Evolution of iconic sports cars
Drag the sliders on the images below to see how some of the most iconic cars on the road have evolved over time. While the most significant upgrades are often hidden under the hood, new designs reflect the changing tastes of consumers while maintaining the visual style of these classic vehicles. If you're viewing this on a tablet, tap on the image to see the change. This project cannot be viewed on smartphones.
First released in Queens at the World's Fair in April 1964, the Mustang was developed by Ford specifically to be a fun-to-drive car for a generation of baby boomers. Within a year, 417,000 Mustangs had been sold and a "pony car" craze was launched. By 1969, the Mustang had veered ever more aggressive in styling and Ford introduced the Boss 302 model, pictured left, with an engine specifically tailored for racing. Today, these are among the most sought-after Mustangs by collectors. In December 2013, Ford unveiled the sixth-generation Mustang, pictured right, to commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the American icon.
Photo credit: Ford Motor Company
Introduced in 1966, the Camaro was Chevrolet's answer to the Mustang. Like other pony cars of that era, the Camaro boasted a long hood and short rear deck, and was offered with several different performance packages, including the SS; the 1967 and 2014 model years are pictured below. GM stopped production of the Camaro in 2002 only to revive it for a fifth generation in 2010. In a twist of fate, the styling of the latest Mustang is considered by many to be a direct response to the recent success of the Camaro, which has overtaken its Ford rival in sales numbers.
Photo credit: General Motors
The third of the major pony cars was introduced for the 1970 model year by Chrysler's Dodge division. Dubbed the Challenger, the model has an uneven history marked by three production runs: a first generation from 1970 to 1974; a second from 1978 to 1983; and a third from 2008 to the present. At left is the 1973 Challenger, which is noted for its larger grille that extends beyond the bumper added to comply with new federal standards. At right is the 2014 Challenger R/T, which remains remarkably loyal to the stylings of its predecessors.
Photo credit: Chrysler Group, LLC
While all three American auto manufacturers made significant contributions to the pony car segment, only one of the three can be said to have perfected the sports car — and that's General Motors, which in 1953 launched the Chevrolet Corvette, pictured left. The model came into its own during its second generation, which began in 1963 with the Sting Ray model. That was the inspiration for the seventh-generation Chevrolet Corvette, pictured right, which was introduced to commemorate 60 years of the iconic vehicle in early 2013 for the 2014 model year.
Photo credit: General Motors
Porsche is arguably the first name in classic sports cars, and its 911 model is among the most collected — if Long Island car shows are any indication of things. The 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera RS, pictured left, is considered by many to be the greatest of the classic 911s. At right is Porsche's 2014 interpretation of its classic, which is marked by a longer body, a lower, wider stance, and (to the dismay of many) electromechanical steering.
Photo credit: Bloomberg News (April 20, 2013) and Porsche
If Corvette is the most American name in sports cars and Porsche the most beloved, then the Jaguar E-Type is the most elegant — at least according to Enzo Ferrari, who dubbed it "the most beautiful car ever made." At left is the earliest version of the model produced between 1961 and 1974. The E-Type provided the inspiration for Jaguar's all-new F-Type, which was introduced at the 2013 New York Auto Show and was awarded for its design in the World Car of the Year ceremony.
Land Rover-Jaguar USA
Introduced in 1954, the Mercedes SL is another classic roadster known for its looks — namely, the iconic gullwing doors, pictured left, that distinguished its first generation. At right is the seventh generation of the car, which was introduced in 2012 and can be equipped with a V-12 engine that puts out 621 horsepower — nearly three times that of the 1954 original.
Photo credit: AP (July 31, 2001, and Jan. 28, 2012)
Better-known for its practical sedans, Nissan also builds a stylish sports car in its Z roadster. It was introduced in 1970, but came of age towards the end of its second generation and in its third generation — the 300zx — that began in the 1983 model year, pictured left. The car was priced far below its sporty foreign competitors and helped establish the brand in the U.S. market. Nissan commemorated the 40th anniversary of the car in 2009 with the launch of its sixth generation. The 2013 model pictured continues the low-price, high-performance tradition by boasting a starting price south of $30,000 and a 332-hp V-6 engine.
Photo credit: Nissan
In terms of practicality, it's tough to match a car so well-designed in 1938 that it barely altered appearance for 70 years. Originally built under Hitler's watch, the "people's car" remained remarkably loyal to that vision, with the exception of the two Beetles. At left, a 1949 Beetle shows Volkswagen's first attempt at dropping the top from the vehicle. At right is the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle convertible, which is part of a generation of Beetles first launched in 2011 that brings a more aggressive attitude to the original design.
Photo credit: Volkswagen
For all its design consistency, the Beetle simply can't match the Ford F-Series pickup for popularity in the United States. Depending on whose count you go by, the F-Series has been the best-selling vehicle in America for more than 30 years. The original model, pictured left, was launched in 1948 and marked the first Ford to be built on a truck framework after seven years of car-based pickups. At right, the 2014 model year F-150 is believed by many to be the last model year of the current 12th generation.
Photo credit: Ford Motor Company