1956 Jaguar D-Type
Even though the D-Type competed in an era where many competition cars were stunning, the all-conquering Jaguar managed to both be achingly beautiful as well as nearly unbeatable around the Le Mans Circuit de la Sarthe course (taking the overall win a total of three times, including an amazing five out of the top six spots in the 1957 race). Malcolm Sawyer, the famed aerodynamicist, created the shape primarily to be slipperier than the old C-Type, but as a happy coincidence the bodywork is remarkably pretty, managing to pack brutish racing aggression (such as the no-nonsense side-exit pipes) with a shape so flowing it recalls a natural form, like a raindrop. It’s doubtful that competing drivers in contemporary Porsches, Ferraris, and Aston Martins had much time to appreciate the shape, as the powerful 3.4-liter XK engine provides 245 horsepower and has less than a ton to propel. Depending on gearing, the D-Type can achieve more than 170 mph, an impressive figure today but hair-raising in the mid-1950s—particularly considering that a brave driver could in fact take a D-Type out on the street, one of the last Le Mans-winning cars capable of this trick. In fact, the D-Type represents the height of 1950s technology, including an aerospace-inspired aluminum monocoque chassis. If you can bear to stop staring at the seductive curves, pull on some string-back gloves and recreate history.