16 pet-friendly classics that are doggone good
You love classic cars. You also love your furry, four-legged best friends and want an opportunity to bring them along for the ride in something you’ll both enjoy. Instead of getting a stodgy new crossover whatever du jour, there are plenty of vintage and neo-classics that have room for your furry family members.
Whether you want to cruise around in style or hit the track on the weekends (preferably without your dog riding shotgun), we’ve selected a number of suitable options for pet-focused folks to enjoy. From mild to wild, each of these awesome vehicles has enough space for a modest-sized Fido and at least two humans. It’s not likely you’ll be cruising with a 200-pound mastiff, but any one of these would easily accomodate my 60-pound basset hound.
Selections are based on a few metrics. First and most important is a large and airy cabin with room for your pets to stretch out or lay down. While that can be done in any coupe or sedan with a back seat, the best include a relatively low and flat load floor, seats that can fold down flat, and access to windows, as pets are inquisitive and enjoy looking at their surroundings. Other factors include collectibility, rarity, performance value, and a potential return on your investment.
Here are 16 legitimate options to fill a collector car space in your garage and bring your pets along for the ride.
It’s not common for proper sports cars to be considered for pet transport, but some of them are actually quite brilliant for the task.
BMW M Coupe
Forget about your pets for a second because BMW’s brilliant Z3-based M Coupe is a masterclass in packaging and capability. Instead of a small trunk, the Germans baked in a large rear hatch to their two-seat sports car for some added utility. This is a daily-driver-grade fun car, and the low floor, reasonably spacious square footage, and optional net to separate dog from driver, the M Coupe might be the absolute best choice for the pet owner.
All varieties of the Porsche 944 (and 924 and 968, too) have a large and inviting rear hatch compartment with a nice flat-folding rear seat. You can fit a reasonably large dog into the back and they’ll have tons of room. The downside of this car’s transaxle layout, however, is that the hatch opening sits quite high off the floor, and you’ll have to lift Rex into the back. Best for small dogs, then.
Essentially an Mk2 Golf GTI with a chopped roof and a fetching Giugiaro figure, the Scirocco is an awesome little pocket rocket, and the back hatch is a great home for your spoiled pup. The rear seats don’t quite fold down flat, but they do fold.
A good hot hatch blends the utility of a wagon with the performance of a sports car. There’s a trade off on both, but they make for a good jack of all trades driving experience. You and your pet will love it.
Volkswagen Golf Mk2 GTI
The Mk2 Golf GTI is also an awesome car for pets. With a taller roof line, the GTI can likely fit a larger breed of dog than the Scirocco can. Plus it has the same powertrain and derivative chassis, so it has a similar feel. One drawback: Like its VW stablemate, the GTI’s rear seats don’t fold down quite flat.
Honda EH3 Civic Si
As the current Civic has ballooned to the size of an Accord, it’s refreshing to see a Civic Si that is the correct size and weight. While the Si doesn’t have a fancy interior or modern infotainment system, that’s probably for the best if you just want to rip around some back roads every once in awhile with your best friend at your side. With a decent-sized hatch and folding seats in back, this is a pretty good option and is reasonably inexpensive. Besides, aftermarket support for this car is still massive.
If you’re looking for something with a little bit more never-sold-here grass-is-greener cachet than a Civic or Golf, look to Lancia’s Group B homologation special for inspiration. With all-wheel drive and a laggy turbocharger, the Delta Integrale is a riot to pilot. It has all of the trappings of a small hatchback, but with more power, more rally-style good looks, and a lot more speed. It’s also a four-door hatch, which adds to the utility aspect. If your pooch can handle the G-forces, this is a good option.
Is there anything more quintessentially American than the full-sized wagon? For decades this was the road trip automobile du jour for families and their pets.
Dodge Magnum SRT8
Dodge’s valiant effort to bring the wagon back in the early 2000s didn’t quite work, and it was summarily cancelled after just four years. The SRT version made use of a 425-horsepower 6.1-liter Hemi, and hurled the big bruiser from 0–60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. With room for the whole family and quite fetching looks, the Magnum SRT is bound to be a future classic. It’s held its value quite well in the decade since it was cancelled, but it offers a lot of wagon for the money. Get one before their value goes way up.
Named on Hagerty’s 2019 Bull Market List as one of the best collector cars to buy, the Roadmaster is “the last great American road hog,” and likely nothing like it will ever be built again. It features a lazily comfortable ride that would make your sofa jealous, and the later models make use of 260 Corvette-sourced LT1 horsepower for tire burning churn. This car will fit multiple dogs in “the way back” with the rear-facing rumble seats down. Get one and revive the great American road trip. Just leave the iPad at home.
Like the Delta Integrale above, Audi’s Porsche-built RS2 Avant is one of those never-got-it-here classics. It’s also one of the best stubby wagons around. With turbocharged I-5 horsepower and Audi’s famous Quattro, the RS2 is a pure sports car with a wagon body. Throw in Porsche’s styling cues, lifted directly from the 964-generation 911, and you’ve got a proper collectible that you should look into acquiring post haste. The earliest models are legal to import under the 25 year rule this year. Treat yourself.
Trucks and SUVs
There are few combos better built for each other than a dog and a truck. It may be cliché, but there’s a reason for it. Just, whatever you do, don’t put your dogs in the bed of the truck. Bring them up into the cab so they can sit on the bench seat with you. They deserve it.
GMC once made a performance SUV that could out-sprint a contemporary Ferrari. With four driven wheels and a turbocharged V-6, the Typhoon is a monster. Built on the Jimmy two-door platform, it’s rippin’ and ready for a cruise, cars and coffee, or just a drive. Fewer than 5000 of these were produced in the early 1990s, and they’re definitely collectible right now and bound to continue an upward value trajectory.
Not quite as well known as Dodge’s powerhouse Lil’ Red Express, the Warlock was largely a trim package built to look like the LRW but without the hi-po 360 small-block. You could order a Warlock with any engine offered in Dodge’s pickup line at the time, including big-blocks, and color was optional, although many chose black. It’s a stylish-looking truck with a gold-accented stripe package and wheels, and it looks perfect with the optional oak-stake bed sides. Float down the road with a good dog as your co-pilot and you’re set up for a great day.
Volkswagen T3 DoKa (Double Cab)
Volkswagen’s famed Vanagon was offered as a pickup truck with optional Syncro four-wheel drive and a very useable four-door two-row cab at the front. The bed sides fold down for easy loading, and compared to the Vanagon the utility truck actually looks quite beefy. Whether they’re chilling in the spacious rear seat or sitting up front, your pets are ready for adventure. Subaru engine swaps are popularas a means for a good power boost.
It wasn’t long ago that vans were the accepted family mode of transport. They took over where wagons left off and grew in popularity for decades. It seems they’ve been bested by large SUVs these days, but true enthusiasts know that vans will always be cool.
The original minivan appears quite small in modern driving, because it is. These small K-car-based Caravans make use of the same drivetrains. As such, some were outfitted with a turbocharged version of the ubiquitous 2.2-liter, and some of those were equipped with a manual transmission. While not the most common platform for performance driving, it has an ingenious layout that provides for maximum space usage. Space that your four-legged friend will appreciate.
Any full-size van (Vandura, Tradesman, E-150)
Speaking of space, there is possibly no better vehicle for space than a full sized van. Grabbing a vintage van and re-creating the heady vannin’ days of the 1970s and early ’80s seems like a really fun and quirky idea right now. Vans are coming back, so load up on plush shag carpeting, Cragar S/S wheels, and start sketching out your vision of an airbrushed mural. You and your dog are headed for some wild van cruise-ins. Your pets will sink into the carpet, living in the lap of luxury.
Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier
The quirky air-cooled Chevy with infamous swing-axle suspension spawned a number of varieties, including the Lakewood station wagon and Greenbriar van. With an odd-yet-stylish exterior design and a driver’s seat that plants your butt directly over the steering wheel makes for a unique driving experience. The van has a low and flat load floor, due to the lack of driveshaft from the rear-mounted engine, and double pass-through load doors on the sides. These can be found in any number of configurations, from austere transportation to work van to camper outfit. Take it anywhere, and your dog will probably curl up on the warm engine cover
Perhaps the most dog-friendly car of all time is Honda’s Element. It’s not quite an SUV, as it doesn’t sit up any higher than your average hatchback, but with a tall roof and an upright seating position, it has a similar feel. Though only discontinued eight years ago, the Element continues to have an extremely fervent following. This is due, in part, to the car’s extreme versatility and huge load area. All of the fabric is stain-resistant, and the floors are TPO-coated textured urethane for easy cleanup.
All Elements made use of Honda’s 2.4-liter K-series four-cylinder and was available with a manual transmission. All-wheel drive was optional. If you’re looking for a reliable and safe modern future-classic that lets other people know you and your dog are outdoorsy types with the finest in weird Honda taste, this is your ticket.