I have always had a passion for automobiles. I'm not a gear-head who knows the horsepower, drag coefficient and braking distance of each model from Mini to Mercedes. Nor am I a hot-rod, muscle-car or racing aficionado.
But, ever since I can remember, I was drawn to the beauty of design, and the personification of brands that rolled off assembly lines in Detroit, Munich, Stuttgart and Turin. I preferred Matchbox cars over Hot Wheels (they were more true to the full size versions) and have held a subscription to Road & Track magazine since 1976. As a boy, I'd drag my dad to the Los Angeles International Auto Show, and for my birthday he'd take me to car dealerships, and keep the salesman busy while I checked out each year's latest models. I remember lobbying my parents to buy a 1976 BMW 2002 tii (they bought a Volkswagen Rabbit instead).
As a 10 year-old boy, I clearly had my favorites, and amazingly, the list of my favorite cars of all time have changed little since I was that boy flipping through the latest issue of Road & Track magazine.
Here's my list of the Top Five Favorite Automobile Designs of my last 30 years.
First up, is the Lincoln Continental with the legendary "suicide doors." The line, manufactured between 1961-1969, featured front-opening rear doors which suggested both practicality, and a bit of an edge. With the doors hinged from the rear, the design allowed ease of ingress and egress, and the labeling of "suicide doors" created a feeling of danger. I love (to this day) the sleek but boxy nature of the design. Our next door neighbor, a jet fighter pilot, owned a 1969 black hardtop that I often volunteered to wash from stem to stern on the weekends. Just to touch this car was magic to a 10 year-old.
NEXT UP, THE SL WITHOUT THE GULL-WINGS (on the next page)