The exotica Italian marque Ferrari, purveyor of some of the most iconic cars on the planet, is responsible for many of the most alluring and seductive automotive shapes in history. So, when the legendary founder of the company, Enzo Ferrari himself, was reported to have gazed upon a vehicle and declared it “the most beautiful car in the world” it could be regarded as the definitive accolade. That honour fell not on a Ferrari though, but on the Jaguar E-Type.
Odd then, that the E-Type features only 28th on a supposedly scientifically-derived list of the most beautiful cars ever made, from Click4Reg. The list eschews subjectivity in favour of a slide rule and a calculator to pick 50 of the most aesthetically ‘perfect’ cars ever, according to an ancient Greek mathematical formula known as the ‘Golden Ratio’. However, in this writer’s entirely number-blind view, clearly the figures don’t always add up.
What is the Golden Ratio?
Put simply (and admittedly that’s never a good approach when tackling a complex formula), it’s all about proportions.
Symbolised as the Greek letter ‘phi’ or φ, it is achieved when the ratio of two quantities is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities. In layman’s terms, if you divide the long part of something with the short part of the same thing, and get close to 1.618, you’ve achieved visual perfection. This ratio frequently appears in art, geometry and architecture as well as in nature.
Believe it or not, it can even be found in faces with the mouth and nose each positioned at golden sections of the distance between the eyeline and lower part of the chin. Apparently, it can be seen in the Parthenon at the Acropolis of Athens and even in the shape of the Egyptian pyramids.
Which Cars Fit the Formula?
Returning to cars it’s been calculated that the 1994 McLaren F1 is the most beautiful car ever made according to the Golden Ratio with a figure of 1.596, only 0.022 off the ideal result (1.618). Interestingly the car is the brainchild of one of the best engineers in the business, Gordon Murray, someone who’s obviously very good at maths. There is no doubt the F1 is a stunning and arresting presence. It is superb.
But for the purposes of this exercise, if we were to amp up the analytical scrutiny, the bulk of the rear is out of visual balance with the delicate front, the excessive lines on its nose, on the bonnet and along the flanks are fussy, as are the cut-outs forming the rear grille.
In second place is the sexy 1970 Lamborghini Miura, at just 0.031 off the Golden Ratio. It’s hard to argue against, it is utterly gorgeous, and it knows it. In third the 1957 Ferrari TR250 is listed at 0.038 off the median. But as voluptuous as it is, it’s a racer, styled for purpose.
The top ten further includes: 1984 Ferrari 288 GTO (placed 6th), 1966 Ford GT40 (9th), 1969 Ferrari Dino 246 GT (10), 1987 Ferrari F40 (11th), 1974 Lamborghini Countach (12th), 1968 Dodge Charger R/T (17th), 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray (21st), 1954 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing (24th), 1953 Porsche 356 Speedster (27th), 1963 Porsche 911 (45th) and bizarrely the 2012 Range Rover (46th) – as handsome as it is, it’s not eye-candy.
Why They Are Wrong?
The full list is reproduced below. But don’t waste your time going through it, because it’s wrong.
Why? Firstly, the axes they’ve used are incorrect when it comes to how we appraise the aesthetics of a car, as they’ve assessed each based on the width of the vehicle divided by the height – front-on, basically.
However, cars are most visually pleasing when viewed from the front three-quarters, from where you can take in both the ‘face’ and the ‘flank’ of the car. Ideally the Golden Ratio equation should somehow combine both the front and side profiles. At the least, the car should be analysed in side profile. Remember when you were a kid and you drew cars? Did you pencil the front or the side first? Exactly.
Secondly, they’ve based their calculations on an existing list taken from a motoring publication. As such, it was relatively easy to compile the best-looking cars from those already selected by automotive experts. However, it also means the list is not comprehensive and they have fallen foul of missing out a few.
Which brings me to the third reason this list is gobbledygook! It misses out two of my all-time favourite cars, which between them embody two extremes of automotive desirability, ranging from muscular machismo and cool charisma, to sleek purity of purpose and glamourous style. Those are the 1967-68 Fastback Ford Mustang (as seen in the movie Bullitt) and the Lotus Esprit (as seen in James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me) respectively. Incidentally applying their own Golden Ratio calculation would’ve put the Mustang in 24th place at 0.244 off and just ahead of the Bugatti Chiron, while the original Esprit would be as high as fifth at just 0.057 off the Golden Ratio.
Beauty Really is in the Eye of the Beholder
Regardless of any attempts to apply science and maths to the concepts of appealing aesthetics, the reality remains that it is an entirely subjective phenomenon. Drawing again on Greek wisdom, this was recognised as far back as the 3rd Century BC when Plato stated that the sense of beauty is itself transient in nature, so what is beautiful to one observer might not be to another.
No less than playwright William Shakespeare expressed similar sentiments in 'Love’s Labour Lost': “Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye, Not utter'd by base sale of chapmen's tongues.” In other words, you can't buy beauty you can only see it. And how's this from one of America's Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin: "Beauty, like supreme dominion is best supported by opinion."
Which cars really are the most beautiful? That’s purely down to your own opinion. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, however clever their calculator.
The Full List
1-1994 McLaren F1
2-1970 Lamborghini Miura
3-1957 Ferrari TR250
4-1974 Lancia Stratos
5-2017 Bugatti Chiron
6-1984 Ferrari 288 GTO
7-1952 Jaguar C-Type
8-1967 Alfa Romeo T33 Stradale
9-1966 Ford GT40
10-1969 Ferrari Dino 246 GT
11-1987 Ferrari F40
12-1974 Lamborghini Countach
13-1961 Lincoln Continental
14-2001 Aston Martin Vanquish
15-2011 Lamborghini Aventador
16-1963 Buick Riviera
17-1968 Dodge Charger R/T
18-2004 Aston Martin DB9
19-1968 Ferrari Daytona
20- 2007 Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione
21-1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
22-1971 Citroën SM
23-2004 Porsche 911 (997)
24-1954 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing
25-1956 BMW 507
26-1964 Ferrari 275 GTB
27-1953 Porsche 356 Speedster
28-1961 Jaguar E-Type Series 1 Coupé
29-1960 Ferrari California SWB
30-1963 Mercedes-Benz 230SL
31-1974 BMW 3.0 CSL
32-1962 Ferrari GTO
33-1966 Jaguar XJ13
34-1999 Audi TT
35-1962 Lotus Elan
36-1937 Cord 812
37-1938 Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic
38-1959 Ferrari 250 GTO SWB
39-1964 Aston Martin DB5
40-1962 AC Cobra 289
41-1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato
42-1961 Aston Martin DB4
43-1929 Alfa Romeo 1750 Zagato
44-1955 Citroën DS19
45-1963 Porsche 911
46-2012 Range Rover (L405)
47-1949 Jaguar XK120
48-1961 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint
49-1935 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900
50-1925 Bugatti Type 35