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James May's historical top 13

2014-12-31 09:37

FIRST REAL CAR: The Benz Patent Motorwagen of 1886 was one of James May's choices for the top dozen. Image: Daimler-Benz Museum, Check the rest...

LONDON, England - James May has chosen the 13 most significant cars of all time for The London Classic Car Show… but is he right?

It’s bold, controversial and bound to cause arguments… and that’s just the way BBC Top Gear’s James May wants it.

May has stuck his neck on the line and has chosen what he regards are the 13 most influential cars of all time.


The result is The Cars That Changed The World and it’s one of the star exhibits at the London Classic Car Show taking place at ExCeL in London’s Docklands from 8-11 January 2015.

May is convinced he’s got them right… but hopes that others will disagree and that his choice will cause arguments in every pub in the land.

He has split the Baker’s Dozen into two groups of six, the first half dozen being displayed in what May calls ‘The Halls of Obviousness’ with the second half dozen found in ‘The Chambers of Bloody-mindedness’. The 13ththe most significant car ever made – has its own special display area.

“You could probably guess the identity of the six in the Hall of Obviousness without reading another word,” said May, “but the other six are less well known. I believe they are just as significant historically but they’ve simply been forgotten or misunderstood.

“But the 13th is certainly the car that looms largest in my motoring life – the biggest inspiration.”


And May will open the exhibit personally on the show’s opening evening, Thursday 8 January, as well as attempting to get #the13thcar trending on Twitter.

Tickets to see May reveal his 13th car as well as Adrian Newey being interviewed about his own special selection of significant race and road machines are still available, too.

The six ‘obvious’ cars (plus James’s comments) are (click for details):

1886 Benz Motorwagen
“People will argue about this, but the Benz Motorwagen was the first true car as we would understand it.”

1908 Ford Model T
“The brilliance of the Model T is the way that it was made, rather than the car itself.”

1938 Volkswagen Beetle
“It became the world’s best selling single-platform car, even though the early models were pretty horrendous to drive.”

1959 Austin Mini
“An original Mini is incredibly uncomfortable and a bit hairy if you crash it, but also fantastic to drive.”

1964 Ford Mustang
“In the first six months of its life it was the fastest selling car in history. It’s the car that democratised style and performance.”

1997 Toyota Prius
“It was the first mainstream car of my lifetime that caused people to rethink the basics of how a car should work.”


1901 Waverley Electric
“At the beginning of the 20th century, electric car outsold petrol-powered cars in parts of America. They were clean, quiet and didn’t make ladies’ skirts grubby.”

1906 Cadillac Model K
“The real hero of the mass-produced car story isn’t Ford’s Model T but the Cadillac Model K.”

1933 Standard Superior
“It is widely accepted that Josef Ganz, a respected Jewish engineer, came up with the basic layout and philosophy of the Beetle.”

1972 Honda Civic
“The original Civic was a compact, lively and fuel efficient car that was well made and almost faultlessly reliable.”

1980 Lada Riva
“The Russian-built, Fiat 124-derived, Riva did more than any other to put communism on wheels.”

2009 Bruno ExoMars Rover
“Autonomous, self-sustaining and suitable for use on other planets, it is surely the world’s most advanced all-terrain vehicle.”

AND THE 13th?

“I’m not going to give that away,”May said. “You'll have to visit the show and indulge me through my halls and chambers to get to it.”

  • The London Classic Car Show is the latest creation from Brand Events, the company behind all-action car shows like Top Gear Live, and is full of innovative features. It promises to be unlike any classic car event yet staged.

Read more on:    london  |  james may

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