Datsun Z, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class W123 are thought to be the most reliable classic cars. Our full guide details all of the best old cars out there.