Americans are prone to tally up the score and award a winner for everything from the most popular song to the worst-dressed pig. Looking back on the last 100 years there are many vehicles that easily have topped someone's top-10 list... for awhile. Admittedly many of the vehicles listed here are on someone's best-of list, but what the Ward's editors have decided to chronicle the vehicles -- winners or losers -- that helped to push the bar just a little bit higher. In our opinion these vehicles are really the ones that have shaped what automaking is today.
1909-27 Model T -- Put the auto within reach of the average Joe. A total of 15,007,003 were built.
1914 Cadillac -- The first V-8.
1929 Cord -- First front-wheel-drive car.
1938 Olds -- First automatic transmission.
1940 Jeep -- A shining example of America's war effort and the first SUV (see story, p.43).
1948 Tucker -- Only 51 were made, but it lays claim to close to 50 innovations that have found their way into cars of today.
1949B-A -- It saved an ailing FoMo Co after WWII.
1949-79 VW Beetle -- First major import into the U.S. Worldwide sales in 1972 passed the 15 million mark set by the Model T. More than 5 million were sold in the U.S. It is still in production in Mexico and total output stands at more than 20 million.
1950 VW Transporter -- Microbus was the first minivan.
1950 Nash Rambler -- First American compact car.
1953 Corvette -- 'Vette is arguably the first modern American sports car, combining innovative styling and raw power.
1955 Chevy Bel Air -- First affordable V-8.
1955 Thunderbird -- Arguably the first modern American roadster. A wonderful American design. Alas, after three short years it began to grow into the hulking behemoth it is today.
1958Toyopet -- The first Japanese import.
1960 Corvair -- Prompted first massive safety effort. Some may consider it ironic that by the time Ralph Nader's complaints were aired in 1965 the car already had been changed to make it safer. GM pulled it anyway in 1969.
1964 1/2 Mustang -- First of the pony cars (see story, p.47).
1978 VW Rabbit -- First transplant car built in the U.S. Some may argue this honor belongs to the 1921 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost built in Springfield, MA, but others would just as quickly point out that this was kit construction.
1981 1/2 Chevy Cavalier -- First car simultaneously built in similar design on several continents: the first world car.
1982Accord -- First Japanese transplant vehicle.
1984minivan Elevated the minivan from its status as a marginal oddity into something approaching a suburban necessity. Along the way it helped save Chrysler Corp.
1991 Saturn -- The first successful all-new U.S. car model line since World War II.