If you ask 100 car enthusiasts to name the most significant cars of the postwar era (after 1945), only one thing is certain: you aren’t likely to get the same list twice. Don’t believe us? Try it yourself and see how difficult it is to include one make and model at the expense of another.
The Lotus Elan should make the list before the Mazda Miata, in our opinion anyway, since the original Miata was largely based on the Elan. Sure, the Miata quickly outsold the Elan, eventually becoming the world’s most popular roadster, but it may never have existed without its spiritual ancestor.
Then there’s the whole pony-car debate to consider. Most enthusiasts think the Ford Mustang was the original pony car, but it wasn’t - the title goes to the Plymouth Barracuda, which hit the market two weeks before the Mustang. How can you list the other pony cars without factoring in the Barracuda?
A Mark III Shelby Cobra at the 2012 Amelia Island Concours d'EleganceEnlarge Photo
The bottom line is this: nothing generates feedback, both positive and negative, quite like a “25 Best” list of cars. When we heard that Ken Gross and A.J. Baime had compiled a list of the 25 Greatest Rides of the postwar era for Playboy, we’ll admit to giving a collective eye roll. After all, their list, no matter how good, wouldn’t be our list.
Now that we’ve had some time to digest the cars chosen and the logic behind the choices, we’ll admit that the Playboy list isn’t half bad. Sure, they chose the Miata and excluded the Elan, but they also remembered cars like the BMW 2002 and the BMW 507, which may count as the most beautiful roadster ever penned.
We’d never pick the Ferrari 458 Italia over the Ferrari F40, nor would we exclude the Ford Mustang in favor of the Shelby variant, but both selections are discussion topics, not fighting words. Overall, we’d say our hats are off to the Playboy list: it’s not our list, but it isn’t entirely wrong, either.