Chuck Berry — "Maybellene" (1955)
Nobody's fool, Chuck Berry picked up on what Americans were hungering for. He took an older song called "Ida Red," added a few blistering electric guitar licks then started singing about a beautiful woman driving a souped-up roadster. Boom! A forefather of rock had his first big hit.
The Beach Boys — "Don't Worry, Baby" (1964)
It's hard to think of a Beach Boys song that isn't about cars: There's "Little Deuce Coupe" and "409," of course — and who could forget "Fun Fun Fun"? But take a listen sometime to the B side of "I Get Around," because nothing surpasses "Don't Worry, Baby." Brian Wilson's keening falsetto conveys insecurity in every note. At first the lyrics turn his anxiety about an upcoming drag race into a metaphor for fear of sex. But then they drop any such pretense, yielding one of the finest blends ever written about sex, cars and rock 'n' roll.
Wilson Pickett — "Mustang Sally" (1966)
How's this for a change of pace? Rather than pleading with his girl for a little lovin', the singer worries that she's a little too ardent a driver, if you follow me. As Pickett admonishes her recklessness in vain, his backup singers coo encouragingly, "Ride, Sally, ride!" Guess who wins? (Intriguing trivia: The song was titled "Mustang Mama" until Aretha Franklin heard it and suggested "Sally" might flow better. Queen of Soul, is there no end to your greatness?)
The Who — "Goin' Mobile" (1971)
Sung by Pete Townshend, this is one of the most carefree numbers on the Who's mighty Who's Next album. The lyrics depict a future where pollution has restricted travel, but not everyone is bound by such limits: "Watch the police and the taxman miss me, I'm mobile!" Propelled by Keith Moon's characteristically frenetic drumming and Townshend's heavily processed guitar solo, the song strains to stay below the speed limit when the volume is cranked.