15 Iconic Cars From the 70s/80s/90s That Everyone Loved

Certain vehicles retain legendary status, and over the three decades when gasoline prices didn’t cause automotive guilt (notwithstanding the Iranian oil crisis), car lovers with money were spoiled for choice. From 1970 to 2000, some four-wheeled stars were born around the world. Car manufacturers from The United States, Europe, and Asia all had a say in the matter, and they made some statements.

1. 1970 Chevrolet Camaro

1971 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Image Credit: CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Muscle cars defined the ‘70s, but few were as desirable as the 1970 Z/28 or SS line Camaro, voted in Hot Cars as the greatest Camaro of all time. The car’s sleek, unpronounced bumpers and long hood, which covered a Corvette-inspired V8 engine, gave it the perfect blend of power and aesthetic beauty.

2. 1970-1971 Dodge Challenger Hemi

Dodge Challener 1970
Image Credit: CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Who wouldn’t want to see this hulking beast parked in their driveway every morning? Dodge Challengers debuted in 1970 and could claim to be one of the coolest kids on the block. Dodge’s first E body car had a 426 Hemi engine under its hood, built to convert air into gutsy power. With 425 hp to match its V-8, the Challenger Hemi was one mean-looking, sounding, and moving machine.

3. 1977 Aston Martin Vantage

Image Credit: Jagvar/Wiki Commons.

Britain’s Aston Martin continues to lead the way in domestic high-performance cars. Each is still hand-built in Gaydon, United Kingdom — although Canadian investor Lawrence Stroll now owns it. The V8-Vantage debuted in 1977, offering an English take on a muscle-car aesthetic with iconic headlights and wheel arches. Moreover, a torque of 406 lb-ft, a 5.3-liter engine, and an acceleration of 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds made the Aston Martin Vantage a firm favorite until it was discontinued in 1989. The good news is a 2025 Vantage is on the horizon, according to Car and Driver.

4. 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 429

1970 Ford Mustang Boss 429
Image Credit: CJ DUB, Own Work – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

The Mustang Boss had a badly guarded secret under its hood: the 429 Cobra Jet, which had already powered the National Hot Rod Association Winter Nationals winner in 1968. The reason? It had 490 lb-ft of torque and 375 horsepower, making it the perfect choice (albeit the 1969 model) for John Wick’s car. This rugged hunk of a car made a loud statement wherever it went.

5. 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Image Credit: Eric Friedebach – CC BY 3.0/Wiki Commons.

This F-body legend was designed to take on the Ford Mustang and flew into the market in 1967. There are several legendary Trans Am models, including Knight Rider’s 1982 KITT car version. However, the “Bandit” Trans Am steals the show based on looks alone — and let’s not forget the “screaming chicken” hood motif. If it was good enough for Smokey and the Bandit, it should be good enough for anyone. This wheeled wild child sold for about $8,000 when new and can go from anywhere between $3,000 to $500,000 now, depending on its condition.

6. 1987 Ferrari F40

Image Credit: Ferrari.

The ‘80 was the era of the supercar, a genre dominated by Italian designers, with stiff competition from Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Vying for the top spot is Enzo Ferrari’s gift to motorsports, the Ferrari F40, easily identified by its flashy whale tail. The F40 was Ferrari’s last commission, designed to celebrate 40 years of Ferrari road cars; it was the first road car to pass 200 mph, notwithstanding critics’ arguments that Germany’s Porsche 959 achieved the feat first.

7. 1985 Lamborghini Countach LP5000 QV

Lamborghini Countach
Image Credit: Brian Snelson – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Young stockbrokers, investment bankers, and Miami Vice characters all shared one thing — they probably owned a Lamborghini Countach. The car is like a drawing most youngsters draw in their notebooks; its asphalt-hugging contoured elegance was hard to resist for those who could afford one. The car’s thunderous V-12 engine had 5.2 liters of power and four valves per cylinder. Curiously, federal regulations meant American models had 415 horsepower, compared to their more liberal European cousins that could reach 455 horsepower with the right carburetors.

8. 1984 Chevrolet Corvette

1984 Chevrolet Corvette
Image Credit: Vauxford, Own Work – CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

The Corvette was not always renowned for coolness; by the end of its third-generation run in 1982, performance was so bad that the car was becoming a joke. With no model released in 1983, the Corvette needed an overhaul. Chevrolet delivered one in its seminal fourth-generation vehicle, which had a stunning chassis and a fuel-injected V-8 engine that could hold its own against many European competitors.

9. 1986 Porsche 959

1986 Porsche 959
Image Credit: Porsche.

The great arch nemesis of the Ferrari F40 deserves a mention for its futuristic vision at the time. Using an all-wheel drive and adjustable suspension to complement its turbocharged, water-cooled flat-six engine made the Porsche 959 ahead of its time as a supercar. But was it the fastest? Ferrari claimed the F40 reached 200 mph first, though the Porsche was easily the more advanced all-round vehicle, especially in variable weather conditions.

10. 1983 Audi Quattro

Jeremy Clarkson in The Grand Tour (2016)
Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

The Germans had a fearsome weapon on their side in the automobile industry—the Audi Quattro. In a recent edition of The Grand Tour, Jeremy Clarkson waxed lyrical about the five-turbocharged cylinder world beater. His journey across the Arctic Circle showed off a more recent RS4, which he promptly overhauled to look like his favorite World RallyCross-winning ‘80s legend. The Quattro retains World Rallycross immortality for a good reason — it was devastatingly fast in all terrain and weather.

11. 1981-1983 Delorean DMC-12

1981-1983 Delorean DMC-12
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Where do we begin with the Delorean? Ultimately, this passion project concept car was named after its manufacturer, John Z. Delorean’s Motor Company. The venture failed to make any money because the car just wasn’t a supercar, was too expensive to be a consumer car, and was the one thing sports cars cannot be — slow. We loved watching Marty McFly and his flux capacitor take the iconic wedge-shaped wagon into the past and future. Still, this car belongs exactly where it will live forever — in science-fiction movie canon.

12. 1994 GM Hummer H1

1994 GM Hummer H1
Image Credit: Brian Snelson – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Powerful, robust, hard-working — Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favorite car, the Hummer H1, matches the three-time American Dream conqueror. The former “Governator” can still be seen driving his Hummer H1 Slant Back; legend has it he fell in love with the military machines when a convoy passed him one day while filming Kindergarten Cop. Moreover, he became the first civilian to buy one in 1992 and one of the first to debut the first electric model. While they were effective warfare vehicles, Hummers were impractical consumer cars and very expensive. However, they looked cool and could easily devour any off-road or poor-quality asphalt.

13. 1991 BMW M3

Image Credit: Darren – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

The world’s first BMW M3 came at a time of great affluence for the Western world, not least a reunified and confident Germany, free of communist oppression when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. The nation’s thank you to democracy arrived in the BMW M3, a huge upgrade from the E30 3-Series, with a flush-mounted windshield. Its sporty rear window lowered drag, helped by flared fenders and a large rear spoiler. Dankeschön, Deutschland.

14. 1999 Nissan R34 Skyline GT-R

Image Credit: Tennen-Gas, Own Work – CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

Asian supercars came into their own in the ‘90s, aided by superior manufacturing and a strong marketing campaign, and helped in some part by 1997’s groundbreaking video game, Gran Turismo. The Skyline’s turbocharged multipoint injection fuel system allowed it to compete with its European and American supercar rivals. The high-spec machine gained screen immortality in the 2 Fast 2 Furious opening scene, lasting a glorious ten minutes until it is totaled. However, the R34 remained a Paul Walker favorite for much of the franchise.

15. 1998 Lexus LS400

Lexus LS 400
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

The ‘90s can’t forget Japan’s answer to a Mercedes Benz: the sophisticated yet high-performance Lexus LS400. The LS400’s last generation received a high-spec overhaul, improving an already strong award-winning executive car with HomeLink, ultraviolet-tinted glass, and micron filtration-driven climate control, among other luxuries. Furthermore, under the hood was a 290 horsepower V-8 engine with Toyota’s Variable Valve Timing + intelligence technology. Going from 0-60 in 6.5 seconds had never felt so relaxing.

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