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20 Classic Cars That Will Make Any Road Trip a Memorable Experience

Vukasin HerbezJuly 26, 2018

Even though we live in digital times where most of our hobbies and pastimes include electronic devices, driving is still one of the best analog ways to rewind on the open road. For any car enthusiast, there is no better way of spending the weekend than going for a long road trip while listening to music and counting the miles.

The perfect road trip car makes you happy, doesn’t break down and provides you with the pleasure of driving. Sometimes, the perfect road trip car isn’t fast or comfortable, but it is interesting and makes the trip memorable. So here is a list of the perfect road trip vehicles. Some cars are classic, and some are modern, some are two-seaters, and some are family station wagons, but all of them are cool rides.

These cars come equipped with the “it” factor, making them the choice for cross country adventures. This is an eclectic mix of cars capable of providing tons of smiles per gallon. They can keep passengers happy and amused for thousands of miles. So, pack your stuff and get ready for a fun ride.

  1. Volvo 850 R

Is there anything more boring in the automotive world than a boxy, old, Volvo station wagon? The typical suburban mom car from the ’90s had loads of space for the kids and their stuff. It was slow but dependable and drop-dead boring to drive. Although that’s true for the regular Volvo 850 Wagon, the 1996 R version is something completely different.

After Volvo’s success with the T5 version in the 850 series featuring a turbocharged engine, they decided to introduce an all-out sleeper machine – the 850 R. Under the hood was a 2.3-liter five-cylinder engine with a bigger turbo and updated intake system and electronics. With a 250-HP output, the 850 R Wagon could go from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds with the top speed of almost 160 mph.

This was sports car territory for the mid-90s. There must have been many confused Porsche owners when those boring-looking Volvo wagons passed them on the highway. After the 850 R, many manufacturers like Audi started offering powerful, fast wagons. However, Volvo was the first with the 850 R.

Today, those performance numbers still demand respect. Better yet, the 850 R is quite affordable on the used car market. Also, you can find various power upgrades for this model, so consider buying this ultimate wagon. It has lots of space, as well as unassuming looks and performance. Yet it demands respect, making the 850 R the perfect car for a road trip.

  1. Mercury Marauder

Back in the ’60s, Mercury produced the Marauder, a high-performance version of their regular performance sedan. The model was popular but now, people have largely forgotten about it. In fact, more popular muscle cars from the same era have overshadowed it. But 40 years later, in 2003, Mercury introduced the final Marauder model they based on Ford’s Panther platform cars.

Ford’s Panther platform is one of longest serving platforms in the car industry. Ford used it from 1978 to 2011, underpinning many models like the Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car. This chassis was so sturdy and durable in extreme conditions, even police and taxi drivers used it. Today, six years after Ford discontinued it, millions of Panther-based models are still on the roads.

Even though Ford never intended the Grand Marquis to be a performance car, Mercury decided to turn it into one. They installed a highly tuned 4.6-liter V8 with 302 HP, as well as a revised suspension, gearbox and brakes. All those changes turned this sleepy, comfy sedan into a sharp muscle car. It came in three colors, but the black Marauder had menacing looks and an aggressive stance, differentiating it from its sedate cousins.

The performance was impressive for a big, heavy sedan. It could go from 0 to 60 mph in around seven seconds. However, the biggest asset was its appearance. Just the sight of this big, black sedan in the rearview mirror could make drivers want to pull over to the side of the road. It’s perfect for a road trip since nobody wants to mess with a black sedan with “undercover cop” looks.

  1. Mercedes 500E

Back in the early ’90s, Mercedes produced the successful but docile W124 E-Class. The elegant sedan was known for its comfort and refinement rather than performance and speed. The team of crazy German engineers was soon to change that and in 1991, they presented the mighty 500E model. This was a high-performance version of their main sedan. It featured a totally different drivetrain, suspension, brakes and engine.

In fact, the 500E was so demanding for production that Mercedes asked Porsche to assemble this car. The main feature of the 500E was the 5.0-liter V8 engine which developed 326 HP. This isn’t an impressive number by today’s standards, but it was a crazy figure for the early ’90s, especially in a formal sedan. The 500 E could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just six seconds which was almost as fast as a Ferrari 348.

The best thing was the design because the 500 E looked identical to the regular W124 Sedan. Only if you looked carefully, you would notice the bigger wheel arches and brakes, but nothing else revealed there was a monster under the hood. Mercedes offered badge delete as a no-cost option for its customers. And if you chose a black or silver color, you got a stealth sedan that ate Corvettes for breakfast.

Interestingly, you can pick up one of those German muscle sedans for around $20,000 in decent condition. There is no excuse not to buy one of these super sedans and go on a high speed, cross country trip in luxury.

  1. RUF CTR Yellow Bird

Although this car is not an official Porsche product because it is tuner-designed and produced car, it is an important piece of 911 history. It is also one of the fastest Porsches they ever built. All throughout the Porsche 911 production, independent tuning companies introduced numerous versions with more power or design enhancements. This showed that the 911 as a concept still had big potential.

But, the German tuning house, RUF, was on another level. Their Yellow Bird was far more powerful, faster and agile than anything on the market in the late 80’s. Porsches are cool road trip cars, but modern models are a bit boring. They are so perfect and comfortable, they kill the essence of driving a sports car, but not the Yellow Bird.

RUF introduced the CTR in 1987 and the Yellow Bird was a highly tuned 911 featuring numerous upgrades. They included a special aerodynamic kit, NACA intercooler intake ducts, a big rear wing, a front bumper and special wheels. The biggest news was turbocharged 3.2-liter flat six with whopping 469 HP and 408 lb-ft. It made the Yellow Bird one of the fastest cars of the era.

The 0 to 60 mph acceleration was possible in just 3.65 seconds and its top speed was unbelievable 213 mph. The Yellow Bird was brutally expensive and extremely rare, but it showed that the 911 concept is extremely capable. It also proved there is so much to extract from a flat six engine. If you want one, you’ll have to search. They only built 29 Yellow Birds from scratch and the converted a few others from the customer’s cars.

  1. Dodge Challenger R/T 440

Even though Plymouth had the Barracuda, which was the first pony car model they introduced two weeks before the Ford Mustang, its stablemate, Dodge didn’t enter the segment until 1970. Some muscle car historians said Dodge was almost late for the party, but the Challenger was so good that it left its mark and reserved a place in history. Mopar’s E-Body models, the Barracuda and Challenger were brand new for 1970. They featured new designs and better construction, as well as wider and longer bodies.

There was no significant mechanical difference between the Barracuda and the Challenger. The only difference was the design, although these two cars had some interchangeable bodywork parts, as well. They presented the Challenger with the full firepower of Mopar’s engines. Buyers could get the powerful 383 V8, as well as a big 440 and the famous 426 Hemi. The best performers were the 440 and the Hemi.

Depending on the specifications, differential ratio and gearboxes, Challengers equipped with those engines could accelerate to 60 mph in 5.5 to 5.7 seconds range, which was quick for 1970. Doing a road trip in a muscle car is a mainstream concept, but it is still cool and typically American. However, the 440 V8 is more common and almost as fast as the Hemi, and still cool-looking and unique, too.

  1. Alfaholics GTA-R

Classic Alfa Romeos are one of the most beautiful yet obtainable classics from the ’60s. The romantic lines of the Tipo 105 Coupe are just as elegant and dynamic as they were 50 years ago. So it is not hard to understand why classic car fans went crazy over those beautiful coupes. However, those who know classic Alfas can tell you their beauty is often only skin deep. Alfas were famously rust-prone, not exactly well made and far from mechanically sound.

But, a company called Alfaholic from England is aware all of that as one of the prime restorers of classic Alfas in the UK. Over the years, the idea of the ultimate Alfa 105 Coupe emerged and Alfaholics had the knowledge and hardware to pull it off. So, in 2014 they produced the first restomod coupes they called the GTA-R 290.

From the outside, it looks like an Alfa Romeo GTA which is a classic racing version. But a second look reveals all the improvements and an amazing level of details. Under the hood is a blueprinted 2.3-liter four-cylinder twin-cam Alfa engine with individual throttle bodies and fuel injection. The engine delivers 240 HP and sends them to rear wheels over a special lightweight five-speed manual transmission.

The suspension is custom-made with disc brakes all around. The whole car weighs 1,500 pounds and can lap the famous Nurburgring track in less than eight minutes. Best of all, this Alfa won’t leave you stranded by the side of the road and won’t rust. So, it is perfect for a road trip.

  1. Cadillac CTS-V

For years, Cadillac was without a proper performance series to compete with BMW or Mercedes but finally, the V-Series was born. It was all that Cadillac lovers dreamed of: powerful engines, world-class handling and suspension setups, and exclusive production. Even the competitors took notice when Cadillac rolled up with the new V-Series models.

Arguably the most successful was the second-generation CTS-V model they produced between 2008 and 2014. Under the hood was a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 with 556 HP, making the CTS-V the most powerful performance sedan on the market. The suspension and the rest of the drivetrain were advanced, so they considered the CTS-V one of the best driver’s cars available.

Cadillac produced three body styles, so the CTS-V could be had as a sedan, a coupe, and interestingly, as a wagon, too. The car was a blast to drive and extremely fast, but still comfortable and as well-equipped as Cadillac should be. That is why this American luxury sedan is the perfect pick for a road trip car.

  1. BMW M3 E46

Every BMW M3 since the first one in the late 80’s until the modern models are the prime examples of German muscle cars. However, the first generation of M3 is expensive now and with 215 HP, it’s not that fast. The second E36 M3 had only 240 HP for the North American market, which was disappointing. But the third, the E46 M3 is the car to go for if you are looking for a classic, fast, and dependable but relatively modern German muscle car.

And if your road trip route includes twisty parts, this is the BMW for you. In October 2000, they presented the E46 M3. It featured a new engine, drivetrain and components. Car fans and experts regard it as one of the finest BMW`s M cars and the perfect driving machine. All M cars are a blast to drive. But the E46 M3 was a big improvement over the E36 M3 from the ’90s.

In fact, it is one of the last analog sports cars you can buy. With a 343 HP straight six-cylinder engine, almost ideal weight distribution, six-speed manual transmission and respectable performance, the E46 M3 won the hearts of car enthusiasts all over the world. It was a sales success and one of the best secondhand performance cars you can buy today.

  1. Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Chevrolet introduced the C5 Corvette in 1997 and brought several improvements as well as a fresh design. Under the sleek fiberglass body was an improved chassis, and a new 350 HP engine and transaxle gearbox. This meant they moved the whole transmission assembly to the rear axle, which improved balance and handling.

The standard versions were potent and popular, but the best model from this generation is the mighty Z06. This model got its name from a special version of the 1963 Corvette they intended to use for road racing before Chevrolet pulled the plug. The modern Z06 was an amplified base Corvette with 385 to 405 HP from the high revving 5.7-liter V8 engine. It also had a lightweight body, sticky Goodyear tires and a stiffer suspension.

The car handled perfectly and had a different roofline and wheels. Even today, more than 15 years after they presented it, the Corvette Z06 C5 is a tough car to beat on the street. If you are looking for a pure sports car experience and don’t have money for an expensive European exotic, this Corvette will provide the same driving dynamics for a fraction of the cost.

  1. Lincoln Continental

This classic American sedan belongs on this list because despite being a cliché, luxury four-doors are still great road trip cars. The story of the Continental started in the late ’50s when Ford’s luxury division, Lincoln, was much behind Cadillac in sales numbers and in popularity and style. Despite building big and luxury cruisers with powerful engines, those late ’50s Lincolns just didn’t compare to Cadillacs. Ford decided that this had to change, so in 1961, the Lincoln Continental was born.

When Lincoln showed their new model, the automotive public was stunned. The beautiful elegance of the styling, conservative use of chrome, straight lines and futuristic design transformed the four-door luxury model into a work of modern art. Suddenly, sales doubled, and the new Continental became the official car of the White House due to its stately appearance and restrained elegance.

The best exterior features were the suicide doors, with the rear doors opening towards the traffic. Of course, this wasn’t the best solution, but it added to the charm of the Continental. Interestingly, Lincoln offered a cool-looking four-door convertible model which proved to be popular and quite unique on the market.

  1. Chevrolet Suburban

Is there anything more American than going on a road trip in a Suburban? This is a big SUV that has been in production for over 80 years. They made the Suburban to be a people carrier and road trip vehicle. Despite being slow and not as exciting as some other cars on the list, the Suburban still has several tricks up its sleeve. The Suburban is the longest-serving nameplate in car history with the first model under this name emerging in 1935.

Right from the start, the Suburban defined itself as a people carrier in a body style closer to a minivan than to a regular wagon or SUV. During the ’50s and ’60s, the Suburban moved to a truck platform. It also benefited from advanced construction, tough suspension and a long list of engines and options. At the same time, Chevrolet introduced the all-wheel drive option for its truck line, so the Suburban could come with an AWD drivetrain, as well.

This was the moment Suburban became an off-road model. The all-wheel drive option proved popular during later generations. It even became an almost mandatory option for the famous, long-serving 7th generation they introduced in 1973 and discontinued in 1991.

Today, the Suburban is still around as a big, heavy full-size SUV, still on a truck chassis with V8 engines. It has lost some of its rugged character, but retained the basic layout and name. So, whichever generation you choose, you will have a dependable ride for those cross country trips.

  1. Dodge Charger Hellcat

Everybody went crazy when Dodge announced the Hellcat Charger and Challenger models. But they expected this reaction since the 6.2-liter supercharged V8 with 707 HP is a monster of a muscle car that shouldn’t be on the streets. But Dodge did just that, allowing the public to buy one of the fastest, most powerful muscle cars they ever built. Despite being overpowered, the Dodge Charger Hellcat is surprisingly easy to drive and can be docile at low speeds.

It’s only when you press the throttle to unleash the fury of 707 supercharged horses will you feel the brutality of the Hellcat package and the power going to the rear wheels. The 0 to 60 mph times are in the high three-second range and the car can top 200 mph. So, is there a better four-door muscle car and road trip car? With the Hellcat, you can carry as much as you want in a regular family sedan, but blast around the country as fast as a private jet.

  1. Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser

Produced from 1964 to 1977, the Vista Cruiser was Oldsmobile’s bestselling and most popular station wagon. It is also one of the models perfect for suburban America in the ’60s and ’70s. Vista Cruisers were all large, could seat up to nine people and always had V8 engines.

In the ’70s, they equipped them with a long list of optional extras, like wood grain trim and an interesting feature they called the Clamshell tailgate. Along with special features and powerful engines, the Vista Cruiser was the perfect road trip car.

  1. Chrysler Minivan

Today, minivans are a common sight on the streets of America, but in the early ’80s, the concept of a minivan was nonexistent. So Chrysler invested in the production of front wheel drive people carriers with lots of space and comfort inside, but with compact dimensions.

This proved to be the perfect car for the times. Chrysler Corporation scored big with the enormous popularity of the Minivan. It was the perfect car for suburban America, replacing big, gas-thirsty station wagons and preceding the SUV craze of today. That is why a classic Chrysler Minivan is still a great road trio choice.

  1. Jeep Wagoneer

One of the best classic road trip vehicles is the Wagoneer. It’s the original American SUV and a car famous for its perfect balance between comfort and off-road dynamics. Even today with the SUV craze sweeping America, a classic Jeep Wagoneer still is among the coolest road trip cars they ever made. It’s classic styling, powerful V8 engines and lots of room are a tough combination to beat.

  1. Ford Bronco

This classic Ford SUV is not the biggest or most comfortable vehicle for your road trip adventure, but it is one of the coolest. It’s dependable mechanics and uncompromised off-road handling makes the Bronco the perfect choice if you spend a lot of time in nature.

Be sure to choose an early model with V8 power. You can remove the roof to enjoy open-air driving.

  1. Chevrolet Impala SS

Big, luxurious, fast and comfortable: this is the classic Impala SS, which they produced from 1961 to 1969. The Impala SS featured the biggest, most powerful engines, lots of extras and an undeniable performance.

All of this makes it a perfect road trip car. It’s a fast cruiser for jumping from coast to coast and stealthy compared to other muscle cars of the period.

  1. Buick Riviera GS

The Riviera GS with its big 425 CID engine is the epitome of the American Gran Tourismo luxury coupe. It is big and comfortable yet still is a fast and capable coupe.

Buick produced it from 1965 to 1972 in several generations. So Rivieras are easy to come by and inexpensive. But you should pick one now to enjoy it on an epic road trip before they become rare.

  1. Ford Flex

Although the Flex didn’t sell as well as Ford hoped, it is still a great crossover-minivan type of car. The Flex features retro styling and enormous interior space with nice features. Also, it has a powerful engine and even an optional all-wheel drive system.

This, along with its modern-day dependability, makes the Flex perfect for family road trips across the country.

  1. Subaru BRAT

The Subaru BRAT was a popular compact, all-wheel drive pickup. But at first glance, it doesn’t look like a great road trip vehicle, since only two people can sit inside. However, the BRAT has two more seats.

They mounted them in the back, so passengers are exposed to the elements. This feature makes the BRAT perfect road trip vehicle if you want to prank your friends.

Are you planning a road trip this year? Perhaps one of 20 interesting cars that will make any road trip a memorable experience should be on your wish list.

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