Intelligent Energy

When cars looked great, and polluted like there was no tomorrow

When cars looked great, and polluted like there was no tomorrow

Posting in Energy

They don't make 'em like they used to. Have a look at 12 classic beauties, from Lincoln Zephyrs to Eldorados to Karmann Ghias. See if you can figure how much polar ice each took out in its day!

When I was writing yesterday about the eye-opening possibility that cars could rival electric trains for low CO2 emissions by 2020, I stumbled across a stunning photo collection that illustrates a sort of opposite theme. They're part of a larger gallery by Wikimedia Commons user Ralf Roletschek.

You many not be old enough to remember the 1959 big finned Cadillac Eldorado or the 1937 Lincoln Zephyr. Perhaps you've seen them in the movies. They and the other gems below celebrate an era when cars could look great and not give a damn about CO2 emissions, if you know what I mean.

They're on display in Volkswagen's car museum in Wolfsburg, Germany, which is where Roletschek photographed them. Today's Friday, so think of this post as What to do in Wolfsburg this weekend.

And if you can't get to Wolfsburg, enjoy the view below. Okay, so beauty is in the eye of the beholder (Is that a BMW or a suitcase? A Bugati or a calliope? A Karmann Ghia or a dune buggy?). Behold already! See if you can figure out how much polar ice each of these 12 icons melted in its day. And thank you, Ralf. Good work:

1964 Jaguar:

1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz:

1937 Lincoln Zephyr:

1924 Lancia Lambda:

1938 BMW:

1931 MG:

1912 Bugati:

What's this, besides a cyclops?:

How did this get in there?:

As long as we're going green, a 1956 Citroen:

A Kharmann Gia, from some time ago:

Looks like my neighbor left his van in Wolfsburg:

Thanks again to photographer Ralf Roletschek. There are more cars on his Wikimedia page. Disclaimer: if you don't like pictures of naked women, close your eyes as you scroll down his gallery (Angela Merkel's in there too, clothed). Or simply search for the word "autostadt." Happy motoring.

Note: Top photo now correctly reads "Jaguar," not "Porsche." Thanks to readers for pointing out the error. Corrected around 7:45 AM PDT, May 4.

Enough of the past. A glimpse of the future:

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Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure