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The ten most important cars of all time

By Wahid T Khan

It isn't always about what's under the hood. It's not about the way it looks. Heck, it isn't even about the price tag as well.

Over the last century, cars have more than just solved a major transportation issue. They have inspired separate categories of automobiles themselves, revolutionary designs and technologies, even though they were market failures themselves. This week we look at ten such models, in chronological order:

1. Model T Ford (1908- 1927):
It's easy to imagine how dark an era the 1900s would have been had this car not been introduced. This is the car that put the world on wheels and began an automobile industry for Ford to play in. The Model T was the first model to be produced by an assembly line, and did not require individual handcrafting. By 1913, Henry Ford had increased his workers' wages to $5.00 (quite a sum back then), which allowed them and other families to get actually get a car of their own, and also boost in growth of suburbs across the United States. Gas companies had Christmas all year.

2. Chrysler Airflow (1934- 1937):
The Airflow was one of Chrysler's earliest commercial flops. It just could not hold on to its market share like its competitors from Ford could. However, the reason the Airflow does make to this list is because of Chrysler's attempts at implementing the concept of streamlining into making a more aerodynamic design for a car. The wind tunnelling tests for the Airflow, for instance, was an innovation indeed which later became a standard industry practice for all cars manufactured.

3. Volkswagen Beetle (1938- 2003):
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Love Bug. The car that to this day remains as the best selling model of all time; the Beetle has seen the rise of Hitler's Third Reich and the increase in the Beatles' fan base. In fact, it has a fan following of its own! Throughout its production history, the Beetle has gone through nine generations, keeping its trademark air cooled rear wheel drive- although admittedly, the last generation disappointed fans the world over, this writer included.

4. Ford 150 Pickup (1948- Present):
Most readers would think that narrowing it down to the 150 would seem foolish, but what you must understand is that the Ford 150 more or less reshaped the modern pickup truck market. The best selling record for 33 years stands testimony to that. When the 150 debuted, it carried a 150hp (162kW) engine at 33,000 rpm, which means it was relatively underpowered than most power cars of that time. However, this help keep the price low and offer great functionality simultaneously; the undisputed secret to its success.

5. Chevrolet Bel Air (1955):
Chevvies, at one point of time, were know as Grandma Cars; large bulky bodies with noisy engines that could only be perfect for your Grandma. The Bel Air changes all that, and re-brands Chevrolet as a youth icon. The Bel Air had two reasons that owed to its phenomenal success; the boxy powerful still-in-production V8 engine, and of course, the characteristic Ferrari-style grille that were incorporated into later models. The point on the interiors has not been even touched yet.

6. British Motor Corporation Mini (1959-2000):
Excellent entry from the British; and with solid reasons, of course. This was the first car to have the engine laid across the car instead of longitudinally- thereby proving cars could get smaller, yet retain practicality. The technical layout of the Mini was copied out by almost every other manufacturer. Ten feet long with ten inch wheels, driving this was living the British dream.

7. Toyota Corolla (1966- Present):
You have to confess that you saw this coming. It is impossible to leave the Corolla out from a list like this. Although manufactured in '66, the first Corollas did not leave Japan until two years later, and they quickly established Japan's reputation for providing sturdy, economical and efficient cars. Sadly, nine generations later, they still are as boring as a car could ever be.

8. Honda Civic (1972- Present):
Honda made it out to the world from Japan even before Toyota did, with their efficient Formula 3 cars. With the reliable and well-furnished Civic, it just made economic sense to buy one; especially as an alternative to gas-guzzling cars of the 1970s.

9. Jeep Cherokee (1900s- Present):
It does not have to be a Jeep, it could be a Land Rover or even a Hummer, but SUVs did become the symbol of middle and upper classes' families. Luxurious, rough and powerful, SUVs did turn out to be the potent enemy of green people.

10. Tata Nano (2008):
India's “people's car” aims to deliver itself to Asia's motor-hungry masses. At $2,500, the offer does sound tempting and in the event it fails, the Nano would be our new poster car for revolutionary technology like using glue instead of welding. No kidding!



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