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Then and now – iconic cars through the ages

Featured image by Sarah


Cars come and go – but some remain etched in motoring history forever, long after the last model has rolled off the production line. We take a look at some of the most iconic cars from throughout the ages and how they have been reinvented to still compete in today’s market.

VW Beetle

Known as the Volkswagen Bug to you and me, the first version of this simple, cheap car was famously commissioned in 1938 by Adolf Hitler and designed by Ferdinand Porsche. With unimpressive features and an exciting, original design, the Beetle struck the perfect balance with the public, who loved its low price and fun, happy look.

Despite production beginning to fall in 1971, the Beetle became a record breaker in 1973 when production passed the 16.5 million mark, making it the world’s most popular car. But just one year later came the end of an era, when Volkswagen replaced production of the Beetle with a younger model – the Volkswagen Golf.

Happily, that wasn’t the end of the Beetle. In 1991, with sales of over 21 million, it was named Car of the Century, an accolade awarded by a panel of 100 motoring journalists from 37 different countries. Then, in the late 90s, the new Beetle was introduced, with a cheerful, rounded shape reminiscent of the original. We all loved the retro style of the car, and new incarnations are still being rolled out today, confirming the Beetle’s status as a motoring icon.

Credit: Flicker – Snoopy022
Credit: Flicker – Snoopy022



This 60s icon was the first car ever designed with front-wheel-drive, a move that influenced the designs of all car manufacturers. The first model was launched as an affordable vehicle, with a number of space-saving features, including sliding windows and a hinged boot, creating room for a surprising amount of people and a pile of luggage in the boot. In the late 60s, the second version of the Mini was released, propelling the car to fame after it sped through the streets of Turin in the 1969 film ‘The Italian Job’.

Later models boasted larger doors, concealed hinges, larger windows and rubber suspension to save costs and soon, after a number of special editions of the Mini were then released through the 80s and 90s, the car proudly took its place as an iconic piece of British motoring history.

And today? Under the guidance of new owners BMW, the modern Mini launched in 2001. The car may have lost its low cost status, but the street cred of these fashionable cars continues to go from strength to strength.

Credit: Flicker – Harvey Schiller
Credit: Flicker – Harvey Schiller


VW Golf

After staying close to its original design for nearly 4 decades, the Volkswagen Golf has evolved to become the standard to live up to in the world of compact hatchbacks.

Seven incarnations have been launched since the Golf’s original simple, yet roomy design. Subsequent generations were bigger than the original, introducing new features in the compact class such as power steering and four wheel drive. The car retained the same look until getting a makeover in 1997, a look that has set the tone for the modern day Golf.

This car, though small in stature, certainly packed a punch in the market, going from strength to strength with a number of ground-breaking changes, including the world’s first mass-produced twin-charged engines. The 2003 model brought about savvy new features including an auto stop-start system and park and hill-start assist systems, scooping it the 2009 European Car of the Year award.

Today, the newest incarnation of this iconic compact retains the Golf’s place as a market leader, with features including a larger yet more lightweight model, a multi-collision braking system, automatic park assistance and a touchscreen information and entertainment system.

Credit: Flicker – C.A.G Photography - Carsten Gurk
Credit: Flicker – C.A.G Photography – Carsten Gurk


Porsche 911

Five decades of evolution has cemented the Porsche 911’s place in motoring history. Unveiled in 1963, the original was notoriously hard to drive due to the engine placement and, after a series of issues, manufacturers decided to replace the 911 with a larger, more conventional model in the 70s. Who knew they could be so wrong? The new 928, although perhaps a better design, failed to take the place of the 911 in the eyes and hearts of the public – and the 911 is now synonymous with Porsche itself.

Fighting on against all odds, the car has retained its basic shape, with various upgrades and interior redesigns resulting in its status as the world’s most famous sports car.

Credit: Flickr – Driver Source
Credit: Flickr – Driver Source


Chevrolet Corvette

Around 1.5 million Corvettes have been sold since the first one was produced in 1953, when just 300 were made. This number steadily rose, until the 1968-1982 generation of Corvette saw the largest number ever produced, with 540,000 being made in this time. Throughout the 80s and 90s, various improved new models were produced, before the 6th generation Corvette hit the states in the shape of a technologically advanced supercar, capable of speeds over 200 MPH.

Time will tell what the 7th generation of Corvette will bring to the table, expected to arrive in the 2014 model year (and the first version set to be available with right-hand drive in the UK incidentally). Whatever happens from here, the Chevrolet Corvette will always remain known in history as an all-American motoring icon.

Credit Flickr – Vodainghia Takeshi
Credit: Flickr – Vodainghia Takeshi


Fancy hitting the road in your own set of iconic wheels? Take your pick from the Prestige by Europcar range and set off in style on your next adventure.




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