Size matters: biggest cars ever

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Is bigger always better? It would be easy to form that view looking at the histories of many car companies. We take a look at some historic heavyweights as well as interesting trends in the size of popular vehicles in the modern era.

The new deal: Cadillac V16

In 1930, at the height of the Great Depression, American icon Cadillac launched a large, luxury saloon with a V16 engine - for instance, 16 cylinders instead of the usual six or eight cylinders, which powered most American vehicles of that time, and an engine that has a capacity of 7.4 litres. The V16 Cadillaci was a vehicle of unprecedented smoothness and refinement in its era. The V16 engine was a bold statement that the American Dream was - despite the hardships of the time - alive and well. The luxurious saloon could seat up to seven passengers.

The Mercedes Benz 600 Pullman became the vehicular statement of choice for stars such as Elvis Presley and John Lennon. Source:; Attributed to: Curimedia

Divine inspiration: Mercedes Benz 600 Pullman

Major vehicle manufacturers have long vied with each other to capture the exclusive market reserved for the political and industrial leaders of the world. Mercedes Benz didn't hold back when designing the 600 Pullman (1963 - 1981)ii giving it many advanced technological features such as air suspension and hydraulically operated doors. To give you an idea of its size, the 600 Pullman had a 6.3lt V8 engine and was 6.2 metres in length and nearly 2 metres wideiii.

The magnified Mercedes Benz styling cues emanated presence and the handcrafted leather and rosewood interior of the vehicle exuded opulence, making it the choice of many famous (and several infamous) world leadersiv. Little wonder that the Vatican deemed the 600 Pullman a suitable vehicle for Pope Paul VIv. In the dawning age of celebrity it was also the vehicular statement of choice for stars such as Elvis Presley and John Lennonvi.

Troop carrier on R&R: the Hummer

The Hummer was born in the 1980s as a military utility vehicle: the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) was promptly nicknamed the Humvee. It was as wide as a heavy truck, weighed just over 4500kg and possessed enormous ground clearance and height enabling it to cover the rough tracks of overseas conflict zonesvii. In 2002 General Motors utilised the Humvee platform to produce relatively svelte (3900kg) Hummer H2 sport utility vehicles (SUVs) for buyers who want a little more SUV in their SUV!

When heading out for that long-planned hen's or buck's night a standard Hummer - arguably the largest light vehicle on Australian roads in its production form - just won't do; it has to be a strettttccchh job. Just what did the Pope miss out on in his Pullman 600 that many Sydney working class people regularly enjoy in their (hired) Hummerviii? Quite a lot actually; seating for 16 plus a disco floor complete with - you guessed it - disco balls, strobe lights and smoke machines. You don't have to be a star to ride in a Hummer but you certainly can act like one.

Yank tanks no more: the SUV

Australians have fallen in love with the American concept of the Sport Utility Vehicle. Sales of SUVs have risenix from around 7% of total vehicle sales a decade ago to approximately 29% in recent months. The chart below illustrates that there has been a corresponding drop in the percentage of passenger vehicles as a consequence of the popularity of SUVs.

Australian Vehicle Sales 1994 - 2013. Source data: ABS 9314.0 (2013) Sales of New Motor Vehicles, Australia.

Bigger small cars – a contradiction in terms?

It seems that many cars that were once small - really small - now seem quite substantial. Consider the long-running Toyota Corolla: the 1967 KE10 Corollax boasted a 1.1lt engine delivering 44KW of power to propel its 710kgxi. The 2012 E160 Corollaxii requires a sophisticated 1.8lt 103KW engine to punch its rather more portly 1255kgxiii through the atmosphere.

There is more than simply 45 years between these much-admired Toyota stalwarts. The E160 offers features, technologies and safety devices that were unavailable in the 1960's - they all require space and material.

The small car market is perhaps the fiercest of all and even in this class many manufacturers vie with each other for the greatest comfort, the largest interior space and the most powerful engines. Perhaps it is no great surprise that even when talking small: bigger is better.

No matter the size of your car, make sure it's covered on the road or in case of theft or damages with Allianz's comprehensive car insurance. Get a quote from Allianz today!

i General Motors 2013, Cadillac History & Heritage, viewed 11 November 2013,

ii Smith S 2011, "Grosser gravy: 10 things you didn't know about the Mercedes Benz 600", Car and Driver, 14 July, viewed 11 November 2013,

iii Autoevolution, Mercedes Benz 600 Pullman-6 door (V100) 6.3 V8 1964 – 1981, viewed 14 November 2013,

iv Hall J 2009, "Photos: Mercedes-Benz classics", Road and Track, 3 October, viewed 11 November 2013,

v Knapman C 2013, "Is the Popemobile a second-hand car?", The Telegraph, 19 March, viewed 11 November 2013,

vi Stern JP 2011, "Pope's Mercedes 600 comes to US", Luxist, 23rd February, viewed 11 November 2013,

vii History, This day in History – The Origins of the Hummer, viewed 12 November, 2013,

viii Hummer Limousines 2010, Arrive in style, viewed 11 November 2011,

ix Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2012, 9314.0 Sales of New Motor Vehicles, viewed 11 November 2013,

x Mellor J 2013, Toyota Corolla (KE10 Corolla), viewed 11 November 2013,

xi Toyota Motor Corporation, 75 Years of Toyota Vehicle Linage, viewed 12 November 2013,

xii Mellor J 2013, Toyota Corolla (E160 Corolla), viewed 11 November 2013,

xiii Toyota Motor Corporation, Corolla Specifications: Ascent Hatch, viewed 11 November 2013,