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8
Volkswagen New Beetle

Let's give credit where due -- the New Beetle -- penned by legendary auto designer J. Mays and Freeman Thomas, was sheer genius.

Say what you will about its polarizing looks, which seemed to divide people into two distinct camps. There are those who think it's as cool as all get-out; and those who think it's just plain weird, with its turtle-shell body that seems not to know whether it's coming or going.

The genius of the New Beetle lies not in the car itself, but in what it represented. In paying homage to the original Beetle, beloved by untold numbers of Baby Boomers, Volkswagen's re-imagined version tapped into a well-spring of nostalgia. And sales. The Concept 1 made its debut at the 1994 Detroit Auto Show; overwhelming positive feedback prompted VW to place the car into production.

Soon, other car companies started clamoring for a piece of the retro-nostalgia pie. Chrysler came out with the PT Cruiser, a throwback to 60s-style panel wagons, while Ford made an attempt to go "retro" with its Thunderbird nameplate. By 2010, the retro craze had brought muscle cars back to the future, with Ford's Mustang, Dodge's Charger and the Chevy Camaro all getting resets.

It's hard to believe the "New Beetle" has been around for more than 20 years. So long, that it has finally gotten a complete re-do -- starting in 2012. The successor is longer, flatter and more aggressive-looking than the "aww"-invoking Bug of yester-decade. But like its predecessors that sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, the newest "new" version clearly pays tribute to the design roots that won the model so many admirers.

To find out what car made the number-7 position in our list, head on over to the next page.

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