We’ve curated a collection of rare vintage cars that have withstood the test of time to become automotive masterpieces and will continue to resonate with collectors and car lovers alike for years to come.
BUGATTI | La Voiture Noire (1936-1938)
The narrative goes that only four models of the famed Type 57SC Atlantic coupé were produced by the French company, proving to be one of the most exclusive, fascinating automotive creations of all time. The developer and stylist Jean Bugatti, son of Ettore Bugatti, designated the “Atlantic” name in remembrance of Jean Mermoz, Bugatti’s aviator friend who never returned from a trip across the Atlantic Ocean.
Three of the four models have been showcased around the world; however, the final Type 57SC Atlantic disappeared shortly before WWII. Speculation exists that this treasure was either destroyed in the war, sent to a safe region during the takeover of France, or hiding out in a shed somewhere in the countryside.
Quintessentially Art Deco in its design, “The Black Car” boasts sleek, riveted fins and an iconic teardrop shape. The sculptural tour de force was also the fastest car of its time at 124 mph (200 kph) and could be considered one of the first supercars ever created. The low-standing chassis and non-traditional curves produce a menacing appearance for onlookers.
One of the major flaws that surrounded the design was the production material used for the car. An alloy of magnesium and aluminum are known as Electron was incorporated into the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, and although the material was strong and lightweight, it was highly flammable and thus rendered conventional welding techniques impossible.
Regardless of the practicality of the vehicle, the elegance in design is undeniable. Maybe that’s why Bugatti has reproduced “La Voiture Noire” in a 16-cylinder jet black beast and is seen as the peak of automotive haute couture.
SHELBY | Cobra (1962-1967)
It is difficult to mention iconic vintage cars without mentioning the AC Cobra. Sharing production between the UK and the US, AC Cars was tasked with the challenge of developing a vehicle that could be modified to contain a V8 engine. This trial was proposed by Texas native Caroll Shelby, a retired race car driver, and automotive designer. Ultimately, AC Cars ended up using Ford Motors’ latest lightweight invention, the Windsor 3.6-litre engine, and the rest is history.
The Shelby Cobra is seen as one of the most collectible muscle cars in American history. The compact British roadster body supercharged with brute US power and torque allowed for the Cobra to jump into the supercar picture with Jaguar’s E-Type and Chevrolet’s Corvette. An important joint manufacturing venture between Britain and the US, but not necessarily the first – Rolls Royce had previously opened a production facility in Springfield, Massachusetts in the 1920s to deal with backlog demand for their Ghost and Phantom models.
Development of the Shelby Cobra continued throughout the subsequent years with models such as the Shelby Cobra 427, which sported a Ford 7-litre engine. The sheer brilliance and advancement in design required the original chassis and suspension to be stretched and widened to conform to the new input. Even by current-day standards, the Cobra 427 boasts an impressive level of speed and acceleration with its four-speed manual transmission, seeing it sustain a 0-100 mph sprint in 10.3 seconds.
ROLLS ROYCE | Silver Cloud (1955-1966)
British manufacturing company Rolls Royce is universally acclaimed and regarded as the epitome of superiority in production. Although we could write volumes on the quality and beauty of RR vehicles, we focus on one of our favorites – the limited-edition Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. Preceded by the Silver Dawn and followed by the Silver Shadow, Rolls Royce produced just under 7,400 units of the Silver Cloud models I through III, giving this vehicle a considerable level of exclusivity.
Although most early Rolls Royce models gave Ford Model T-vibes with their boxy shapes and lifted chassis, these years signified a transitional period for the company in terms of design and technology. Influenced by the Bentley S1, the Silver Cloud bore a lengthy body with variations of 2-door convertible or 2-door coupé styling. The top speed of 103 mph (166 kph) impressed lovers of the RR brand, and with a 4.9-liter I6 engine and its GM-designed Hydramatic transmission, this 155hp monster was nothing to balk at.
We love this model for its uniqueness as well as its classical styling details. The on-frame body construction was a conventional look adopted by many automakers at the time. However, Rolls Royce incorporated mechanically assisted hydraulic brakes into the original Silver Cloud design. As production advanced, the company offered air conditioning and power steering options in 1956 and a long-wheelbase version for increased leg space for rear passengers in 1957.
Our favorite aspect of Rolls Royce? The archetypal radiator grille.
MERCEDES-BENZ | 300 SL Coupé (1954-1957)
As German engineering has exponentially advanced the automotive industry, we find it appropriate to mention one of the most innovative companies that have endured for over a century, Daimler AG. The parent organization encompasses many brands; however, one of the icons in the company’s repertoire is the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupé.
Originally developed as a bored-down Grand Prix car for enthusiasts in a booming post-war economy, the model was based on Daimler’s 1952 tubular racing vehicle – the W194. The esteemed champion of many international races and regarded as one of the fastest of its time, mechanical direct fuel injection boosted the W194 to a top speed of 163 mph (263 kph).
The 300 SL (super-light) Coupé frame weighed 50 kilograms and offered maximum rigidity. Equipped with a 3-liter six-cylinder engine that could produce up to 212 horsepower and a top speed of 161 mph (259 kph), this car is considered a dream car even today’s standards.
Incompatible with conventional doors, the coupé was specially outfitted with top-hinged, up swinging doors that earned the roadster its nickname, “Gullwing.” In addition to the beauty of the design, the Gullwing outperformed all other vehicles on the road at the time and was one of 26 nominees for Car of The Century in 1999 – an impressive feat.
ASTON MARTIN | DB5 (1963-1965)
No collection of classic cars would be complete without the inclusion of an Aston Martin. Another behemoth of British automotive luxury, Aston Martin, has produced exquisite, alluring cars for over a century. Emblematically featured in the James Bond films Goldfinger (1964) and Thunderball (1965), our next highlight is the Aston Martin DB5.
It’s undeniable that the cinematic showing of the DB5 heightened the desirability of this model. However, the stellar performance puts the DB5 in a class of its own. The 5-speed grand tourer designed by Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera wields a 4-liter engine and boasts 286 horsepower and a top speed of 142 mph (229 kph). Additionally released in Vantage, convertible, and shooting-brake variants, the legendary Aston Martin DB5 offers an interior spacious enough to fit all body types and a ride comfortable enough to please any passenger lucky enough to inhabit it.
And if you are lucky enough to take a ride in this prestigious powerhouse, be sure to wear your best suit; eager eyes will be set on you throughout your entire journey – from London to Louisville!
Fun Fact: Bond’s iconic 1963 Aston Martin DB5, valued at over $25 million, has recently been discovered after being stolen from a reportedly secure hangar 25 years ago.
And there you have it! Chic Icon’s shortlist of iconic vintage vehicles. If you’re one of the few fortunate enough to experience one of these remarkable rides – enjoy, be safe, and don’t take it for granted!
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