Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Retro Thing's Top 20 Retro Cars

I started scribbling a list of my favorite retro cars on the train yesterday morning. I restricted my choices to fairly common and affordable vehicles -- don't expect to come across an Aston Martin DB5, 1962 Corvette convertible or Jaguar E-Type here.

One thing many of these vehicles share is simplicity, although several were technically flawed or suffered from massive variations in quality. One final note: accurately ranking these retrocars was  almost impossible -- they're all bucket loads of fun.

Amcgremlinsmall20. AMC Gremlin - Like it or not, the Gremlin earns a spot on the Retro Thing list as the first American made subcompact, introduced in 1970. What made it special was AMC's 6 cylinder engine that put out 128 HP (impressive for the Seventies). A three-speed column-mounted manual shifter was standard. Base price? $1879. I'll take two in lemon yellow, please!

Citroen2cv6smal19. Citroen 2CV6 - If you like insects, you'll probably love the 2CV6. Despite its prehistoric styling, it was famed as the Citroen that seemed destined to live forever. The original 2CV appeared in 1948 and remained on the market in various forms until 1991. It's main claim to fame is the hideously designed roll-back roof. Apart from that, you got a 602cc engine that output a whopping 28HP. It puttered along with so much retro charisma that people didn't seem to mind its turtlish ways. Over 5,100,000 of these weird and wonderful creatures were produced.

Vwbustypeiismall18. VW Type II -  I stretched the definition of 'car' a bit for this one, but the Type II is here because it's based on the classic Beetle (otherwise known as the Type I). The VW Bus is firmly entrenched in popular culture as the Ultimate Hippie Road Tripper. Part of that stems from its incredibly adaptable interior, and many did duty as affordable compact campers, chugging along the highway with a sound reminiscent of a happy tractor.

Honda_civic_197317. Honda Civic CVCC - Small, simple and affordable to operate. Honda's fortunes blossomed with the 1972 introduction of the Civic. The key to their success was the clean-burning and economical new CVCC engine, which earned Honda a reputation for producing fuel efficient and reliable automobiles.


16. Toyota Celica GT-S (4th generation) - The 1986 Toyota Celica revitalized the flagging Celica line. It featured newly curvy styling and front wheel drive. The GT-S managed to squeeze 138HP from its 2.0L 4-cylinder, making for an unforgettably fun ride. Sadly, the Celica name was retired by Toyota at the end of 2005. (link in French)

Ladaniva197715. Lada Niva - If I had to choose a vehicle to traverse the rough-and-tumble roads of rural Russia it might well be a utilitarian Lada Niva. Although many make fun of its boxy styling, I find the Russian minimalist approach to 4x4 design quite appealing. Production began in 1977 with a carbureted 1.6L 4-cylinder engine, manual 4 or 5 speed transmission, and full-time 4WD.

Datsun240z197014. Datsun 240Z - Introduced in 1969, the Datsun Z became an instant success. It was a warning shot across the bow of European manufacturers: here was a Japanese-made sports car capable of 0-100 km/h in 8 seconds, yet selling for a mere $3,500. This stylish little car went on to sell over 100,000 units before production ceased in 1973.

Opelgt196913.1971 Opel GT - The German-built Opel GT looks like a miniature Chevy Corvette. Over 100,000 were produced between 1968 and 1973. Trivia: It was the first production car to feature pop-up rotating headlights. The 1965 prototype featured rectangular headlights -- not nearly as endearing. List price was $3395, and you could upgrade to a 1.9 L 4-cylinder engine for $99 more. Those were the days.

Mgbsmall12. MGB Mark II - In many ways, the MGB Mark II (introduced in 1976) is a caricature of several generations of British soft tops, except better. It was well known for its tough and simple unibody design. This is the only MG known by many North Americans, which is a pity -- the modern MG-F is tons of fun, too.

Suzukisj11. Suzuki SJ - This tiny little off-road vehicle was incredibly popular as both a hard and softtop. It offered a 1.0 L engine which seemed well matched to its diminutive frame. The first SJ's were released for the 1986 model year in the USA as the Samurai. [yes, this is the Suzuki that was reported to have serious roll-over problems].

Triumphtr710. Triumph TR7 - When unveiled in 1974, the TR7's angular 'wedge' design was revolutionary. Unfortunately, early build quality was less than stellar and it was offered with an underpowered 2.0L slant-4 engine. Mst important to TR purists: there was no soft-top version. Production ceased in 1981, but I think the TR's body has aged rather well -- it still looks interesting rather than quaint.

Minismall9. Classic Mini - Oh, the Mini. Built as Britain's answer to the ubiquitous VW Beetle, it was a capable and affordable everyday runabout that (with a few tweaks) could be turned into a respectable rally car. Even though they are tiny it is possible to fit four adults and 96 cans of beer inside (don't ask).

Fordmustang19658. Ford Mustang (1st generation) - Introduced in 1964, the Mustang caused a sensation. It's easy to see why, even by today's standards. It was small (for a mid-1960s American car), sleek, and muscular.

Jeepcj719777. Jeep CJ-7 - Produced between 1976 and 1986, the CJ-7 is considered by many to be the finest of the line. Over 370,000 were produced and the CJ-7 featured an automatic 4WD system known as Quadra-Trac. An automatic transmission was optional, as was a molded hardtop. Even though they've lived hard lives, you still see the occasional mud-spattered CJ on the road.

Vwsuperbeetle19736. VW Super Beetle - Driving a Beetle is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Perhaps it's the shape or the strangely angled steering wheel that reminds me of driving a city bus. They feature a rear-mounted air cooled engine, and everything about them was designed to be as simple as possible. The first few Beetles were made near Wolfsburg in 1945, and by 1971 over 1.3 million of the happy-looking little cars were being churned out each year.  German production ceased in 1978 (supplanted by the Golf), but the original Beetle was manufactured in Mexico until 2003.

Volvop180019735. Volvo P1800 - Many people say "boxy" or "conservative" when asked to describe typical Volvo styling. Nothing could be further from reality when referring to the Italian-designed P1800. It was introduced in 1961 and for the first few years was manufactured in the UK. The engine was a 1.8L 4-cylinder that generated 100HP. It was followed in 1968 by a 2.0L with 118HP. By the end of production, over 39,000 had been built.

Bmw200219684. BMW 2002 - If BMW marketed the 2002 in North America these days, I might seriously consider buying one. It owes its existence to North American exhaust emission regulations which dictated that BMW had to offer it with the clean-burning 2.0L engine, rather than an older twin-carburetor 1.6L design. The larger engine put out 100HP, and made the affordable 2002 serious fun to drive.

Porsche9123. Porsche 912 - The inclusion of a Porsche on this list might seem like cheating, but the 912 was once known as the "poor man's Porsche." It combined the modern shape of the new 911 with the tried and true powerplant from the classic 356. Its 1.6L engine put out a mere 90HP. Introduced in 1965, the 912 was phased out by the end of 1969.

Hondacrx19862. Honda CRX (1st generation): This is a tremendously underrated car. I owned a 1987 model, and one of my friends described it perfectly as a full-sized slot car.  In North America it was a two-seater, although Honda crammed in a tiny back seat elsewhere. In a pinch, one could easily stuff an unlucky spare friend into the flat cargo area beneath the hatch. It included a 1.5L engine that put out a mere 94 HP, but its tiny size (and weight) made it incredibly nimble and zippy.

1. Mazda Miata (1st generation) - No matter what I choose for the Number One spot, many will disagree. Consequently, I've chosen a sporty convertible that's affordable, fun to drive, simple, and easy to find. Introduced in 1989, the Mazda Miata built a loyal following. It has very neutral handling and makes an ideal first "real" sports car. They often turn up on the used market at reasonable prices. Ten stars.


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