Ferrari has to be number one, surely? Or is it BMW? Or Tesla?

Ferrari has to be number one, surely? Or is it BMW? Or Tesla?

A very warm welcome to the first of CAR’s three special 60th anniversary issues. Yep, the world’s best (and most modest) car magazine pre-dates the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon (1969), Porsche’s first overall Le Mans win (1970) and the arrival into this world of one Elon Reeve Musk (1971).

When we arrived into the world, bawling and writhing with freshly minted vitality, Jaguar’s momentous E-Type was brand new, Ferrari had just gone public with the equally ravishing 250 GTO and The Beatles had just evolved into their definitive line-up of John, Paul, George and Ringo. What a time to be alive (unless you were in Vietnam).

Why three issues? Because ranking the 60 greatest car brands is not the work of a moment (or one issue), and neither is doing justice t0 the marques that have worked hardest to shape the automotive landscape. In this issue alone we drive every generation of our favourite American sports car, the Corvette (including the new one – the one with the engine in the wrong place), build the world’s finest electric hypercar (Danger! Danger! High voltage!), and hang out with Thomas Ingenlath, the genius behind the meteoric rise of Volvo spin-off Polestar. As for coming up with the power list in the first place… Well, it wasn’t easy. Try it – and please do let us know your results. You make some coffee. ‘This,’ you think to yourself, ‘is going to be easy.’ Clearly the greatest car maker on the planet is Ferrari. The name alone (once you’ve expunged all thoughts of the grim branded leisurewear and that corrosive knock-off prancing horse aftershave you had in early puberty) is enough to open your eyes a little wider and spike your heart rate.

You think of Maranello’s unfailing dedication to Formula 1 (the original ‘Will they?/ won’t they?’ soap opera, and still the most compelling), of the serene savagery of a 458 Speciale in full flight, and of the marque’s apparently eternal ability to fire the imagination of each new generation of children. A few years ago I drove a LaFerrari in the hills above Maranello and the single greatest image from a day of pretty great images was one of a toddler, barely old enough to stand, absolutely entranced by this impossibly loud, beautiful and exciting machine in red. So, Ferrari’s number one. Or is it BMW?

After all, its volumes – and therefore its contribution to the driving experiences of the population at large – are vastly higher, and yet Bavarian Motoren Werke is undoubtedly special, too. It has raced in F1, won at Le Mans, innovated, and delivered one or two ultimate driving machines in its time. So, BMW is number one. Or is it Tesla? Were our ranking defined by an equation of impact and global significance (vast) divided by number of years in existence (in Tesla’s case, not even 20), Elon’s crew would simply have to be top of the pile. Sure, Dieselgate greased the wheels. But the fact remains that Tesla’s mission statement (nothing to do with making money – it’s never been very good at that – and all about weaning the world off fossil fuels) went from laughable to plausible extremely quickly.

So who does win? Enjoy finding out with these three very special issues of CAR.

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