We are closing in on the final handful of weeks of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, the stock car series’ 75th anniversary campaign. To celebrate, each week through the end of the season Ryan McGee is presenting his top five favorite things about the sport.
Top five best-looking cars? Check. Top five toughest drivers? We’ve got it. Top five mustaches? There can be only one, so maybe not.
Without further ado, our 75 favorite things about NASCAR, celebrating 75 years of stock car racing.
Top five best-looking cars
As we have dropped the hammer on our series of NASCAR 75 top-five greatest lists, we spent four weeks dealing with the racers and races, but what about the machines those racers drove in those races?
These nearly two-ton machines snarl around ovals, road courses and dirt tracks at speeds exceeding 200 mph. It sounds like there’s no way they couldn’t all look cool while in the midst of doing that, but the reality is that, like people, some race cars just look more awesome than others, no matter if they are pushing the edge of the envelope at Talladega or just sitting on the race shop floor.
So, what NASCAR models stand out above the rest in stock car racing’s grand 75-year-old showroom? Grab a can of Simoniz and a chamois cloth and read ahead as we present our top five best-looking NASCAR race cars.
Honorable mention: 1955-56 Chrysler 300C
Anyone who gets frustrated now when Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing gets on a hot streak and seemingly wins all the races and titles would have totally hated these cars back in the day, and really hated the team who fielded them.
That’s because team owner Elmer Carl “EC” Kiekhaefer and his ultra-modern ways of doing business made today’s superteams look downright puny. Kiekhaefer ran a fleet of long, sleek Chrysler 300Cs for two seasons and won 49 races (plus three more via other cars) and both Grand National titles.
Tim Flock, Buck Baker and their teammates drove machines up and down Daytona Beach with giant three-digit car numbers and a script “Full Jeweled” painted over that number.
Remembering Carl Kiekhaefer
6/4/1906 – 10/5/1983 #RIP
Carl Kiekhaefer was a NASCAR Grand National team owner for 2 years & he won 2 championships in dominant fashion. In 1955 Tim Flock won 18 races & in 1956 Buck Baker won 14 races. Kiekhaefer’s cars won 52 races in 2 seasons. pic.twitter.com/WDYigLN4lI
— NASCAR Legends (@LegendsNascar) June 4, 2022
The 300C was so dominant and looked so cool that every race led to protests from defeated rivals, although none ever turned up any cheating. It made Kiekhaefer so angry that he quit racing and went back to selling his Mercury boat motors in Wisconsin, taking his awesome 300Cs with him.
5. 1951-54 Hudson Hornet
The 300Cs predecessor was a car that was so sleek in its design that it looked like it was racing even when it was sitting still. Heck, even the car numbers were painted with cartoon vapor trails as if they were in constant motion.
1. 1972 Dodge Charger
Could this list have been five Petty-driven machines and been done at that? Totally. From the NASCAR Convertibles Division (yes, that was a real thing) to Belvederes to Pontiacs, “His Royal Fastness” piloted some of the most beautiful rides ever witnessed on a racetrack (and also some of the ugliest, more on that coming in our next list).
The best-looking race car that’s ever taken a green or checkered flag, though, is Petty’s 1972 Dodge Charger. That’s the one with giant signature Charger grill, the raised rear end, “The Racer’s Edge” printed on the front spoiler, the slanted roof number and the thick-striped melding of STP Day-Glo red with Petty Blue.
That color compromise dang near killed the deal that became the model for all future sponsorship contracts. For more on how that went down, read this story from 2010.