My Favorite American Icons

1969 Ford Mustang 2
An American Icon…One of Five… All Photos by Randy Stern

On June 26, I tweeted the following: "Today, I am extremely proud to be an American."

It took some events to get there. These were already covered, but, in a nutshell, the recent decisions by the Supreme Court and the impending enactment of law in my current home state of Minnesota solidified the above statement. The idea of patriotism may have returned to my psyche after decades of concern and questioning my own worth as a native-born citizen of this country.

I have always been proud to be an American – born, raised and happily holding my passport. Yet, there were times when my love for my country had been challenged through policies detrimental to my own existence. It is not a perfect place to live, but it is home. It is where I do all of my work.

My patriotism might not be blind, but it was something ingrained by my family. My mother loved her country proudly. The flag gets hung on national holidays. She steadfastly supported our armed forces whenever they are called upon to serve. If I were to criticize our government – including her beloved President, Ronald Reagan – she look not be so kind.

I could go on, but this is an automotive website. Therefore, I present a twist on last year's Americana Five Favorites celebration. The rules are a bit twisted: There are five iconic American vehicles – preferably ones built in this country – where one generation/model year will represent that specific vehicle. However, it has to be built between 1964 and today and fondly remembered. That, in itself, could pose a challenge…

To celebrate the anniversary of the writ of Independence in 1776, my Five Favorite American Icons are…

CHEVROLET CORVETTE C2: The Sting Ray evoked many glances in its day. It still does. America’s sports car took another leap in its second generation by taking the concept and applying it onto an icon. The result goes beyond an unforgettable body. Some may argue that GM should have kept the split rear window on early models. These models are more desirable than later ones. Still, you could get in a convertible – two seats and a soft top included. The point of the C2 was the balance between looks and performance. Big Block engines showed up in the C2 – 427 cubic inches of raw V8 power, for example. The first generation of Corvettes helped establish the brand, this generation poured concrete on its legacy.

1967-70 FORD MUSTANG: The revolution that began in April of 1964 continued with some design work inside and out. The point of doing so was to sharpen the pony's claws with more distinctive lines, better interiors and moving the bar on powertrain options. The Mustang's best years were ones that included models, such as the Boss 302 and Mach I. Even Shelby models were at its greatest during these four model years. What made these Mustangs what they were did not revolve around the high performance models. These Mustangs were given the license to satisfy any driver across the range – as long as it had a V8 under its long hood. The Mustangs of this era truly cemented its legacy.

1970-74 PLYMOUTH BARRACUDA/DODGE CHALLENGER: The Pony Car had to be challenged. GM already had the Camaro and Firebird twins ready for a mid-year introduction, while the Mustang was running out its current generation. Chrysler could not sit idle in this segment. They not only redesigned the Barracuda, Mopar introduced a hot twin alongside it. They executed it by crafting a distinctive and beautiful body, while creating its own muscular profile. For 1970, no amount of options would speak higher than its most famed models – 'Cuda, AAR and R/T. Afterwards, Federal emissions regulations crept in and took the teeth out of these twins. Nonetheless, you enjoyed these great Mopars when they simply ruled the road.

1975-79 CADILLAC SEVILLE: How do you manage through an oil crisis without compromising the brand? The idea of a "Baby Cadillac" was not entirely new, yet the urgency to debut it seemed necessary at the time. The Seville was built off of the platform shared with the Chevrolet Nova and its ilk. Cadillac went on to design its own car on top of the chassis – replete with design cues to be seen in years to come. The upright formal roofline was not only designed for better headroom, it spurred a design craze that lasted through the 1980s. It is safe to say that the original Seville simply changed the American luxury car. It met the Europeans on exterior size, but retained its own level of luxury and comfort. You simply had it all in a smaller package.

2013 SRT Viper

2013 SRT VIPER: We waited far too long for a supercar made in this country. The idea of one is rooted in not just horsepower rating or sticker price, but of the balance between technology, performance and the added sense of being completely bonkers. Mere sports cars are practical enough for a cross-country journey. Not supercars, though some may argue that the Viper is good enough to do exactly that. Yet, it is also designed to play with Aventadors, MP4-12Cs, F12berlinettas and the like. Compared to the past two generations of Vipers, there are enough tech performance toys on board to keep it under control. Still, you do not buy a Viper to be controlled on the road. You buy one to go fast – way fast. This is why the Viper sits on highest mantle amongst new American cars.

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