Currently reading: Top 50 cars to drive before you die: part 1
We pick 50 legendary cars, from the humble to the exotic, we think you simply must drive at least once. Let the countdown begin…

Every self-respecting petrol-head has their bucket list of cars that they just have to slam the accelerator in before they kick it. Or not - for speed isn't the only thing that goes into making a great car. Also important is history, handling and a whole host of other less obvious factors that only true motoring aficionados will appreciate.

With these principles in mind, we've picked out 50 of our favourite cars. But do you agree with our list? Read on to find out.

50 - BMW M3 (E46)

Not quite the best M car perhaps, but almost certainly the best M car bargain out there. The last such car to be powered by a normally aspirated straight-six motor, many might argue the sound of the 3.2-litre engine was grounds enough to make it onto this list, but it also came with one of the best balanced chassis in the business.

49 - Ford Model T

Here not because it’s fast or brilliant to drive (in fact, it’s a nightmare), but because it’s almost certainly the most important car ever produced, bringing motoring to the masses like none before it, changing the way the world thought about cars.

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48 - Bentley Turbo R

Technically not exactly brilliant, but what does that matter in a car as charming and characterful as this? Once described as ‘a tidal wave on wheels’, the Turbo R gave self-respect back to Bentley and set it on course for its high-flying position today.

47 - Renault Clio Williams

Not the fastest of hot hatches, even in its day, but even now still one of the most entertaining ways of getting from one place to the next within the format. Light, poised and superbly communicative, it’s probably the best hot hatch from probably the world’s greatest creator of hot hatches.

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46 - Audi Quattro

To those who weren’t around at the time, it’s hard to explain the impact of this car – not least because it came from Audi, a company with no track record of producing seminal driving machines. But it was: permanent four-wheel drive and a 200bhp five-pot motor provided one of the most memorable driving experiences of the 1980s.

45 - Alfa Romeo GTA

Only 500 were built as pure homologation specials, with jewel-like twin-plug, twin-cam 1.6-litre engines, alloy bodies and a dry mass of less than 750kg. Utterly dominant in racing, but simply exquisite in ‘Stradale’ road trim, this is the best Alfa Romeo of the post-war generation.

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44 - Ford Focus RS (Mk 1)

The original Focus RS was an astonishingly well-judged synthesis of necessary practicality, strong power and simply epic handling. As rapid across country as any number of purpose-built supercars and, if you can find a good one, perhaps the best-value fast Ford you can buy today.

43 - Jaguar MkII

People associate these with Inspector Morse bumbling around Oxford, but they deserve so much more. The 3.8-litre version offered exceptional power and poise for 60 years ago, one reason they were the weapon au choix of everyone from saloon car racers to getaway drivers.

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42 - Willys MB

Better known as the Jeep, it famously won the war alongside the Dakota and the landing craft, at least from Eisenhower’s perhaps somewhat partial perspective. Even so, if you ever wondered how your SUV got that way, it all started here with a name whose origins are argued about to this day. Slow, uncomfortable, indestructible.

41 - Lexus LS400

We couldn’t believe it. A Toyota that rode (much) better than a Rolls-Royce, with an engine so quiet at idle you needed to look at the rev counter to know it was turning. The most remarkable luxury car of its era and still, in a way, the standout Lexus.

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40 - Honda Integra Type R

It is incredible to see the cult following this little coupé has earned itself. But this was Honda at the height of its engineering powers and the Integra was the greatest expression of its talent for producing brilliant driver’s cars. Some even say it’s the best front-drive machine of them all.

39 - Austin 7

Our answer to the Ford Model T, the car that more than any put Britain on the road. Simple but beautifully realised, slow but still fun to drive, look at one today and see how hard it is not to smile. Drive one and your grin will stretch from ear to ear.