Classic Cars: What Is the Best Car in the World?

The Rolls-Royce Phantom
The Rolls-Royce Phantom, Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Thinkstock

I often get asked the question “What do you think is the best car in the world?” My usual response is “The best car for what use?” That’s probably the most honest answer to that question, because not every car is every person’s cup of tea. Please don’t be swayed by all the advertising lingo that bombards us every day on television and in newspapers and magazines.

A Rolls-Royce is not the best car on the planet, a BMW is not the ultimate driving machine, a Cadillac is not the standard of the world, excellence is not expected in all Porsches and not everyone will be seeing the USA in their Chevrolets. These are all fine motorcars, all produced by earnest manufacturers who are all just trying to make a car and a buck, but not one of them makes the best car in the world.

The fact remains that there is not really one car that can actually make everyone happy. There is not one car that is the most beautiful, the most dependable, the fastest or the best made. Let me further make my case.

Rolls-Royce and its sibling, Bentley, both have astounding build quality—and they should, because they cost a fortune. Both these cars are designed and produced by dedicated English craftsmen who live and work in a country that has produced high-quality products for hundreds of years. Making a car with a wood-and-leather interior to die for is just as routine as compiling a library for a royal’s castle. There’s a magic about driving a car that could perhaps be called “terribly British.” Yet, with all this astounding build quality, these masterpieces of fine art are no more dependable than a Honda Civic. As crazy as it may sound, a Honda Civic, a poor serf of a vehicle in comparison to a “Roller,” is a very high bar to reach when discussing dependability.

Take three fast cars—a Ferrari, a Porsche and a Corvette. All dream machines and poster children for a teenager’s bedroom wall. Every one impossibly fast, with top speeds of almost 200 miles per hour. Possibly the most ill-equipped cars for Manhattan traffic and the 55 mph Long Island Expressway. Yet these machines are really the pinnacles of automotive engineering. They represent the latest advances in the art of the automobile. They are faster than most private propeller airplanes, and as the old 1950s MG ads used to explain, “Safety Fast.” Except in the ’50s, the fastest cars were lucky to exceed 100 mph. Are these the best cars in the world? Certainly not, because they are one-trick ponies…geniuses at going fast safely. But where?

Aha—we all know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so while a Ford Mustang might excite a 20-year-old and a Chrysler minivan could wow a family man with four kids, who’s to say what car is more beautiful than another? Over the years, sporty-looking cars have won most beauty contests, especially the cars without roofs. I guess people just like the rides that ruffle their hair, give them a touch of skin cancer, and make it impossible to hear their radios. However, beauty certainly does sell automobiles. Is the 1965 Jaguar XK-E the most beautiful Jaguar? What about the 1964 Ferrari 250 Lusso? Is the ’40 Ford Coupe better looking than the ’36? Is the grill of a Mercedes nicer then the one on a BMW?

So what is the best car in the world? The one in your garage.

More from Our Sister Sites