We hold these truths to be self evident, that all cars are not created equal. Some are endowed by their creators with certain inalienable American qualities that weave them into our culture alongside the crack of a bat and the smell of Mom's apple pie. Cars are like hotdogs and hamburgers: Germans may have invented them, but Americans perfected them. We've assembled a list of America's automotive icons -- cars that have tunneled their way into the American psyche and become shorthand for American culture.
The best part of all is that these cars are still in production. So while you may not be able to buy the Liberty Bell or a set of George Washington's false teeth, you can have a fully mechanized piece of Americana sitting in your driveway. Now that's something you can pledge allegiance to.
Jeep Wrangler: MSRP $18,980
Starting with World War One, the Jeep has been the country's go-to vehicle for warfare, and the scrappy, go-anywhere SUV has settled into peacetime as the Wrangler. Little has changed since the Jeep started scooting across the battlefields of Europe. The Wrangler still epitomizes American versatility, capability and ingenuity. Engineered for off-road use, it never met a trail it didn't like and has come to symbolize independence and a connection to the American wilderness. It also helps that the Wrangler can easily be customized, showing off another American trait: originality.
Chevrolet Corvette: MSRP $46,100
Through six redesigns, the Chevrolet Corvette has been the country's premier sports car. The powerful car with the humble-Chevy badge has competed (and won) against European luxury brands and only costs about half as much. While the 2009 Corvette ZR1 inches toward Ferrari pricing, the base Corvette remains a super car with everyman appeal. Americans also seem to have a problem keeping Corvettes off their minds -- from Corvette Summer to Prince's "Little Red Corvette" to a rumored appearance in the next Transformers movie, the 'Vette is as comfortable in American life as it is on international racetracks.
Ford F-150: MSRP $17900
Sure, the cowboy will always rely on his horse, but the horse trailer will always need to be pulled by a sturdy pickup. For most Americans, that means a Ford F-150. Ford's F Series of trucks debuted in 1948, helping to build post-war America. For 17 years the F-150 was the best selling car in the United States, until high gas prices conspired with the Honda Civic to take its place. Though Ford has delayed the introduction of the next-generation F-150, the image of the independent farmer/rancher/cowboy tending the plains in his Ford truck endures.
Just two good old boys may have never meant any harm, but when Bo and Luke Duke slid across the hood of their 1969 Dodge Charger and into American living rooms, an automotive legend was born. Some say that the modern day Charger doesn't live up to its free-wheeling, muscle-car roots, but where the Charger falters, the Challenger steps in. Dodge's large coupe provides a nostalgic link to Detroit's glory years, while the Charger sedan lets Dads who idolized Bo and Luke (and fantasized about Daisy) straighten the curve and flatten the hill with the family in tow.
Chevrolet Camaro: MSRP not yet released
There's a very simple, very American equation behind every muscle car: take an affordable shell and stuff the biggest engine you can find inside. The Chevy Camaro follows that prescription to a T. Though the latest generation, due in the first quarter of 2009, might lose its monster engine to monster gas prices, from 1967 to 2002 the Camaro was the car of choice for drivers wanting affordable muscle. The new Camaro's styling takes buyers back to the day when fun meant taking your Chevy to the levy -- even if the levy was dry.
Ford Mustang: MSRP $19,650
When Ford introduced the Mustang in 1964, it gave rise to a country full of Mustang Sallys and Steve McQueens. The Mustang has made its mark as a sporty coupe with enough space to bring the kids or a couple of friends along on a joy-ride. In the four decades since its record-breaking introduction (over one million Mustangs were sold in the car's first 18 months), the Mustang has become an American favorite and the stampede shows no signs of letting up. Ford's pony car has also been a Hollywood favorite, appearing in classics such as Bullit and Goldfinger.
Hummer H2: MSRP $56,690
As American troops rolled into Kuwait in 1990, it marked a few firsts. It was the first time a war had been covered by 24-hour news networks, and it was the first time most Americans had ever seen a Humvee. In both cases, a new trend was born. Automakers (first AM General and then General Motors) wasted little time bringing the hulking SUV to the civilian market, and the Hummer H2 became the automotive symbol of American excess during the economic boom of the 1990s and early 2000s. But this is one love affair that may not last. Though Hummers can stare down Saddam's missiles, high gas prices are another story. Rumors are currently circulating that GM plans to kill the brand, so hurry up and snatch this iconic car while it lasts.
For a closer look at these patriotic rides, check out our slideshow.