Cars a like a time capsule. Not only do they represent some of the leading technological innovations of their time, but they can embody the style and culture of the era. The best models change with time and enjoy seemingly unending popularity, not least because their badge and nameplate stand the test of time to become revered and steeped in nostalgia.
These 6 models have endured widespread success over the last half a decade and more. They’ve truly hit a sweet spot since going on sale and have maintained commercial success to grow into true motoring icons and captains of their industry.
For more than half a century the Range Rover has set the standard for 4×4 performance and luxury, two characteristics seemingly at different ends of the spectrum. Since 1970, when the first Range Rover was introduced, the boundaries for what an SUV should look like and feel to drive and have been continually pushed by the technical innovation of the Range Rover.
Range Rover was the first vehicle to deliver permanent 4-wheel drive and since the 1970s has known many guises as a two-door, four-door, sport, cross-coupe, and hybrid. In recent years, trend-setting models like the Range Rover Sport and Range Rover Velar have defined a near era of luxury in the premium SUV class, all while continuing to set new standards of 4×4 performance.
The Fiat 500 is arguably one of the most iconic European models of the 20th century. First manufactured in 1957, it enjoyed instant success as an affordable city car in the depths of post-war Italy. Its compact dimensions were ideal for the tight ancient streets of Rome and Turin which weren’t exactly made for accommodating modern vehicles.
After 20 years in production, and many racing titles later, the Fiat 500 fell out of trend and was resultantly scrapped by Fiat. That was until the range was reborn in 2007 to a worldwide market that reinvigorated the popularity of the 500 and proved its enduring attraction as a chic city car. More recently, Fiat has manufactured a 500 Hybrid and 500e model that proves the Fiat 500 is going away any time soon. It’s still Europe’s bestselling city car and is one model that has truly stood the test of time.
Carlo Abarth was one of the true pioneers of European Motorsport, after a successful career in racing cars and motorcycles he founded Abarth in 1949 to manufacture racing cars and performance tuning kits. It was in the early 1960s that he discovered the Fiat 500 and gave it the full Abarth tuning treatment, creating what was initially called the Abarth 595 and later named as the 695.
The 695 took the compact dimensions of the 500 city-car and optimised performance to hit top speeds of 87mph that would earn Abarth more than 900 race victories by 1965. Since then, the 695 has shined as the jewel in the crown of the Abarth range and is still manufactured for performance, hitting top speeds of over 140mph whilst weighing under 1000kg.
Designed in the early 1950s as an all-terrain vehicle for Japan’s National Police Reserve force, the Toyota Landcruiser has seen 14 generational models pass through production and accrued more than 10 million sales. Like most cars that have stood the test of time, the Toyota Landcruiser was somewhat of a cult object. Amongst the four-wheel driving community in Japan, the Landcruiser set the pace for off-road performance, durability, and ruggedness.
The Landcruiser was Toyota’s first exported model and became a standard-bearer for global trade from the island. It was a no-nonsense all-terrain vehicle that could take a beating and withstand harsh climates. Over the years though, the emergence of the SUV market has refined the Landcruiser with great sophistication and luxury features. It goes without saying that there’s never been a compromise on performance. To this day the Landcruiser remains one of the toughest and most durable SUVs on the market, even with a little extra interior leather and a fancy touchscreen display.
The Ford F-Series is perhaps one of the best representations of American culture. Built by one of the country’s most significant industrialists and manufactured by one of the most recognisable worldwide brands for more than half a century, the F-Series is an American pickup truck that has defined American culture, innovation, and industry for generations.
It’s the best-selling Ford model of all time and has been the best-selling pickup truck for the past four decades. First manufactured in 1948, the F-Series was the first post-war truck manufactured by Ford following a cease of commercial production in order to manufacture vehicles that could contribute to America’s war effort. In 2021, Ford released the fourteenth generation F-Series F-150 pickup. They also hinted at intentions to create an all-electric model of the F-150 by 2022.
Very few other cars carry as much history as the Volkswagen Transporter. Not only does it carry cultural significance but it’s also the longest-running production model of any commercial vehicle. It was first manufactured in 1950 with a design derived from the VW beetle and we’ve since seen six generations of the VW Transporter with more than 13 million models sold over the last seventy years.
By the end of the 1960s, the VW Transporter model had grown to become somewhat of a cultural icon and a motoring embodiment of the flower-power movement and summer of love that earned the T1 the title of ‘hippie bus’. The T2 developed in 1967 was a significant development and perhaps the most well-known Transporter model by looks. It was longer than the previous T1 model and had a more powerful engine to cope with the extra weight, with sliding rear doors and an optional pop-up roof campervan model most associated with youth culture movements.
Since then the Volkswagen Transporter has maintained popularity as both a personal-use and commercial vehicle. The latest T6 model has recorded sales amongst the top 5 bestselling vans in the UK and the next-generation T7 model is set for release later in 2021. It’s expected to feature a new hybrid engine and a brand-new design with features inherited from the Volkswagen Golf.