Different cars are remarkable for different reasons, and we've gathered a list of cars that all stand out in their own way. There are classic cars with timeless styling, game-changing cars that you'll be able to drive in the future, and cars that are simply just very cool. One auto on our list even achieved notoriety for symbolizing a movement.
Without further ado, here are the cars that you absolutely must drive before you leave this earthly plane:
Volkswagen Type 2 (aka "VW Bus")
If any auto has ever represented counterculture, it is the VW Bus. And it still resonates -- pull up curbside in one and you're sure to get a reaction out of people. "Any Baby Boomer with a still-intact memory recalls the anthem of the 60s, a VW bus, most likely painted in psychedelic colors and outfitted with a mattress in the back," says BusinessWeek. These are highly prized among collectors, so plan on spending a pretty penny for one in decent shape. However, if you have some mechanical knowhow, you can find some good prices on VWs that just need a little love. Check out AutoTrader Classics or eBay Motors.
Buggati Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport
The fastest production car in the world, the Grand Sport can hit 60 mph in a whiplash-inducing 2.5 seconds. The classic Buggati brand was brought back to life in 2000 and is now a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group. For the $2.1-million price tag on the Veyron Grand Sport, you "could buy seven Ferrari 599s or every single 2009 model Mercedes. You could snap up a top-shelf Maybach and employ a chauffeur until well past the apocalypse," says Wired. "But don't. Buy a Grand Sport... more than being a blast to drive, it is the greatest gasoline-powered vehicle that has ever been, or will ever be, built. Seriously." There's not much more you can add to that level of praise.
1968 Ford Mustang G.T. 390 Fastback
We are all familiar with the ubiquitous car chase sequence in modern film. But then there is THE car chase scene: Steve McQueen in "Bullitt." Complete with a 1968 Mustang, the scene set a standard that has never been surpassed. Take a ride in one of these (in dark highland green, of course) and channel McQueen's unfettered sense of cool. If you can't get hold of an original, Ford paid tribute to it with special Mustang Bullitt trims in 2001, and then again in 2008 and 2009.
KITT (the original 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am)
Michael Knight's "futuristic" whip still holds a place in the hearts of those of us born before 1985. The idea of having an actual friendship with your car is an appealing notion to a lot of people. It's also kind of neat that the thing could fire rockets. This car makes this list on nostalgia alone. If you're trying to get into a replica or would like to get advice on making your very own KITT, a good place to start is Knight Registries, a Knight Rider replica community.
Many people believe that a big factor in General Motors' future is the upcoming eco-friendly Chevrolet Volt. With an expected release date of late 2010, the Volt is breaking new ground as the first Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV). Its distinction from traditional hybrids is important. Every hybrid you can buy today, including the Toyota Prius, is a parallel hybrid -- essentially a gasoline-powered car with an electric motor to boost gas mileage. The Volt is the opposite. It is a series hybrid -- an electric car with a small gasoline engine to boost its range. With an expected price around $40K, the Volt may find its way into a lot of driveways.
The Tesla Roadster features a 375-volt AC induction air-cooled electric motor that goes from 0 to 60 mph in less than four seconds -- and that's not even the best part. Regarding the Tesla's aesthetic appeal, Detroit News puts it best: "It's stunning. The crisp lines across the carbon fiber body give it a futuristic look...The two sharp vents cut across the hood, and big air intake and oval eyes give the roadster a high-end feel. There's a minimalist approach to the car's body that combines form and function into fine art." Despite some production snags along the way, demand remains high for the Roadster, so interested buyers must take their turn on a waiting list. The Roadster starts at $101,500, if you include the $7,500 U.S. federal tax credit.
Okay, so it may be somewhat dicey to throw a car on here mainly for its looks and mystique. But the highly-anticipated Fisker Karma will sport high-end performance on top of its outstanding exterior. "On styling alone, the $87,900 Karma seems a steal. It looks like an Italian GT design study; the headlights are pure Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, while the rest could double for a Maserati GranTurismo or an Alfa Romeo 8C," says Motor Trend. Its 408 horsepower and insane 959 pound-feet of torque will just be an added bonus. Even more impressive is that the Karma relies primarily on an electric powertrain to produce all this performance. Initial deliveries of the Karma are expected in the second half of 2010.
Drive Without Buying
For most of us, purchasing most of these vehicles is probably not a realistic proposition. But those of you with an appetite for exotics may want to consider joining a Super Car Club. For an annual membership fee, you get a certain number of points to use the club's stable of rides -- sort of like a luxury car timeshare for the rich and commitment-phobic. U.S. clubs include the Luxury Toy Club and Club Sportiva. There are also several scattered all over the world, from England to Hong Kong to Australia.