The 7 Sexiest Cars Without Grills (Before the Tesla Model S)

Cars don’t always have to bare their teeth.

byBen Keeshin|
History photo

Four years after deliveries of the electric super-sedan first began, Tesla is refreshing the Model S. While that slinky, Aston Martin-esque shape remains, several tweaks bring it into line with the company's newer Model X and Model 3. New LED headlights can illuminate curves, and a new, 48-amp charger is standard. Inside, new interior trims will be available, plus a (literally) weapons-grade cabin filtration system that filters out 99.7% of airborne particulates and can, in "Bioweapon Defense Mode," create positive pressure inside the car should Bashar al-Assad's terrorizing reach northern California. The biggest change—the one you'll notice from your own sad, gasoline-powered automobile—is the new Model S' grille-less face: it's tidy and handsome. There's no radiator behind that prow: why perforate it?

Of course, it's not just electric cars that have historically forsaken grills. Some of our favorite motoring icons, front- and rear-engined alike, have done without metal grates. Sometimes, passive cooling is enough—plus, a smooth, shiny nose is chic and sleek. Need proof? Here are seven of our favorite toothless transportation options.

1955-1965 Citroën DS

Al Paloczy/Getty Images

Among its many novel features (oleo-pneumatic suspension, anyone?), the DS was one of the most aerodynamic cars of its day, in part due to that sharp, smooth front fascia. It's a graceful look fitting for a goddess.

1993 Mustang GT


Despite a thumping, gasping 5.0-liter V8 underhood, late-model Fox-body Mustangs made due with a lower air intake, with just a blue oval between those butch headlights. It's as if a some burly strongman shaved: he's still powerful, just smoother.

1991-2002 Mazda RX-7


The RX-7 was one of the last Mazdas to come with that wildly-spinning rotary engine. On the surface, though, it was all glassy: all the swoops of the RX-7, absent any mesh.


General Motors

It's not as sexy as the current Model S, but back in the Nineties, the EV-1 was the realest electric car the country had every seen. It's bloppy, swoopy lines maximized range, which was also helped by a super-smooth fascia.

1950-1965 Porsche 356

Wikimedia Commons

A rear-engine design meant the classic Porsche Bathtub needn't mar its polished-rock lines with strakes or gaping holes. All the better to concentrate on that iconic, wide-eyed 356 gaze.

1955-1959 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

Colin Creitz/Getty Images

Like the Porsche, the Karmann Ghia kept things clean up front, with only a novel-sized slatted opening over the trunk. With lines like this, any ornamentation just distracts.

1963-1967 Shelby Cobra

Teddy Pieper/RM Sotheby's

Stick with us here. While, yes, the Shelby has a classic oval grill opening, the metal strakes were removed in order to facilitate maximum cooling. It worked so well, and looked so boss, Ford brought back the style on their last generation GT500.