When you make enough money to afford the finer things in life, a car like a Ford Fiesta — even one in “Outrageous Green” — just isn’t going to cut it. You need something that will knock people’s socks off when they see it. There’s been an urge to wow other drivers since the beginning of the automobile age. Rolls-Royce was founded in 1906, after all. Here’s a look at the best selling and most iconic luxury cars for your wish list.
1907 Cadillac Model K Runabout
In 1907, Cadillac’s single-cylinder Model K was only available in one style: the runabout. It was a tulip-bodied, two-seat vehicle with a shorter muffler than the 1906 models. It sold for $750, not including head and cowl lamps, which had to be purchased separately through the dealer. Today, adjusting for inflation, that would be $20,405.
On July 28, 2012, Sotheby’s sold a 1907 Cadillac Model K Victoria Runabout for $88,000.
1909 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost
The Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, one of the world’s first luxury cars, was introduced to the American public in 1907. Respected publication Autocar dubbed it the “best car in the world” the same year, and things only got better from there. In 1909, the car got an even larger, 7.4-liter engine, paired with a three-speed transmission.
According to the Daily Mail, during the 1900s, a Silver Ghost would cost you the same amount as a “large house in the country,” and it certainly hasn’t gotten any cheaper. On March 9, 2018, Sotheby’s offered a 1909 Silver Ghost for between $1 and $1.25 million. You can buy a nice house in the country for much less than that.
1913 Mercer Series J Raceabout
Dubbed by Mercer as “The Champion Light Car,” the Series J Type 35 Raceabout boasted 58 horsepower and could cover 301 miles at an average speed of 66.8 mph. A four-speed gearbox made 80 mph attainable and the vehicle could evidently be souped up to 100. By removing the lights and fenders, it could be driven as a racecar, and actually competed in and won several races.
Avid car collector Jay Leno said on an episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage” that a 1913 Mercer Raceabout was sold in the ’60s for an unheard of $45,000. On March 7, 2019, a 1913 Mercer Raceabout was sold for $896,000 at a Bonhams auction.
1916 Packard Twin Six Model 1-35
Packard’s Twin Six debuted in May 1915, making it the first American-produced, twelve-cylinder car. It offered the driver a V-12 engine with two blocks of six cylinders and 88 horsepower. The car was a massive success, outselling the luxury Pierce Arrow 4-to-1 in its first year on the market, and 8-to-1 the next year. On Aug. 24, 2018, a 1916 Packard 1-25 Twin Six Runabout sold for $390,000 at Bonhams.
1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I
In 1925, Rolls-Royce’s Silver Ghost was replaced by the New Phantom, also known as the Phantom I or 40/50HP Phantom. It became the flagship model until the introduction of a second generation Phantom II in 1929. The engine of the Phantom I was cast in three blocks, with two cylinders each, and was both smoother and more powerful than its Ghost predecessor. However, premium parts meant the vehicle was high maintenance, requiring continual oiling in 50 or so separate spots.
Not afraid of a little upkeep? A 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Custom Town Car is being advertised on Hemmings today for $175,000. The cars Rolls-Royce makes today are still breaking records. Find out what made a modern-day Rolls-Royce the most expensive new car ever sold.
1928 Studebaker President
According to How Stuff Works, Studebaker head honcho Albert Erskine said he wanted to create “the finest eight-cylinder car in the world regardless of cost.” And thus, in 1928, the Studebaker President was born, alongside Commander and Dictator models. The President provided 100 horsepower, though that was later bumped up to 109 with the introduction of a larger engine. It was one of the top luxury cars in America, selling 16,500 units alone in 1928. It stayed in production until 1942 and made a reappearance from 1955 to 1958.
1930 Cadillac V-16 Convertible
Despite the stock market crash of 1929, the Cadillac V-16 initially sold very well. According to How Stuff Works, 2,219 cars were shipped in the 1930 model year, and “by June, sales had exceeded $13 million.” The 1930 to 1931 Convertible Coupes cost $5,900 to $6,900 depending on the series, which would be a whopping $89,879 to $105,112 today.
The car is coveted by many modern-day collectors. On March 14, 2015, a 1930 Cadillac V-16 Convertible Coupe was sold at Sotheby’s for $456,500.
1934 Mercedes-Benz W 25
Later known as a “Silver Arrow,” the Mercedez-Benz W 25 debuted in 1934. The now-signature silver body was actually a happy accident. When entering its first race, the white car was 1 kilogram overweight, so the team manager ordered the paint to be ground off the body. The newly silver racing car ended up winning, which would prove to be the start of the most successful racing career in Daimler-Benz’s history. Famed racing driver Rudolf Caracciola described the record-breaking Mercedez-Benz W 25 and those like it as “racing limousines,” which quickly became a common industry term.
1949 Jaguar XK 120
After World War II, Britain needed a reminder that it had something to offer the world. Debuting in 1948, the Jaguar XK 120 gave the country the ego boost it needed, immediately becoming an international sensation. The sleek roadster designed by William Lyons sold for $3,000, or $31,649, today.
Before the company switched to pressed steel for the bodywork, the first 242 of the 1949 models were done in alloy. Because they are rarer, the alloy bodies are more valuable today. One sold for $407,000 at Sotheby’s on Jan. 29, 2016.
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1949 Aston Martin DB1
The Aston Martin DB5 is James Bond’s famous vehicle of choice. But before the DB5, there were four others, starting with the DB1. Initially known as the 2-Litre Sports — it got its DB1 designation later — the car won the 1948 Spa 24 Hours, its first-ever race. And yet, just 15 of these impressive cars were ever produced. After that, Aston Martin moved on to the DB2, which is considered the official start of the DB series.
On Aug. 19, 2017, a 1949 Aston Martin DB1 was put up for auction at Sotheby’s for between $1,050,000 and $1,300,000.
1955 Bentley R-Type Continental
The Bentley R-Type Continental was an improved version of Bentley’s Mark VI, offering more luggage space and an optional automatic transmission. It topped out at an impressive 115 mph.
Only 2,486 R-Types were ever made, with just 207 of them being Continentals, according to Sports Car Market. The original list price for one was $18,000, or more than $170,000 today. Given their rarity, however, it’s gone up in value substantially. On May 2, 2015, a 1955 Bentley R-Type Continental Sports Saloon was sold for $1,127,500 at Sotheby’s. Learn what other things like cars are unexpectedly worthwhile investments.
1959 Cadillac Coupe DeVille
The Cadillac Coupe DeVille is inarguably one of the best luxury cars of the ’50s, offering drivers air conditioning, power steering, power seats, cruise control and a huge amount of space. And, its iconic shape — over-the-top tail fins and all — has cemented it in the history books. Brand new, the Series 62 models went for about $5,000, which is about $43,554 today. Fortunately — or unfortunately, depending on how you look at things — the car is far more attainable price-wise now. In 2014, a Cadillac Coupe DeVille was sold at Sotheby’s for $33,550.
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1961 Chrysler 300-G Convertible
The Chrysler 300-G was beautiful, with elongated fins, vertical quad headlights and an upside-down, trapezoid-shaped grill. It had a three-speed manual transmission and overhead valve V-8 engine. Only 337 of the 1961 300-G Convertibles were ever made — 1,280 two-door hardtops were produced — making it rare, and therefore, valuable. On July 26, 2014, one was sold for $162,250 at Sotheby’s.
1963 Buick Riviera
In the early ’60s, General Motors needed a new car to compete with Ford’s best-selling Thunderbird. According to the New York Times, on a trip to London, GM design chief William Mitchell spotted a Rolls-Royce and was struck with inspiration. He returned to the U.S. and told Ned Nickels of Buick’s advanced design department to make a car that looked “like a Ferrari combined with a Rolls-Royce.”
The resulting vehicle, the Buick Riviera, was both timeless and cutting edge. It introduced such features as frameless side glass, which is now commonplace in cars. It was also speedy, going from zero to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds and doing a quarter mile in just 16.5.
1976 Ferrari 512 BB
In 1976, Ferrari introduced the world to the 512 Berlinetta Boxer, aka the BB, which replaced the 1971 Ferrari 365 GT4 BB. Thanks to an enlarged, 180-degree Flat-12 engine, it went from zero to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds and did a quarter mile in about 13.5. The impressive vehicle cost $38,000, or $169,509 today. It was eventually replaced by the 512i BB, which included a Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system.
If you’re a car lover, put travel destinations like the Ferrari factory and museum on your list.
1976 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible
The 1976 Cadillac Eldorado is famous for two reasons: It was big and luxurious, and it had a clever — one might say criminal — marketing campaign. It was advertised as the “last convertible,” as Cadillac claimed it would no longer be producing any. The car cost $11,049 — $49,287 today — but some people paid up to three times the price, believing it to be a collector’s item. Unfortunately, those people lost out big time when Cadillac introduced another Eldorado Convertible in 1984. The false advertising earned Cadillac a major lawsuit.
1984 Ferrari Testarossa
In 1984, the Ferrari 512 BBi was replaced by the Testarossa, which quickly became one of the most coveted cars of the decade. The company produced 7,177 of the beauties until 1991, when the 512 TR was introduced. The car’s look was described by automobile designer Sergio Pininfarina as “an exaggeration in flamboyance,” according to How Stuff Works. Indeed, the vehicle sported straked air intakes on the sides and a track that was wider in the rear than the front, making it look a fast as it truly was.
In 2017, an ’84 Testarossa was sold at Sotheby’s for about $157,550 in euros, not accounting for inflation.
1985 Lamborghini Countach LP5000 QV
The Lamborghini Countach was considered the other “most lusted-after” car of the ’80s, according to MotorTrend — and for good reason. The “QV” part of its moniker came from the term “quattrovalvole” — Italian for “four valves” — which described its large, V-12 engine with four valves per cylinder. The Countach also boasted 455 horsepower at 7,000 rpm in Europe. The U.S. version of the car only produced 414 horsepower.
In October 2017, Mike Spinelli of The Drive got to test a European 1985 Lamborghini Countach LP5000 QV — meaning it had the preferable 455 horsepower — and said, “It’s hot, the clutch is heavy, it smells like fuel, it’s hard to park and it’s absolutely perfect.”
1994 Porsche 968 Coupe
Porsche sold the 968 from 1992 to 1995, and the car was seen as the last step in the 924 line’s evolution. It boasted “the largest naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine in regular series production,” according to How Stuff Works. The price for the 968 Coupe in 1992 was $39,850, or $72,026 today.
The Porsche 968 has gone down in value since its heyday, however. In April 2016, one was sold on Sotheby’s for $55,000, and in January 2019, one was sold on Bonhams for $61,040, which is really only about four grand better when you consider inflation from 2016 to present.
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1999 Cadillac Escalade
In 1999, Cadillac finally found a car that could rival Lincoln’s successful Navigator SUV: the Escalade. It was the first vehicle of its kind for Cadillac, and the company didn’t hold back. The Escalade had a 5.7-liter V-8 engine mated with a four-speed automatic transmission and was capable of both 255 horsepower and towing up to 6,500 pounds. The sport utility vehicle was heavy and didn’t get good gas mileage, but it was visually appealing, with a signature Cadillac-style grille and a spacious leather- and wood-trimmed interior. The Escalade soon became a favorite of celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Adam Sandler and Paris Hilton.
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2002 Ferrari Enzo
Only 399 Ferrari Enzos were ever made and, with a price of $652,000 (about $925,258 today), were primarily for the super-rich and super-famous. Notably, actor Nicolas Cage, who is known for some interesting spending habits, owned a Ferrari Enzo.
2007 Bugatti Veyron
The Bugatti Veyron is insane, plain and simple. It generates 1,001 horsepower, can go zero to 60 mph in 3 seconds, and tops out at a little over 250 mph. The car costs more than $1 million, meaning that celebrities are usually the ones behind the wheel. Tom Cruise, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and Jay Leno all own Veyrons. Jay-Z’s ride cost wife Beyoncé over $2 million.
2018 Lexus RX
Lexus introduced the RX to the American public in 1998, and the car has been a perennial best-seller for the company. Its sales numbers have steadily risen, with just slight sales dips from 2008 to 2011, which makes sense given the state of the economy at the time. Both the 350L and 450hL AWD models received mixed-bag reviews from Car and Driver, but the public didn’t seem to care: In 2018, the RX saw its best sales yet with 111,636 sold in the U.S. The 350 model started at $43,470.
2019 Audi Q5
The 2019 Audi Q5 received largely positive reviews from both Motor Trend and Car and Driver. Both publications highlight the car’s tech, including instrument panel display and wireless phone charger, as well as its high-end interior and overall luxe look. The car ranges in price from $43,945 to $54,845.
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