By on June 25, 2009

Forbes, number one on the top ten list of top ten list purveyors, has published their list of “Ten Cars That Changed the World.” It contains vehicles “that were the first of their kind and that influenced the design and performance elements of the entire industry” and that have “staying power.” Or so they say. While some are no-brainer picks as history-changers (Ford Model T and VW Beetle), some are kind of strange (c’mon . . . the AMC Eagle?). And I know a few million Corvette fans who will dispute their statement that the Porsche  911 “has the longest production run of any sports car sold in the U.S.” Forbes‘ complete list is after the jump. Alternative suggestions welcome.

Ford Model T
VW Beetle
Jaguar XK 120
Trabant
Porsche 911
Ford Mustang
AMC Eagle
Jeep Cherokee
Dodge Caravan
Toyota Prius

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

80 Comments on “Forbes: “Ten Cars That Changed The World” or Not....”


  • avatar
    Samir

    Ford Explorer.

  • avatar
    Casual Observer

    Ford Explorer

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    No Mini (Austin Seven / Morris Mini-Minor)? Well, that FWD with a transverse engine thing never caught on anyway.

    The Eagle does make sense; it was the first real “crossover”, a rather popular category these days. I would guess that the Eagle Wagon is what they are referring to, since the Eagle Coupe has only inspired the awful BMW X6.

    Also missing:

    Citroen – at least one needs to be mentioned, probably the DS, but the 2CV did bring FWD to the masses.

    1948 Buick Roadmaster Dynaflow – the first car with a modern torque converter / planetary gearset automatic transmission. Disgusting, but they are about 95% of the US market now. That the automatic started with Buick has to do with Buick’ s history as a technology brand, but is now entirely appropriate.

    Lamborghini Miura – the first mid engined production supercar, much more significant than whatever the Jag was first at, if anything.

    Mercedes 600 – Replaced Cadillac as the standard of the world.

  • avatar
    paris-dakar

    Citroen Traction Avant over the Trabant.

  • avatar

    no_slushbox:

    The Eagle does make sense, it was the first real “crossover”

    The Eagle was a passenger car that was jacked up and had a 4wd drivetrain shoved under it. It looks like something Billy Bubba would have made from his girlfriend’s car after he rolled his Jeep. That’s not quite what I think of when I hear “crossover.”

    But even if could be considered a “crossover” (whatever that is), to classify it as a car that “changed the world” is pushing it a mite, wouldn’t you agree?

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    I have always considered the Toyota Venza a modern version of the Eagle. One of the reasons I can’t figure out why it seems so popular.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Cars that should be on the list:

    1932 Ford V8. This was the first monoblock V8. A manufacturing and design breakthrough that first put high performance within the budget of the average guy. This engine also served as the basic component for virtually all hot rodders until the late 50s when the smallblock Chevy V8 became widely available in the used car market.

    1934 Chrysler Airflow/1936 Lincoln Zephyr. These cars were the first to incorporate aerodynamics into vehicle design. Just look at anything built before 1934. The Airflow was the first car with 3 wide seating in the front, and the first to move the rear passengers ahead of the rear axle. The Zephyr took this package and made it beautiful and popular.

    The Jeep CJ. Utility with 4 wheel drive? This is the start. It eventually grew and became more civilized, but was the starting point for many later Jeeps, as well as the Land Rover, Land Cruiser and every suv ever sold.

    Finally, the BMC Mini. Front wheel drive? Transverse engine? Lots of passenger space in a minimum sized package? First one here was the Mini, and about 15 years before the VW Rabbit picked up the ball and started running.

    Trabant and Eagle have to go. And as much as I love the XK120, I’m not sure it makes the cut. Ditto the Porsche.

  • avatar
    Michael.Martineck

    The original Jeep should bounce a couple of these names. As pretty as the Jag is, or as lovable as the 911, the Jeep was deployed to actually change the world.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    re: Frank Williams:

    “The Eagle was a passenger car that was jacked up and had a 4wd drivetrain shoved under it.”

    Which is different than a Highlander, a Pilot, an X5, a Tourege, an Escape, a RAV4, a CR-V or any other crossover because?

    Crossovers are frequently described as passenger cars on stilts.

  • avatar
    Casual Observer

    Ford Explorer. It made SUV’s mainstream, and not just a niche.

  • avatar
    tom

    Generally, I think the list isn’t that bad…however, I would include the first automobile as well, the “Benz Patent Motorwagen”, since that got this whole thing started.

    Another car that’s definitely missing is the VW Golf. It might not have been a big hit in the US, but everywhere else it was and still is. This car surely had a global impact.

    One could also argue for the BMW 3 Series, since it redefined the sports sedan, as well as the Mercedes S-Class since it has been setting the technological standard for ages.

    Then, I don’t know why the Jaguar XK is on that list. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful car, but in what way did it change the world? Forbes doesn’t give a reason other than its beauty, which I think isn’t enough…and even if it was, it’s almost a 1:1 copy of the 1940 “BMW 328 Mille Miglia” so if anything that car shoud get the credit, although I still don’t consider it to be “world changing”…
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/79/Adolf_Brudes_im_BMW_328_Mille_Miglia_am_14.08.1976.jpg

    If you wanna talk about design, the most influential that comes to my mind is the NSU Ro80. It hit the market in 1967 and was way ahead of its time. The same design could have worked just as well in 1987…it set the design cues for decades to come.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0e/Nsu-ro-80-1.jpg

    The Trabant also hardly changed the world…it’s iconic and it most certainly changed East Germany, but that’s about it…

    The Mustang and the AMC Eagle have probably also mostly a local influence, this time in North America, although since it has been the biggest market for a long time, this might still be justified.

    Also, what the Dodge Caravan was to the US, the Renault Espace was to Europe, so I think it deserves to be mentioned as well…

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Trabant? It’s only importance was proving that socialism is a failure.

    Chevrolet Suburban pre dated the Ford Explorer by about 30 years.

    How about the Jeep Wagoneer? Or even better, the original Jeep.

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    I agree with the selection of the AMC Eagle. It was either AMC or Subaru that coined the term “AWD”, which was originally synonymous with “4WD” but didn’t have the mud-bogging redneck connotations.

    I’m okay with their selection of the Mustang but not for the reasoning provided in the article. Also, techically the Plymouth Barracuda was the first “pony car”. It was designed to compete in the same segment and beat the Mustang to market.

    Just to put a different slant on this, I would have recommended the Chevy Corvair. The bad publicity this car generated, thanks in no small part to Ralph Nader, turned safety features into a selling point for the average consumer. Definitely a game-changer.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    Civic CVCC? How is the AMC Eagle more influential than that?

    Also the first Ford Taurus (garbage at first, but very influential in its design) should have been on the list. It dictated the way everyone else designed their mainstream offerings.

  • avatar
    John Holt

    If you squint real hard, you can almost see the BMW X6 as an evolution of the Eagle hatch.

  • avatar

    no_slushbox:
    Which is different than a Highlander, a Pilot, an X5, a Tourege, an Escape, a RAV4, a CR-V or any other crossover because?

    Those vehicles were designed as utility vehicles from the ground up (first SUVs, then as that term fell from grace, the marketing geeks came up with the term CUV). The Eagle Spirit and others in the AMC Eagle lineup were literally AMC cars that had a 4WD drivetrain spliced under them. The ONLY thing that made them different from the donor cars was the drivetrain (and, of course, the badges stuck on them).

    They’re no more “crossovers” than a Jensen FF, Subaru Legacy, Audi quattro, Lincoln MKZ AWD or a number of other sedans/coupes that put the power to the ground via all four wheels.

  • avatar
    AKM

    If you squint real hard, you can almost see the BMW X6 as an evolution of the Eagle hatch.

    No need to squint, BMW X6s can be seen from orbit…

  • avatar
    jnik

    Chevrolet Corvair should be at the top of the list. Its handling, plus the way GM tried to smear Ralph Nader into silence, led to Federal hearings that led to safety regulations. Then emissions standards. And everything that followed. Even arguably the bailout.

  • avatar

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one that thought X6 when I saw the Eagle. The list is pretty good and I would pick the 911 as more influential than the Corvette. The Corvette is a great car, but I don’t see its influence in a lot of other vehicles.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Forbes online product is consistent in only their editors attempts to create page-turners. Other than that, their “Top 10″ or “Bottom 10″ choices are usually lame.

  • avatar
    grog

    Hard to argue against jpcavanaugh’s 1932 Ford V8, 1934 Chrysler Airflow/1936 Lincoln Zephyr and the Jeep CJ. My list would be:

    Ford Model T
    VW Beetle
    Ford Mustang
    32 Ford V8
    34 Chrysler Airflow/36 Lincoln Zephyr
    Jeep CJ
    Honda Civic
    Dodge Caravan

    and then I get stuck.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    The Explorer: not. It was just a slightly bigger Cherokee. The Cherokee, Blazer S-10, and baby Bronco were all out first, and sold very well too.

    The Eagle – well, it was the first mass-production AWD passenger car; its drive train was a significant development, because it was full-time AWD, developed specifically for this car, not just a 4wd setup jammed under it.

    The Trabant? it was a based on a pre-war DKW!

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    Definitely the Corvair.

    -It exposed GM’s penny pinching, style over substance practices in a dramatic way. Instead of shabby quality or poor handling there was a car that would actually spin out because cost cutting in the rear suspension design that saved a trivial amount of money.

    -The rear suspension was fixed, and the Corvair became a great car, but then it was killed, starting GM on its course of perfecting and then killing cars.

    -Despite the fact that the Corvair’s problems came from GM being cheap, not innovative, its problems significantly curtailed GM’s practice of using relatively innovative designs.

    -Automotive safety received mainstream attention, and government became seriously involved in safety oversight.

  • avatar

    I’m with Michael Martineck on the Jeep

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    The AMC Eagle style was dreadful. It looks like everybody’s dad who wore plaid pastel shorts with black socks and black shoes.

    Didn’t AMC also make a car called the Spirit…which was nearly as bad?

  • avatar
    mikey

    I can’t believe no one has picked the 55 Chev. For that matter GM and Fords entire line up for 1955 models.For sure the 64 and a half Mustang. How about the 77 GM full size B body? The sucessful shrinking of a full size car. Dodge tried to shrink in the early 60 with limited sucess. GM sold million’s of downsized Chevies.

    Yes and the Civic…It certainly set the standard

  • avatar
    Casual Observer

    The Explorer: not. It was just a slightly bigger Cherokee. The Cherokee, Blazer S-10, and baby Bronco were all out first, and sold very well too.

    How many soccer moms drove around in Cherokees and Blazers?

  • avatar

    Trabant belongs there. I used to own (and drive) Trabant. There is no experience like that. You can fix the car with a piece of wire and tape, and if something starts falling off, you can just rip it off and throw it in the ditch. Instead of listening to a radio you listen to the chatter of your rattling teeth. It also instills belief in God in the driver and the passenger (thank God the ride is over; thank God the brakes stopped the car; thank God we didn’t get into an accident). The car had body panels that could get a sunburn and couldn’t rust. It had drum brakes all around. Once we drove about 100 km to a campground with two adults, four kids and all our camping gear (in one Trabant). It didn’t brake well with all that load, but at least the fact that every downhill eventually led to an uphill helped boost our confidence. It was actually fun to drive in a way, and due to its simplicity was relatively reliable/easy to fix.
    In the first and second gear it was pretty peppy.
    Having the gas tank right next to and slightly above the engine made driving it suspensful.
    When filling up the gas tank it was also possible to add some diesel (cheaper) and thus save some money. And if you got into an accident, you could gather all the plastic shrapnels (broken plastic body panels) and sell them as guitar picks. Now top that with all the other cars, heh.

  • avatar
    afabbro

    +1 for the original WWII Jeep.

    +1 for the Honda CVCC/Civic – important car in the gas crisis 1970s.

    Yes, the ‘burb preceded the Explorer by 30 years, bu the Explorer was the car (er, SUV) that made SUVs mainstream. It’s more important.

    Why not something like a Packard Woodie? First station wagon (or whatever the first station wagon is).

    RX-7? Well, except rotary drives are still a small niche.

    I’m thinking also of something from the land yacht era of the late 60s/early 70s, only as a highwater mark.

    How about the Chevy Vega? Not in a positive way.

    How about the EV-1?

    Finally, perhaps the first luxury car. I don’t know what it would be (Pierce-Arrow)?

  • avatar
    bevo

    Wow. I am late to this article, and everyone else made all the great points. To add noise to these signals, my list:

    Ford Model T

    VW Beetle: While the Mini and its technology came before the Beetle, the Bug proved that Americans will buy small, well built cars. The Mini was a lot of things but it was not well built.

    Ford Mustang

    AMC Eagle

    Jeep CJ

    Ford Explorer: Reached a (sales) mass that the larger Suburban never did

    Dodge Caravan

    Toyota Prius

    Honda’s CVCC

    Ford Taurus: Unfortunately, it has influenced American car design since its introduction

    Mazda (B Series) Truck: Americans will buy small trucks

    Toyota Corolla: Everything that is right and wrong with Toyota.

    Corvair

    Yes, the list is more than 10 but why 10? Why not 5? Why not 15? Both are just as arbitrary as 10.

    FWIW, every time I think I know something about cars, I read the comment section and realize how little I really know.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    re: “Frank Williams:”

    What does “designed for utility” mean? A station wagon body? Minor towing capability? Minor offroading capability? The Eagle had all of those things. Most significantly, unlike the AWD cars you mention, the Eagle was jacked up, and looked truck-ish.

    Being jacked up (seeing over traffic) and looking truck-ish (look at me, I’m tough) are the features that, in consumers’ eyes, really make a crossover/CUV/cute-ute/whatever, and the Eagle was the first car based vehicle to have them.

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    Trabant?

    It wasn’t the Trabant that was the problem for the East Germans. It was television, showing the nice cars, large apartments, and comfortable lives of West Germans that brought down the wall.

    Plain oatmeal tastes OK until you find out somebody else is having blueberry pancakes with maple syrup.

    I also have trouble crediting the Eagle with anything. They didn’t sell, and were really they were simply a copy of the 1975 Subaru 4WD wagon.

    http://www.stationwagon.com/gallery/1975_Subaru_DL.html

    Finally, I have to agree that the Jaguar XK – beautiful as it is – did not change the world.
    It was just another rich man’s toy. The first V8 Corvette brought expensive sports car performance to the middle class.

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    Frank Williams :
    June 25th, 2009 at 10:34 am

    no_slushbox:
    Which is different than a Highlander, a Pilot, an X5, a Tourege, an Escape, a RAV4, a CR-V or any other crossover because?

    Those vehicles were designed as utility vehicles from the ground up (first SUVs, then as that term fell from grace, the marketing geeks came up with the term CUV). The Eagle Spirit and others in the AMC Eagle lineup were literally AMC cars that had a 4WD drivetrain spliced under them. The ONLY thing that made them different from the donor cars was the drivetrain (and, of course, the badges stuck on them).

    They’re no more “crossovers” than a Jensen FF, Subaru Legacy, Audi quattro, Lincoln MKZ AWD or a number of other sedans/coupes that put the power to the ground via all four wheels.

    Huh? With the exception of the X5, which I don’t believe is closely related to any BMW sedan (despite having basically the same design), all of those mentioned are very closely related to sedan or sedan-based models that appeared first.

    Highlander = Camry
    Pilot = Odyssey = Accord
    Escape = Tribute = 626
    RAV4 = Corolla
    CR-V = Civic

    They have strayed massively from their original designs, with exception to the Ford Escape which is still using old Mazda 626 mechanicals, but every one you mentioned is or was (at its inception) very, very heavily based on comparable sedans elsewhere in the automakers lineup, but with automatic AWD and a suspension lift added in.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    I also have trouble crediting the Eagle with anything. They didn’t sell, and were really they were simply a copy of the 1975 Subaru 4WD wagon.

    Thank you! All these people saying the AMC Eagle was the first car-based 4×4 apparently never heard of the Subaru GL 4wd wagon that came out about 4 years earlier!

    AFABBRO: The first wood bodied station wagons came out in the 20s. The first metal bodied station wagon was either the 1936 Chevy Suburban (which was really just a version of their panel truck with windows and passenger seats) or the 1946 Jeep Utility Wagon. The Utility Wagon got 4wd as an option in 1949 making it the first full-bodied 4wd SUV available to the public (I’m not counting the WWII Dodge Carryall’s since they were made for military use.)

    The Suburban didn’t get factory 4wd until about 1957, although I think you could get earlier versions with a non-factory NAPCO 4wd conversion.

    Mike66Chryslers: It was either AMC or Subaru that coined the term “AWD”, which was originally synonymous with “4WD” but didn’t have the mud-bogging redneck connotations.

    My 1957 International Harvester Travelall 120 had an “All Wheel Drive” badge on the fender.

    EDITED TO ADD: Is there anything you can’t find on Google?

    http://www.cartype.com/pics/3170/full/all-wheel-drive_emblem.jpg

    Don’t know what year of IH this one came off of but the one my my Travelall was identical to it.

  • avatar
    JTParts

    Jeeps? Explorers? rubbish. Land Rover 110.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    This list is way too US-centric to be the Top 10 cars that changed the world. Most of the cars on the list barely sold outside North America. Also, are we including trucks or not? Because if we are, ignoring the F150 seems an oversight.

    The Corolla belongs on the list, because it helped to motorize many parts of the world, and is by far the best selling car in history. It also highlights what destroyed the American auto industry.

    While the Eagle might technically be the first crossover, it was a sales failure. The RX300/Harrier started the crossover fad.

    So many sports cars on the list, but sports cars don’t change the world. 90% of them just feed the fantasies of middle-aged men that they can get laid.

  • avatar
    ragtopman

    How can they not include a pickup truck? Maybe the first F-150, going back to circa 1948?

    Certainly this type of vehicle has a place as a game-changer.

    I’d also replace the Dodge Caravan with the VW Bus.

    Iaccoca’s K-platform also deserves some credit, as well. It only saved a company and returned the convertible to its rightful place among the masses.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Martin Albright,

    I’m repeating myself, but the Subarus back then were part-time 4WD, not full-time AWD like the Eagle. Big difference.

    The Eagle’s AWD system is the prototype of all modern AWD systems, if you don’t credit the Jensen FF, which the AMC system heavily cribbed. That’s what makes it significant.

    The Eagle was the precursor to the Audi All-Road, modern Subarus, and all the BMW, MB, Ford, etc AWD systems. BTW, the overwhelming majority of Eagles sold were the wagon, not the coupe, which was extremely cramped.

    Martin, the sticker on the old IH may have said AWD, but there is a big technological difference between what is now called AWD (full-time) and the part-time 4wd that it, and all the old Jeeps and other $wd vehicles before AMC’s Full-time AWD.

  • avatar
    JuniorMint

    The Explorer: not. It was just a slightly bigger Cherokee. The Cherokee, Blazer S-10, and baby Bronco were all out first, and sold very well too.
    ///
    How many soccer moms drove around in Cherokees and Blazers?

    Seriously, I love when people try to argue that the Explorer didn’t personify the SUV movement simply because a) other SUVs existed before it, and b) people purchased those SUVs.

    Can we talk about sales numbers, please? Advertising? I don’t recall Jeep and Chevy running commercials with two 20-somethings and their 1.5 children / labrador / picnic equipment in the back…at least not for a few years. Even the styling was different…late 80′s Blazers had all the charm of a scaled-down garbage truck.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    The Eagle’s AWD system is the prototype of all modern AWD systems, if you don’t credit the Jensen FF, which the AMC system heavily cribbed. That’s what makes it significant.

    Wasn’t the full time 4wd system the same Quadratrac that AMC introduced in the Wagoneer circa 1973? If so, then the Wagoneer should get the credit for that, not the Eagle.

    For that matter, there were scads of full-time 4wd vehicles in the mid 1970s, Dodge’s 4wd trucks were ALL full time 4wd from about 1975 to roughly 1980 and with Chevy/GM Blazer and 4×4 trucks you got full time 4wd if you ordered an automatic tranny. I think Jeep was the same way: Manual transmission vehicles go the conventional 2wd/4wd system and Automatics got the Quadra Trac (which was different from the NP203 T-case used in the Chevy/Ford/Dodge vehicles in that it had a limited slip differential in the t-case vs. an open diff for the NP unit, and also different in that the quadra-trac t-case was a single-speed unit with the low range an add-on option.)

    I think the first full time 4wd vehicle sold in the US was the Range Rover in the early 70s.

    Also my comment about the All Wheel Drive badge (it wasn’t a sticker!) was simply to point out that the term was not invented or coined by either AMC or Subaru, but had been around since at least WWII if not before.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    I agree that the Explorer should be added and the Cherokee dropped. Being the 1st to market doesn’t change the world, but having the model that changed buyers attitude does. Ford was selling half a million Explorers annualy in the mid 90′s. Jeep has never done that…nor have they had a profound effect on the driving public masses. Their “It’s a Jeep thing” campaign is admission of being a niche product. I’ll never quantify a niche brand as “changing the world.”

    Additionally, I’d add the Taurus. In 1986 no other mass market vehicle looked like it. Like it or not, that styling was copied and adoped by everyone ~ Japanese, American and European manufacturers. Again, huge public appeal landed the Taurus in millions of driveways across the country as people traded in their “boxy” vehicles of past.

    Not sure I’d include early Japanese econoboxes to the list. They were in the right place at the right time. The oil embargo changed the world, but did the car? Same could be said of the Prius and last year’s oil spike. I’m not convinced yet that the Prius is a paradigm shift in what people shop for in a vehicle without an outside driving factor, i.e. oil prices.

    I would possibly add the Subaru Outback, or possibly earlier Legacy. They succeeded where AMC fell short on the Eagle. Somehow Subaru convinced people that AWD was something you had to have for safety or performance or whatever. Today AWD is an option on many models, while most of us will never ever have the need for it, people think they need it from good marketing. Changed the automotive landscape.

    Lastly I’d go back to an early model pick-up truck. Before my time, but clearly someone marketed this vehicle to suburbanites that have little to no need for a work vehicle. Today millions of people commute with these things and rarely if ever haul a load of lumber or building materials. Still, the masses are convinced they need a truck for that “what if” scenario.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Martin, You’re missing the whole point of the Eagle and its significance. It was the first Passenger Car (except Jensen FF) with full-time AWD. That was the big deal. You didn’t have to remember to put it in or out of 4wd. And it was a passenger car, In the late seventies, SUV’s were big and “trucky”. The Eagle was unique and pioneering, and had IFS. It was the predecessor of today’s AWD passenger cars: Audi, BMW, Subaru, etc., etc.

    It had no choice but to use the Concord body, and it wasn’t a big seller, but it opened the eyes of the industry, and they followed it. Does that sound significant? It does to me.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The Pontiac GTO deserves to be on this list.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Put me in on the Mini band wagon. It is arguably the most important since the T.

    Drop the XK120- it was end of the line for it’s era of styling.

    Replace with the ’48 Cisitalia Virtually every car in the last 60 years has had it’s styling influenced by that rolling sculpture.

    And that would also axe the ‘Stang, which is just a commercially successful application of Farina’s proportions.

    Jeep and Ford PU deserve consideration.

    Corolla? The backbone of the Toyota empire.

    Trubie has to go-did they confuse the term infulence with “under the…”?

    OK, how about a TTAC ten most important list, aren’t we overdue to squabble about one?
    It would be a nice change from the Bailout Nation.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Has any AWD “car” (not truck/SUV) really “changed the world”.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    AndrewDederer

    Not bad (especially for Forbes) but I don’t think they understand what “influential” means. People have to copy or adapt to you.

    Ford Model T – Of course
    VW Beetle – Ditto
    Jaguar XK 120 – No, desirable, yes. Go with the Buick with the power-glide.
    Trabant – No, a negative example (who’d copy this?). One of Sir Alex’s things should be here. I’ll go with the 1200-1400.
    Porsche 911 – Yeah, there are so many rear-engine sports cars.. (and the beetle had that). Swap with the next and replace with say the Datsun 502.
    Ford Mustang – Yeap
    AMC Eagle – Wrong, “ahead of it’s time” maybe. But no-one copied it when it came out (because as related above, it was a real bodge-job). Replace with CR-V/RAV-4 (turning a 4-wheel-drive uni-body wagon into a pseudo off-roader.
    Jeep Cherokee – Yeap, the Explorer made more money, but the Cherokee set the patern long before.
    Dodge Caravan – Yeap
    Toyota Prius – Yeah, but kinda early to know for sure. If not replace with 86′ Taurus (first of the aero-look).

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    I think you’d have to put the first Toyota Corolla in there. If it had not been there, there would be no Accords or Camry’s, (or Lexi, for that matter) and we would all still mostly be driving Chevvies, Fords, Dodges, Plymouths, Oldsmobiles, etc….

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    It[AMC Eagle] had no choice but to use the Concord body, and it wasn’t a big seller, but it opened the eyes of the industry, and they followed it. Does that sound significant? It does to me.

    Sorry, not biting…. you’ve shifted the argument.

    The Cherokee did a lot more to getting people into the “Gotta have AWD” that the Eagle.

    The Eagle did not change the world, any more that the Chrylser Airflow did. Yes, each of them may have been first – but being first and changing the world are different. In the case of the Airflow, you could argue that it’s failure set aerodynamic car design back 10 years.

    The Eagle -even if we were to concede your dubious claim that it was first – had no impact on the market. No one followed their lead for decades. However, one can say, that unlike the Airflow, it didn’t move the trend backwards.

  • avatar

    Bunter1
    Has any AWD “car” (not truck/SUV) really “changed the world”.

    Thank you. Outside of the Model T and VW Beetle, I can’t say that many of the other cars on the list did either. Help shape the automotive industry? Yes. But “change the world?” I don’t think so.

  • avatar
    wsn

    This list should be more properly named “Ten Cars That Changed The US, from an American point of view.”

    For the world? T-Model, Beetle, Corolla. Possibly Prius in the future when it hits the 10M mark.

  • avatar
    tom

    1934 Chrysler Airflow/1936 Lincoln Zephyr. These cars were the first to incorporate aerodynamics into vehicle design.

    This is not true. Maybe they were the first in the US, and maybe they were the first to sell in large numbers, but they were definitely not the first.

    The earliest aerodynamic car I know of is the “Rumpler Tropfenwagen” from 1921. I don’t know if it was the first passenger car to incorporate aerodynamics, but it’s probably one of the most significant with an air drag coefficient of only 0.28:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/00/Rumpler_Tropfenwagen.jpg

    Another early car that comes to my mind and that’s more similar in design to the Airflow would be the 1932 “Maybach Zeppelin Stromlinie”:
    http://www.maybach.de/images/194.jpg

  • avatar
    don1967

    If the 1979 AMC Eagle “changed the world”, then how come my first date in 1983 took place in my father’s Oldsmobile instead of a Nissan Murano?

    Somebody needs to explain to these journalists the difference between influencing the future and merely foreshadowing it.

  • avatar
    rottenbob

    Chrysler Airflow; it was the first passenger vehicle to take advantage of aerodynamics and lower the cabin to rest between the wheels instead of on top of them.

    If the list is supposed to be vehicles “that were the first of their kind and that influenced the design and performance elements of the entire industry” then it is hard to understand how they missed the Airflow.

    Also, the AMC Eagle absolutely belongs on the list. Not only was it the first of its kind, it also influenced the design and performance elements of other vehicles.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    When the 1984 Cherokee was introduced, Ford and GM responded with the 2-door Bronco II and S-10 Blazer. It took both of them a full six years before they realized that the Cherokee had established a new market all on its own and they had to have their own comparable 4-door, small SUVs to get a slice of that burgeoning pie.

    Although Explorer sales would eclipse that of the Cherokee, if not for the initial six-year run of the Cherokee when neither the Explorer or 4-door S-10 Blazer even existed, it’s quite unlikely that the latter two would ever have been produced.

  • avatar
    Bruce from DC

    Re: the Jeep Cherokee
    It’s worth remembering that the Jeep Cherokee was introduced in 1984 along with its twin, the Jeep Wagoneer (not to be confused with the larger V-8 powered “Grand Wagoneer” that had been sold for several years, going back, I believe, to the late 1970s).

    I know, I bought a 1984 Wagoneer for my family (which consisted of my wife, one 3-year old and another about to be born). The Wagoneer, while mechanically identical to the Cherokee, was styled like a car for the suburbs — no gray fender inserts, etc. With a monochromatic paint job and no big lettering on the side or broad striping, it looked like any other medium-sized station wagon, albeit a boxy one that had higher ground clearance. The product of AMC’s alliance with Renault, the apparent French contribution was to make the oxcart-like suspension (solid axles front and rear) reasonably comfortable, which it was. The car drove acceptably on-pavement at the then prevailing speeds of 60-65 mph (officially, the Congressionally-mandated double nickel was in place) and the suspension showed its limitations only if you attempted to corner it like a sports car and hit a bump. The engine choices were a new AMC-developed 2.5 liter 4 or GM’s 2.8 liter V-6 (both carburetored), which offered a little more torque and horsepower, and a lot more problems. While this was a body-on-frame vehicle, it was an all-new product, not a pickup truck derivative ( viz the Blazer, the S-10 Blazer and Explorer). (Although there was a pickup truck version of the Cherokee.) Interestingly, the Cherokee/Wagoneer offered almost as much room as the much heavier (and thirstier) Grand Wagoneer. There were, IIRC, 3-different 4wd systems. The simplest system had no center diff and was appropriate only for off-road use. It did, however, have a low range; so it was good for creeping.

    I’m sure the Explorer beats the Wagoneer/Cherokee in numbers sold (although consider that the Wagoneer/Cherokee was sold, essentially unchanged for what, 15, years(?), albeit replacing the original engines with AMC’s 4 liter straight 6).

    I would argue that the Wagoneer was expressly designed and marketed for buyers like me and my wife — married with children, living in the suburbs. The concept clearly worked, even if Ford’s superior marketing muscle and development resources made the Explorer a bigger seller. So, I think it properly lays claim to being the first modern, broad-market appeal SUV. Jeep also made, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, a 4-wheel drive station wagon. Can’t remember what it was called; I had a friend in high school who owned a particularly beat-up example.

    BTW, my wife loved the Wagoneer; we kept it for 8 years and moved to a minivan only when we had a third child. It was a right-sized vehicle for us.

  • avatar
    Lotus7

    What about Colin Chapman’s Lotus 7. There have been a TON of copies.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    The Jeep Cherokee belongs and I say the XJ. I may be wrong for not including the 1st gen big one.

    That thing sold very well before the Explorer. That small SUV set the path for the others.

    Compact, 4 door, good looking, powerful (from 1987 on).

    Even today I’d buy one.

    Nobody mentions in that list the Fiat 127, which set the path for modern hatchbacks and the current transverse FWD layout. The 1st Golf is similar to that car, and EVERY single transersal FWD car has the setup of the 127. Then, I’d put the Uno, which introduced the “vertical” hatchback that is common today. Put them together if you want.

    And 10 is too little. There are too many cars that represent turn points in the industry. 20 is a better number.

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    @Martin Albright:
    Well, you learn something every day. I won’t incorrectly attribute first use of “AWD” to Subaru or AMC again. The term was still obscure til AMC and Subaru used it instead of 4WD to distinguish their 4-wheel drive cars at the time, which was really my point.

    @Bruce from DC: The Grand Wagoneer started out as the Wagoneer in 1963. The name was changed to “Grand” Wagoneer much later. The body remained virtually unchanged til they ended production after MY1991.

  • avatar
    geeber

    tom: Another car that’s definitely missing is the VW Golf. It might not have been a big hit in the US, but everywhere else it was and still is. This car surely had a global impact.

    The Golf imitated the Mini, which debuted over a decade earlier. In the U.S. and Japan, the Honda Civic debuted before the Golf, offered the same layout, and arguably did more to get local audiences to accept this configuration.

    tom: Another early car that comes to my mind and that’s more similar in design to the Airflow would be the 1932 “Maybach Zeppelin Stromlinie”:

    That Maybach was a show car; it was not offered for sale to the general public. It’s a beautiful car, but the Airflow was a regular production model that anyone with sufficient cash could buy.

    tom: The Mustang and the AMC Eagle have probably also mostly a local influence, this time in North America, although since it has been the biggest market for a long time, this might still be justified.

    The Mustang led directly to the European Ford Capri, which was a huge success (particularly in Great Britain), so its influence spread beyond North America. It also directly inspired the creation of the Japanese Toyota Celica. The mid-1970s Celica hatchback is a direct, 3/4-scale copy of a 1969 Mustang fastback.

    rudiger: When the 1984 Cherokee was introduced, Ford and GM responded with the 2-door Bronco II and S-10 Blazer.

    The S-10 Blazer and Bronco II were on the market before the 1984 Cherokee. The Cherokee aced those two by offering a four-door model.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Martin, You’re missing the whole point of the Eagle and its significance. It was the first Passenger Car (except Jensen FF) with full-time AWD. That was the big deal. You didn’t have to remember to put it in or out of 4wd. And it was a passenger car, In the late seventies, SUV’s were big and “trucky”. The Eagle was unique and pioneering, and had IFS. It was the predecessor of today’s AWD passenger cars: Audi, BMW, Subaru, etc., etc.

    Paul with the exception of the full time 4wd everything about the Eagle had been preceeded in the US market by Subaru years before.

    Car based body – Check
    4wd – Check
    Sold as a passenger car – check
    IFS – Check (as well as IRS which the Eagle didn’t have.)

    So with the sole exception of full time 4wd – which had already been pioneered by truck-based SUVs almost a decade before – there was not one unique thing about the Eagle.

    Furthermore, when it was introduced, it was a sales flop from a dying company and did not inspire any “copycats” from any other manufacturers at the time. The first commercially successful car-based vehicles to offer true AWD came out, IIRC, in the mid to late 80′s (Subarus and Toyotas, I think.)

    So in that sense, I fail to see how the AMC Eagle belongs on any list other than one of automotive curiosities and oddballs.

    Not only that, 4wd cars based on FWD platforms were fairly common in the early 80s, off the top of my head I recall the Toyota Tercel wagon, the Nissan Stanza, a couple of Hondas and Mitsubishis and an Isuzu or two. As these were all based on FWD designs, it cannot be said that the Eagle (based on the RWD Concord) was in any way an inspiration, that distinction, again, has to go to Subaru.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    While this was a body-on-frame vehicle, it was an all-new product, not a pickup truck derivative ( viz the Blazer, the S-10 Blazer and Explorer).

    Bruce, I’m pretty sure all of the XJ bodied Jeeps (Wagoneers and Cherokees from 1984 to 2001) were unibody and not body-on-frame. Even the Commanche pickup was a unibody design from the cab forward, with a frame attached to the rear to hold the bed.

  • avatar
    tom

    geeber: The Golf imitated the Mini, which debuted over a decade earlier. In the U.S. and Japan, the Honda Civic debuted before the Golf, offered the same layout, and arguably did more to get local audiences to accept this configuration.

    I wouldn’t put the Mini and the Golf in the same category. The mini has a unique design and was much smaller. The Civic was also smaller. Also, the Golf had a much cleaner design. It had similar proportions but it was still a new direction and one that proved to be very successful.

    geeber: That Maybach was a show car; it was not offered for sale to the general public. It’s a beautiful car, but the Airflow was a regular production model that anyone with sufficient cash could buy.

    Not true. It was for sale to the general public. I’ve got that picture from the the website of the official Maybach Club where they have an article from a German car mag from 1932 and it’s clear that this was no show car but a car that everybody with enough cash could buy. Remember, back then it wasn’t unusual for a car company to offer a variety of different chassis on the same model.

    geeber: The Mustang led directly to the European Ford Capri, which was a huge success (particularly in Great Britain), so its influence spread beyond North America. It also directly inspired the creation of the Japanese Toyota Celica. The mid-1970s Celica hatchback is a direct, 3/4-scale copy of a 1969 Mustang fastback.

    I concede that point. While the Capri is quite different, the idea behind it was definitely inspired by the Mustang.

  • avatar
    geeber

    tom,

    The Mini pioneered the transverse-engine, front-wheel-drive layout that VW, Fiat and Honda later used. It may be smaller than those cars, but it was first with that layout. And the Civic was on the market in Japan and the U.S. before the Golf debuted here.

    As for the Maybach – the site I saw said that none were ever made for the general public. It claimed that it was strictly a show car. I could certainly be mistaken.

    I can imagine that Maybach offered it for sale, but there were no takers. That would have had more to do with the dire economic circumstances of 1932 than the merits of the car itself, as it is quite attractive and unique.

  • avatar
    dolorean23

    Ford Explorer. It made SUV’s mainstream, and not just a niche.

    Yes and No. Yes in that the Explorer coined the term “SUV”, making it mainstream. No in that the very successful 1984 – 2004 Jeep Cherokee should actually take the title of what should have been called an SUV, essentially a hopped up, 4WD wagon. The International Scout could probably also fit the bill as would some of the GMC Suburban line, though no where near as popular as the Cherokee.

    Trabant? It’s only importance was proving that socialism is a failure.

    Actually you’re wrong. It’s only importance was proving that Communism was a failure. VW is the poster child for socialist automaking.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Hi Frank W.-Outside of the Model T and VW Beetle, I can’t say that many of the other cars on the list did either.

    Thanks for your kind words. Truely there are very few real ground breakers. There may not be ten that merit the “changed the world” title.

    That’s why I went with the Mini,transverse FWD, two-box packaging, changed the way nearly every popular priced car is built today.

    Also look at auto styling pre and post Cisitalia-full fender body integration starts right there. A few companies are just starting to separate them again (RX-8, Maz6, Enzo). Probably the strongest style influence since they settled on four wheels at the corners.

    The early Caddies with interchangeable mechanical parts are important also, without that the assembly line doesn’t happen.

    The first Ford F-1 led to the PU becoming mainstream but the is pretty much a USA thing.

    Take care.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    The Explorer: not. It was just a slightly bigger Cherokee. The Cherokee, Blazer S-10, and baby Bronco were all out first, and sold very well too.

    But the Explorer sold millions, and changed the American mindset to accepting Tahoes, Expeditions and Escalades as a way of life.

    Sort of like the Mustang….not the first (see GTO, Barracuda, and Riviera for personal, sporty cars), but definitely the loudest bang when it hit.

    I would have to add the 1977 ‘full-size’ GM sedans – for the same price as the ’76s, you got a 12-inch shorter, 800 pounds lighter, nearly as roomy vehicle. And that made it ok to go downsize.

    Finally, I would add the ’76 Accord. We didn’t know it then, but that competent compact was the beginning of the end for the Big 3 in the family sedan arena.

    /As groundbreaking as the ’86 Taurus was, didn’t it receive shit for mimicing the ’84 Audi 5000 design?

  • avatar
    zora

    The 1971 Toyota Celica was significant. To me it was the first affordable sport compact, at least from Japan.

  • avatar
    able

    1911 Gräf & Stift Bois de Boulogne tourer

    Beat that!

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    The most influential car consensus from a possibly more reliable source:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Car_of_the_Century

    The Model T (assembly line) and the Mini (transverse engine FWD) were industry changers; almost every modern mainstream car is designed with the Mini’s layout and built with the Model T’s production techniques.

    The VW Bug and 911 do not belong. They have influenced nothing.

    No other cars use rear mounted engines, no other cars have their styling, and the air cooled engine in automobiles has been pointless since the invention of antifreeze.

    The British passed up VW’s operations as war reparations because they did not want to produce a car that was already outdated by the late 1940s.

    Worse, the Bug and 911 were not original; they are rip-offs of pre-war Tatras. Tatra was later awarded damages for patent infringement.

    The Tatra T87 should be considered one of the most influential cars of all time; it influenced one of the most shockingly high selling cars of all time (credit German poverty, early US market entry and 50 years of production?), and one of the most overrated sports cars of all time.

  • avatar
    venator

    Trabant ahead of Mini. First mass-produced car with transverse engine and front-wheel-drive, also first mass-produced car with plastic body. Rack-and-pinion steering before it became widely accepted. Electronic ignition before most. Etc.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    All the Explorer comments are interesting. There’s a real chicken-and-egg aspect to the Explorer: Did it create the trend or did it merely ride across the top of the wave, a wave that was actually made up of other vehicles?

    I would argue that it was the latter. There is nothing particularly remarkable about the Explorer. Its initial incarnation was based on a stretched out version of the Ranger mid-size pickup, complete with twin-I-beam front suspension. It didn’t pioneer any new technology nor was it significantly distinguishable from its competitors, the likes of the Cherokee, S-10 Blazer, Montero and Trooper.

    It did sell well, but so what? If the Explorer hadn’t existed something else would have filled that niche just as readily. The Explorer may have just been more affordable or more designed to appeal to women (who are a significant factor in determining sales of family vehicles) but the Explorer’s chief “virtue” was just that it was in the right place at the right time.

    In fact, most changes in the Automotive world are pretty gradual. 4WD vehicles were pretty rough right after WWII, limited to the likes of the Jeep and Land Rover. When International Harvester introduced the Scout in the early 60′s they wanted something a bit more “refined” with real doors and roll-up windows. The Toyota Land Cruiser also hit the shores about this time, Jeep-looking but with the real doors and roll-up windows people demanded.

    The Jeep Wagoneer, introduced in 1963, was more refined still with a car-style body and available with luxuries like AC and an automatic transmission. The Ford Bronco followed in 1966 and then the Chevy Blazer in 1969 all upped the ante in terms of comfortable accomodations (though primitive by todays standards, those SUVs were pretty luxurious compared to the vehicles they replaced.)

    Contrary to the notion that “luxury” 4wd vehicles debuted in the 1990s, the vehicles of the 70′s were actually pretty well equipped for their day (remember that cars weren’t as luxurious back then either.) Check out a mid-70′s Blazer or Cherokee Chief and you will find it almost as well appointed as the average cars of that time.

    You could arbitrarily draw a line and characterize any of the above vehicles as the “start of the SUV craze” and they would have as legitimate a claim on that title as the Explorer. Indeed, it is probably more accurate to say that the Explorer is the vehicle that rode the wave to its crest, not the vehicle that started or enabled the fad.

  • avatar

    Explorer: changed the landscape of America. No, the Suburban and Cherokee never had the balls to make that happen.

    Morris Oxford III/Hindustan Ambassador: kinda obvious considering its long tenure around the world.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    IIRC, Jag XJ120 was the first production car with 4 wheel disc brakes.

  • avatar
    paris-dakar

    The Wagoneer, while mechanically identical to the Cherokee, was styled like a car for the suburbs — no gray fender inserts, etc. With a monochromatic paint job and no big lettering on the side or broad striping, it looked like any other medium-sized station wagon, albeit a boxy one that had higher ground clearance…. While this was a body-on-frame vehicle, it was an all-new product, not a pickup truck derivative ( viz the Blazer, the S-10 Blazer and Explorer). (Although there was a pickup truck version of the Cherokee.)

    All XJ variants were Unibody. In that sense it’s kind of difficult to really call the XJ influential – it always had a unique mix of attributes that have never been copied – Unibody, Solid Axles Front and Rear. Light Weight, good accelleration with the 4.0L, extremely rugged running gear for its weight.

    I loved my XJ. Would buy another in a heartbeat.

  • avatar
    venator

    First car with 4-wheel disc brakes was the 1949 Crossley.

  • avatar
    venator

    Correction: Crosley.

  • avatar
    mekanik

    Regarding the Eagle, which I do believe deserves a spot on the list, was for all purposes JEEP CJ mechanicals, less a 2 speed transfer case and a dis-engagable front axle, mated to a rather beefed up unibody chassis shared with the Concord and Spirit models. (heavy enough to support a small snow plow, VT’ers often had this setup, but often changed out the transfer case for a 2 speed unit.) The Eagle models were basically the design Mule for the 1984 unibody Cherokee. What makes The Eagle important was the uses a a AWD system that used a vacuum system(selectrac) to engage , Disengage the AWD system (for fuel saving) simply by stopping the vehicle and moving a small lever, however could be driven in AWD full time as there was a fluid coupling in the transfer case allowing power to front and rear axle at the same time. The Cherokee is less important except for the 1989 model the “limited” which could be considered to have started the sport utility craze.

  • avatar
    golf4me

    Mazda Miata is a glaring omission. Without it, you wouldn’t have SLK, Z4, Boxster, etc. It is the all time best-selling sports car. The beetle of roadsters, so to speak.

  • avatar
    Blue387

    Citroen DS.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    What about the 3 series? Seems like everyone has been trying to come up with a 3-series killer for a long time now. The iconic sports sedan.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India