There still are a few of these boxy cars available like the Kia Soul or Nissan Cube (go figure), for instance. But, while these compacts are purposely designed in that awkward fashion reminiscent of the late seventies, eighties and early nineties, boxy car design has pretty much died out some time ago. Still, we can’t allow ourselves to forget some of the true automotive icons that have boasted such hallmark design over the years. Especially when we see one of them around the block. This time we pay our tribute to 33 such vehicles which have rocked the boxy design like no other (excluding the Mercedes-Benz G Wagen).
The Best Box Shaped Square Cars Out There!
Volvo 700 Series
You’ll agree that the list of great boxy rides simply can’t exist without a Volvo on it, so let’s get that out of the way immediately. Of all the boxy Volvos over the years, the 700 Series models are probably the sharpest. Whether it’s the 740, 760 or 780, sedan or wagon – it simply doesn’t matter. They were all great cars in their time. The 800 series might have looked better and would probably find its place in today’s world, but it simply wasn’t as sharp as the Volvo 700. And when I say sharp, I mean it literally this time.
BMW M3 E30
Second generation 3 Series is when the BMW M3 first appeared. Around 200 horsepower and sharp crispy lines are the features defining this car. That and the fact it’s one hell of a fun car to drive which will probably look cool for the years to come.
20 years of production was enough for the Dodge Ramcharger to get under our skin. The SUV remained boxy and conservative throughout all three of its generations, and that’s one of the main reasons we loved it. Others – well, it was one tough and reliable car as well. How can you not love it?
Bentley Turbo R
Large, heavy, refined and powerful. Oh, and boxy too. How can one not love such a car? And the Bentley Turbo R was exactly that. It had around 300 horsepower and came just shy of 500 lb-ft of torque. Courtesy of 6.75L in-house turbocharged V8 engine. Although the production ceased in 1997, Turbo RT succeeded the R, and continued with the same boxy design. It also offered 100 additional ponies compared to its predecessor.
It’s really a pity that the concept of performance-oriented SUVs never really caught fire. Even today, it seems that SUVs guzzle way too much fuel in their base forms, let alone in performance ones. The GMC Typhoon produced in slightly more than 4,500 units came with 4.6L turbo V6 mill capable of making 280 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque. I bet that the black Typhoon would still kick ass today!
Well, the Maserati Biturbo did have problems of its own, but then again which car doesn’t? It wasn’t exactly the green leaker, but it did occasionally leak a few drops of oil, plus it would have been friends with the Fiero due to their fire-catching habits. Still, turbocharged V6 mills in Biturbo’s engine bay was quite a deal back then. And, there’s the boxy layout with refined interior there as well.
Probably the boxiest of all the Lamborghinis, the Countach was practically one of the pioneers of wedge shape. It was also a blueprint car for the future Lambos like its successor Diablo. Around 2,000 models have been produced over those 16 years and they came with between 270 hp and 455 hp, not counting the 736-horsepower LP500 Turbo S prototype.
Ford Fairmont/Mercury Zephyr
The Ford Fairmont and its mechanical twin Mercury Zephyr maybe weren’t the most popular cars in class, but they were sharp as Christmas boxes. Besides the slightly curved wheel arches, there’s pretty much no part without that sharp, boxy demeanor. That especially goes for wagons.
Chevrolet C/K (Third generation)
Although there’s very little we can say against the Chevrolet Silverado and Sierra’s current design, third generation cues are still being missed. Although beltline did exhibit some soft creases, pretty much everything else was sharp and angled. It’s a paradox really, for the third generation of C/K pickups to appear on this list. They were called the “rounded-line generation” trucks after all.
The C Class W124 generation of Mercedes-Benzes is arguably the boxiest of them all, although W140 successors didn’t move that far in terms of curvaceousness. In fact, the two generations were basically produced side by side. The most prominent in the sea of models was probably the 500E which was the result of Mercedes-Porsche collaboration. High-performance C Class W124 came with the 5.0L V8 pushing up no less than 322 all natural horsepower.
All four generations of the Toyota Cressida were boxy in their own way. Cressida actually continued until the 2004 under the Mark II nameplate which was its original name in Japan. However, these newer models had finally gained some curves to showcase. In any case, Cressida (which was replaced by Avalon), still reminisces of those boxy imports from the eighties.
Pontiac Firebird (Late second generation)
Pontiac Firebird might not have been as boxy as other cars on this list, but slant-nose rework which occurred in ’77 practically made it so. Nevertheless, when you see the black and gold Firebird Trans Am coming your way, I bet you still tremble in awe. Very few muscle cars were deserving of such awe in the late seventies, and Firebird is deservedly among them. As square cars go, there are more angular beasts, but the Firebird still has some sharp angles.
Volkswagen Golf Mk I and Mk II
Volkswagen Golf is much more popular in Europe where it has a cult following in some countries. Believe it or not, first and second generation are still some of the most popular vehicles in certain places. Their durability and practicality has a lot to do with it, but I bet that then-contemporary boxy design played a part as well.
Officially, it’s the third generation Volkswagen Transporter, but Vanagon just sounds better. After all, that was its name in American markets, both north and south. It was hard to replace the hippie van (second generation Transporter), but Vanagon has done a solid job in my opinion. It never had that kind of the cult following, but then again it never lived in those crazy times.
Land Rover Defender
Although there’s the 33-year long gap between the first and last Defenders, all Land Rovers were as boxy as they could be. Very few vehicles in automotive history can boast with such a long run without major design changes, but Land Rover Defender wasn’t made to be flashy. It was made to do the job, and it did its job splendidly until the very end.
Chevrolet Blazer (Second generation)
Chevy Blazer and GMC Jimmy went a long way without any major redesign. Hell, they were practically cut down upon reaching their adulthood. Still, 18 years of grandiose boxiness still makes us regret the day the Blazer was axed. Boxy design really suited it and there was obviously no need changing it anyway.
You might not think of Renault 21 as one of the best cars around, but it had its perks. It was What Car’s best family saloon for 1987 and Car of the Year in its station wagon Savanna form. It was even sold in the US, and some models came with transversely mounted engine. But most of all, Renault 21 is here for its boxy design which was flashy back then and still is.
Jeep Cherokee (XJ)
It was probably the XJ Jeep Cherokee that started what’ll become the modern crossover craze. At least Cherokee was the first to utilize the unibody structure which is ever present in the segment today. Plus it had the sharp, boxy layout which seems timeless even today.
The Ferrari Dino 308 would probably be more deserving of this list due to its design, but the F40 simply can’t be skipped. It earns its spot thanks to its iconic status which it gained fair and square. Plus, you can’t really say that Ferrari F40 isn’t boxy. To the contrary. Its sharp, wedge shape is one of the reasons it achieved the iconic status and cult following. 471 horsepower from twin-turbo V8 powerplant only helped along the way.
Third, fourth and fifth generation of Ford Bronco were as angular as any SUV that had competed against it back in the day. Unlike some of its competitors, Bronco certainly deserves to be on this list. It’s one of the most missed cars today and we’d take it back in a heartbeat. Even if it came with no changes in design whatsoever. After all, boxy really suited it.
Buick Grand National
Regals at the time weren’t exactly performance machines, but the Grand National was. The Buick GNX was especially powerful with around 300 horsepower on tap. It was actually one of the most powerful cars in the late eighties and we probably have to thank it for fighting the horsepower limitations in place since the early seventies. Who knows how the muscle car market would have looked today had it not been for the Grand National?
Chevrolet Malibu (Fourth generation)
Even the nameplates still in production today weren’t spared from the boxy design. Fourth generation Malibu was yet another angular car you could have chosen back then. And while sedans and coupes did have a few curves here and there, station wagons were devoid of them almost entirely.
Ford Explorer (First generation)
Unlike today, the Explorer started off smaller. Moreover, it started off as angular as its coevals have. We can’t really say that Explorer’s ugly today, but we certainly wouldn’t mind a few sharper creases upon it.
Honda CR-X (First generation)
Although quite similar, second generation did receive some angle-softening details, especially up front. That leaves us with the first generation Honda CR-X which exhibited much more boxy layout. It was a fine import sports compact as well with up to 135 horsepower and great fuel economy even for today’s standards.
Toyota Land Cruiser J60
Land Cruiser is one of the most celebrated SUVs ever created and it’s well-deserving of pretty much any related list. Incidentally, there was no boxier Land Cruiser than the J60, so here it is. US models were known as FJ60 and FJ62 due to their 2F and 3F in-line six powertrains. Otherwise, they were more or less the same as their overseas counterparts.
Willys Overland CJ-2A
It wasn’t exactly the perfect box, but what did you expect from the forties vehicle. Civilian Jeep was still boxy enough to make this list, though, and deservedly so. It has one of the flattest profiles ever created in a car, and it’s even complemented by the squared-off fenders. Even without that, Willys CJ-2A is an icon that simply can’t be replaced.
Ford F-150 (Seventh generation)
Seventh generation F-150 was probably the boxiest of them all, and an icon like the F-150 simply has to make this list. It was the first major redesign for the F-Series since 1965 as new trucks finally had the new chassis and body. They even had the unlucky Swiss cheese frame which didn’t exactly work out in a utility vehicle. Luckily, the frames were soon replaced and F-150 continued stronger than ever.
Mid-size front-wheel drive sedan was packed in a boxy layout which we were accustomed to back in early nineties. Although a family car, Spirit did have its performance version for ’91 and ’92 model years. Dodge Spirit R/T boasted the 2.2L Turbo III 4-cylinder engine with the Lotus head. It was good enough for 224 horsepower which, at the time, earned it the advertisement: “The fastest sedan made in America”.
Chevrolet Caprice (Third generation)
Not only that the third generation Caprice featured more angular layout, it was also much lighter and smaller than its predecessor. The changes paid off as Caprice went on to enjoy the prolonged 13-year production run in this form. There’s another interesting fact to this story. 1977 was the only year in history that one manufacturer had a full-size car (Caprice) smaller than its mid-size option (Monte Carlo).
Nissan Skyline R31
Although the Nissan Skyline R32 featured the likes of GT-R, R31 generation offered much sharper design with some performance specimens of its own. Skyline GTS-R was the special homologation touring car model powered by the 207-horsepower 2.0L turbo four, and only produced in 800 copies. You could cut yourself on its sharp edges if you weren’t careful.
Cadillac De Ville (Fifth generation)
Similar to the Chevy Caprice, the Cadillac De Ville series were also downsized and, of course, sharpened back in ’77. Cadillac De Ville is probably the best example of how boxy and sharp one car can get. It even discarded the rear fender skirts which used to be its trademark until then.
There’s no need saying how much of an impact the first generation Lexus LS had on the luxury car market. It was the first Lexus car ever made and it propelled the brand to instant fortune thanks to its contemporary boxy design and superb performance. Many of them are still on the roads which clearly testifies about their reliability.
For a full decade, Audi offered their boxy Quattro as both the passenger and the rally car. Not only that it had the all-wheel drive, but it cemented the 4WD moniker in Audi’s lineups forever. It’s still one of the most influential Audis and with meticulous boxy shape to match.
Bonus: Lada Niva
Need I say anything more? Just look at it and its production cycle and you will see why it tops our list of boxy cars.
There are plenty of other square cars out there, but which ones have we forgotten that you think deserve a spot on our boxy car list? There are a few Ford Mustang models that could make the cut, the Honda Civic has a few square cars in its history for sure, and no doubt there will be new car models that will go all out box in the near future. I’m looking at you Japan! If more boxy car models are coming our way, it’ll be the Japanese that make them, surely?