Everybody has that special car they love. Maybe you cherish your dad’s first car, which took you on countless road trips. Or you have fond memories of that vehicle that never left your family’s garage for some reason. And yet… some cars occupy not just your mind, but that of the entire enthusiast crowd.

US car manufacturers do not exactly have the best reputation with their vehicles right now. Thankfully, as Americans, we can be proud to have plenty of iconic models throughout the years. So much so that we can have a heated discussion about which are the most remarkable out of the bunch. Well, shall we do just that?

At Altered Steel, we have a special place for all kinds of vintage cars. We have mentioned our favorite vintage SUVs, and we have explored the history of the American sedan. However, I think it is high time we talk about America’s most iconic classic cars… according to us! What do you say, are you up for a bit of time travel? Let’s go back a good few decades then!

More than fancy old cars

The problem with many such lists is that they take the most famous sports cars and slap them right at the top. It is not like vintage sports vehicles are not impressive or iconic though. I just like to think that the car world has more things going for it.

This is why today we’ll explore a bit of a different list. I would rather we don’t rank the vehicles, but instead, cherish each and every one of them. I will separate them into categories and pick the three most iconic models within those.

That being said, some seemingly obvious picks will actually not be on this list. You may be surprised to find that the Ford Model T or the classic Corvette that everyone wants haven’t made the cut. Don’t worry though – it is not because they are not iconic, but because they may be overly so. We should give a chance to some other models to shine, right? With this out of the way, we can dive straight into our first picks!

America’s most iconic muscle cars

Given my remark about sports cars, how come I open up the list with such a category? See, the point here is not to dwell on “sports”, but on “muscle”. All over the world, people know what muscles are. On top of that, they associate them with the States. This might as well be the only category that represents the quintessential American spirit. Due to all that I figured they make the best introduction to our list!

The undefeated stallion – Ford Mustang

iconic classic cars mustang

Come on, which car marque and model better represents the US outside of our homeland? The original Mustang can take your breath away even now. It is one mean machine, which knows how to roar and announce itself. And not just here!

Have you ever had the pleasure to travel outside of the States and see how people react to Mustangs? For a few reasons, American muscle cars in Europe are still fairly rare. Still, people turn their heads when they see a Mustang. Though we actually have it better here, because you can still see the classic ones. They do not get to enjoy many of those on the Old Continent!

The special contender – Dodge Charger

iconic classic cars dodge charger

Some cars simply do not get enough credit. In my opinion, Dodge Charger is one of those. Right from the start, it was a vehicle that broke the mold. Love it or hate it, but it was unique! With a bold design and aggressive build, it stormed the scene. To this day it makes for the perfect muscle example.

Unfortunately, it has never been as popular as the Mustang. The latter had tenfold the sales. Though perhaps that makes the Charger an even more precious classic. Being a gem like no other, it deserves a spot here!

The worthy rival – Chevrolet Camaro


It has never been a secret that the Camaro was Chevrolet’s response to the Mustang. In fact, even though it may sound sacrilegious, I think the two models are kind of similar. This is why I enjoy the Charger so much – it walked its own path. Still, the Camaro is nothing if not iconic.

To illustrate my point, I want to draw your attention to the second generation of the Chevrolet Camaro. This car cemented the idea of what a muscle should be. It deserves a lot of credit for the fact that we can even talk about iconic muscle cars today. However, we should move on to a category that does not get nearly enough attention!

The classic old workhorses

All this fancy car talk is nice, but we often forget about the cars that virtually carried the US on their shoulders. After all, should we not focus more on vehicles that the general public could afford and actually drove? In my mind, they are “iconic” exactly because of their utilitarian nature!

The forgotten kind – AMC Eagle

Image Source: classiccars.com

Estate wagons may not be the most popular picks in the States today, but once upon a time they were preferable. Before we had tons of minivans and SUVs, the AMC Eagle was the perfect choice for a family person. It offered plenty of space, a lot of utility and it actually did not look half-bad.

In fact, some people consider the AMC Eagle to be the de facto predecessor of modern crossovers. In other words – we may owe the rise of the crossover and SUV segments to this very car. It had everything necessary for that with its 4-wheel drive and fairly high frame. Honestly, I think it looks rather charming even by today’s standards. Sure, nothing like a slick European station wagon, but impressive in its own way.

The poster minivan – Dodge Caravan

Image Source: autoevolution.com

We don’t see many minivans nowadays. The niche has shrunk tremendously in the past decade, largely due to SUVs. And yet, minivans were the poster examples of the American dream. They embodied your success – you had a big family, you owned a house, you bought a minivan.

In light of that, there is no better minivan example than the very Dodge Caravan. Though we could also mention Plymouth (or Chrysler) Voyager, which were essentially the same car. The first generation sold incredibly well with over a million vehicles bought. Funny enough, when Chrysler was researching public demand, people considered the sketches of Dodge Caravan to be super ugly. Seems like that did not matter much, as we now view it as one of the most iconic US cars ever.

The granddaddy of pickups – Ford F1


Pickups are the muscle cars of America’s workhorse vehicles. They scream “proud to be American” like nothing else. That all started with the first generation of Ford F-series, and more precisely – Ford F1. It may have little to do with modern pickup designs, but it carries their spirit regardless.

Objectively, the F1 is rather small. Yet it paved the way for monsters like Dodge Ram and Ford Raptor. People cherish it even now, with its price being close to that of classic muscles. It does look quite cute, so if you are in the market for a non-sporty vintage car, consider Ford F1!

Riding in style – Iconic luxury classics

Whether you look at modern vehicles or at vintage cars, the luxury segment always has something special to show. Many aspects of it are timeless, and some classics would be considered luxury by our standards too. Let’s see the most iconic examples that America has to show here!

The one fit for presidents – Lincoln Continental

iconic classic cars lincoln continental

As a car company, Ford has pioneered and pushed forward many types of vehicles. On top of that, many of its Lincoln cars are worthwhile classics in general. And yet, the Continental is the best example of what high-class cars should look like.

This is not one of those vehicles that you look forward to driving – with it you would need a chauffeur. Just sitting in one of those will make you feel important. No wonder that many other luxury cars were trying to be more like Lincoln Continental. Making one feel like a president sounds like a good selling point.

When you fancy something slick – Cadillac Eldorado

Image Source: bringatrailer.com

If you were not meant to drive the last car, this one is a whole another story. It is a very personal vehicle, which made people feel like rock stars. In fact, this car made Cadillac famous throughout the world. In many places, the marque’s name is synonymous with luxury because of it. Obviously, “iconic” is a well-deserved description.

Old-school futurism – Oldsmobile Toronado

iconic classic cars
Image Source: bringatrailer.com

I bet that most people have not heard of the Toronado. However, as we have mentioned in our post on the end of Oldsmobile, this company had had many great achievements. The Toronado model perfectly embodies their very future-minded philosophy.

The problem with this car is that it may have been too unique for its own good. Later on, Oldsmobile changed the design to fit with its competition. In my opinion, they just watered down what had been a great aesthetic. Nonetheless, it is iconic, because it represents the very American ideal of innovation and grand dreams!

What other iconic classic cars should we remember?

People have different vintage models that they love. Maybe you wanted to see some Buicks on the list. Or perhaps you are worried that I have not mentioned Pontiac at all. Well, we can always come up with another post to showcase more of the great American models.

What should those be though? There are many old vehicles that I like, but I am eager to learn about some others too. If you have a model that is close to your heart, be sure to mention it. Perhaps I will cover it one day!


  1. The 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger is a forgotten giant killer. At a curb weight of just under 3,000 lbs. and a 340 cubic inch engine delivering 275 horsepower, it was in a class of it’s own. Equipped with a Hurst 4 speed, functional hood scoops, 6,000 rpm tach, dual exhausts, 10:5 to 1 compression and 3:23 sure grip limited slip differential, it could tame the quarter mile in a little over 13 seconds at 102 mph. The outrageous colors included plum crazy, sublime, panther pink, mango orange and others. The high winding engine made many GTO, Chevelle, 442, Mustang and heavier muscle car owners wondering how their big cubic inch motors could be beaten so handily by this little bad guy. I own one and you never see them at car shows, cruise nights, etc. If you want to see one of the best examples of one of these rare muscle cars , I’d love to share it with you. Mine is perfect in every sense of the word and looks like what you would have seen on the show room floor for the 1970 model year. Let me know and I can submit some pictures and articles as it is a national first prize winner and has made the cover of Mopar magazine.

  2. From December 1948 thru mid January 1948 Chrysler introduced the 1949 1st Series Chrysler’s as a marketing strategy due to intermittent strokes and component shortages. During this production timeline, they only produced 28289 of their models, the Royal, Windsor, Saratoga and the New Yorker. Of the New Yorker’s, they only produced 603 and I have 1 of the 603 and that being a C39N 6-passenger 4-door sedan; and by production serial number/VIN I have the 10th vehicle off that assembly line.

    Between 1935 to 1950, Chrysler’s President, Kaufman Thuma (K.T.) Keller would review finalized car designs. With a “Hat-in-hand” and a “Milk-Can-In-Tow”, he would walk into the styling studio and sit in the Mocked-up car wearing his hat a bounce around inside,and would place his milk can in the trunk; and,

    If the hat touched the roof . . The roof had to be raised; and,
    If the trunk lid did not close . . The trunk lid had to be raised.

    I have seen many these Chrysler’s from 1946 thru 1948, but do not know of others of these limited production 1949 1st Series Chrysler’s.


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