Five of the Most American Cars of All Time
While listening to fireworks exploding throughout my neighborhood, I'm enjoying the Independence Day holiday and thinking of cars, of course. Everyone celebrates differently, and hopefully you’ve carved out some time to appreciate all the things we’ve come to enjoy in America—automotive and otherwise. Conversations about our country can be divisive these days, but talking cars can provide some common ground. So let’s celebrate some of the vehicles the represent the United States at its best.
C is for Corvette
The freaking astronauts drove them during the Space Race. That alone should be enough to place this car in the pantheon of awesome America autos. But the Corvette is so much more than that. It’s forever aspirational, a goal for which to reach. Whether you are a young enthusiast scraping together cash for a high-mileage C5, a collector planning to restore a favorite model, or an aspiring auto journalist pining to drive the new C8 Z06, this car is a moonshot. No matter where I am and in what context, I’ll stop to check out a Vette. They’re as timeless as the American Dream.
Ye Oldsmobile Cutlass
The car is trips to the beach with family and stopping for ice cream on the way back. It’s learning to drive while your passenger searches for the chicken bar. It’s coming home from college on holiday break, bags of laundry stuffed in the trunk. Even if your formative years place you before or after the Olds’s timeline, it truly embodies the big family cars of yesteryear that can still be found on the roads—and appreciated—today. Riding in one was like relaxing in a rolling rumpus room; now there’s some serious nostalgia involved. Bonus points if you spot one with wood paneling.
Any Ford F-150
When Henry Ford rearranged his factories into assembly lines, he sparked the rise of American manufacturing. When he famously stated “Any customer can have a car painted any color he wants so long as it is black,” he seemed to be locking us into a future based on mass production that extended beyond the purchase of automobiles. However, while it’s not like digging into the Porsche configurator, buying today’s F-150 represents freedom of choice and individuality. Yes, it’s the most ubiquitous vehicle in America, but the engine options, trim levels, and performance packages really allow for customers to tailor a truck to meet their needs. Want the power to power your job site? Go with the new Lighting. Want to EcoBoost your way through the desert? Go with the Raptor. Ford not only survived but thrived during the Great Recession, and providing customers more choice is a contributing factor to their continued success.
Your Tesla Model 3
It is hard to look past the spectacle that is Tesla. Erratic financial performance, production woes, and questionable build quality seem to get all the attention. It’s easy to forget that A-game Tesla specializes in innovation and iconoclasm. They were the first manufacturer to focus solely on electric cars, defying conventions set by the Big Three. Their battery technology still surpasses most other companies’, and the Supercharger network is by far the best option for electrified roadtrips. No matter how you view Elon, an increasingly controversial blend of Howard Hughs and Jay Gatsby, you must admit he dreams big. Proprietary charging, falcon wing doors, and smashed Cybertruck windows aside, Tesla has changed the automotive industry, I think, for the better.
You’re at a high school reunion. You run into the former big man on campus. You remember the wedgies, the swirlies. You cringe but remain polite when he approaches for some conversation. You learn that he actually went to class while on that football scholarship. He’s married. Has three little girls. A good job. You decided he turned out to be a good guy—even after he humble brags about breaking the pitcher’s nose with a line drive at the company softball game. Like this reformed jock, the Hummer evolved from military and off-road use, to a symbol of dinosaur-fueled excess, to an eco-conscious EV not out of place at the local Whole Foods. The new EV model is all three of these things: hardcore and ostentatious but now with more enlightened sensibilities. An upgraded alpha dog, if you will. The Hummer represents America’s journey into the 21st century this way, and I can’t wait to see where the automotive—and societal—progression leads us.
Bill hosts a blog and YouTube channel that lead him to think more deeply about what it means to drive. The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.
Additional photos taken by the author.