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10 Best Wedge Era Car Designs, Ranked

Sharp angles populated the vehicles made during the Wedge Era, and these ten car designs are some of the most gorgeous automobiles from that time.

September 2019

by TIM LEVIN for www.hotcars.com

Up until the late 1960s, car designers generally favored soft curves and sweeping lines—consider the Jaguar E-Type, Aston Martin DB5, and Shelby Cobra. But starting in the early 1970s, engineers began experimenting with sharp edges and futuristic, spaceship-like shapes. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, auto manufacturers from around the world unveiled new, angular sports cars that remain coveted to this day.

While many gorgeous concept cars were developed during the wedge era, this list focuses on angular autos that were available to the general public. Depending on the size of your wallet, you may even be able to cop one of the rides below for yourself.

10 Toyota MR2 (First Generation)

The name MR2 refers to the fact that this Toyota is a mid-engined, rear-wheel drive two-seater. While it's not quite as exotic as some of the other rides on this list, the first-generation Toyota MR2 absolutely deserves a spot in the annals of angular design. From its front end, to its side skirts, to its rear spoiler, the origami-like MR2 sports pointy features all around. While the MR2 largely shed its angles in its subsequent two generations, the car maintained its reputation as a well-balanced, fun, and affordable weekend cruiser.

9 DeLorean DMC-12

The DeLorean DMC-12, made famous by the Back to the Future movies, was a two-seater sports car produced by the DeLorean Motor Company for just two years from 1981 to 1983. For the project, former GM executive John DeLorean tapped design legend Giorgetto Giugiaro, the creative mind behind numerous successful cars, a few of which appear on this list.

The DeLorean featured a shiny stainless steel exterior, a fiberglass body, attention-grabbing gull-wing doors, and an iconic wedge shape, but it suffered from a severe lack of power. Buyers could choose from a five-speed manual or a three-speed automatic, neither of which resulted in impressive zero-to-sixty numbers for the era.

8 Maserati Merak

The Maserati Merak, another Giugiaro design, was a mid-engined sports car produced from 1972 to 1983. The car enjoys the unique distinction of being the only four-seater on this list, since its compact V6 engine allowed room for a second row.

Plus, while most other wedges adopted a fastback body style, the Merak featured a flat engine compartment and a vertical rear window. Giugiaro set the Merak apart from other sports cars of the time by incorporating dramatic flying buttresses that ran from the car's roof to its tail end.

7 De Tomaso Pantera

The Pantera was a mid-engined, rear-wheel drive sports car produced by Italian auto manufacturer De Tomaso for over 20 years. The brand's best-selling model, the Pantera was initially designed by Tom Tjaarda of Italian design house Ghia, but eventually received updates from Bertone's Marcello Gandini.

While the Pantera earns its spot on this list thanks to its radical and iconic design, the car also had a lot to offer in terms of performance. Owing to a partnership with Ford, the Pantera received a 351-cubic-inch Ford V8 that produced 326 horsepower and 344 lb-ft of torque.

6 Bricklin SV-1

The Bricklin SV-1 was a short-lived Canadian two-seater that was produced in New Brunswick from 1974 to 1975. The unique car featured gull-wing doors, an innovative fiberglass and acrylic body, and a general shape that resembles the better known DeLorean DMC-12 (though the Bricklin predated the DeLorean by several years). Despite its exotic appearance, the SV-1 (Safety Vehicle One) was actually designed for safety and boasted features like a roll cage and impact-absorbing bumpers.

Unfortunately, the SV-1 proved to be a financial disaster, and Bricklin ended up producing less than 3,000 examples in total.


5 Fiat X1/9

The Fiat X1/9 was designed by Bertone's Marcello Gandini and was produced by Fiat from 1972 to 1982. Bertone took over production in 1982 and built the car for another seven years.

The mid-engined X1/9 boasted sharp edges all around and came equipped with an integrated front diffuser, polygonal pop-up headlights, and a removable hardtop. Plus, unlike most mid-engined vehicles, the X1/9 made room for a trunk in the front and rear. The X1/9's influence can be seen in later sports cars like the Toyota MR2 and Triumph TR7.

4 BMW M1

Introduced to the public in 1978, the BMW M1 was a mid-engined sports car developed to compete with Porsche's racing division. The M1's fiberglass body was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, who borrowed many design elements (including the car's overall shape) from an earlier BMW concept car called the Turbo. Design cues from the Turbo, including the miniature kidney grille and pointed front end, can be seen in later Bimmers like the 8 Series and Z1.

BMW produced just 453 examples of the M1 from 1978-1981, making it one of the rarest and most expensive BMWs in existence.

3 Lotus Esprit

Two years before the soon-to-be-legendary M1 was unveiled to the public, Giugiaro developed another "folded paper" design in the form of the Lotus Esprit. Looking at the Esprit from the side, one could trace a near-straight line from its front end to the top of its windshield -- the car looked like it could cut right through the air in front of it.

Lotus ditched Giugiaro's original design in 1987, and new designers rounded out the Esprit's corners in subsequent generations. However, the car kept its overall wedge shape until it was phased out in 2004, making it possibly the longest-running model of the wedge era.

2 Lamborghini Countach

It's impossible to delve into the world of the wedge without mentioning the Lamborghini Countach. Introduced in 1974 and produced throughout the 1980s, the Countach came to exemplify the extreme, angular styling of the era.

Developed by Italian design house Bertone, the Countach represented a sharp departure from Lamborghini's previous mid-engined supercar, the Miura, which boasted a flowing, curvaceous shape. As the years went by, the Countach received updates, such as a body kit and an enormous rear wing, that intensified its aggressive look. However, the car's overall shape and construction, including its pioneering scissor doors, remained unchanged throughout its lifespan.

1 Lancia Stratos

Introduced in 1973, the Lancia Stratos was a mid-engined sports car designed by Marcello Gandini of Bertone. Lancia purpose built the Stratos to compete in rally sports, and the undeniably striking vehicle went on win the World Rally Championship in 1974, 1975, and 1976.

Gandini loosely based the car on his 1970 Stratos Zero concept, a radical, polygonal prototype that he developed to win Lancia's business from rival design house Pininfarina. One strange design element lies in the Stratos's unusually short length -- measuring at just 146.1 inches long, the Stratos is several inches shorter than a modern Mini Cooper.

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