When a car is well designed, it’s more than just a box with wheels that gets you from one place to another. It’s rolling art. But unlike your typical pretty painting or photograph, it also has to be functional. It needs to be able to handle the rigors of the road. It needs to last for years. It needs to carry you and yours for miles upon miles.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at 6 of the most beautifully designed classic cars of all-time. Note that these are in no particular order. In many ways, ranking them would be missing the point. It’s not about any of these being superior to the others; it’s about marveling at these works of art and finding what you enjoy about each of them.
Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing
Considered the gold standard by many, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing has everything you could ask for in a beautiful car. Simple, sweeping bodylines communicate classiness and sportiness. Plus, it has that show stopping feature — those gorgeous gullwing doors. When you’re talking about great art, there’s always that one element that stands out: Mona Lisa’s smile, the captivating swirls in Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. In this case, it’s those gullwing doors. While the rest of the car is breathtaking (just look at the roadster for comparison’s sake), it’s those doors that leave a lasting impression.
Chevrolet Corvette C2
The first stingray, this Corvette sports a menacing look with the long hood and clean bodylines that signify a beautiful sports car. Sometimes, though, it’s the little quirks of character that set a car apart aesthetically. In this case, it’s the split back window —an unusual trait, and one of those unique signature details that makes the C2 Corvette unforgettable.
Enzo Ferrari once said the E-Type was the most beautiful car he had ever seen. That’s high praise coming from a competitor. On the surface, its features are typical of a beautiful sports car—long hood, low driving position, a sweeping curve in the back—but the E-Type checks these marks off with such elegance that it transcends the norm to become something all its own.
It’s worth noting that Jaguar is the only manufacturer with more than one car on this list, and with good reason. Jaguar is really one of the touchstones of design, from its early years (XK120, XK140) to its golden age of the E-Type to its recent resurgence with the F-Type (a car that likely would be on this list if we weren’t focusing strictly on the classics).
With the XKSS, Jaguar essentially made a curvier, more ostentatious sports car that preceded the more elegant E-Type. A favorite of Steve McQueen, and it’s easy to see why.
Ferrari 250 GTO
Only 39 of these vehicles were ever made, and perhaps that’s one of the things that adds to its allure. Popular Mechanic named it the “hottest car of all-time,” and even that title doesn’t do this car justice. The body design is not only flowing and gorgeous, but it was informed by rigorous wind tunnel testing at Pisa University, as well as road and track testing. The end result is a winning combination of form and function.
Aston Martin DB5
While perhaps more classically “handsome” than “beautiful,” Aston Martin DB5 makes this list for getting its proportions just right. If you really look at, there are no knockout curves or loud features, yet taken as a whole, the car jumps right off the screen and demands your attention. That’s a testament to its proportions, which are pitch perfect. No wonder this car has been a James Bond staple. It’s everything James Bond is — sophisticated, classy, and thrilling.