The Subaru Impreza WRX is a favourite of younger drivers.
The Subaru Impreza WRX is a favourite of younger drivers.

Ten greatest cult cars of all time

Cult cars aren't as simple to define as good, bad or classic.

Some aren't especially good to drive or own, others weren't very popular when new and not all of them will be collectable down the track.

As an investment, a cult car can go either way, but that's kind of the point: Cult status is all about a car with something a little bit special, offbeat or tempting to a particular group of people.

Here are a few to contemplate. And some modern cars that could achieve cult status.

The movie star: Aston Martin DB5

The Aston Martin DB5 is the ultimate movie car.
The Aston Martin DB5 is the ultimate movie car.

Suave hero or sexist thug?

Opinions are divided on the moral fibre of James Bond.

But one thing is beyond dispute; the Aston Martins that starred alongside 007 in his early films are gilt-edged cult-cars.

Frank Bullitt's Ford Mustang deserves a mention and even the fundamentally unwatchable Fast and Furious franchise has spawned a couple of candidates in the Toyota Supra and Nissan 350Z, but it's always the Aston that wins the Oscar.

Latter-day equivalent: Subaru's WRX. As seen in Baby Driver - another film where the car chase was the definite highlight - and on countless PlayStation games, from Colin McRae Rally to Gran Turismo.

 

The underdog: Leyland P76

It wasn’t the best car, but it has hard core group of followers.
It wasn’t the best car, but it has hard core group of followers.

There was an awful lot wrong with the Leyland P76 both when it was new and now.

But the ones that have survived have gathered a hard-core group of enthusiasts, partly because this was the car that could have run the ball back up the field to Holden and Ford, but didn't.

And we all love an underdog, don't we?

The P76 was really the car that killed Leyland in Australia, but that only seems to have added to its mystique. Odd.

Latter-day equivalent: Ford Falcon AU XR6. Reviled then, working-class hero to some now.

 

The racer: Holden Torana Hatchback

The Torana was a bathurst warrior and piloted by none other than Peter Brock back in the day.
The Torana was a bathurst warrior and piloted by none other than Peter Brock back in the day.

Motorsport has often produced cult cars.

Never more so than in the 1960s, 70s and 80s in this country where the cars that raced at Bathurst every October were based on cars you or I could buy at a dealership and drive on the road.

The Holden Torana Hatch of the late 70s is the poster-child for this phenomenon, a status cemented when none other than Peter Brock used one to win the 1979 Bathurst classic by six laps and smash the circuit-record on the last lap. Ford's Falcon GT HO also rates an honourable mention, as does the all-conquering Nissan Skyline.

Latter-day equivalent: The Porsche 911, slap on a couple of stickers and let's go racing.

 

Fundamentally right: Morris Mini

The Mini is probably one of the most recognisable cars on the planet.
The Mini is probably one of the most recognisable cars on the planet.

There were cheap small cars before the Mini, but none had nailed the brief as accurately as the Alec Issigonis-designed nipper.

With a wheel at each corner and brilliant handling (on a smooth road) the Mini soon proved its brilliance by dominating whole motorsport categories, something it was never designed to do.

But the Mini never forgot who it was and it paved the way for a galaxy of tiny cars that actually worked.

Latter-day equivalent: Ford Fiesta ST. Like the Mini, so much more than the sum of its parts.

 

The dearly departed: Aussie muscle cars

1960s era Holden Monaros go for big dollars now.
1960s era Holden Monaros go for big dollars now.

When the axe finally fell on car-making in this country a handful of years ago, a whole generation of Aussie family cars instantly became cult-ish.

Holdens, Fords and Valiants from the 1950s, 60s and 70s were all elevated to celebrity status (with price-tags to match) on the basis that "they're not making any more of these".

That statement is conveniently ignorant of the fact that they hadn't been making 1960s Holdens since the - er - 1960s, but sentimentality won out.

Latter-day equivalent: The very last performance Commodores and Falcons. Get 'em while they're not yet hot.

 

Defining a genre: Lamborghini Miura

Supermodel looks hid the Lamborghini Miura’s inner beast.
Supermodel looks hid the Lamborghini Miura’s inner beast.

Before the Miura of 1966 there was no real blueprint for what constituted a bona fide supercar.

Even the word supercar was born to describe the swoopy, mid-engined Miura.

With a V12 engine and supermodel looks, the Miura was an instant cult classic even if it had the unfortunate habit of bursting into flames.

Latter-day equivalent: Telsa Model S. Took electric cars from golf-buggies to sexy.

 

Redefining a genre: Mazda MX-5

The Mazda MX-5 made fun sports cars accessible to a huge audience.
The Mazda MX-5 made fun sports cars accessible to a huge audience.

The original MX-5 has gone on to become the best selling small roadster of all time.

And it was able to do that by taking a charming concept - the open, sporty two-seater - and banishing all the bad bits.

So, unlike your typical English version of the same thing, the Mazda didn't leak (water in or oil out) didn't break down and actually handled like a sports car.

And suddenly the whole concept made sense. For the first time.

Latter-day equivalent: Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ and perhaps the new Supra.

 

Outrageous, thy name is: Pagani Zonda

It might not be the most well known, but those that do know it drool over its style and performance.
It might not be the most well known, but those that do know it drool over its style and performance.

Okay, so you can't afford one, but the level of detailing and general outrageousness of the original Pagani Zonda stamped it as the flag-bearer for unattainable cool.

The intricate interior was equal parts 1950s sci-fi and bordello and if theatre counts for anything, then the Zonda was the leading lady.

Performance was staggering, too, and the Mercedes-Benz derived V12 ensured that the Zonda owner was never late.

These days it still stands as a monument to excess, and that will always appeal to some out there.

Latter-day equivalent: Ferrari FXX; Like an Enzo, but too crazy to drive on the road.

 

Welcome to the family: VW Kombi

The Kombi is the international car for good times.
The Kombi is the international car for good times.

Some cars have a knack of becoming part of the family and the early, air-cooled VW Kombi is the perfect example.

The camper versions with the beds, sinks and pop-top roofs are the real cult-stars here, and families that owned them in the day still remember them fondly.

More than that, owning and driving one even today gets you into the extended Kombi family where passing drivers still give each other the Kombi wave.

A flawed vehicle in many ways, the Kombi had several ways to kill you. The driver's rib-cage was essentially the only crumple-zone and it had a frightening willingness to obey a side-wind.

But as a feel-good car, the one-box VW takes some beating.

Latter-day equivalent: The Toyota Tarago, universally loved by larger families.

 

Timeless classic: Porsche 911

The Porsche 911 has been the pinnacle of sports cars for its entire existence.
The Porsche 911 has been the pinnacle of sports cars for its entire existence.

One of the most recognisable cars on the road, the 911's slow evolution across the past 53 years has helped establish its mystique.

Air-cooled models made before 1998 have a strong following, as do later performance examples with race-developed hardware. Whatever you pick, your car won't be mistaken for anything but a Porsche.

Latter-day equivalent: The Volkswagen GTI. The link to the 1970s GTI is unmistakeable and the current model remains true to the original formula.


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