Nothing changed the world like the car. A car is not just a convenience, a means of carrying people and things long distances in short periods of time.
For more people in more places around the world than anything else, the car is freedom. It is the most extraordinary device, man’s greatest creation to date.
But there are cars and there are cars. Most simply try to improve on what’s gone before. But a few have sought not merelyto be better, but to be different. Sometimes it doesn’t work – remarkably, Subaru’s idea of a four-wheel drive system activated by the windscreen wipers failed to, ahem, gain traction – but just a tiny number have altered the course of automotive history for the better.
If cars changed the world, as they most assuredly did, below, then, are those that changed the world of the car.
And for this year’s Autocar Awards, we’re asking you to pick your favourite from the list of 39. The winner will be rewarded with Autocar’s Readers’ Champion Award. To vote, please click here.
Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost - 1907
Why have this as the earliest on our list, rather than the Benz Patent Motorwagen, the world’s first car? Pedantically, you can’t change a world that didn’t exist prior to your arrival, but perhaps more persuasively, the Benz was so unsuited to doing distances that Carl Benz didn’t even see fit to equip it with a fuel tank
The Silver Ghost, by contrast, was the first car with modern car reliability. It was officially called the 40/50hp model, but one was painted silver, given a name that would pass into motoring folklore and sent off to drive from London to Glasgow 27 times. It was 15,000 miles and, apart from a fuel tap shaking itself shut, not a thing went wrong. The reputation of what came to be regarded as the world’s greatest car company was started here.