The second part of our trawl through the most important cars in automotive history
1.2 billion or so cars inhabit Planet Earth right now. In case you’ve forgotten what a billion looks like, it’s 1,000 million. So 1.2 billion is 1,200,000,000 cars. That is a lot of metal on the move.
We’ve been poring over our photo archive, starting with the really dusty stuff from 1908, to pick out what we believe to have been the biggest game-changers in motoring history.
We covered the first 60 years in a separate story. Now we’re wrapping things up by looking at the period from 1968 to 1998.
Why stop there? Mainly because it’s still too early to know which cars from the last two decades will be seen as having had the biggest impact. But also because we really need to put all these pictures back where they belong and our work experience bod has cried off sick.
Peugeot 504 (1968)
Go to Africa if you want to see loads of 504 estates and pick-ups because they’ve only recently stopped making them over there. A strong, practical and comfy car.
Ford Pinto (1970)
The Pinto’s unfortunate tendency to burst into flames when hit from the rear gave it a reputation as ‘the barbecue that can seat four’ but it put a lot of people on the road.
Fiat 127 (1971)
Car of the Year in 1972, the Italian-built 127 hit 3.7 million sales, but loads more were built in South America, Spain (as Seats) and Yugoslavia (as Zastavas).
Fiat 126 (1972)
Maybe not as characterful as the 500 on which it was based but the 126 still did brilliantly in Fiat, Seat and Zastava dealerships, racking up nearly 4.7 million sales.
Honda Civic (1972)
18 million buyers have endorsed the Civic proposition, which has morphed into a posh offering from its original role as low-cost mass transportation.
Renault 5 (1972)
Renault sold some 5.5 million Fives, so the number 5 was obviously lucky for them. The production run lasted 12 years, which remarkably was 5 multiplied by, er, 2.4. Oh.
Volkswagen Golf (1974)
How did Volkswagen get from the Beetle to this? By employing an Italian designer called Giugiaro. The Golf regularly tops family hatch sales in Europe.
Volkswagen Polo (1975)
Another VW smash, the Polo actually began as the Audi 50 but it was brought into the VW fold when Audi moved upmarket.
Ford Fiesta (1976)
The original iteration of Ford’s first transversely-engine front-driver still looks fresh and clean today. Fiesta is now up to its eighth generation.
Vauxhall Astra (1979)
You’ll not find many standard gen-one Astras now, but the sporty GTE (Vauxhall’s rival to the Ford Escort XR3i) is definitely worth saving.
Toyota Camry (1982)
You’d never know it from its rarity in Europe, but the Camry is among the world’s best sellers at over 10 million thanks in large part to its success in America.
Fiat Uno (1983)
A fine-driving and zesty replacement for the 127, the Uno was a deserving winner of the Car of the Year award in 1984.
Opel Corsa (1983)
Early Corsas went under the Nova name in the UK, where it replaced the Chevette. Many young drivers passed their test in one of these.
Peugeot 205 (1983)
The Pininfarina-designed 205 is enduring in both design and handling. Of the 5.2 million built over 15 years, plenty are still running around in France.
Ford Taurus (1986)
They’re still making seventh-generation Tauruses (Tauri?) for the Chinese market. More than seven million have been sold.
Peugeot 405 (1987)
Another Peugeot toughie commonly seen in Africa, the 405 has been built in Malaysia, Taiwan, Poland, Indonesia and Zimbabwe, and is still being built in Egypt and Iran. Five million made (so far).
Mazda MX-5/Miata (1989)
Proving that power or luxury aren’t pre-requisites for fun, the present-day Frogeye Sprite has found more than a million new car buyers.
Renault Clio (1992)
The 1998 second-generation Clio eclipsed the popular first-gen Clio in sales terms with around 5.4 million assembled in French and South American factories.
Fiat Punto (1993)
Another hugely successful small Fiat, the Punto has now passed the nine million mark and continues to sell despite being outclassed by newer cars.
Ford Focus (1998)
A real game-changer in dynamics and packaging that made the previous Escort look and feel prehistoric. Buyers responded very positively to its driving appeal.
Peugeot 206 (1998)
Yet another enduring Peugeot, and this one is the French company’s best-ever seller with nine million racked up so far. You can still buy new ones in Chile, Indonesia, China and Iran.