Car Culture & Entertainment

10 of the Most Important Vehicles from 1968-2018

For 2018, we’ve been taking a look back at the past 50 years of automobile evolution to help celebrate the 50th birthday of our favorite speed shop.

Want to see more tidbits from Summit Racing’s history? Start here

Using the Summit Racing Facebook page, we crowd-sourced a list of what your fellow gearheads thought were vehicles that best represented important milestones and trends in automotive history, 1968-2018.

Keep in mind, this was not a list of the best performance cars. While we agree that cars like the Mustang, Camaro, Viper, Corvette, etc. are super-duper, we wanted to focus on the entire automotive universe here. Want performance? Check out this: 10 of the Most Significant Performance Vehicles from 1968-2018.

Here’s what we came up with. Do you agree with the choices and the rationale for picking them? Let us know in the comments below.

10 of the Most Important Vehicles from 1968-2018

10. Dodge Cummins-Powered Diesel Trucks

Suggested by Kyle L.

When Dodge decided to stuff a Cummins diesel engine into its Dodge Ram back in 1989, it was a proverbial gauntlet-slap to its competitors. Not only did the move significantly boost Dodge Ram sales, it spurred the rest of the truck world (namely Chevy and Ford) to accelerate their efforts in the diesel segment.




9. Tesla Model S

Suggested by Scott G.

With the Model S, Tesla demonstrated that all-electric vehicles weren’t just a curiosity—but that they can be serious performers, equal to or better than some of the world’s top sports cars. Perhaps more importantly, the Model S was the first mass-produced car Tesla made after going public; well over 150,000 have rolled off the production line.


Jeep CJ 7 Renegade

(Image/Bring A Trailer)

8. Jeep CJ-7

Suggested by Tom M.

While quite a few readers simply said ‘Jeep,’ the CJ-7 was often pictured alongside their suggestion. With increased cargo space, bigger doors, and optional automatic transmission and fiberglass top, the CJ-7 bridged the gap between the utilitarian CJ-series and the future Wrangler.




#7. AMC Eagle

Suggested by Erich V.D.

Look at any major automobile manufacturer’s vehicle line-up, and you’ll probably see a category for ‘crossover.’ These vehicles fuse the link between truck-based SUVs and easier-to-handle cars. What a good idea, right? Yeah, so good, that AMC was actually making crossovers way back in the 1970s, with its all-wheel-drive Eagle line.


#6. Chrysler PT Cruiser

Suggested by Jordan G.

What’s often overlooked about the PT Cruiser is that it was one of the first to usher-in the retro-styling trend that permeated the early 21st-century—a path followed by the Mustang, Camaro, HHR, 300, Challenger, Thunderbird, Mini, and others. Chrysler sold more than a million of ’em, despite the fact that no significant changes were made to the vehicle over it’s almost decade-long run.



(Image/Ford Authority)

#5. Ford Explorer

Suggested by Jim M. 

Sure, there had been “sport utility” vehicles prior (heck, Ford itself had been making the Bronco since 1966), but it was the Explorer that really brought the SUV to suburban driveways and shopping malls. More refined than their utilitarian forerunners, the Ford Explorer dominated the SUV segment as it matured in the 1990s.



(Image/Toyota Blog UK)

#4. Toyota Prius

Suggested by Brad H.

Can you believe Toyota’s been making the Prius for more than two decades? Though it wasn’t technically the first electric/gasoline-powered vehicle, it certainly was the first mass-produced hybrid. With more than two million sold, Toyota proved that a fuel-efficient vehicle design wasn’t just practical, it was downright marketable.



(Image/Barn Finds)

#3. Honda Civic

Suggested by Andrew B.

Before the Civic hit North American shores in the early 1970s, Honda was ‘just’ a motorcycle company. Not only did the Civic establish Honda’s footprint as a legit global auto manufacturer, it predicted the influx of Japanese imports that radically altered the North American automobile market.


(Image/Business Insider)

#2. Dodge Caravan

Suggested by Shawn S.

Before SUVs ruled the Earth, the minivan was the official family hauler. Born from the shadows of the 1970s gas crisis, the minivan was the perfect alternative to downsized passenger sedans and gas-sucking full-size vans. The Dodge Caravan (and its Mopar cousins) even get partial credit for helping save the Chrysler Corporation.



(Image/Auto Literate)

#1. Ford F-150

Suggested by Ruben H.

To adapt to changing emissions regulations in 1975, Ford added a heavier ‘F-150’ platform to its F-series truck lineup, and thus a legend was born. Since its launch, the F-150 has become the best-selling truck in the United States and the benchmark by which other trucks are measured.



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  1. Bart Logan says:

    It seems to me that if you’re going to tout a diesel in a light duty pickup then the honors should go to the 1983 Ford with the IDI 6.9l engine. Seems like it was Dodge doing the “catch up”. No, the GM 350 diesel doesn’t (and shouldn’t) even get an honorable mention.

    • That 350 GMC “convert” Diesel was a joke! Complete Garbage!!!! If you got 30,000 out of it was a miracle! Dodge did the right thing, Ford never made a diesel either they used International’s. But all & all you cant beat that Cummings

  2. Donald R. Hoover says:

    You can not top the Cummins.

  3. We only get 1 a day? Booo

  4. To this day I never understood why Jeep did not move on with the AMC Eagle and make it an Icone In its stable. It was one of the best cars that I ever owned.

  5. Simon Swarbrick says:

    I think, in my humble opinion, that the Chevy Lumina/Pontiac Transport and Olds.Silhouette were by FAR better drivers.

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