13 of the most patriotic cars are right here! These cars transported Americans and helped transform the U.S. They’re the best American cars!
As the United States of America celebrates its Independence Day with the Fourth of July, we’re taking a look at some of the most patriotic cars in the U.S. No, these cars don’t have to be star-spangled in order to be patriotic. Red, white, and blue body paint isn’t required (though some nice airbrushing always catches the eye). These vehicles are patriotic for their origins, their impact, and their long-lasting representation of America.
What cars do you picture when you think about America throughout the decades? Which ones really represent the car-buying public? I came up with an initial list of at least 35 different vehicles. With so many options to choose from it was hard to narrow the list down, but there were 13 original colonies and there are 13 stripes on the U.S. flag so here are 13 patriotic vehicles for you to look at this holiday weekend.
The car that started it all! We have to start this list with the Ford Model T. It was Ford’s first mass produced car. More than 15 million Model Ts were produced between 1908 and 1927. For the first time, an affordable, sturdy vehicle was widely accessible. The Model T helped make way for the automotive age and it transformed America in the process.
A blueprint with the first Model T for the way automobiles could be built. It was pieced together on moving assembly lines with interchangeable parts. The Oldsmobile Curved Dash was the first vehicle produced on an assembly line, but the Model T advanced the efficiency of that process tremendously.
The Model T was affordable with an $825 price tag. Today that would be about $24,881. People weren’t just buying a Model T. They were buying independence and freedom. Travel was faster, people could get jobs further away from where they lived, and, in turn, entire industries like gas stations and motels were created. Mobility can do big things! Even Henry Ford himself couldn’t have imagined just how much would change since the Model T was released in 1908. That change is, in large part, due to his own creation. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like getting behind the wheel of this revolutionary car click over to our piece on How to Drive a Model T.
The Hummer wasn’t originally a civilian vehicle. In 1983 the Pentagon awarded AM General Corporation more than $1 billion to develop 55,000 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV). It was nicknamed the Humvee and was used by the American military to transport troops and cargo. Despite the weight of 8,000 pounds and fuel efficiency of under 10 MPG, it caught the eye of Arnold Schwarzenegger and a few other Hollywood celebrities. Schwarzenegger successfully campaigned to turn this military brute into something usable for the car-buying public.
In 2002, when gas prices were lower and the economy was pretty strong, General Motors introduced the Hummer H2 at a smaller weight of around 6,000 pounds. It was later reduced to 4,000 pounds. Even with smaller dimensions, the H2 was the epitome of the supersized American vehicle. The mammoth H2 wasn’t something that could zip around the tight streets of Boston, but they were all over the media in commercials, music videos, and movies. The Humvee wasn’t just a background vehicle. No, the H2 was made to be the center of attention! It was used for car chases in Bad Boys II, The Transporter 2, The Transformers movies, and several Marvel movies.
Despite strong visibility enhanced by big screen blockbusters, a large, gas-guzzling vehicle like the Hummer H2 has a certain shelf life. Around 142,000 of them were sold before production ended in 2010. A decade later GMC introduced the Hummer EV, a line of full-size battery EVs. We’ll see if an electrified version of the Hummer is welcomed well enough to last longer than the original. One thing is for sure: love it or hate it, nobody can deny that the Hummer H2 left an impression.
Salesman Lee Iacocca wanted a small, sporty car that young people would want to drive. That’s exactly what Iacocca got with the Ford Mustang after approaching Ford Motor Company with the idea. The 1964 Ford Mustang was introduced at the New York World’s Fair. Up to 375 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque came with the first-generation Mustangs. It was an affordable convertible with an exciting new mix of style and strength.
The Mustang was more than just a muscle car though. It immediately became a flagship vehicle for Ford, selling more units in its debut year than any car ever. There’s now an entire identity that comes with the Mustang. Its legacy was built even more by being featured in high-profile Hollywood hits over the years including Bullitt, Gone in 60 Seconds, Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift, Need for Speed, and Ford vs. Ferrari.
A lot of muscle cars have come and gone, but the Mustang has been one that lasted, still being rolled off assembly lines. We mentioned it as one of the Best Daily Driver Sports Cars of 2022. The Ford Mustang GT also made our list of the Best Used Sports Cars under $20,000. Ford is even using the popular name for their new electric crossover, the Mustang Mach-E.
If we’re talking about the Ford Mustang, we have to also talk about the Chevrolet Camaro. It’s a longstanding rivalry that we’ve looked at several times in the form of the Classic Ford Mustang vs Chevrolet Camaro and the Classic 80s Mustang vs Camaro. General Motors needed an answer to the Mustang, so along came the brawny Camaro. This pony had a long hood, two-door 2+2 configuration, and shared many components with the Firebird. It was available as a coupe or convertible. The initial version offered multiple engines that went all the way up to 375 horsepower with a V8.
Although the Camaro didn’t beat the Mustang in sales, it did carve out a spot for itself in American pop culture. Right from the start, the Camaro also weaved itself into racing culture, serving as the Official Pace Car of Indianapolis Raceway in 1967. It’s been referenced in songs by The Ramones and Kings of Leon. The fifth-generation Chevy Camaro was famously featured in the first Transformers movie (and continuously throughout the franchise), too. For a detailed look at each generation of the Camaro, read our Chevrolet Camaro Generations: Through the Years.
When it comes to best-selling vehicles sold by American auto manufacturers, the Ford F-Series is king. Almost 24 million have been sold in the U.S. alone. It’s not only successful in America, but it’s a successful export. As of January 2022, more than 40 million F-Series models have been sold worldwide, making it one of the Best-Selling Cars of All Time.
As you’ll see in our feature on Ford F-150 Generations: Through the Years, a first-generation 1949 Ford pickup doesn’t look like a 1975 Ford F-150 which doesn’t look like a 2022 Ford F-150. It doesn’t seem to matter how the truck evolves aesthetically. Powerful engine options under the hood make the F-150 a popular choice for ranchers, farmers, construction workers, and even everyday city driving citizens. The Ford F-150 has become the truck Americans trust for work and play. This truck continues evolving, too, soon to be one of the first electric trucks on the market in the form of the Ford F-150 Lightning.
If the Ford F-150 is America’s favorite truck, then the Chevrolet Corvette has to be considered America’s favorite sports car. This auto icon is the world’s longest-running continuously produced sports car. Its origins go back to the 1953 Corvette at the General Motors Motorama show in New York City. The original C1 Corvette had 150 horsepower from an inline-six. It’s always been a quick car, but several generations of refinement increased horsepower to 360 horsepower, 425 horsepower, 495 horsepower, and now even 670 horsepower.
The C2 Corvette, which lasted from 1963 to 1967 and introduced the “Stingray” name and styling, may be the most sought-after generation of the car. It’s the one model we chose as one of the Top 10 Coolest Classic Cars of All Time. Style, performance, and affordability in one package! That’s why it made our list of the Best Used Sports Cars Under $20,000. The Corvette’s profile has been raised by being featured in Animal House, Boogie Nights, and the Fast and the Furious movies. The Corvette has also led the Indianapolis 500 as a pace car 18 different times. This little sports car is definitely an American classic.
A lot of these vehicles are popular on other continents and in other countries, but Tesla has been dominant when it comes to electric vehicles. The Tesla Model 3 has been the best-selling EV not only in the U.S. for several years, but also in Europe and in China at various points. This vehicle only began production in July 2017, but it’s already creating a legacy for itself.
Tesla, an American automotive company, has competition when it comes to EVs, but according to some of the latest 2022 vehicle registration data, the electric car maker makes up about 75% of the U.S. EV market. The Model 3 isn’t the first Tesla vehicle (there’s the Model S, Model X, and Model Y, too), but it is one of the most popular models Tesla has.
Choosing between the Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger may have been the hardest decision yet, but I went with the Charger here. It was an American muscle car that transformed into a sports sedan with some power behind it. The addition of four doors for the 2006 Dodge Charger makes it more convenient to use in real life situations, but that’s also a detractor for some people. The Challenger is hard to pass up, but there are 2-door coupe versions of the Charger, so the Charger it is.
There’s good reason the Charger is Dom’s favorite vehicle in the Fast and the Furious movies: it’s a muscle-car legend with great styling and a storied history in racing. Built in 1964 to showcase a 426 HEMI, the Dodge Charger became an actual model starting with the 1966 Charger. It boasted up to 425 horsepower and 490 lb-ft of torque with a 426 cubic-inch Street HEMI V8. More than just muscle, the Charger offered aerodynamics, too. The NASCAR Charger Daytona was also the first U.S. production vehicle to feature a spoiler, helping with downforce and traction at high speeds. This vehicle was designed with the specific purpose of dominating NASCAR races.
The Charger was used to win some races until NASCAR banned aero cars in the 1970s. That didn’t matter though. This already cool car only got more popular after being featured with Steve McQueen in Bullitt and on the Dukes of Hazzard television series. There were a few breaks in production with the Charger, but it returned in the 1980s and 2000s. Each time Dodge brought the Charger back with a redesign to reinvigorate the American sports car. The evolving Charger may have changed its form over the years, but its reputation as tire-melting machine has remained.
Chevrolet kicked off the 1950s with its debuting Chevy Bel Air, one of the vehicles that helped set the tone for the decade. The era of sock hops, soda shops, and Marilyn Monroe also featured the Bel Air. Many people probably have memories of going to drive-in movies in one of these. Elvis Presley actually owned a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air. You can find this classic as a convertible, sport coupe, two-door or four-door sedan, four-door wagon, or station wagon.
Initial Bel Air models didn’t set any sales records, but a 1955 redesign boosted its popularity. Stainless steel window moldings, chrome fenders, and a Ferrari-inspired grille on the full-size A-body frame were a hit! The 1957 model took it up a notch with several inline six-cylinder engines choices. Those distinctive lines and curves that started with the second-generation 1955 Bel Air models certainly made it a standout at the time and also make it memorable to this day.
The 1999 Cadillac Escalade wasn’t the first large SUV made available in the United States, but it was the first with the level of luxury that Cadillac has been known to provide. It signified wealth and success, which is maybe why so many musicians and stars use them personally and professionally. From movies like The Matrix and The Hangover to music videos by Jay-Z, Drake, and Jennifer Lopez, there are a lot of Escalade references and appearances sprinkled throughout several mediums.
This vehicle has strong ratings with baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials. The mass appeal is probably because of all its features: it seats eight passengers, uses high-quality materials, had satellite radio as far back as the 2004 model, rides well, and has powerful engine options. It’s a great family vehicle if you can afford it. If you think the Escalade is going anywhere anytime soon, you’d be mistaken. In the first quarter of 2022, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade outperformed much of its competition with 10,505 units sold. Look at every detail of the 2021 Escalade, inside and out, by clicking on our 2021 Cadillac Escalade review. This is one large American SUV with some staying power!
If we’re talking about popular American family vehicles, then the conversation has to include the Dodge Caravan (and Plymouth Voyager, later renamed the Chrysler Voyager). The 1984 Dodge Caravan was introduced as the counterpart to the Voyager, then under the Plymouth name. After Lee Iacocca left Ford, he moved over to Chrysler and he brought his idea for a vehicle with a flat cargo area, a large cabin, and a smaller body frame with him. They were equipped with sliding doors, foldable rear seats, and a rear hatch. Chrysler even introduced the Dodge Grand Caravan on a longer wheelbase.
Understandably, consumers flocked to the Dodge Caravan for a useable, affordable family vehicle. At a time when Chrysler was hurting financially, the Dodge Caravan sold 210,000 units in its first model year. Employees were working three shifts at two different plants just to keep up with the demand. Although the Dodge Caravan ended its 35+ year production run in 2020, there are still plenty of minivans on the road. SUVs have encroached on that market, but that doesn’t change the impact this van had on the country and, certainly, on Chrysler.
When people think of American luxury, the Lincoln Continental still comes up. Even though the Continental is an American staple, the original model has some European inspiration. Edsel Ford liked the long hoods and short trunks on European sports cars in the late 1930s. After a trip to Europe, he came back with the Continental in mind. The Continental produced 10 generations of model years. Almost every one of them had a distinct look. Designs have ranged from boxy to sleek in the form of hard tops, convertibles, and sedans. The Continental has also been produced as four-door and two-door vehicles.
One variation of this car that sticks in a lot of people’s minds is the fourth generation Continental, lasting from 1961 to 1969. It had such sleek, elegant lines that it was the official Presidential state car from 1961 to 1977. Rear-hinged back doors didn’t stick around long, but made for a unique look at the time. This version of the Continental can be seen in movies like The Matrix, Animal House, and Goldfinger. We covered all ten generations in our Lincoln Continental Through the Years post.
Whether it’s the modern Jeep Wrangler or the original Willys MB (military ‘B’ model), this vehicle is American through and through. It originated as a 1940 prototype for the U.S. infantry. Bantam, Willys, and Ford all worked on the development of a low-profile, off-roading warrior. With four-wheel drive (4WD), the Jeep was useful on any terrain. In 1943 Willys-Overland trademarked the name ‘Jeep’ to eventually market it as the Civilian Jeep (CJ) after 1945.
After 10 iterations of the CJ and several brand and trademark battles, Chrysler released the Jeep Wrangler in 1986. Conceptually, it was similar to the CJ models. That same recognizable shape and the same 4WD, off-road capability was retained throughout the many variations of the vehicle. The Wrangler, though, was designed with a wider track to be safer and more comfortable, increasing its appeal to everyday drivers. An upgraded suspension included anti-roll bars and trackbars.
The Jeep Wrangler has only continued to get more and more popular. Jeep sold 22,615 Jeep Wrangler models in May 2015 alone. In April 2018, Jeep beat that record with 27,289 Wranglers sold. In fiscal quarter one of 2021, the Wrangler achieved its best sales ever. The Jeep Wrangler 4xe was also the best-selling plug-in hybrid in the SUV segment.
Adjustments over time included revamped headlights, a redesigned 8-speed transmission, and four-door versions. The same basic look and open body with removable hard or soft tops has stayed the same. Why would they change it? Executives in charge of the Jeep Wrangler’s success evidently know the wise adage: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it! You can look at every version of this automotive piece of Americana by reading our Jeep Wrangler Through the Years piece.
These are the 13 patriotic vehicles I chose, but there are plenty more that could fill up an expanded list. The 1955 Chevrolet Pickup is an image people think of every December when they see the Christmas Truck. The Dodge RAM and Chevrolet Silverado are two more popular pickups that give the F-150 a run for its money. There are arguments to be made for the Duesenberg SJ, Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, AMC Rambler, Mercury Eight, and Plymouth Special De Luxe Station Wagon to be included, too. Whether your favorites made the list or not, now is a great time to admire the abundance of four-wheeled American greatness that’s been produced over the past century.