Readers Digest
Magazine subscription Podcast
HomeLifestyleHome & Garden

The best American classic cars by Jürg Widmer Probst


30th Jun 2019 Home & Garden

The Italian cars have the passion and the racing heritage. The French have the style. The British have the classic designs and the German cars have beautiful engineering. 

All clichés maybe, but in the world of classic cars, they're often true. So what about American makers?

When people think of the great American classic cars, what defines them? For us, American cars are among some of the most desirable and collectable classics in the world. 

So, here we're bringing you our pick of just some of the very best.

1. The Muscle Car

Muscle cars are the quintessential American car. The late sixties and the early seventies were the heyday for these ferocious beasts. As the name suggests, these cars are all about aggression, raw power and a snarling presence out on the road. 

There are so many to choose from, but our pick of the best American muscle cars is the 1969 Pontiac Firebird 400 Coupe. Great name, brutal good looks, and 330 horsepower delivering 430 ft-lb of torque: this car is the real deal. 

2. The 50s Icon

Think of American classic cars and many people think of the kind of cars you see in American Graffiti, or episodes of Mad Men. In the 1950s, the car was the ultimate symbol of the booming post-war economy in the US. 

It embodied freedom, family and fun. American cars from the 1950s are terrible gas guzzlers and a nightmare to park – but they are gorgeous to look at. Our pick of the best? The 1953 Studebaker Starlight Coupe. Just perfect for a warm night at the drive in. 

3. The Underrated Classic

When the Ford Mustang came out, everyone quickly forgot about the Mercury Cougar. Which is a real shame, because this is a truly beautiful classic car. 

This is one that we think should be on any American classic car collector's list of ones to look out for. Sure, it might not have the name recognition of the Mustang, but this is a car that will only grow in value.

4. The One With Hollywood Glamour

Speaking of Mustangs, we've gone for one of the most iconic cars ever to grace the silver screen. When Steve McQueen put his Ford Mustang GT390 through its paces on the streets of San Francisco, a true star was born. 

You're unlikely to get your hands on the car used by McQueen in Bullitt– it's privately owned and estimated to be worth around $5 million – but there are still a few out there for the keen collector.

5. The Racer

You can't have a list of American cars without mentioning Ford. Our pick for the best classic American racer has to be one of the most beautiful cars ever made for the track. 

The Ford GT40 Mk IV was incredibly successful in races all around the world, and became a legend at the Le Mans 24 Hour Race. They still come up for sale occasionally, but you need to be ready to part with a serious amount of money – one recently sold at Sotheby's for $660,000.

Words by Jürg Widmer Probst

Keep up with the top stories from Reader’s Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.


Loading up next...
Stories by email|Subscription
Readers Digest

Launched in 1922, Reader's Digest has built 100 years of trust with a loyal audience and has become the largest circulating magazine in the world

Readers Digest
Reader’s Digest is a member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (which regulates the UK’s magazine and newspaper industry). We abide by the Editors’ Code of Practice and are committed to upholding the highest standards of journalism. If you think that we have not met those standards, please contact 0203 289 0940. If we are unable to resolve your complaint, or if you would like more information about IPSO or the Editors’ Code, contact IPSO on 0300 123 2220 or visit