What are the 10 nicest cars in the world? The best looking, most eye-catching autos to have ever been built? Is the list full of the classic hand-built Ferraris, Maseratis and Astons of the bygone age or the physics-defying spaceships built by Bugatti, McLaren and Koeniggsegg in hermetically-sealed laboratories?
While there may never be an irrefutably definitive list – since this endless debate remains boundless in its ever changing range of opinions – there nevertheless remain a number of iconic motors so exquisite in their beauty that they’re impossible to ignore.
In that spirit, here’s our list of the top 10 nicest cars in the world, the striking and beautiful automobiles that live long in the imagination.
10. Ford GT40
1964 – 1969: The car conceived for revenge and built out of spite became one of the most successful endurance racing cars ever and it also makes the list as one of the nicest cars in the world.
Never has the phrase ‘beauty and the beast’ been so apt for an automobile. It was built to break Ferrari’s 1960 – 1965 domination of Le Mans and it did, with hardcore American grunt and muscle (including a helping hand from legendary American car man Carroll Shelby) and British mechanical design, delivering a metaphorical slap across the face to Enzo Ferrari’s sophisticated European thoroughbreds.
Designed for looks as well as speed, the wings look like the powerful shoulders of a huge American football player and the back defied the European trend for low, sloping rear-ends in favour of a more truncated style, almost a trompe l’oeil that tells you this car is going fast, very fast.
Forty inches from tarmac to roof, the Ford GT40 – most famously liveried in the baby blue and orange Gulf Oil colours – combines catwalk looks, the sculptured Adonis-like physique of a bodybuilder and raw power that the European playboys couldn’t hold a candle to.
Only 105 were built in the five years of production and if you want thing of beauty such as this, be prepared to part with upwards of half a million pounds.
Is the Ford GT40 the best looking car in the world? If you’re into muscle, power and hardcore adrenaline, it just might be.
9. Porsche 356 Speedster
1955 – 1959: If you take one of the original late-1940s Volkswagen Beetles (known then as the KDF Wagen) and combine it with the dream of a mid-70s Porsche 911 cabrio, you have the perfect cocktail that became the Porsche 356, one of the best looking cars in the world and the first production car from the Stuttgart-based giants of the automotive world.
It’s sheer beauty is in its simplicity (some would say hopeless impracticality), the split and curved low-cut windscreen bordered in chrome, the sloping bonnet we are so familiar with and the protruding bumpers became the calling card of the 356 because the interior was so sparse.
As with the Ferrari 250 GT California, New York-based Porsche importer Max Hoffman asked for a stripped down, lightweight sportscar to race in the emerging and extremely popular US sports car racing scene but the caveat was that to compete in the market it had to cost less than $3,000.
Ferdinand Porsche’s son Ferry initially refused to build a car to a strict budget but eventually relented and the 356 Speedster was born. ‘Years ahead in engineering, miles ahead on the road’ was Hoffman’s advertising campaign, and it worked. It was a sensation in the sunny coastal states and it’s popularity was enhanced by Hollywood icon James Dean’s ownership.
Interior fittings were at a minimum and the 1.6-litre flat four propelled the 356 to a top speed of a shade under 100 mph but it was never about how fast it went around a corner, it was at the time the coolest looking car in the world and it remains as sublimely cool today as it did six decades ago, if not more so.
If you’re thinking that your next car should be the halo 1957 356A 1500 GS Carerra GT Speedster – the first production Porsche to top 200kph (124 mph) – check your bank account to see if you’ve got at least £400,000 handy.
Is the Porsche 356 Speedster the nicest looking car in the world? If you’re a classic car enthusiast, possibly…
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8. Maserati Ghibli
1967 – 1973: The Maserati Ghibli – named after a hot dry Saharan wind – was arguably the coolest looking car in the world when it was launched at the Turin Motor Show in 1966 and in the half-century since has lost none of its inherent beauty.
Alongside the Lamborghini Miura and the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona (of which it outsold both), it is an iconic Italian sports car that epitomises 60s supermodel cool like very few others did.
Designed at Carrozzeria Ghia by 27-year old Giorgetto Giugaro – a man who went on to be named Car Designer of the Century – the steel-bodied Ghibli commands a unique presence thanks to its beautifully sloping rear end and it’s shark-like nose. It gave the appearance that it was crouched down and ready to pounce, principally because it was only 46 inches tall. The gorgeous big torque roar from the 306 bhp 4.7-litre V8 only added to its appeal as one of the nicest cars in the world.
Car collector extraordinaire Jay Leno once said of the Ghibli, ‘It’s like an American V8 that’s gone to college!’ Only 1,170 coupes were built and today, don’t expect to pay much less than around £200,000 for a concourse example.
Is the Maserati Ghibli the best looking car in the world? If your idea of heaven is cruising the Cote D’Azur then the answer is in the affirmative.
7. Lamborghini Huracán EVO Spyder
2019 – Present: From the jaw-dropping Miura in the 1960s to the memorably-named Countach in the 1980s, Lamborghini has become the byword for insane styling and breakneck speed and the introduction of the Huracán EVO Spyder (Spanish for ‘hurricane’) in 2019 didn’t disappoint the Lambo purists and offered a contender for the best looking car in the world.
The Huracán, as with all raging bull Lamborghinis gives the driver performance and pantomime in equal measure and the deafening 640 bhp, 5.2-litre V10 hits a touch over the magic 200mph mark and will accelerate to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds. It’s a car that announces its arrival long before you can see it.
It’s a road-going spaceship with a jet fighter-style cockpit. It’s all at once sleek, angular, harsh and seductive. It’s perfectly streamlined and one of the very few cars ever made that looks stunning clad in a lime green or bright orange coat.
The £220,000 Huracán EVO Spyder is a visceral experience that gives driver and onlooker exactly what they need – the noise, the theatre and an instant hit of supercar that is extremely hard to find anywhere else.
Is the Lamborghini Huracán EVO Spyder the nicest looking car in the world? If your favourite words are ‘hardcore’ and ‘extreme’ then it may just be a yes.
6. Ferrari 250 GT California SWB Spider
1960 – 1962: When putting a list together called the ‘best looking car in the world’, you could shortlist the entirety of Ferrari’s 250 line but while they are all undoubted stars, there is one star that shines brighter than all others – the 250 GT California SWB Spider.
The car that Ferris Bueller took for a joyride around Chicago came about when Ferrari’s US distributors asked head honcho Enzo Ferrari for a convertible version of the 250 GT Tour de France suitable for the SoCal sunshine. He went to legendary coachbuilder Sergio Scaglietti who came up with what is arguably the coolest looking car in the world.
An interesting Ferrari fact however is that only 56 (some say 55) of the short wheelbase models were ever made. It is said that Scaglietti dispensed with going to the trouble of producing drawings or measuring panels to fit, so no two cars are exactly the same. The quintessential open-air sporting Ferrari produced 240 bhp from a 3.0-litre V12 and it is without question one of the world’s most desirable open-top GT cars for its rarity, its history and above all its unparalleled beauty.
On the exceptionally rare occasion that one comes up for sale, you better dig deep because you won’t get much change from £13m, making it one of the most expensive second hand cars ever – you’ll never see one of these smashed up in a classic movie car chase!
Is the Ferrari 250 GT California SWB Spider one of the nicest cars in the world? We’re going to stick our necks out and say it absolutely is.
5. Citroën DS Décapotable Cabriolet d’Usine
1958 – 1973: Not a marque you’d expect to see when searching for the best looking car in the world and this one is sure to divide the crowd but for an example of utterly elegant late 50s and early 60s effortless French style, very few cars come close to the head-turner that is the Citroën DS Décapotable Cabriolet d’Usine.
The gorgeously sleek lines of the DS (Déesse is French for ‘goddess’) accentuated by the long, sloping tail and chrome trim epitomises Gallic chic like no other car before or since.
The Cabriolet d’Usine (or factory convertible) was built by legendary Parisian coachbuilder Henri Chapron who took up what Citroën had neither the time, inclination or resources to do and the result was nothing short of sensational – so much so in fact that the DS came third in the famous 1999 Car of the Century poll recognising the world’s most influential car designs.
In the decade between 1961 and 1971, Chapron produced 1,365 Décapotables to individual customer order and today, an immaculate example, equally at home in the 8th arrondissement as it is cruising the promenades of the French Riviera, will set you back around £150,000.
Is the Citroën DS Décapotable Cabriolet d’Usine the best looking car in the world? Perhaps, but this is one that will definitely divide opinion!
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4. Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing
1954 – 1963: In 1955, Road & Track Editors magazine described the 300SL as ‘the ultimate in an all-round sports car. It combines more desirable features in one streamlined package than we ever imagined or hoped would be possible.’
In a stunning array of distinctive features, perhaps the most distinctive of all is how it looks. The Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing (chassis code W198) is arguably the best looking car in the world; it offers a visual spectacle of sophisticated elegance that may – possibly – remain unmatched.
The first of the legendary SL (sports-light) series, not only was the ‘Gullwing’ rather magnificent to look at, this exquisite 50s movie-star siren was the world’s first passenger car with fuel injection. The 3.0-litre OHC straight-six which has its origins in the W194 racing car developed for the 1952 Sportscar racing season could hit 163 mph making it the fastest production car of its age.
Contrary to popular belief, the iconic gullwing doors were not added for visual appeal, rather because it had a true racing pedigree, the stiff but lightweight frame meant that it needed higher than usual door sills so conventional doors simply wouldn’t work. The iconic door design may remind you of one of TV’s most famous cars but that’s about as far as any comparison could possibly go!
As adored by the rich and famous now as it was then and with only 1,400 coupes produced, if you want one and are lucky enough to find one in tip-top condition, you’ll have to part with the best part of £1m.
Is the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing the coolest looking car in the world? There’s a large group of people who would say yes…
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3. Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione
2007 – 2010: Talk Italian sports car stunners with anyone in the know and the conversation will focus on Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini but now we add another name into the mix – Alfa Romeo.
Nothing short of mesmerisingly beautiful to look at, the 8C Competizione was created as a future supercar and aimed to spearhead Alfa’s assault into hypercar territory and rightly deserves a mention in any discussion of the nicest cars in the world.
Designed by Alfa’s Centro Stile, or style centre, the 8C, in their own words ‘played fascinating games with the past, as though the designers were paying tribute to an entire sprawling era of car design’. If you are a true Alfa petrolhead you can see nods to some of their classic models – the eyes came from the 33 Stradale, the rear end from the 1961 Giulietta SZ, the rear light cluster from the Guilia SZ…
Rather unimaginatively 8C stands for eight cylinders but ‘Competizione’ was the name of the 6C 2500 car that racing legend Juan Manuel Fangio drove in the 1950 Mille Miglia. The intention was to find the harmony between tradition and the future and it’s safe to say that they absolutely have. The 450 bhp, 4.7-litre V8 will nudge 190 mph and in true Alfa style it was perfectly imperfect at the top end but this isn’t about mechanics, it’s about sheer, unadulterated and intoxicating beauty and the (now £200,000+) Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione has that in spades.
Is the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione the best looking car in the world? Some say yes, some say no. We say maybe…
2. Jaguar E-Type
1961 – 1975: Automotive demi-god Enzo Ferrari described the E-Type as ‘the most beautiful car ever made,’ and who can argue?
Widely regarded as the coolest looking car in the world, the E-Type took it’s design cues from Jaguar’s D-Type Le Mans winner and effortlessly combined stunning looks, high performance and competitive pricing (the coupe version had a list price of £2,196, half the price of the Aston Martin DB5).
The original 265 bhp, 3.8-litre straight-six was a magnificently balanced engine (some say the later 4.2-litre XK lump negatively affected the purring cat’s poise) but that aside, the E-Type epitomises the word ‘cool.’ A design classic of such importance – the twin-centred exhausts, the chrome and the big cat’s bonnet – that the permanent design collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York includes a blue Roadster.
One of the most iconic cars to ever take to the road, the Jaguar E-Type is one of those rare beasts that can explain one’s often illogical love of cars without uttering a single word, you just have to look at it. If you want one, be prepared to fork out something like £200,000.
Is the Jaguar E-Type the coolest looking car in the world? Maybe, just maybe…
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1. Aston Martin DB5
1963 – 1965: Regarded by many as the most beautiful Aston Martin ever made, the DB5 can lay claim to be the best looking car in the world. A stunning and luxurious grand tourer, the DB5 was so named for Aston’s chief David Brown and any car carrying an endorsement from James Bond deserves to be on this list.
Designed by legendary Italian coachbuilders Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera, only 1,059 DB5s were made with a launch price of £4,175. They came with wool carpets, electric windows, chrome wire wheels and full leather. Luxury aside, the DB5 – the personification of early 60s glamour – simply oozed class and is as exquisite to look at today as it was when it launched almost half a century ago.
Most are in museums and private collections but when a mint DB5 comes onto the open market and you want one you’ll have to shell out something in the region of £750,000.
Is the Aston Martin DB5 the nicest looking car in the world? Yes*
(*Well, perhaps… this is one debate that will rage for as long as cars roam the Earth!)