American cars have been at the vanguard of the automotive world since before the Model T began rolling of Ford’s first assembly line. The electric starter, production V8 engine, automatic transmission, car stereo, and the muscle car are all American inventions, and each has had a profound effect on the way people interact with their cars all over the world.
At their best, American cars offer performance, luxury, glamor, affordability, ingenuity, or any combination of these traits. The art deco streamliners of the ’30s were a beacon of optimism during the Great Depression. The tail-finned land yachts of the ’50s were a symbol of post-war prosperity, and the tire-scorching muscle cars of the ’60s were the embodiment of straight line performance. A recent crop of exotic performance cars has proven that Americans can even go toe to toe with today’s best European hypercars.
History has proven time and again that a car doesn’t need to be a sales success to change the world. Here are 10 trail-blazing American cars that changed the automotive landscape and became icons.