5. MERCEDES-BENZ GULLWING
BARELY SEVEN YEARS after World War II, Mercedes-Benz engineers led by Rudolf Uhlenhaut designed a radical German sports coupe with vertically opening gullwing doors, fully independent suspension and a three-liter fuel-injected six cylinder. The 300SL became an instant classic. Enthusiasts love the 1957–1960 convertible, with its improved suspension and disc brakes, but 300SL coupes from 1954 to 1957 still cost more. Plan on at least $704K.
4. JAGUAR E-TYPE
This 150 mph projectile transformed Jaguar from an interesting British sports-car purveyor into a serious Ferrari challenger. Like a stiletto heel on wheels, the E-Type’s six-cylinder engine came from Jag’s legendary D-Type Le Mans racer. Purists covet Series I coupes and roadsters (1961–1964). Restored examples fetch about $107K—more than 20 times their original price.
3. SHELBY COBRA
Le Mans champ Carroll Shelby was a broke ex-racer with a bad heart when he came up with the idea to match the chassis of a British AC roadster with a lightweight Ford V8. The Shelby Cobra (1962–1967) became the fastest production car in the world. A Cobra with a small-block 289 engine will run you $519K today, more for authentic competition models.
2. PORSCHE 911
Among the cars on this page, only one is actually attainable. Porsche this year unveiled its seventh-generation 911, a delight to all five senses. How do you pick a favorite from 49 years of 911s? Not easy. Here’s ours: the 1973 911 Carrera RS Lightweight, a race car for the road. In fact, the RS (Rennsport, or “race sport”) was not approved for road use in the U.S., but it was street legal in Europe. It had a lighter body shell, almost no insulation, even thinner windshield glass (to reduce weight) and a 240-horsepower fuel-injected 2.7-liter flat six. Top speed: 149 mph. Figure on $390K today for the most iconic early 911.
1. FERRARI GTO
The most coveted Ferrari of all, and the most valuable postwar sports car in the world today, the GTO (for Gran Turismo Omologato) beat all comers in its day. Only 39 were built, between 1962 and 1964. The GTO, which turns 50 this year, won everywhere it raced, often beating more powerful cars, thanks to its impossibly shapely, aerodynamically sound ultra-lightweight alloy body, high-revving three-liter V12 engine with six carburetors and snap-shifting five-speed tranny. Fakes abound, but every one of the real GTOs is accounted for. The last one up for auction sold for more than $35 million. The price is probably double that now.