The Best American-Made Cars of All Time

a collage of an array of american-made cars

“Made in America” is important, especially when it comes to auto manufacturing. At one time in America’s history, Detroit was the undisputed center of the auto industry, with company headquarters and assembly centers.

During the 1960s, for instance, Ford and General Motors went head-to-head in a race to provide the best muscle car. This time frame gave consumers such classics as the Camaro, the Mustang, the Challenger, and the Corvette. In the 1980s, Chrysler came out with the minivan design and, in the process, defined the image of the modern soccer mom. In 1948, Ford released the first true generation of its F-series. No longer was the truck based on a car’s platform; it had its own fully truck-designed chassis. Who knew then that it would become the best-selling vehicle in America for 32 years straight. Even as we enter a new era of automotive history with electric vehicles, American designs are leading the way thanks to Tesla’s Model S and Model 3 and Chevy’s Volt and Bolt!

These days, things are much more spread out (across the country and the globe). There are particular American-made cars that left an indelible mark upon the auto industry, however. Whether it was their groundbreaking design, unique features, or powerful capabilities, these American cars embodied the uniquely American feel of driving along long stretches of open highways. Here are our 30 pics in alphabetical order.

1. Auburn Speedster

a red auburn speedster

(image via Facebook)

The Auburn Speedster was the first of its kind in 1935. From Auburn, Indiana, its classic design was copied for years by other automakers (including the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and the Buick Riviera). It was designed to be a racing performance roadster with the luxuries of a “closed cabin” car.

2. Buick GNX

a black buick gnx

(image via Facebook)

This rare version of the Buick Regal only had 547 produced. The GNX was a limited edition “Grand National Experimental (GNX)” that was a partnership with British sports car maker MacLaren. Its powerful engine was rated at 300hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. It’s blacked out aesthetic and large front grille earned it the nickname “Darth Vader’s car” or the “Dark Side,” in contrast to Mustang and Camaro competitors. It was assembled across 7 American factories, primarily Flint, Michigan.

3. Buick Riviera

a pale blue buick riviera

(image via Facebook)

The Buick Riviera was General Motor’s first stab at the personal luxury car market. Its popularity led to a 36-year lifespan and even a resurrected 2013 concept vehicle. One prominent design feature is the famed “Coke-bottle styling,” a taper at the middle of the vehicle.

4. Cadillac Coupe DeVille

a pink cadillac coupe deville

(image via Wikipedia)

The Cadillac Coupe De Ville was noted for its distinctive tailfins. The De Ville was a long-time model for Cadillac that lasted from 1958 until 2005 when it was renamed according to the brand’s Art & Science-era naming system. Throughout its many redesigns, it always retained a long and low profile.

5. Cadillac Eldorado Brougham (1957)

a white cadillac eldorado brougham

(image via Facebook)

The 3rd generation of the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham brought the famed “chipmunk cheek” design along with prominent shark fins. Two years into the 3rd-generation design, the tail fins became (looking back on them now) almost comically exaggerated. Yet, this design is still what comes to mind when we think of “Space Age” cars.

6. Chevrolet Bel Air

a green chevrolet bel air

(image via Wikipedia)

Like the Cadillac Eldorado, the Chevrolet Bel Air featured large tailfins during its prime third and fourth iterations. The second generation was termed the “Hot One” in ad campaigns and was noted for its Ferrari-similar front. By its eighth generation, the market turned away from full-size sedans took its toll on the Bel Air.

7. Chevrolet Bolt

a gray chevrolet bolt

(image via Wikipedia)

The Chevy Bolt wasn’t the first electric car in the U.S. It wasn’t even the electric car with the longest range when it came out. But it was the first affordable (around $32,000 after federal incentives) electric family vehicle that went over 200 miles (238 to be exact) on a single charge. That’s far enough to remove any range anxiety and a much cheaper price than a Tesla.

8. Chevrolet Camaro 1LE (2017)

a white chevrolet camaro 1le

(image via Facebook)

The Chevrolet Camaro 1LE from 2017 had some cosmetic differences. But the reason that it’s really on this list is that it delivered a racing-quality driving experience for under $45,000! That incredible price range makes this a racing car for the masses.

9. Chevrolet Corvette L88 (1967)

a red chevrolet corvette l88

(image via Facebook)

The 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray was the last of the C2 Corvettes, but it remains one of the most lauded models in the storied history of this All-American car. The L88 engine in this year’s model was about as close to race ready as Chevy could be. The Stin Ray was one of the most universally praised vehicles for its handling and power.

10. Chevrolet Impala

a green chevy impala

(image via Facebook)

The Chevrolet Impala is the Bow-Tie brand’s flagship passenger car. While it took two short breaks in production (in the late 80s and late 90s), it has always been one of Chevy’s most popular sedan offerings. Even as many other automakers abandon sedans for crossover SUVs, Chevrolet is keeping the Impala, at least for now.

11. Chevrolet Suburban

a green chevy suburban

(image via Wikipedia)

The Chevrolet Suburban is the longest continuously used nameplate of a model still in production. It dates all the way back to 1935. Even though it has transitioned from a wagon design to a truck-based design, you can see (even in its earliest renditions) why it has maintained its popularity as a family mover.

12. Chrysler Minivans

a dodge minivan

(image via Facebook)

Chrysler’s minivans (the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager) were introduced in 1983 as a 1984 model. With the debut, they basically invented the soccer mom. This family hauler was standard fare for the suburbs until the tides recently turned toward SUVs. Still, the Dodge Caravan was one of the top 30 most popular models in the U.S. last year.

13. Dodge Viper

a red dodge viper

(image via Wikipedia)

The Dodge Viper has the distinction of being one of the “Most American” cars manufactured in the 2010s. Before it was shuttered in 2017, studies showed that over 75% of its parts were manufactured in the U.S. The two-seater racer never sold in high numbers, though, due to its high price tag. It barely cracked 1,500 a year at its peak.

14. Duesenberg Model J (1928-37)

a blue duesenberg model j

(image via Wikipedia)

You may not have heard of the Duesenberg Model J. If you notice those years, you’ll realize why. It was released the year before the Great Depression began. Assembled in Indianapolis, this was the original luxury car and a status symbol for wealth. It was favored by the rich and famous like Al Capone, Howard Hughes, Clark Gable, William Randolph Hearst, King Alfonso XIII of Spain, and the Wrigley family.

15. Ford F-Series

a red ford f-series

(image via Wikipedia)

It shouldn’t be a surprise to see the Ford F-Series on this list. When people think of American cars (particularly if they are from outside the U.S.), they think of a truck. And this truck has been the #1 selling vehicle (yes, topping all cars and SUVs) since 1986.

16. Ford Gran Torino

a blue ford gran torino

(image via Wikipedia)

The Ford Torino started as an intermediate-sized version of the Ford Fairlane, but eventually, it came to overshadow the Fairlane. The Torino was the base for Ford’s NASCAR entrants. While there were hardtops and station wagon models, the sports-performance models are what remain in buyers’ minds.

17. Ford GT

a red ford gt

(image via Wikipedia)

The Ford GT was launched as a 2005 model and harkens back to Ford’s historic GT40 that won the famed Le Mans car race four years in a row. It’s a two-seater mid-engine sports car with 647 horsepower and 550 lb-ft of torque. It can go 0-62 mph in 3.8 seconds. All those racing chops don’t come cheap, however.

18. Ford Model 18

a yellow ford model 18

(image via Facebook)

We didn’t actually plan for this vehicle to be #18 on our list; it just happened to work out that way alphabetically. The Ford Model 18 was the first Ford to be outfitted with its flathead V8 engine, a staple of hot rods in the 1950s. It was the first mass-produced (and therefore low-priced) model to feature a powerful V8 engine. There wasn’t a single specific plant that manufactured the model, therefore has been assembled at nearly 32 of Ford’s US plants.

19. Ford Model T

a ford model t

(image via Wikipedia)

It’s the granddaddy of all automobiles. The Ford Model T was the first affordable, mass-produced car that brought personal automobiles to the middle-class. Even though we’ve moved well beyond this design, the Model T is still one of the most influential cars of all time!

20. GMC Syclone

a 1991 gmc syclone

(image via Wikipedia)

Does anyone need a high-performance truck? Not really. But thanks to the GMC Syclone (basically a sporty Sonoma), this truck featured a turbocharged 6-cylinder engine and all-wheel-drive. It was basically a Corvette in a truck body. It was only produced in 1991 and remains a favorite of car collectors.

21. Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler (1981-86)

a jeep cj 8 scrambler

(image via Facebook)

The Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler, from 1981-86, featured a removable half cab, common of the Jeep Wrangler family. With its longer wheelbase, however, this effectively turned it into a pickup truck. It remained a design daydream for Jeep enthusiasts until 2019 with the release of the Jeep Gladiator, a true mid-size truck.

22. Lincoln Continental

a black lincoln continental with white wall tires

(image via Wiki)

The Lincoln Continental has been produced off and on since 1939. When it launched in 1940, it ushered in the era of the “personal luxury car.” It was noted for its emphasis on style and design as opposed to handling or drivability. The 1941 design features that famous rear spare tire integrated into the vehicle.

23. Oldsmobile Futuramic 98 Convertible

a red oldsmobile 98

(image via Facebook)

Assembled throughout the U.S., mainly South Gate, California, the third generation of the Oldsmobile 98 was termed the Futuramic 98 since its styling was based heavily on the Futuramic styling concept. The sleek design proved immensely popular, and the 98 sold a record number of models during the first year of the new design’s release.

24. Oldsmobile “Rocket” 88

a green oldsmobile rocket 88

(image via Facebook)

The Oldsmobile 88 was a small, lightweight car with a V8 engine. That, of course, was a winning combination and led to large sales. The “Rocket” V8 engine made it one of the first muscle cars available and it remains a symbol of the Rock ‘N Roll era to this day.

25. Packard Clipper

a red packard clipper

(image via Wikipedia)

The Packard Clipper’s styling is iconic even to this day. As one of the first production cars to feature a full envelope body, the Clipper was extremely wide. In fact, it was wider than it was tall! It was a victim of poor timing, however, as it was introduced just as the US entered WWII. Later tries to produce and market this mid-priced model were seen as “diluting” the luxury image of the Packard brand.

26. Pontiac GTO

a black pontiac gto

(image via Wikipedia)

The Pontiac GTO wasn’t the first muscle car introduced, but the success of this model is considered to have started the pony/muscle car wars of the 60s and 70s. (We don’t speak of the 5th generation compact car version.)

27. Shelby Mustang GT350 (1965)

a white shelby mustang with blue racing stripes

(image via Facebook)

Assembled in Los Angeles by Shelby American, the Shelby Mustang GT350 was a Mustang-based racing car. The two-seater wasn’t built to provide comfort on a long road trip. This was a fully race-oriented machine complete with “Le Mans” stripes.

28. Tesla Model S

a black tesla model s

(image via Wikipedia)

Though it wasn’t the first electric car, the Tesla Model S showed that purely electric vehicles could be marketable and successful. It also has the longest range of any electric car in production. As of April 2019, the Model S Long Range can travel around 370 miles on a single charge. It’s the second-best-selling electric vehicle model of all time (behind the Nissan Leaf).

29. Tucker 48

a purple tucker 48 with cyclopes eye 3rd headlight

(image via Wikipedia)

The Tucker 48 pioneered many car features in American, such as rear-wheel drive and headlamps that turned with the front wheels to illuminate around curves. The windshield was shatterproof, and a roll bar was integrated into the roof. Assembled in Chicago, only 51 were made before the company was shuttered because of an SEC investigation.

30. Willys MB

willys mb

(image via Wikipedia)

Lastly, we turn to the military. The Willys MB wasn’t available to the masses. In fact, it was an off-roading, light utility military vehicle used in WWII and the Korean War. Its success preceded a commercial model that we’re sure you can spot just by looking at the Willys’s design: the modern Jeep.