When it comes to cool cars, it doesn’t get any cooler than another C word: the vintage coupé. If you’re the type who likes to travel light (and fast, and in high style) the coupé is the car for you. Trying to narrow down a list to 10 of the best vintage coupés ever to grace the road is no easy feat. There’s a serious embarrassment of riches where that task is concerned. But we’ve done the hard work of looking at as many sexy, high-performance automobiles as we could (before we got too jealous to continue), and…well…this is the result.
1961 Jaguar E-Type
We could practically begin and end the list with this car. The Jaguar E-Type is universally regarded as one of the most beautiful cars in the world. Designed primarily by aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer and Sir William Lyons, the coupé caused an instant sensation when it was unveiled in 1961. Its deadly combination of good looks, impressive performance and reasonable pricing redefined the modern sports car. Even Enzo Ferrari allegedly called the Jaguar E-Type “the most beautiful car ever made,” and it now has the distinction of being one of only six automobiles included in the permanent design collection of the New York City Museum of Modern Art.
1955 Maserati A6G/54
Maserati’s first true production car – and its only dual-purpose road/race car – was the A6 series, first introduced to the public in 1947 Geneva Motor Show. Maserati invested little time or capital into the development of the A6G/54, instead choosing to rely on existing designs and outsource the bodywork. Zagato, Pietro Frua, Bertone, Vignale, Pininfarina, Ghia and Carrozzeria Allemano all took a stab at designing iterations of the A6G/54, meaning that no two versions of the car are the same. What they do have in common is the twin-cam 2-litre engine and an air of exclusivity. Only 60 A6G/54s were built in total in just over three years.
1959 BMW 503 Coupé
The 503 is notable for being BMW’s first post-war sports vintage coupé. Launched in 1955 at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, the 503 Coupé was a brilliant return to BMW’s racing heritage. The car was powered by a 3.2 L eight-cylinder engine that delivered 140 hp. A young designer named Albrect Graf Goertz was responsible for the aesthetics of the car, which capitalized on the growing desire for luxury with features like electric windows and leather upholstery. Unfortunately, the 503 cost about twice its projected price and was unable to recover its costs. Only around 400 units were built during the car’s 3-year production run.
1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica
The Ferrari America series produced top-end Ferrari models in the 1950s and 1960s. Two cars of the series, the 400 and the 410, were dubbed ‘Superamerica.’ It began in 1955 with the 410 Superamerica, an even faster vehicle than the previous America cars. Then came the 400 Superamerica in 1959. Available as a coupé, spider, or cabriolet with custom Pininfarina bodywork, the 400 Superamerica had a smaller 4.0 L Colombo engine but churned out just as much power as its predecessor. The very first of the 400 Superamericas was a special one-off version built for Gianni Agnelli. 46 more Ferrari 400s followed, of which 32 were the coupé aerodinamico variant.
1938 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic
A total of 710 examples of the Bugatti Type 57 were built from 1934 to 1940. Among them was the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, one of the most elusive and expensive Bugattis ever made. In fact, some say the 57SC Atlantic was the world’s first supercar. With its eye-catching teardrop body, powerful engine, and lightweight construction, the Bugatti 57SC Atlantic was instantly one for the history books. Just four were ever made, and only two – one owned by Ralph Lauren, which won best of show at the 1990 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – still survive.
1963 Corvette Stingray C2
If the Stingray C2 made a family tree, it would trace its lineage to two separate GM projects: Mitchell’s racing Sting Ray and the Q-Corvette, a concept for a smaller, lighter and more agile Corvette than ever before. It was a relatively short-lived model, but during its brief stint in production the C2 was almost universally commended for its handling, road adhesion and sheer power. The first edition debuted in 1963, and was known for its distinctive wedge-shaped body, fake vents and split rear window. Though many of those features were scrapped for future generations, Sports Car International named the Stingray number 5 on its list of ‘Top Sports Cars of the 1960s’ in 2004.
1963 Aston Martin DB5
Want to roll, James Bond-style? Then the 1963 Aston Martin DB5 is the answer. Named in honour of David Brown (head of Aston Martin from 1947–1972), the car is the most recognizable of all of 007’s spectacular rides. The DB5 shares many traits with its predecessor, the DB4, but made some important upgrades below the surface. The all-aluminium engine was enlarged from 3.7 L to 4.0 L, and a new ZF five-speed transmission and three SU carburettors were added. Standard equipment on the DB5 included reclining seats, electric windows, twin fuel tanks, full leather trim in the cabin and even a fire extinguisher.
1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S
Following World War II, Mercedes-Benz introduced a totally new series of passenger vehicles in 1953. Among those cars (known by the nickname “Ponton,” after the German word for “pontoon”) was the Mercedes-Benz 220S. Launched in 1956, the 220S was nearly identical to its forerunner, the 220a, but included an upgraded version of the 2.2 L inline-six engine. Aesthetically, the new model featured an updated one-piece bumper and a solid chrome strip running along the front fenders and doors. The 220S has often been called the first E-Class, though Mercedes-Benz itself did not adopt that name for its midsize line until the mid-1980s.
1966 Lamborghini Miura
Few cars have had the impact of the Lamborghini Miura. Produced between 1966 and 1973, the Miura was the fastest production road car available at the time, and is often considered the car that popularised the trend of high-performance, two-seater, mid-engine sports cars. In other words, we owe the modern supercar as we know it to the Lamborghini Miura. That achievement becomes all the more impressive when you factor in one other little detail: Lamborghini itself had been founded only 3 years before. The Miura debuted at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show in front of a (rightfully) stunned audience, and continued to stun until it was replaced by the Countach in 1974. A worth addition to the best vintage coupes of all time.
1963 Porsche 911
Believe it or not, the Porsche 911 was only the second all-new production car ever released by the Stuttgart-based sportscar manufacturer – but it would turn out to be the most important. Years of development preceded the automobile’s introduction at the 1963 Frankfurt Motorshow. As the designated replacement for Porsche’s one and only road car, the 356, much was riding on the 911’s shoulders. And it delivered. It is one of the oldest sports coupés still in production, and in the Global Automotive Elections Foundation’s 1999 poll for the award of Car of the Century, the 911 came fifth.