Built To Last: 10 Classic American Luxury Cars That Never Age
Aug 05, 2023
These American luxury vehicles are spectacles of automotive engineering that manage to stay relevant even in this day and age.
While the luxury car market is dominated by foreign automotive brands, some American cars that date as far back as the 1960s manage to somehow stay relevant even to this day. And it all comes down to their timeless design.
While it’s difficult to maintain such ancient spectacles of automotive engineering, it’s pretty much worth it to have a classic luxury car that puts brands like Lexus, BMW, and Audi to shame. Let’s take a look at ten timeless, classic luxury cars that are still worth the salt.
All information and data were sourced from Edmunds, and Automobile Catalog, and CarSurvey to curate this list of classic American luxury cars.
The first-generation Eldorado debuted in 1953, alongside models like the Oldsmobile 98 Fiesta and the Buick Roadmaster Skylark. With its striking exterior design featuring a chrome-themed front, including a large grille, bumper, and headlight, the Series 62 Eldorado exuded elegance. The car boasted a large yet well-proportioned hood with the brand's emblem at the front and an ornament at the top.
Loaded with cutting-edge technology and deluxe accessories, the Eldorado also pioneered the innovative wraparound windshield feature. Measuring 220.8 inches in length and 80.1 inches in width, it housed a 5.4-liter Cadillac OHV V8 engine paired with a 4-speed Hydra-Matic transmission.
Based upon owner reviews, the Cadillac Eldorado needed a full restoration, which is mostly typical for a vehicle of this age. The owner gave the Eldorado a reliability review of 9/10.
Chrysler, under commission from the Turin-based coachbuilder Ghia, proudly presented the Crown as one of America's most luxurious cars. Unveiled for the 1957 model year, the Crown boasted an elongated, regal appearance, serving as an eight-seater limousine that outshone even the Cadillac with its opulence. A captivating feature of the Crown was its four doors extending into the roof panel, easing the entry and exit process for the esteemed passengers it catered to. Sadly, the Imperial Crown couldn't take on GM's best offerings.
Despite Imperial's plan to produce 75 units of the Crown in 1957, only 36 were sold. The model's base price stood at $12,000, equivalent to approximately $110,000 in 2019, emphasizing the exclusivity and prestige associated with this exceptional luxury automobile.
One owner on CarSurvery reported that the Imperial Crown is a vehicle with no equal. The Imperial Crown was routinely maintained by the previous owner, leaving it in pristine condition. The owner gave it a reliability rating of 10/10.
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The second-generation Thunderbird, also known as the Square Bird, marked Ford's decision to expand the T-bird lineup by introducing a 4-seater option. Currently a forgotten American legend, it's still a quintessential classic American luxury car with its bold design, abundant chrome, and significant size. Ford's strategy proved successful, doubling sales compared to the original Thunderbird from 1955.
Despite having the transmission rebuilt from the ground up with a new intake and exhaust gaskets installed, the owner reported that this vintage car managed to pull off a smooth and comfortable drive. The owner gave it a reliability rating of 6/10.
In the early 1960s, the market lacked 4WD cars that could provide both off-road capability and comfort for families. Vehicles like the Dodge Power Wagon Town Wagon, Chevrolet Suburban, and International Harvester Travelall were off-road capable but fell short in terms of family-friendly features.
However, in 1963, everything changed with the launch of the Jeep Wagoneer. Jeep launched an SUV that was well ahead of its time. This pick-up truck-based station wagon offered all the comforts of a passenger car, creating a new concept that resonated with middle-class American families. Jeep's 1963 Wagoneer set the stage for the luxury SUV segment.
The owner reported that the floor pan was rusted out, with occasional leaks from the rear freeze plugs. The owner gave it a reliability rating of 8/10 despite its age.
The fourth-generation Lincoln Continental, produced from 1961 to 1969, saw a total of 334,345 Continentals sold. It was one of the most desirable vehicles, due to its bold and distinctive design. This era featured three versions of the Continental, including the 1961 4-door sedan and 4-door convertible, replacing the larger-sized 1958 Lincoln Premiere and Lincoln Continental Mark V.
Though shorter in length and wheelbase compared to its predecessor, it remained heavier than rivals like Cadillac or Chrysler Imperial. Ford ensured solid construction and introduced a groundbreaking 2-year/24,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty with the 1961 Continental, a first in US automotive history.
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The owner reported that this American icon had tons of problems to get fixed, mostly electrical problems causing power windows and door locks not working correctly. Still, the owner gave it a reliability rating of 9/10
Cadillac's Fleetwood Talisman, available from 1974 to 1976, took luxury to new heights. Featuring oversized dimensions and powered by enormous 472 and 500 cubic-inch V8 engines, the Talisman offered an opulent experience. Some consider it the most luxuriously trimmed production Cadillac since the coachbuilt era.
Offered as an option package on the Fleetwood Sixty Special platform, the Talisman added substantial value to an already high base price. With its generous 133-inch wheelbase, the Talisman epitomized Cadillac's commitment to grandeur.
The Allante, originally known as "Callisto," was a true fusion of Italian design and American mechanics. Crafted by Pininfarina, the renowned coachbuilder, this car blended sleek Italian bodywork with a powerful American V8 engine and transmission. It embodied the best of both countries, a stylish car with an impeccable pedigree. But the wildest part about the car was the fact that you had to pay $60,000 to get one back in 1987. Add in inflation and that's $105,000 today.
Celebrities in Hollywood admired the Allante, as it appeared in popular TV shows and movies like Dallas and Tango and Cash. With its impeccable style and performance, the Allante became an iconic symbol of sophistication.
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The owner reported that the Cadillac Allante is one of the finest cars they've owned. The car is still comfortable to drive and offers incredible handling. The only issue the owner ran into was a problem with the antilock braking system which was conveniently fixed via Cadillac's assistance program. They gave the Allante a reliability rating of 8/10.
The introduction of Lincoln's family-friendly SUVs marked a significant moment in the automobile industry. The Lincoln Navigator, commanding and powerful on the road, captured everyone's attention. Ford, the parent company of the Lincoln brand, had faith that the Navigator would boost sales, and their belief was well rewarded as it dominated the market for several years. Despite its popularity, the Navigator's designers sought to refine its size and features.
One notable feature was the set of steps that facilitated smooth entry and exit from the SUV. The first-generation Navigator offered captain seats in the middle row, separated by a large middle console. The gear selector found its place behind the steering wheel.
Under the hood, the Navigator was equipped with two versions of an identical 5.4-liter V8 engine, expertly mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. Buyers had the option to choose between a rear-wheel-drive and a 4x4 on-demand system, making it versatile and capable.
One owner reported that the Lincoln Navigator was the best car they ever owned, giving it a reliability rating of 7/10. The owner only reported having to take it for regular maintenance.
Released as a 2002 model, the Escalade EXT gained popularity partly due to its foundation on Chevrolet's versatile Avalanche, offering a practical pickup-SUV hybrid with the innovative Midgate feature. On the other hand, the Blackwood, based on the Ford F-150, failed to captivate buyers with its limited practicality and high price tag.
The Escalade EXT witnessed annual sales peaking at 13,494 units in 2002, leading to the release of a second-generation model in 2007. Meanwhile, the Blackwood's nameplate was discontinued in 2013.
One owner reported that the transfer case failed at 54,000 miles, along with stability system malfunctions. The owner gave it a reliability rating of 8/10.
In the latter half of the 1970s, American luxury automakers faced the formidable challenge of countering the rising influence of Mercedes-Benz and BMW. While not everyone desired an S-Class, many aspired to own one but found it financially out of reach. This situation favored Cadillac and Lincoln, prompting the latter to introduce a redesigned flagship model for the 1980 model year. The Continental Mark VI was built on Ford's body-on-frame Panther platform, resulting in a more compact and lighter vehicle compared to its predecessor, the Mark V.
Responding to the growing demand for advanced technology among luxury car buyers, Lincoln equipped the Mark VI with a digital instrument cluster as standard. The pricing of the Mark VI started at $15,424 (around $48,000 in 2019) for the coupe version and $15,824 (around $49,000 in 2019) for the saloon. Opting for one of the four designer series models, developed in collaboration with renowned names like Bill Blass, Cartier, Pucci, and Givenchy, took the price above the $20,000 threshold. If you're looking to pick one up today, Lincoln Continentals are fairly inexpensive.
One owner gave the Lincoln Continental Mk VI a reliability rating of 9/10. The only problems reported were normal wear and tear as seen with lights, brakes, and fuses.
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