Regal Classic Luxury Cars
Luxury car design can usually be summed up under the axiom “less is more.” While the interiors offer every conceivable comfort or convenience feature, the exterior sees minimal gaudy bits that are often found on lesser cars. Rather than excessive chrome, vents, flares, and spoilers, luxury cars are well thought out designs, where every line makes sense, and every curve evokes an emotion. Here are ten of the most regal classic luxury cars.
1956 Chrysler Windsor
Forget the bland tri-five Chevys, if you are looking at ’50s Americana, get it with some character. The new-for-1955 Windsor sported a garish grille, but Chrysler design realized their error and the front end was completely redone the next year, making a more sophisticated European look. It’s like every ‘90s rom/com ever, where the nerdy girl gets the braces off, puts in contacts, and lets down her hair. The now hot girl is the ’56 Windsor. These cars look like they are slightly lowered from the factory, and sitting on fat whitewalls, they’re stunning.
1961 Jaguar E-Type
Speaking of stunning. Impossibly long, with curves straight out of a concept car, the E-Type is simply one of the greatest designs ever. True, the coupe was pure sports car, but the E-Type was also available as a stretched 2+2. This grand tourer was arguably the pinnacle of British design, inside and out. Later years offered the torque and aural bliss of the V12, even during the gas crisis years. While the E-Type grew heavier and gained some ugly bumpers, it was still eye candy. Enzo Ferrari called it “The most beautiful car ever made.” Praise doesn’t get higher.
1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL
One of the single best looking cars from any manufacturer of any time period, the 300SL was a game changer. A racecar turned street legal grand tourer, the sporty Benz single-handedly turned around the image of the entire company. The gull-wing doors were as impressive as they were expensive, but even closed, this car is gorgeous. Clark Gable owned an original. Today, celebs from Eddie Murphy to Patrick Dempsey own a modern interpretation, the SLS AMG Gullwing. Enough said.
1964 Aston Martin DB5
The Aston Martin DB5 proves that class is about far more than just horsepower. Admittedly, it’s one of the fastest cars of its time, but it’s so much more. Rather than the E-Type’s easy grace with a super long hood, the DB5 looks just as classy, with more restrained conventional proportions. Impressive. The elegant wood steering wheel adds class in a simple and refined interior. After WWII, this is what Spitfire fighter pilots flogged down windy country roads, while smoking cigars and sipping cognac in-between gear shifts. That’s how I picture them anyway.
1949 Cadillac Series 62 Club Coupe
The Series 62 Cadillac returned after the war, and by ’49 was one of the best looking cars on the road. Harley Earl stretched the fenders back, making a long, swept look. This car pointed the way to the future, as running boards disappeared, the grille was simplified, and the fastback rear put the final nail in the coffin of the ‘30s “upside-down bathtub” styling.
1968 Jaguar XJ6
Jag used some time travel magic on their XJ, bringing a car from the ‘90s back to 1968. The first XJ showed elegance in a sexy and futuristic design. Class exudes from every curve and detail, and while it has some sporting pretensions, this is a proper English luxury car. Unlike most of the cars on this list, this one has real driving potential, with solid handling (for the time), excellent brakes, and starting in ’72, a V12. This Jag was the world’s fastest sedan of its day, but it’s perfectly fine with a jaunt to the country club.
1956 Ford Thunderbird
There was a time when the Ford Thunderbird was kicking the Corvette’s butt. This was it. The Thunderbird launched with V8 power, and sold 15 times as many as the first year Corvette. The fenders and headlights were brilliantly done, and at any angle the charm was undeniable. A stately lux cruiser, rather than a true sports car, the 1955 to ’57 T-birds were Ford’s only 2-seater for the next twenty-five years. They gained weight and bloat every year, and it’s unfortunate that Ford drifted from this iconic design.
1965 Buick Riviera GS
“That’s a Buick?” goes everyone in the current Buick commercials. Sadly, people of the 1960s would have that same question (said with disdain) for current Buicks. Back in the mid-‘60s, released this stylish coupe with brutal edges and a lovely interior as an alternative for the thinking man. Because personal luxury coupes rock, and muscle cars are for clowns. Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons said that Buick had done “a very wonderful job,” and Pininfarina called it “one of the most beautiful American cars ever built.”
1956-57 Lincoln Continental Mk II
Presence. The early Continentals had it. It’s too bad the current Lincolns are such a snooze, as the Mk I & II Continentals had just right lines, without the longer/lower/wider ethos that turned ‘60s luxury into boats. The Continental is obviously a luxury car, but one that still has its youth and wants to go have fun. It’s at home outside the studios of Hollywood, or at the PTA meeting. It’s the car James Bond would drive if he were American. “The name’s Bond. Jimmy Wayne Bond.”
1968 BMW 2800 CS
In 1968, BMW added a few inches and a new design to their successful 2000CS, and they had an even better looking winner. With the lower profile and tiny window pillars creating a big greenhouse, the 2800CS is classic German touring. The quad headlights and almost kindey grille were there, defining the evolution of BMW for the next 50 years. The interior is as charismatic as the outside, and while the straight six only delivered 170 horsepower, it was enough. If you want more performance for a lot more money, check out the ’71 3.0 CS and CSi.
You probably noticed a lot of missing manufacturers. Duesenberg, Cord, Pierce-Arrow, Rolls, Delahaye, and many others could send in multiple offerings and easily fill this list. But those cars are unobtanium, often times worth more than the combined value of this list. While they are extremely elegant, they are also antiques. The post-war luxury cars on this list are more likely to be found at car shows, and on your shopping list.