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The biggest and most flamboyant American cars

The biggest and most flamboyant American cars

The biggest and most flamboyant American carsFrom the 1960s through to the early 1980s, giant beasts roamed the highways of America. Bedecked in chrome and vinyl, wearing whitewall tyres and powered by huge, lazy engines, these land yachts were the biggest of the big. We’ve unearthed 21 of these dinosaurs, and all of them stretch the tape measure to at least 214 inches (5.4 metres) in length. Let’s set sail.

1963 Dodge Custom 880 – 214.8 inches / 5.45 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Our first port of call is Dodge’s short-lived Custom 880. Although still a large vehicle by modern standards, the era of the land yachts was one where size really did matter. Under pressure to compete with Chevrolet, Dodge rushed out its own version of the Chrysler Newport. A 361-cubic inch (5.9-litre) V8 engine with 265hp was standard, with a 383ci (6.3-litre) 305hp V8 optional. It wasn’t enough, and the 880 was dead in the water by 1965.

1975 Dodge Charger SE – 216 inches / 5.48 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Most people immediately think ‘muscle car’ when the name Charger is mentioned. But by 1975, an icon of the horsepower wars was little more than a jaded luxury coupe. It may have had sumptuous 24-ounce shagpile carpeting inside, but the square exterior styling made it a nightmare for the NASCAR teams forced to use it on-track. Dodge only managed to sell 31,000 examples in 1975.

1970 Ford LTD – 216.1 inches / 5.49 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Between 1969 and 1978, Ford sold 7.75 million examples of the second-generation LTD and its Mercury sisters. It was also the biggest car offered by the Blue Oval during its lifetime. Styling for the 1970 model year included a grille inspired by the Thunderbird, combined with funky hidden headlights. Engine choices ranged from a big 302-cubic inch (4.9-litre) V8, through to a really big 429ci (7.0) V8.

1971 Buick Riviera – 217.4 inches / 5.52 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Big and bold was the look for the third-generation Buick Riviera, launched in 1971. A giant ‘boat tail’ rear end seems apt for a land yacht, but the radical styling proved unsuccessful with buyers. A ‘Full-Flo’ ventilation system, with a habit of sucking exhaust fumes and rain water into the cabin, probably didn’t endear the Rivera to customers either. More impressive was the standard-fit ‘MaxTrac’ traction control for the 455-cubic inch (7.5-litre) V8 engine.

1969 Dodge Polara – 220.8 inches / 5.61 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Now we’re getting into the realm of serious yachting as we sail across the 220-inch longitude. Adopting Dodge’s ‘fuselage’ styling concept, the 1969 Polara was available in five different body styles. Engine choices were all V8s, ranging from a modest 230hp 381-cubic inch (6.2-litre) to the thumping 440-ci (6.5-litre) Magnum with 375hp and 480lb ft of torque. The sales brochure boasted of hidden windshield wipers, and carpets so plush you’d want to take your shoes off to drive.

1959 Chrysler New Yorker Town & Country Wagon – 220.9 inches / 5.61 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

It might be from an earlier decade than the others on our list, and it also happens to be an estate. But the ’59 Town & Country is still very much a land yacht. Standard-fit was the ‘Golden Lion’ 413-cubic inch (6.77-litre) V8 engine, with 350hp and a push-button three-speed automatic transmission. Optional extras included the ‘Mirrormatic’ electrically dimming rear-view mirror. Strange to think you often need to pay extra for an automatic dimming mirror on a new car almost six decades later.

1980 Plymouth Gran Fury – 221.5 inches / 5.62 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

For a significant period of its life, the Plymouth Gran Fury existed to satisfy the demands of the fleet market, and this lifeline kept it alive. It may have been downsized for 1980, but this is still a huge vehicle. Police chiefs loved them, with a special package offered to boost the 360-cubic inch (5.9-litre) V8 engine to a ‘massive’ 195hp. By 1980, the land yacht era had capsized, and Plymouth ditched the Gran Fury part-way through 1981.

1973 Chevrolet Impala Custom Coupe – 221.9 inches / 5.64 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Chevrolet’s marketing pitch for 1973 sounded more like a political campaign speech, rather than a way to sell cars. It was about ‘building a better way to see America’ and what could be better than seeing it from the vinyl and woodgrain interior of your Impala? Powering you across the country was a standard 145hp ‘Turbo Fire’ 350-cubic inch (5.7-litre) V8. But, if you really wanted to make progress, you could pick the optional 455-ci (7.5-litre) ‘Turbo Jet’ V8 with 245hp. That might have required several more stops for gas, though.

1976 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible – 224.1 inches / 5.69 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

This is decadence! In 1976 Cadillac was very keen to stress that the Eldorado was the last American convertible. Features such as automatic climate control and plush six-way adjustable leather seats pushed the Eldorado’s weight to 5,153lb (2,337kg). Thankfully, propulsion came from an extravagant 500-cubic inch (8.2-litre) V8, even if all that displacement could only generate 235hp. Owners might have been even more grateful for the standard ventilated disc brakes.

1976 Ford Thunderbird – 225.7 inches / 5.73 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Can you imagine how long polishing all the chrome on the Thunderbird’s front bumper would take? And that’s before you even get to the grille, the headlight surrounds, wing mirrors, and finally, the rear bumper. All that shine meant the Thunderbird weighed in at over 5,000lb (2,268kg). Power came courtesy of a 460-cubic inch (7.7-litre) V8, connected to a ‘Cruise-O-Matic’ transmission. An eight-track tape player was a $382 option, whilst the distinctive ‘Lipstick’ colour scheme added $546 to the $7,790 list price.

1977 Dodge Royal Monaco – 225.7 inches / 5.73 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

If you were the kind of person who liked traditional value, combined with an added touch of luxury, then the Royal Monaco was for you. Slide around on the standard vinyl-upholstered seats, revel at the choice of two ashtrays in both the front and rear passenger compartments, and impress people with your hidden headlights. If you’re really feeling flush, perhaps you might go for the option of a locking gas cap, or the unmitigated luxury of an electric digital clock.

1978 Ford Country Squire – 225.7 inches / 5.73 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Nothing says ‘premium’ like slapping simulated woodgrain to the side of a station wagon. From 1951 to 1991, Ford’s full-size estate featured imitation timber trim. The 1978 Country Squire would be a final flourish for outlandish size, as the following year saw a smaller seventh-generation car. But in 1978, tipping the scales at some 4,881lb (2,214kg) meant even the largest engine option of the 460-cubic inch (7.5-litre) V8 could only push the Squire to a maximum speed of 111mph. Still, at least you wouldn’t have to worry about varnishing that wood.

1970 Buick Electra 225 – 225.8 inches / 5.74 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

It becomes evident how important size was in the land yacht era, when manufacturers were willing to incorporate length into a model name. Between 1959 and 1969, the length of the Electra had fluctuated, but for 1970 it returned to that eponymous measurement. Also new for 1970 was a 455-cubic inch (7.5-litre) V8 with an impressive 370hp and 510lb ft. It may have been vast, but the Electra 225 was certainly no slouch, making it one of the raciest yachts on our list.

1972 Lincoln Continental Mark IV – 228.1 inches / 5.79 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Aside from the Ford Thunderbird, the Lincoln Continental range of the 1970s is perhaps the best example of the personal luxury coupe genre. For those customers wanting to go completely overboard, Lincoln offered a range of designer special editions. Created by Bill Blass, Gucci, Givenchy, and Cartier, each car came with a bespoke colour scheme, plus a gold-plated plaque on the dashboard. The latter could even be engraved with the owner’s name, just in case you forgot who you were.

1970 Imperial Crown – 229.7 inches / 5.83 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Chrysler had used the Imperial name since the 1920s, but between 1955 and 1975 it created a standalone marque to rival Cadillac and Lincoln. Life was tough for the third-generation range of Imperials, as being based on Chrysler platforms and bodyshells placed them at a disadvantage versus other luxury brands. Instead, the Imperial had to compete on features like a standard 440-cubic inch (7.2-litre) V8 engine with 350hp, or bench seating described as being like a sumptuous sofa – finished in cloth and vinyl.

1975 Cadillac Coupe de Ville – 230.7 inches / 5.86 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Across the 230-inch threshold we sail, and into what we can probably title as the ‘super yacht’ category. These next six cars are truly vast, and the de Ville is a perfect expression of the self-indulgence available. Interiors were offered in both leather or patterned velour, while the exterior featured a huge vinyl roof and cornering lights to help steer your ship. Airbags for the driver and passenger were an option, as was traction control and, of course, whitewall striped tyres.

1978 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham – 231 inches / 5.88 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

By the late 1970s, land yachts like the New Yorker were bigger than disco music. But 1978 would be the final year of the Chrysler ‘C-body’ platform that saw service in many of the full-size machines on our list. A 400-cubic inch (6.6-litre) V8 came as standard, unless you happened to live in California or high-altitude states ,where the smaller and cleaner 360-ci (5.9-litre) V8 was mandatory. On the options list was a AM/FM stereo with a search function operated by a foot switch, and even a CB radio.

1974 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight LS – 232.4 inches / 5.90 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Another giant of the Chrysler ‘C-body’ era was the Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight. Before the marque was made to walk the plank in 2004, Oldsmobile was the oldest surviving American car brand. The glory days came in the 1970s, and with cars like the colossal 1974 Ninety-Eight it’s not hard to see why. Plus, any car with a 455-cubic inch (7.5-litre) V8 engine named ‘Rocket’ gains serious credibility. The record length for ’74 models came from the need to incorporate federally mandated 5mph bumpers into the already vast design.

1979 Lincoln Continental Mark V – 233 inches / 5.92 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

If you thought the Mark IV Continental was whale-sized, then we’re going to need a bigger boat for the Mark V. With almost a further five inches in length, the Mark V was even more opulent and ostentatious. A vinyl roof was standard for 1979, as were the round ‘opera’ windows, and a Cartier-logoed clock. For true glitz, buyers could opt for The Collector Series, which was promoted by Tom Selleck. Gold-toned grille inserts, a crystal-like hood ornament, and acres of padded vinyl proved you were ready to celebrate the final year before downsizing would claim another victim.

1975 Buick Electra 225 – 233.7 inches / 5.96 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Having strayed a long way from the original 225 inches, by 1975 the Electra was now one of the biggest monsters roaming the turnpike. According to Buick, the 225 was for those who wanted to drive a luxury car without being pretentious. Although the promotional photo, taken outside a sprawling mansion, somewhat begs to differ, while interior options included plush patterned velour upholstery. Sadly, the steadfast 455-ci (7.5-litre) engine was now smothered by emissions and fuel-saving changes, producing just 205hp.

1973 Imperial LeBaron – 235.3 inches / 5.98 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

This is it, the end of our epic voyage. It means we’ve come to the biggest land yacht, and one of the longest post-war American production cars, period. Federally mandated bumpers were responsible for making the LeBaron even lengthier in 1973, adding an extra 5.8-inches to its already imposing dimensions. After 1973, the Imperial brand would slip away, finally being cast adrift for good in 1975. Oil embargos and emissions regulations would be the factors that sunk the Imperial, and would do the same for the rest of the land yacht fleet by the early 1980s.

Spotify in Cadillac

Cadillac Boogie: The Spotify app coming to your next car

Spotify in Cadillac

Cadillac owners in the United States can now stream music via their Spotify Premium account without their phone, cables, or a Bluetooth connection. Available on select models, including the XTS, CTS, ATS, CTS-V and ATS-V, the service will soon be available on all-new Cadillacs, including the 2019 CT6.

As a result, Spotify users will enjoy a richer user experience, more akin to that found via the desktop or smartphone app, rather than the limited features available when connecting via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Volvo launched the first in-dash, voice-activated Spotify in 2013 before it became the first carmaker to integrate the streaming service globally in 2016. The XC90, S90 and V90 were the first models to feature the system, which does away with the need to use a smartphone for music streaming while on the road. You simply login using your username and password.

In a Cadillac, users will see five screen icons at the top of the home screen: Home, Recently Played, Your Library, Browse and Mini Player. Spotify-curated and personalised playlists will also be available, such as Discover Weekly, Release Radar and Your Daily Mix.

The app will also deliver recommendations geared towards the drive, such as songs for a road trip, singing along with friends or commuting to work. Stay tuned for The Boomtown Rats’ I Don’t Like Mondays and The Bangles’ Manic Monday when you start your working week.

Jonathan Tarlton, Spotify’s senior manager of automotive business development, said: “Cadillac has been an amazing partner to make it easier and safer for Spotify users to listen to music in the car. We love the innovation we are seeing with Cadillac’s entertainment systems and are excited to bring personalised on demand music to more Spotify lovers on the road.”

No more lousy or inappropriate music?

Is this such a big deal? After all, Spotify is available via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and other music streaming services can be accessed via other smartphone apps. We think it is, as it shifts Spotify from feeling like an external application into something at the core of a car’s infotainment system.

Chris Velazco, senior mobile editor at Engadget, seems to agree. He says: “What seemed special after playing with this new Spotify experience for a little while is just how… Spotify it felt. Once you’ve signed into the account (either by punching in credentials on the car’s touchscreen or generating a PIN inside Spotify on a smartphone), you’ll find a slew of suggested playlists, a history of recently played tracks and full access to your Spotify library.

“There are some limitations due to driver distraction guidelines – you can’t sift through long lists of tracks, for instance – but the service’s suggestions are good enough that I didn’t need to worry about being served lousy or inappropriate music.”

While Spotify’s integration with Cadillac is of little consequence to UK motorists – unless they plan to hire a Caddy as part of their summer vacation – the streaming company is already working on apps for other manufacturers. Time to start predicting the songs it will play when you’re stuck on the M25.

ACDC’s Highway to Hell and Chris Rea’s Road to Hell should be at the top of the playlist.

Read more:

Star-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Star-spangled, no bangers: 25 important American cars

Star-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American carsAlthough America may not have invented the car, nevertheless the country embraced it as if it had. We’ve picked 25 cars that celebrate what the United States has proudly contributed to the world of motoring.


More American cars on Motoring Research:


1908 Ford Model TStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Produced for 19 years, and with 15 million examples built, the Ford Model T still remains one of the best-selling cars of all time. It also represents one of the few cars that became cheaper as time passed, dropping from $825 in 1909 to just $260 in 1925.

What made the Model T significant, and cheap, was Henry Ford’s adoption and refinement of the modern assembly line. Efficiency savings meant the time needed to build a Model T reduced from some 12.5 hours, to just 90 minutes. Passing on the savings to customers opened up the potential for car ownership to become an affordable reality.

1932 Ford three-window coupeStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Ask any hot rodder which is one of the most sought after cars to customise, and the 1932 Ford will be guaranteed to be top of the list. In particular, the clean lines of the rarer three-window coupe are the most desirable – note that the front windscreen isn’t included in the window count.

The Beach Boys song and album ‘Little Deuce Coupe’ was named after the three-window Ford, whilst it also made an appearance in the iconic street racing movie ‘American Graffiti’. Despite a short production period, the 1932 Ford models made a big contribution to car culture.

1941 Willys MB ‘Jeep’Star-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

For those who don’t care too much about cars, the word ‘Jeep’ is virtually synonymous for any kind of four-wheel drive off-road vehicle. Although the US Army had developed 4WD vehicles before, the MB was born from the urgent demand created by World War II for large numbers of lightweight utility vehicles.

Although produced by both Ford and Willys during wartime, after the conflict Willys retained rights to the Jeep name. This allowed them to produce civilian models, and create a brand that still endures today, despite several changes in ownership.

1953 Chevrolet C1 CorvetteStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Intended to compete against sports cars like the Nash Healey, the original Chevrolet Corvette was rushed to production just six months after being shown to the world in 1953. Although fibreglass bodies had been used previously for limited production, the C1 Corvette marked the first time the material was put into mass manufacturing.

The first Corvettes were low on power – with just 150hp from a straight-six engine – and suffered from poor build quality. Yet 65 years later the model still endures, and represents a slice of the American dream.

1955 Ford ThunderbirdStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Whilst it entered the market at a similar time to the Corvette, and looked similar, Ford was careful to market the Thunderbird in a different direction. In doing so, Ford created the uniquely American ‘personal luxury car’ segment. This meant an emphasis on comfort and convenience, powerful V8 engines, and high levels of standard equipment.

The Thunderbird would grow ever larger and more gauche over time, culminating in the wallowing land yachts of the 1970s. However, the original Thunderbird of 1955 at least showed the simplicity of a two-seater convertible body, with a 292-cubic inch (4.8-litre) V8 engine.

1957 Cadillac Eldorado BroughamStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Self-levelling air suspension is still today mainly the preserve of luxury cars, but this is a tradition which Cadillac started all the way back in 1957. The Eldorado Brougham featured a complex air system, intended to give a smooth and comforting ride, although it proved to be untrustworthy.

Air ride was just one standard feature on this high-end personal luxury car. Cruise control, air conditioning, electric door locks, automatically dimming headlights, and electric windows were also part of the package. This pushed the price tag to more than that of a contemporary Rolls-Royce.

1957 Ford Fairlane 500 SkylinerStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Think the idea of a retracting hardtop roof was something invented by Mercedes-Benz in the late 1990s? Think again – Ford had been doing it some four decades earlier with the Fairlane 500 Skyliner, marking one of the first mass-produced car to feature a folding metal roof.

Requiring seven electric motors, six locking mechanisms, and almost 200 metres of wiring, the Skyliner was a complex piece of engineering. It also took over much of the luggage space in the trunk, and added additional weight and cost.

1960 Ford Country SquireStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

To understand the path to the modern crossover SUV, you need to look back at the American family station wagon of the 1950s and ‘60s. A full-size wagon like the Country Squire featured acres of – fake – woodgrain trim, lots of luggage space and seating for up to eight passengers.

The Country Squire managed to cling on to production from 1950 to 1991, and became a key piece of suburban America. Whilst the association with staid middle class life damaged the Country Squire’s image at the time, today it has developed a cult following.

1961 Lincoln ContinentalStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Designed to save the Lincoln division money, the fourth-generation was based around a single four-door design offered in sedan, hardtop and convertible forms. It was also considerably smaller than its predecessors, even if it still managed to weigh more.

What makes the 1961 Continental significant, and undeniably cool, was the use of rear-hinged ‘suicide’ doors. Intended to make access to the rear seats easier, they also gave the Continental a unique profile. Notably, a ’61 Continental was the basis for the SS-100-X Presidential State car, used by President John F. Kennedy on his fateful 1963 trip to Dallas.

1962 Oldsmobile F-85 Turbo JetfireStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

The 1973 BMW 2002 Turbo is often seen as the first turbocharged production car, but General Motors took that triumph over a decade earlier. For a country obsessed with naturally aspirated V8 engines, the Jetfire version of the pretty Oldsmobile F-85 must have been something of a shock.

Producing 215hp and 301lb-ft of torque, the 215-cubic inch (3.52-litre) turbo V8 also featured water and methanol injection. Performance was on par with engines twice the size, but this was new technology and buyers were understandably cautious. Less than 4,000 Jetfires would be sold, and GM would shelve turbo petrol engines for another decade.

1964 Pontiac GTOStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Defining the original American ‘muscle car’ is harder than you might think. Some argue that the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 deserves the prize, whilst others cite the 300hp Chrysler 300-C. However, the 1964 Pontiac GTO embraced both the mechanical definition of having a large V8 engine in a two-door body, but also the ideas of low price and desirability.

With a 389-cubic inch (6.4-litre) V8 producing 325hp, the GTO also came with a standard three-speed manual transmission and stiffer suspension. In common with muscle cars to follow multiple options were offered, including a Tri-Power carburettor boosting power to nearly 350hp. This would set the benchmark for other manufacturers to follow.

1966 Ford GT40 Mk2Star-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Winning the Le Mans 24 Hours outright is a major achievement. Doing so to spite another manufacturer is even more impressive, but that’s exactly what Ford achieved with the GT40. Born from Henry Ford II’s frustration at Enzo Ferrari reneging on an agreement to sell him the Ferrari company, the GT40 would take victory at Le Mans four times.

After an initial troubled development, it was the Mk2 GT40 version with a 427-cubic inch (7.0-litre) V8 engine – and the help of Carroll Shelby – that would take Le Mans victory in 1966. Three more wins would follow, along with creating the lineage for the current Ford GT supercar.

1966 Jeep Super WagoneerStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Forget the Range Rover – this was the first premium SUV. Built by the Kaiser Jeep Corporation between 1966 and 1969, the Super version intended to bring even more luxury and comfort to the existing Wagoneer 4×4.

That meant a more powerful 327-cubic inch (5.4-litre) Vigilante V8 engine with 270hp, air conditioning, a push-button radio, tinted windows, and a power-assisted tailgate. With only around 1,500 produced, today Super Wagoneers are highly prized by Jeep collectors.

1969 Dodge Charger DaytonaStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

NASCAR in the late 1960s was ultra competitive, with manufacturers looking to exploit loopholes in the rules to gain an advantage. This gave rise to the Aero Cars, which used limited homologation requirements to build cars optimised for high speed on the superspeedway circuits.

With a giant 23-inch tall rear wing, extended nose cone, and vents above the front wheels the Charger Daytona was the first NASCAR to break the 200mph barrier on track. Today, of the 503 homologation cars sold for road use, the versions fitted with the 426-cubic inch (7.0-litre) Hemi V8 with 425hp are the most collectible.

1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘CudaStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Size matters in America, and even more so in the muscle car wars of the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Whilst the 440-cubic inch (7.2-litre) Hemi V8 offered in the Plymouth ‘Cuda might not have been the most powerful, it was one of the biggest. It’s also fair to say that 390hp and 490lb-ft of torque were still more than sufficient, too.

The 1971 ‘Cuda represented the peak of the muscle car era, with paint options like Lime Light green, Vitamin C orange, and Moulin Rouge pink epitomising the outrageousness of it all. Emissions standards would result in less power the following year, and the ‘Cuda would be gone by 1974.

1974 Buick Electra 225Star-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Not only was the Buick Electra one of the biggest American land yachts ever created, stretching the tape measure to some 231.5-inches (5.8-metres) in length, it also contained safety features commonplace today. Much like with turbocharging, General Motors experimented with airbag technology several years before it was introduced in Europe.

The Air Cushion Restraint System was offered across Buick, Cadillac, and Oldsmobile models in 1974, protecting both driver and passenger in the event of an impact. This was combined with lap seat belts, as GM believed the airbag system would replace the need for full three-point belts.

1980 Ford F-150Star-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Admittedly the history of the Ford F-Series of pickup truck stretches all the way back to 1948, but the seventh-generation truck introduced in 1980 is especially significant. A year later in 1981, the F-150 would become the single best-selling vehicle in the United States, and maintain that position for every year since.

In 2016 Ford sold over 820,000 F-150s, representing a 5.2% increase from the previous year, and adding to the total of over 35 million sold since the range was first introduced. Contrast that to the 21.5 million Volkswagen Beetles sold, and that’s the reason the Ford pickup truck seems so common in the USA.

1981 DeLorean DMC-12Star-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

History has not always viewed the DeLorean DMC-12 kindly, tarnished by the bankruptcy and drug trafficking charges brought against company founder John DeLorean. That it was powered by a 2.85-litre V6 with a modest 130hp certainly did help win approval either.

Now the DMC-12 has a legendary status, thanks to featuring as the ‘time machine’ in the Back to the Future movie franchise. There is more to it than just film prop though, with stainless steel body panels and gull-wing doors making it extraordinary. John DeLorean was also ahead of the time in trying to appeal to the super-rich, with a gold-plated limited edition.

1984 Dodge CaravanStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Beating the Renault Espace to production by a matter of months, the Dodge Caravan (and related Chrysler brethren) became the first MPV on sale. Ruthlessly killing off the station wagon overnight, the minivan did at least hold on to that fake woodgrain trim.

Families loved the sliding rear door, the potential for three rows of seating, and the low cost from being built on a front-wheel-drive platform. The Chrysler Corporation sold over 200,000 minivans in 1984, and was selling more than 600,000 per annum by the late 1990s. Then came the crossover SUV; making the minivan instantly uncool, just as it had done to the station wagon.

1996 Dodge Viper GTSStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Being both achingly beautiful, and terrifyingly fast, would warrant the inclusion of the Dodge Viper here on merit alone. However, having one of the largest engines ever offered in a production car helps guarantee it making the cut.

With ten-cylinders displacing 8.0-litres, the Viper GTS was even more powerful than the RT/10 roadster introduced before it, making 450hp and 490lb-ft of torque. Later Vipers would have even more displacement and power, but the original GTS is just too pretty to ignore.

2002 Hummer H1Star-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Initially offered to the public after its success in Operation Desert Storm, the Hummer really was just a military vehicle with the faintest trimmings of civility. General Motors bought the brand name in 1999, and continued to market the original H1 alongside smaller SUV variants.

With a huge turbo diesel V8 engine, wide track suspension, and the ability to ford 30 inches (56 cm) of water the H1 was able to take on anything. But only a few people needed such capability at the best of times, and the economic rationale for improving the H1 to meet new emissions regulations meant GM abandoned it in 2006.

2006 Ford Crown VictoriaStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Imagine any typical American cop car or taxicab, and the Ford Crown Victoria is likely to be the image that appears in your head. Using the Panther platform body-on-frame construction gave the Crown Victoria dependability, and ease of repair should it be involved in a collision.

These qualities were desired by fleet operators, and saw almost 10 million Panther platform cars produced between 1979 and 2011. Ultimately the market for big, thirsty, rear-wheel drive sedans diminished, but the Crown Vic still remains an icon of car chases and movies.

2008 Tesla RoadsterStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Tesla and Elon Musk might not have invented the electric car, but with the pioneering use of lithium-ion batteries EVs became both practical and desirable. The Tesla Roadster is the genesis for current Model S and Model X, along with the forthcoming Model 3.

Adding an 185kW (248hp) electric motor to a chassis derived from a Lotus Elise resulted in 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds, and a top speed of 125mph, silencing those who criticised EVs for being slow. A theoretical range of over 240 miles on a single charge was the nail in the coffin for the haters.

2013 Ford Shelby GT500 MustangStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Having been in production since 1964, picking a Mustang that exemplifies it the best is not easy. The Boss 429, the ’67 Shelby GT500, and even the newest GT350R all have considerable merit. Choosing which not to include is simpler, with the debatable second and third-generation cars best left alone.

Ford rediscovered Mustang greatness with the fifth-generation, and the 2013 Shelby GT500 marked a milestone with a top speed in excess of 200mph. It is still the fastest street Mustang, and the fastest muscle car ever built to date. Easily done with a 5.8-litre supercharged V8 engine producing 662hp and 631lb-ft of torque.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT DemonStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

World’s fastest production car 0-60mph (2.3 seconds), world’s fastest quarter-mile production car (9.65 seconds), most powerful production V8 engine (840hp), first production car with the front-passenger seat deleted… Yes, the Challenger SRT Demon has set quite a lot of world firsts.

Being little more than a road-legal dragster, the SRT Demon encapsulates the craziness of a place where a Guinness World Record for the first front-wheel lift in a production car is a thing. As incredible as it is ridiculous, the SRT Demon is testimony to the American car industry catering to the most extreme of customer needs.

President Trump's Cadillac limo for sale for £50,000

President Trump's Cadillac limo for sale for £50,000

President Trump's Cadillac limo for sale for £50,000

As President Trump is making history in the White House, a second-hand car dealer in Gloucestershire is offering fans the chance to own their very own Trump memento.

This 1988 Cadillac Trump (yes, that’s its name) was one of 50 intended for production – but only two were ever made.

Severnvale Cars in Gloucestershire has been holding onto the limo for a while, hoping that Trump’s presidency would help generate interest and, no doubt, increase its value. But now it’s cashing in, advertising the limo for £50,000.

With just 45,000 miles on the clock (that’s around 1,500 miles a year), the seller claims it was used by a member of Trump’s family for the first few years of its life before being imported into the UK in 1991.

President Trump's Cadillac limo for sale for £50,000

The interior is as luxurious as you’d expect from a limo designed with input from Trump, with lots of leather, wood, a television and even a drinks cabinet.

“This is a unique vehicle that offers a rare opportunity for collectors and enthusiasts to buy a car that will always attract interest,” says the car dealer’s commercial director, Sean Tanner.

“We know the current owner well. He bought the Cadillac ten years ago and it’s been his pride and joy. It has even starred in a couple of films, so we hope this will fetch a good price.”

Although it’s advertised online for £50,000, the garage says it’s planning to send the car to auction later in the year.

President Trump's Cadillac limo for sale for £50,000

President Trump's Cadillac limo for sale for £50,000

President Trump’s Cadillac limo for sale for £50,000

President Trump's Cadillac limo for sale for £50,000

As President Trump is making history in the White House, a second-hand car dealer in Gloucestershire is offering fans the chance to own their very own Trump memento.

This 1988 Cadillac Trump (yes, that’s its name) was one of 50 intended for production – but only two were ever made.

Severnvale Cars in Gloucestershire has been holding onto the limo for a while, hoping that Trump’s presidency would help generate interest and, no doubt, increase its value. But now it’s cashing in, advertising the limo for £50,000.

With just 45,000 miles on the clock (that’s around 1,500 miles a year), the seller claims it was used by a member of Trump’s family for the first few years of its life before being imported into the UK in 1991.

President Trump's Cadillac limo for sale for £50,000

The interior is as luxurious as you’d expect from a limo designed with input from Trump, with lots of leather, wood, a television and even a drinks cabinet.

“This is a unique vehicle that offers a rare opportunity for collectors and enthusiasts to buy a car that will always attract interest,” says the car dealer’s commercial director, Sean Tanner.

“We know the current owner well. He bought the Cadillac ten years ago and it’s been his pride and joy. It has even starred in a couple of films, so we hope this will fetch a good price.”

Although it’s advertised online for £50,000, the garage says it’s planning to send the car to auction later in the year.

President Trump's Cadillac limo for sale for £50,000

Cadillac Allante

Cadillac Allante: the curious motoring disaster that had its own private jets

Cadillac AllanteWhen it comes to building cars cost-efficiently, it’s generally a good idea to manufacture the body somewhere in the vicinity of the final assembly line.

Next door is ideal, the freshly stamped and welded body immediately making its way to the paint shop, before being baked, undersealed and despatched to the moving conveyor that will see it built into a complete car.

It’s a manufacturing sequence that most car-makers follow, although there have been a surprising number of models whose bodyshells have been built on sites some distance from the assembly line.

Rolls-Royce used to buy in shells for its Silver Shadow and Silver Spirit from British Leyland, which manufactured them on what is now the site of the BMW Mini factory in Oxford. And today, a Roller’s bodyshell comes from Germany.

Ferrari sourced bodies from coachbuilders Scaglietti, Lamborghini from Goldencar, both of these local to their factories.

Less clever was British Leyland’s habit of transporting primered bodyshells around the Midlands during the ‘60s and ‘70s, a pretty inefficient activity when most of a raw shell is air.

Cadillac and Pininfarina

Cadillac Allante

But that was nothing to the manufacturing process that produced the Cadillac Allante. This two-door convertible, which debuted in 1986 as an alternative to the Mercedes SL and Jaguar XJS, was the progeny of America’s most upscale car-maker and Italian design house Pininfarina.

Cadillac had flirted with the Italian company before, the body of its ’59 Eldorado Brougham saloon handbuilt and assembled in Turin on chassis’ sent from the US. Once Pininfarina had finished with it, the Brougham was shipped back to America for final finishing.

This was the last hand-made, coach-built Cadillac and you certainly paid for it, the Pininfarina Brougham costing three times the price of the spectacularly flamboyant standard version made in the US.

Unsurprisingly, this US-Italian hybrid sold slowly despite its more tasteful elegance, only 200 finding homes in 1959-60. There were quality problems too, the lead-loading used to smooth its hand-beaten bodywork causing the paint to fracture.

How not to learn from history…

Cadillac Allante

Despite such mixed results, GM decided to have another crack at creating something special with Pininfarina a couple of decades later.

This time, Italy got the task not only of designing a classy two-seat roadster, but also of building and painting its body as well. The broad basis of the Allante was Cadillac’s front-wheel drive V8 Eldorado, although its bodyshell, and most of its platform, were unique to the convertible.

And the name? That was generated by a computer that produced 1700 possibilities, the chosen badge being meaningless, although its did sound a little like the sea that this Cadillac’s body had to cross.

Cadillac Allante

That body was neat, slender, crisp and excitement-free, the Allante’s potential athleticism undermined by an over-short wheelbase, a curiously high-riding stance and a powertrain that was never going to threaten a sprinting SL or an XJS.

There may have been 4.1 litres of V8 beneath its long bonnet, but this engine was good for no more than 170bhp and a 0-60mph time of 9.8 seconds, languidly delivered via four-speed automatic.

All of which meant that the most dramatic aspect of the Allante was not the car itself but its crazy method of construction.

Building cars with Boeing

Cadillac Allante

Once Pininfarina had finished the bodies, which were painted, fully trimmed and equipped with their folding roofs, they were transported from Turin to America by jumbo jet.

GM called it the ‘Allante Airbridge’, a trio of Boeing 747s specially modified to carry the part-finished Caddys across the pond. Detroit installed the sub-frames, suspension, drivetrain, fuel tanks and wheels to complete the car.

Cadillac Allante

Although it was not quite complete when Cadillac launched it in autumn 1986, Pininfarina having realised that the soft-top was prone to leaks and squeaks. They wanted to delay the launch and fix the problems, but GM insisted on sticking to its timetable.

And Mother Earth stuck to her familiar weather patterns, unhelpfully showering the Allantes bought by eager owners. Who soon found that some of that rain wasn’t returning to earth, but pooling in the footwells of their prized new convertibles.

Stemming the leaks cost Cadillac tens of thousands of dollars, besides staining the Allante’s reputation. And its carpets.

Leaks were not the last of the Allante’s functional troubles. Bosch discovered problems with its ABS anti-lock brake system, and the Bose sound system made strange cracking noises that could have been mistaken for failing trim.

Cadillac didn’t give up

Cadillac Allante

By the early ‘90s, the Allante’s reputation was glittering like an old tyre. But Cadillac didn’t give up on it, despite slow sales.

The pushrod 4.1 motor was tuned to produce 204bhp before being replaced in 1992 by GM’s excellent new 4.5 litre 32-valve quad cam Northstar V8, which delivered a far more convincing 285bhp.

Despite its front-drive chassis, the Allante drove well, too, blending refinement with a decent show of twisting road agility.

And it had plenty of the toys that Cadillac owners expect, including sumptuous power leather seats, digital LCD instruments, traction control – necessary, with front-drive and 285bhp – and later in life, electronically controlled suspension too.

‘Quite decent’, eventually

Cadillac Allante

By the end of its career, the Allante had become quite a decent grand touring convertible. Trouble was, the 1989 Mercedes SL, a tour de force of engineering and quality, had the one thing that the Allante was missing, in the shape of a one-shot power roof. Which didn’t leak.

Cadillac ran hard to fix and improve the Allante in the first few years of its life, but it never ran hard enough to keep up with the SL and XJS despite some substantial improvements.

Like most cars that gain an unsavoury early reputation, it never fully recovered. Still, the ’93 model year Allante was the best yet, featuring revised rear suspension with electronic dampers, upgraded brakes and myriad detail improvements.

It was also the best sales year for the car, the 4670 sold far higher than had been achieved in earlier years. But Cadillac nevertheless announced the Allante’s demise in the same year, the model still falling short of its 6000 annual sales target.

Profligate, yet loss-making

Cadillac Allante

It’s hard to imagine GM making much money on this car when it sold an average of around 3000 copies a year, was produced by such tortuously profligate methods, shared relatively little with other Cadillacs and almost nothing with Oldsmobiles and Buicks.

The total Allante production tally was 21,430. Today you can find them on sale in America from around $8000, while the best examples, often with mileages well below 40,000, cost under $20,000 – a third of the $60,000 or so that this Cadillac cost at the end of its career.

The Allante was not Cadillac’s last two-seater, the company taking another shot at the SL with the XLR. This time without the help of Pininfarina and a small fleet of jumbo jets.

Cadillac CTS-V

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