By on November 6, 2018

There’s little question this is a pretty good time to be a gearhead. Dodge is doling out cars featuring 840 horsepower with full factory warranties. McLaren seemingly manufactures a new rocket ship every other day, with the Speedtail following the Senna following the 720S following the … well, you get the picture.

Which brings us to a very good question: Which manufacturer – past or present – is responsible for cranking out the largest number of great cars?

Not the largest number of great cars in terms of production, of course, but in terms of models. Great cars can be defined by any number of measures. Mine? Well, that would be performance, of course. Your criteria may be different.

Is Ferrari the winner by that definition? Let’s have a look through the catalog and see. F40? Without question. 288 GTO. Absolutely. 456? No doubt. Consider, however, that Fiorano also produced some appalling machines including the Mondial, 348, and – I’ll probably catch heat for this given the recent concept car floating around – the 400 series. I’d even put the modern-day California with its fake tail lights in there, too.

Shockingly, especially given its recent desire to bin anything that’s not a crossover, Ford has a pretty good back catalog. The GT40, the first-gen reincarnated GT, the homologation special RS200. Even the original Taurus SHO was something to behold in 1989.

How about McLaren, mentioned at the top of this post? Its initial effort, the MP4-12C, had the title of a fax machine and the sex appeal of leftover french fries but it absolutely set the company on its way to making awesome cars like the ones mentioned above, not to mention the P1.

How about it B&B? Which car manufacturer earns your vote for having the largest number of great cars in its roster?

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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42 Comments on “QOTD: Best of the Best?...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    It’s easy to make a great car with an unlimited budget. IMO it’s more impressive to make great cars normal people can afford. In that context I want to give the nod to Honda. Of the last 5 Civic Sis, only 1 stumbled (the minivan). S2000 and NSX are legendary driver’s cars. But where Honda really stands out for me is in the every day stuff. New Accord 2.0T is a dark horse. TL/TSX from the mid 00s were great (and frankly the uglified ones that followed were no worse). Prelude? Accord V6 coupes were a LSD away from true greatness.

    Mazda gets all the mainstream driver car glory but they don’t have an answer to the Civic 1.5T or Accord 2.0T, let alone the Civic Si & Type-R. (I was not impressed by the 3i rental I had for a week either). Honda doesn’t have an answer to the Miata obviously but most people can’t make that kind of sacrifice. Again when you can make your $17K base subcompact fun to drive you’re doing something.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      sporty
      I ll agree with you.
      Honda.
      Every vehicle is fun to drive.
      Reasonably priced.
      Frugal to own.
      Rarely in the shop.
      And you know this going in.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        He is not talking about Honda today – the past!

        92 Accord; 93 Civic, 90 CRX, S2000, old NSX, Civic Si (some models), and may be Integra of the old. I would add 92 Legend even though it had reliability issues, it was a car that wouldn’t look bad on the road even today.

        today its just [email protected]…. [email protected] nothing to buy from Honda

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    If you believe Top Gear, it’s Lancia (037, Splatos, Delta Integrale, Fulvia, etc).

    But, since we don’t get those in the United States of FreedomLand, I’d have to go with… Actually, I can’t decide. I can say who isn’t anywhere near the top but not who is at the top.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    It’s GM and it’s not close.

    -Cadillac was legitimately the standard of the world from the V16 cars through the 60s at least. Multiple choices from that list.

    -C2, early C3, C5, C6, and C7 Corvettes were legitimate performance bargains the likes of which we rarely see.

    -Their muscle cars are still iconic. GTO. Chevelle. Impala SS.

    -Their trucks have had periods of excellence as well. The GMT400 is probably peak truck IMO.

    -Suburban and Tahoe have basically been the unquestioned class leaders for decades.

    -Modern performance cars, even outside of Corvette have a case: (CTS-V, SS sedan, ZL1 1LE, etc.)

    Now, it has to be said, the overall batting average is not high, especially since 1970. But that wasn’t the question. The modern cars on this list show that when they want to, GM can put out a world beater. It just makes the many, many half @ssed efforts all the more frustrating.

    • 0 avatar
      Prove your humanity: 9 + 8 =

      GM is kind of like a junior high art class. There are a few really good finished products, but most of what’s produced will quickly end up in the bin.

  • avatar
    volvo

    Of the mainstream manufactures I would have to say BMW. That said it seems their glory days ended about 15 years ago. I only owned a 1969 2002 but over the years they have had many models that were affordable driver’s cars.

    IMO for the last 20 years due to initial price, maintenance costs and less than stellar reliability (not to mention current road congestion) they are not a car I would want to own.

    Still they made a large number of great driving cars at a reasonable price without compromising day to day utility of the vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      This, up to around the mid 90s they made great drivers cars. Not great to own, but nothing else drove like them.

      If we go by ratio of current good and bad, Chrysler because the 300 and Pacifica are actually pretty good and since that is all they make, no bad cars. I would have said Dodge because of the SRT version of everything from the Durango to Challenger, but the Journey is a Dodge.

      Lamborghini makes pretty good cars right now as well. I would take one over a Ferrari in anything built in the last 10 years.

      Audi?

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      That’s where my head went – BMW. If I look at pure batting average of hits, extra-base hits and home runs, BMW comes right to the top of my mind when I consider the variety of models.

      If I think of the total number of hits, regardless of batting average, the answer is GM. So many examples over a century – but a lot of misses between those hits. Given the size and historical market share it’s hard to argue against.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    I say if you’re going to go by great models vs the rest of their lineup you have to go Honda. Prelude, nsx, Integras, civic SI, CRX, Accord Coupe, they’ve always been awesome and gotten better with each generation. In addition Honda has always put that DNA into all their vehicles. Odyssey, Pilot, CRV, etc have always had good steering, handling, breaking, feel that you can tell came from what Honda learned from making motorcycles sports cars and sports coupes.

    Other automakers like GM, yea they have more jaw dropping rides that go back decades but they also rolled out so much garbage since the 70s it dilutes the brands.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I mean, Honda will still sell you the big engine with a 3rd pedal, even though we all know they are losing money on them. Mazda won’t do that. Hell, with the next 3 series BMW won’t either.

      I don’t think there’s ever been a point in Honda’s history where they didn’t make something for drivers. And not just mega dollar track rippers. An 06-11 Civic Si was an 8K RPM commuter you could drive to the moon and back.

  • avatar
    redapple

    3800
    Well said. I agree.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    This is tough, my first thought was Porsche, rarely have they put out a POS , maybe a 924 or 914 maybe, they moved to a SUV that made them huge bucks but have not lost their soul as a sports car maker. I understand the GM part but I could say VW could give it a run for its money if we include everything they own, The fact we do not see a lot of it hurts. So using one car Brand I would have to agree Honda would take it, they have very few misses and when they miss the act quickly to fix it, unlike GM who waits until the last model year to fix it ( fiero) and than kill it.

    • 0 avatar
      TDIandThen....

      That was pretty much my thought process too. I just bought a 30 year-old 944t and it’s great but not exactly Honda-reliable at this age – and that’s never been the Porsche objective. If Honda made as many sporty cars as anyone else I might feel more confident about choosing them, too.

      As it is I’m going to suggest a surprise consideration in Subaru – not as reliable as Honda but rally monsters, the BRZ and the winter – AWD crown in several models, plus middle of the pack reliability safety and fuel economy. Maybe they’re the VW of Japan but a comparison to VW is not an insult.

  • avatar
    incautious

    mother mopar. Been building performance since the 50’s Let’s not forget in the 60’s any one with the $ could buy a HEMI, not so say boss 429’s or gm L88’s. Come one 700plus HP hellcats for what 65K. Nobody and I mean nobody builds more speed for the masses that mopar.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Edsel!
    Wait…Wrong article.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I guess it all comes down to the definition of great. Certainly subjective.

    First cut – Ferarri, BMW, Porsche.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Tesla is objectively the greatest automaker of all time.

    When I go out each morning to start up my Model X with its “LOLGAS” vanity plate, I silently weep inside knowing that not everyone gets to experience Elon’s vision. But, prehaps one day you’ll all be wise enough to abandon your uncouth, Luddite ways and embrace the future.

  • avatar
    01 Deville

    Subjective, but thanks for at least clarifying volume vs. number of models.
    If you are looking at sheer number of models in the entire history, there is no comparison, GM all the way followed by Chrysler. Whether it is performance, innovation, luxury, reliability or utility.

    If you are looking at the percent of great cars vs. total there can be a debate. Looking at percent greatness
    Honda would be the winner of a matrix of above mentioned qualities.
    Mclaren would probably win on performance followed by Ferrari.
    I think MB would probably win on luxury with RR being a close second, for pure Luxury RR might be better, but overall in terms of innovation, reliability and performance MB has been way ahead.
    Toyota would be a winner on Reliability.
    Innovation and utility are a bit harder. For innovation I would probably give it to MB as well.
    For utility I don’t know may be Isuzu?

  • avatar
    turbo_awd

    I see where the Honda guys are coming from, but.. You’d have to also give a thought to Datsun / Nissan, wouldn’t you? 510, 240/260Z, 280/300ZX, 350/370Z, various older Skylines, GT-R, Sentra SE-R / Spec V, 240SX (with a motor swap), G35, G37, Altima SE-R, older Maximas were benchmarks for sporty sedans for their day, Q50 Red Sport (debatable for some, I know), plus various models we never got in the US. Heck, the Juke-R would wipe the pavement with pretty much all of the Hondas / Acuras we ever got, except maybe the new NSX.

    https://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2015/08/top-15-nissan-sports-cars-of-all-time.html

    • 0 avatar
      01 Deville

      Some very valid examples, and Nissan does have sporting pedigree.

    • 0 avatar
      ruckover

      Do not forget the Datsun roadsters: 1500, 1600, and 2000. These wonderful cars were every bit as enjoyable as Triumph, MG, Fiat roadsters were, but they would start everyday and get to their destinations, also.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Agreed

      Nissan from the 90’s back, they built many Datsuns that dominated the racing scene, they made the fairly advanced Skyline R-series, the Infiniti G20 is both fairly sporty and a good beater, the Silvia series, heck most Z cars were pretty neat cars too even if they got fat.

      The only downsides were many cars with mediocre rustproofing, craptacular automatics in some Maxima generations, and cars like the Z32 which are a pita to actually work on.

      I cant nominate honestly nominate Honda, for every NSX you have something like the 1998 Honda Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      Nissan pre-Renault was at least on par with Toyota and Honda for overall Greatness. Post-Renault, not so much

  • avatar
    ccd3

    What about Lotus??? Does anyone have a better line-up, past or present?

    • 0 avatar
      01 Deville

      Lotus would be my pick if you the criterion was efficient performance. They continue to amaze not only by their mere existence, only made possible by sharp focus on engineering and performance even with their meager resources and limited marketing.

      • 0 avatar
        cdmoore1972

        I’m still leaning Honda for my pick (based on the 80’s and 90’s line-up alone), but I like the case for Lotus. Nearly every car they put out is intended to be great in a very specific way, and sometimes completely at the expense of all other forms of greatness (comfort, reliability, safety, practicality). Especially in the Colin Chapman years, everything that came out had a purpose. I wouldn’t want to own pretty much ANY of their cars, but I appreciate nearly everything they ever built (Elan M100, being the lone exception).

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    It is not a great time to be a car enthusiast if you’re looking for a keeper car on a new car lot.

  • avatar
    MoparRocker74

    FCA for the win!!! They’ve for the most part culled out the forgettable boring crap and gone for the throat in most segments where they are. Whether it’s dominating on the racetrack, crushing the trail or having a comprehensive lineup of pickups, there’s very little in FCA’s lineup that isn’t a strong contender that everyone knows what it is out on the road. Even Jeep CUVs (today’s boring appliance) can be kitted out to offer a level of competence when the pavement ends.

    FCA offers the biggest variety of vehicles that are lustworthy and normal working people can actually afford. And there aren’t any major compromises in dependability or economy, considering the fun factor.

  • avatar
    DEVILLE88

    Without a doubt, General Motors!!! Just look at it’s history. 1903 Cadillac with parts interchangeble for the 1st time in auto history,1st starter,1st electric headlights,1st v16 engine,1st hardtops(with Buick and Olds)1953 Eldorado, 1967 Eldorado, 1973-76 Eldorado, any and all Fleetwood Broughams(and 60 specials) all Devilles, 1975 Seville, 1980 Seville and Eldo 1959 Caddy anyone? Chevrolet,Corvette,1955-57 Belair,1958 Impala,1959 El Camino,1960 Corvair,1964 Malibu(Chevelle)1962 Nova(Chevy 2)1961 Impala SS 409,1965 Caprice(as option 66 as model)1967 Camaro 1969 Camaro 1971 Camaro, 1982 Camaro SS 454 anyone?,1970 Monte Carlo,1973 Monte Carlo etc. Shall we talk Pontiac? 1957 Boneville fuel injected, 1958 Boneville(just because)1959 wide track anything,1961 Tempest(50/50 weight distribution), 1961 super duty engines,1963 Grand Prix,1969 Grand prix,1973 Grand Prix,1964 GTO(all years)1967 Firebird, 1973 Trans Am, 1977 Trans Am, 1973 Grand Am Buick? all Roadmasters, electra 225, Park aves,1963 Riviera,1971 Riviera, 1971 gts stage 1,1987 Grand National. Oldsmobile,1st American car, 1953 Holiday,1958 98, all 98’s 1966 Toronado, all Toronados,Cutlass anyone?, GM has had it all!!! i know i missed a bunch,1958 Eldo Brougham,1938 Buick y job, 1951 Buick LeSabre………

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Duesenberg – they made only 2.5 street car models: A, J, SJ, and they were all the best cars of their time. The A was the first car with a straight 8, first with 4 wheel hydraulic brakes, had OHC, and made extensive use of lightweight materials to offer the world’s best power/weight ratio for a luxury car. The J is well known, but suffice to say it offered 265 horsepower from its DOHC 32 value straight 8 when the next highest output car in America offered less than half that figure, and then the SJ added a supercharger to boost power to between 320 and 400 and top speed to 130 mph in a 2+ ton luxury car at a time when the most popular mainstream car couldn’t do 60. Duesenberg never made a mediocre car, only the world’s best.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Tough question.

    Answering Honda for making cheerful and consistent washing machines would be easy, technically correct, and a total cop out because nobody should be asking a QOTD about washing machines let alone answering one. Best to me means Americana. And the big three all have their arguments there.

    Cadillac was the non-figurative standard of the world when America was too.

    The Continental was so America that a Kennedy got killed in one.

    Although that one’s a contested point since the Olds 88 was so America that another Kennedy drowned his concubine in one.

    Chuck Norris drove a Ram. Al Bundy drove a Dodge. Chrysler also made the Abrams tank. And the Newport. And the 300 for people who smoke Newports.

    Can the game end in a tie?

  • avatar
    DEVILLE88

    No Shwartzenager drove a Hummer,yet another GM great!!!

  • avatar
    jfb43

    I think the best way to answer this is to find the highest ratio of gems-to-turds from brands that don’t build only supercars/exotics. Porsche might be as upscale as I’d go using that definition (and they might even be the winner).

    Also, I think it’s kind of cheating to say “GM” with an umbrella of nearly a dozen brands at one point.

    I can’t really decide between Porsche and BMW.

  • avatar
    theonlydt

    Easy: Jaguar.

    – XK120
    – XK140
    – D Type
    – MK2
    – MKX
    – E Type
    – XJ6
    – XJ12
    – XJS (seriously, it was a spankingly good car when it worked)
    – XJ220 was a sexy beast – who cares about the Metro V6?
    – XK8
    – XJ8
    – F-Type
    – XE (seriously)

    Consider yourself educated :)

  • avatar
    scott25

    If you go simply by values and auction transactions it’d be tough to look beyond Ferrari, Porsche, Jaguar and Aston Martin.

    I also agree though that you need to look beyond iconic classics and supercars and sports cars, so I nominate Toyota. They have excelled in virtually every category of vehicle at some point in their history. They were at least on par with if not ahead of Honda for affordable performance until the 90’s. They’ve made a number of legends in the off-road arena, which Honda will probably never enter (with cars, at least). They’ve made some great luxury cars with Lexus as well. They also popularized a number of categories over the years, if that makes things like the original RAV4 or RX great.

    Taken as a percentage of every model ever produced though, Honda is probably tops among the Japanese brands.

    It’d be really close between GM and Ford for the American brands. I don’t think ChryCo could really have a prayer against those two.

  • avatar
    macmcmacmac

    Bugatti.

  • avatar
    Safeblonde

    Wouldnt it be Honda, which in its reliability turned millions of malaise-era buyers from the American manufacturers to Japanese manufacturers. That is a “sea change”. And yes, they build in the USA too.

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