Head turners over the ages

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Best of the best cars ever ... here's a cavalcade of nominations

Bugatti Type 41. Photo / Supplied
Bugatti Type 41. Photo / Supplied

And so the editor has commissioned me to write a story about "the flashest cars ever made". That's a broad canvas. What does flash mean exactly?

Well, flash cars command attention. They have the kind of presence that you cannot ignore. They set people talking when they roll down the road.

So visual appeal has a lot to do with it, as does exclusivity. But both of those things are byproducts of what really makes a car flash: new design ideas, new technology, features that push the boundaries.

So here we go: my nominations for the 10 flashest cars ever. What are yours?


The Bearcat was America's first proper sports car, derived from a racer and built upon an unusually low chassis, for better steering and handling. In those early days of motoring, a car that was designed specifically for driving pleasure was really something special. Harry C Stutz made something pretty flash.


The Type 41 Royale was so named because Ettore Bugatti intended to sell it only to royalty. It was twice the price of a contemporary Rolls-Royce.

The Type 41 weighed over three tonnes and was one of the largest cars in the world. The eight-cylinder engine was based on one used by the French Air Force and the car had extravagant features like a walnut steering wheel and whalebone switchgear. Bugatti intended to make 25 Royales. That never happened, as it was launched simultaneously with the Great Depression and only six were completed (all still exist).


Also known as the Sixteen, this was Cadillac's most expensive car, the first production V16 in American automotive history and the flagship of its range. Each car was hand-built to customer order. Many of those customers were famous (or infamous) - take your pick from Marlene Dietrich, Cecil B DeMille and Al Capone. Despite being launched in the Great Depression, the brash and flash Sixteen powered on to success over 11 years.

HOLDEN 48-215 (1948)

Now, this is a different kind of flash. But if you were an Ocker in the post-war period and happened to own an example of the first Australian car - well, that would be something, wouldn't it? The 48-215 is also known as the FX - or more accurately just the Holden, as it was the first to bear the name. The car was based on a Chevrolet design for the American market that was never produced, but it was built in Australia and it was perfect for the local market.


The Galaxie Skyliner was not the most extravagant looking from 1950s America, but the wow-factor came when the driver lowered the convertible roof. The Galaxie Skyliner was the first production car to have a folding hard-top. It was in two pieces and could retract in 60 seconds. The roof mechanism contained over 180m of wiring.


A variety of models wore the Continental name from 1939 to 2002. But the fourth-generation model, launched in 1961, is the one that really captures the imagination. The Lincoln Continental was Ford's answer to General Motors' Cadillac luxury brand. The 1961 model had stunningly elegant styling that represented a complete break with the fussy design of the 1950s. The trademark rear-hinged rear doors were added because the long wheelbase and seating position made access difficult without an extra-wide opening.


You could argue that the Silver Shadow is the least flash Rolls-Royce ever made, because it was designed primarily for the driver. But when somebody says "Rolls-Royce" this is the car most of us think of. The styling has become iconic (still referenced in today's models) and it was the first of a generation of Rollers that impressed from the front seat as well as in the back.


The Citroen DS was a magnificent car. The most magnificent incarnation of it was this, the SM, which managed to look both elegant and outrageous at the same time: it had six headlights, a teardrop shape and an incredibly low drag coefficient of 0.26. The SM was also powered by a Maserati engine, making it the fastest front-drive car in the world at the time.


Perhaps this spot should have been given to the 1960s Mercedes 600. But instead, let's pay homage to Mercedes-Benz's now-defunct super-luxury brand, Maybach. In particular, the flashest car Maybach ever made, the Landaulet, which first appeared as a concept in 2007 and entered limited production in 2008. It revived a very traditional style of luxury car: driver enclosed up front, passengers completely separate and swathed in unashamed luxury in the rear, with the option to open up the roof.


Flashest car currently on sale? For my money it has to be the new Range Rover. It's not expensive by luxury car standards, but there is something about the heritage, imperious SUV-stance and gorgeous interior - arguably the best of any premium car on sale - that gives the Range Rover the wow factor.

- NZ Herald

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