We're always trying to figure out what the Golden Age of cars was, but the truth is that ever since World War II, we've lived in something of an endless Golden Age.
For eight decades, cars have been incredible: gorgeous, innovative, powerful, and even reliable and affordable. As we spend more time talking about not owning cars and enjoying them drive themselves, we thought it would be appropriate to look back on the glories witnessed and pick a few big winners.
Our criteria was simple: Was the car a smash hit at the time, historically important, and did it change the game or exert a huge influence? Bonus points if a model is still in production.
Here's what we came up with, the two best cars from each decade from 1940 to the present.
The Willys-Overland Jeep was the vehicle than helped the Allies win World War II. The original rugged, throw-anything-at-it set of wheels, its legacy remains strong in vehicles such as the Jeep Wrangler.
Military vehicles have sometimes made the transition to civilian life. Think of the Hummer, for example.
But the Willys Jeep is one of the vehicles that said it all in victorious fashion. Simple, easy to maintain, tough, ready for action. It was used by the US military and its allies as a scout car, so it saw front-line duty. Study it today and you can't help but be impressed at its perfect combination of form and function.
The F-Series pickups were originally introduced as work trucks and delivery vehicles for businesses, farms, and ranges. Fast forward Almost eight decades later, the F-Series has become America's bestselling vehicle, reigning at the top since the 1980s. Ford will sell nearly a million in 2017. That astounding run had to start someplace.
The Citroën DS marked France's automotive comeback after World War II. Ahead of its time in both technology and styling, the DS has and will always be considered a pinnacle of the peculiar Gallic aesthetic attitude toward cars: sleek, suave, worldly.
It's iconic styling, advanced hydropneumatic suspension, and numerous Citroën design quirks made the DS truly unique.
The beautiful machine went into production in 1955 and stayed there until 1975. America had tailfins, Mustangs, and muscle cars during that period. France had the beautiful DS.
The dashing, roadster incarnation of the Corvette became street legal in 1953, and while it evoked on a smaller scale some of the moods and trends of the 1950s, it also looked forward to smaller, snazzier 1960s rides, such as the Ford Mustang.
A lot of Vette fans favour the curvy fiberglass machines of the "Boogie Nights" 1970s, or consider the latest products of Bowling Green, Kentucky - the Stingray, Z06, Grand Sport, and epic new ZR1 - to be Chevy's finest.
But the first-generation Vette is still the true head-turner. It proved that America, land of huge sedan, could do a sports car as well as the Europeans.
The "people's car," as the VolksWagen was originally defined, was created by Ferdinand Porsche at the behest of Nazi Germany for a cheap vehicle for everyone. Porsche went on to found that other company that bore his name, while the Beetle survived the German World War II defeat to become one of the most popular cars of the 1960s.
Affordable, basic transportation was what a lot of folks wanted as the huge American sedans of the 1950s lost their lustre. Eventually, the VW Beetle would go out of production - 2003 was the final year - but not before 21 million had been sold.
The iconic "pony car" was Ford's stab at giving a youthful American the cars it sought in the mid-1960s.
The car was an immediate success, but it also had its ups and down. The second-generation 'Stang of the 1970s is now widely considered an embarrassment and unworthy of the name. A new two-seater for the third-gen became a legend, however - these are the famous "Fox body" Mustangs - and after over 50 years, the Mustang is now better than ever.
Detroit ridiculed the teeny, fuel-sipping Japanese cars when they first started to arrive in force in the US. But by the time the first Honda Civic landed in 1973, Americans had experienced something shocking and new: a gas crisis.
Suddenly precious and, for the time, pricey petrol made Americans look twice at their gas-guzzling roadgoing boats, stylish and roomy though they may have been. The groundwork for smaller cars had already been laid by the VW Beetle and Ford Falcon, but the Civic offered something else: impressive reliability.
It was the opposite of planned obsolescence, the notorious Detroit game of making sure customers craved a new car every few years. The Civic promised high MPGs and would run until the wheels fell off. No wonder it's been in continuous production ever since and has been one of the most popular vehicles of all time.
Holy Cow! It's what Countach means in Italian slang. It's also the expression people made the first time they set their gaze upon this glorious machine at the 1971 Geneva Motor show.
While the stunningly beautiful Lamborghini Miura may have been the original supercar, it is the Countach that put the supercar on the map. No car in the last 40 years can match the Countach for sheer star power.
Armed with Lamborghini's legendary Bizzarini V12 engine, a sleek wedge-shaped body by Marcello Gandini, and its iconic up-swinging doors, the Countach was a cultural phenomenon.
Not even the 1973 Arab oil crisis could stop this raging bull.
Before Chrysler created the minivan, there were certainly vans, but they weren't aimed at carting around families. They were for deliveries and for folks who wanted to modify the panel vans of the 1970s to be small campers, complete with exotic murals painted on the exterior. We also had some precedence in the VW bus, that transporter of the counterculture.
Chrysler rolled out the first proper, family-oriented minivans, the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, in 1983. The vehicles were big hits and spawned imitators. And although much of the minivan's thunder has lately been stolen by SUVs, there continue to be parents who swear by them. Now-Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Pacifica, a Caravan descendant, has been quite popular, and Honda and Toyota send the Odyssey and the Sienna into the battle for the 'burbs.
Toyota already had a stupendous reputation in the US for building cars that always started, lasted forever, and were easy in the wallet at the fuel pump.
The company could have stuck with that paradigm forever, but it thought: What if we bring the "Toyota Way" to the luxury market?
The luxury market itself was largely an invention of Reagan years; before, American simply traded their way up to the finer automobiles made by Lincoln and Cadillac. But the Germans - BMW and Mercedes - transformed from being about quality and performance to being about social status.
Enter Lexus, Toyota's effort at using its vaunted manufacturing prowess to compete with Mercedes. It was a huge risk. But it paid off. The Lexus LS400 was so good that it almost immediately created a top-tier of US luxury brands that consisted of Mercedes, BMW, and Toyota's new prestige marque.
Honda's Acura was actually the first Japanese carmaker to take the plunge in 1986, and Infiniti followed with Acura. But Lexus achieved the gold standard in 1989 - and in the process saw Toyota hit its US peak.
We have the Ford Explorer to thank for the dominance of SUVs in the US auto market. Introduced in the early 1990s, the vehicle transformed the rugged utility truck, intended to be an expedition vehicle, into the preferred set of wheels for suburbanites with families.
In the process, the Explorer effectively ended the station wagon's long reign as the practical family car. Clobbered by a spike in gas prices after the financial crisis, the Explorer mounted a comeback, and by 2013 it was once again a vital Ford vehicle as Americans turned away not just from wagons but family sedans.
As SUVs go, none have been as influential as the Explorer. The nameplate remains in Ford's lineup - and a vehicle that is still an excellent choice.
The McLaren F1 represents the pinnacle of 1990s automotive technology. The British supercar helped pioneer advanced carbon fibre construction and delivered performance no other production car could approach for more than a decade.
In the 1990s, the F1 stood alone atop the automotive universe. It's $810,000 price tag made it most expensive car in the world. Its BMW V12 effortlessly produced 627 horsepower at a time when 500 was tough to come by. And it's 380km/h top speed would remain unchallenged for nearly a decade.
The McLaren F1 was so good that a lightly modified version of the road car went racing at the 24 House of Le Mans in 1995. The F1 didn't just win, it dominated the most gruelling sports car race in the world by finishing first, third, fourth, and fifth.
It's ironic that the first Priuses hit the US market during a period of peak SUV. Toyota spent years and billions developing an anti-SUV: a relatively modest, homely four-door with a secret weapon under the hood.
That was the Hybrid Synergy Drive, the first commercially viable gas-electric hybrid. Almost overnight, consumers had a vehicle - and a Toyota, no less - that could deliver elevated fuel economy and cut down drastically on emissions. The first-generation to hit US shores around 2000 was based on the dowdy Echo economy sedan, but the next gen offered that now-infamous Prius profile, thought by many to be the ugliest car in the road, but for Prius owners, a thing of beauty.
Toyota has sold over 6 million Priuses (Prii, if your favour their camaker's own plural, decided in a contest) and although hybrids have given up mindshare to electric vehicles, the impact of the Prius can't be overstated. Like the Ford Model T almost 100 years earlier, it changed everything.
Just what the world needs: a slow Porsche!
That the kind of thing Porsche's sport-car loving loyalists said when the company announced its SUV plans. The widespread assumption was the Porsche would make a fool of itself.
It so didn't. The Cayenne swiftly garnered both the respect of Porsche-philes and the admiration of owners. Porsche set out to build the greatest SUV on Earth - and succeeded. Sure, the Cayenne wasn't a 911. But with the brilliant new SUV, Porsche created a new market for high-performance luxury utes and raked in the spoils.
Fast forward to 2017 and every other major luxury brand save Ferrari has an SUV in its lineup. And Ferrari is preparing to take the plunge. Thanks to the Porshe Cayenne for taking the risk and leading the way.
If there's a car that could plausibly be argued more important that the Model T, it's the similarly named Model S. Tesla and CEO Elon Musk had, with the company's original Roadster, proven that electric vehicles didn't have to be glorified golf carts; they could be fast and sexy.
The Model S was Tesla first all-Tesla design (the Roadster had been based on a Lotus). It was fast, comfortable, stylish, and luxurious. Motor Trend named it Car of the Year for 2013. Tesla, desperate for cash, could sell it for $100,000.
Over the following years, Tesla would upgrade the Model S's range and performance, culminating in the P100D, which can outrun supercars from 0-96km/h. The Model T was monumentally important. But the Model S was monumentally dazzling.
The best car from the latest decade - might not be a car! In fact, it might be a smartphone app valued at over $60 billion (about R841 billion), which not incidentally more than the market caps of GM, Ford, FCA, and Tesla.
For all its faults, Uber joined on-demand ride-hailing with the app economy and made it possible to eliminate much of the friction of getting around. In short order, users realised that Ubering (yep, it became a verb) could be cheaper than owning a car. The company remade the urban landscape and in the process shook up the taxi business.
Prior to CEO Travis Kalanick's departure in 2017, Uber was reckless and defiant in its relentless efforts to dominate the new market it had created. The law-bending and at time law-breaking wasn't good. Nor were the battles with governments in Europe.
But there's no debating that for the first time since the invention of the automobile, Uber got a massive number of people thinking about why they might not ever need one.
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