Everyone needs a hero, right? Throughout the decades, cars have been the subject of much adoration with posters, top trumps cards and magazines all showcasing just how connected people feel with four wheels and an engine.

Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from throughout the years.


The 1950s represented a time of great change in the motoring industry. The world was recovering from war and companies which had at one point been putting all of their efforts into helping the overall war effort now had to revert to making consumer cars once again.

One of the most iconic cars of the decade was the Jaguar XK120. Produced from 1948 until 1954, the XK120 was initially available as a drop-head, though a hard top version was released later on. The car’s name famously referred to its top speed – a heady 120mph.


The 1960s rolled into sight and with it came a shift in cars too. Key names here include the Mini Cooper, the Lamborghini Miura and the Ford GT40. But there’s a car whose overarching appeal sits above even these – and that’s the Aston Martin DB5.

Buoyed by the ‘Bond effect’ – a DB5 was a memorable Bond car in the 1964 flick Goldfinger – this Aston Martin became an instant bedroom poster hit. It remains that way to this day.


As the 1960s drifted away and the 1970s came in, the Americana effect came into play. Cars became bigger, squarer and more imposing than they ever had been before. A key example of this was the Ford Escort MK2, which became even boxier than the original MK1.

And though the original has prestige, it’s the second-generation Escort which is beloved by many – particularly the iconic RS2000.


If the 1970s were starting to get flamboyant, then the 1980s took things to a whole new level. Cars were a reflection of this too, with arches that got wider and looks which became even more head-turning than ever before.

And if there’s one which stands out more than any other, it’s the Ferrari Testarossa. A household name even now, the Testarossa’s wide, flared-out appearance and impressive performance saw it star in TV shows, films and programmes the world over.


The 90s brought a new direction to cars. Performance was the name of the game, and people wanted more liveable yet enjoyable cars that they could use on a daily basis. Enter the Ford Escort Cosworth – one of the most iconic modern-day performance cars.

Manufactured in small numbers, the ‘Cossie’s’ reputation was huge. Built as a homologation car to mirror Ford’s involvement in the World Rally Championship, the Cosworth is a key car in the UK’s classic vehicle scene.


The 2000s took a decidedly retro turn, with many manufacturers looking back to by-gone days of motoring for new model inspiration. A key adopter of this was the all-new Mini Cooper, which took on BMW engineering with classic British styling.

Funnily enough, the combination was an instant hit and setup the brand to become the powerhouse that it is today. Certainly, the original BMW-made Mini Cooper hit the nail on the head.


As the 2010s came into view, car technology starting taking huge leaps forward. But despite the increasing adoption of electric and hybrid, we’ve got to hand the decade to a car which stripped things back to the relationship between driver and car – the Alpine A110.

The little Alpine not only looks fantastic, but it’s equally mesmeric to drive. Light, agile and great in the bends, it’s a car which seemed to be designed with the UK’s roads in mind.


So what does the future hold for iconic cars? It seems that electric cars are going to be a mainstay in the segment, but other options are there too with hydrogen making a resurgence. It’s likely that autonomous technology will continue to ramp up, though the likelihood that we’ll be driven around by cars which pilot themselves in the 2020s is quite slim.

It’s bound to be exciting, though – and an exciting future of cars is something to look forward to.

Ted Welford


June 18, 2020