1968 Ferrari Dino 206 GT and 2008 Ferrari F430
Battista Farina’s design house, Pininfarina (it’s now run by his grandson), is credited with some of the most elegant cars in history, and Ferrari’s Dino line is one of its masterpieces. The 206 marked a major departure for Ferrari—its shape (with the engine in the back, a long, low nose, and air intakes chiseled into its rear quarter panels), unlike that of any previous model, was controversial. But it pointed the way forward for Ferrari, so much so that 40 years later the company’s quintessential car, the F430, is almost the spitting image of the 206—and still has the Pininfarina logo on the side.

1957 Mercedes 300 SL Roadster and 2008 Mercedes SL600
There are plenty of reasons, including doors that flip open vertically, why the 1954 300 SL Gullwing coupe remains one of the most sought-after collectible cars in the world. The roadster version came three years later, with a convertible top in lieu of winglike doors. After over half a century and several SL incarnations, the 2009 SL600, which was released this summer, is a chip off the old block. It’s as streamlined as a bullet, with a bubblelike cockpit, conspicuous side vents, and the giant Mercedes star centered on a single horizontal bar in the front grille—all of which originated with the 1957 classic.

1970 BMW 3.0 CSL and 2008 BMW M6
The M Series, BMW’s high-performance line, didn’t get its formal start until 1978, when the M1 made its debut at the Paris Motor Show. But 10 years before that, the 2800 CSL was already showcasing the future series’ defining characteristics. The two-door coupe was among the first models to use a combination of elements that has become one of the German carmaker’s trademarks: four round headlights and a steeply angled cockpit accented in chrome. Today’s M6 retains the side vents and bisected kidney grille that the original CS featured. Another piece of DNA passed down: the “Hofmeister kink,” a subtle angle cut out of the bottom corners of the rear windows that’s named after Wilhelm Hofmeister, BMW’s design director from 1955 to 1970.

1958 Porsche Type-718 RS 60 and 2008 Porsche RS 60
Porsche’s Erwin Komenda, who died in 1966, produced work decades ahead of his time. The 550 Spyder he conceived in 1953 looks like a torpedo with wheels. It spawned the Type-718 RS 60 (the Boxster)—essentially a two-seater race car with the engine in the back, like an early Volkswagen (Komenda was also responsible for the shape of the Beetle). The current Boxster borrows more than the RS 60’s name (Porsche has made 1,960 special edition 2008 RS 60 Boxsters to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the car). Put them side by side and the similarities—the low grille openings, the bug-eye headlights, and the curved front end—are striking.