Caterham 7

Caterham 7 1970s British classic sports car

Above all, the Caterham 7 was fun to drive! The car was Colin Chapman's baby. It began life as the Lotus 7. Chapman - boss of the legendary British marque - claimed to have built the prototype in a weekend. That was in '57. Lotus went on to manufacture the '7' for the next 15 years. It was sold by Caterham Cars - under the stewardship of Graham Nearns. In '73, Lotus stopped producing the Seven - the rights for it passing to Caterham Cars. Encountering problems with the plastic-bodied Series 4 model, Nearns and his team reverted to the aluminium-bodied Series 3 Seven.

Caterham were committed to the 'pure driving experience'. Key to that was light weight ... always a priority for Chapman, too. The 7's nose cone and wings, then, were glass-fibre. And the rest of the bodywork aluminium. There was a tubular steel chassis. The original rear axles were sourced from Ford and Morris. Later, Caterham came up with their own De Dion-based set-up. To begin with, Caterham stuck to the Lotus 'Twin Cam' engine. The 126bhp motor was spot-on ... until stocks ran out. Ford rolled to the rescue. Tuning options came in the shape of GT, Sprint, and Supersprint. Still more power was provided by the Cosworth BDA engine. And even more by a Vauxhall 2.0-litre unit. It made 175bhp. From '91 onward, Caterhams came with Rover 'K-Series' engines ... in 1.4, 1.4 Supersport, 1.6, and 1.6 Supersport varieties!

Top-of-the-range Seven was the JPE - Jonathan Palmer Evolution - model. Named after the F1 driver who helped develop it, the JPE car encapsulated the Caterham creed. Technically a roadster, its race-spec 250bhp engine catapulted it to 150mph. It hit 60 in less than 3.5s. Indeed, the JPE 7 out-dragged a Ferrari F40 up to 100mph. At the time, that made it the fastest-accelerating car in the world. With no windscreen - and carbon-fibre wings - the JPE 7 had 'race-track' written all over it! All in all, then - as Caterham had intended it would be - the Seven was a one-stop shop for automotive exhilaration!

Audi Quattro

Audi Quattro 1980s German sports car

The Audi Quattro revolutionised motoring. On its launch - in 1980 - it was the safest car on the planet. Its state-of-the-art 4-wheel drive set-up had taken grip to a new level. Top speed was 142mph. 0-60 took just 6.3s. That came courtesy of a turbocharged, 2.1-litre 5-cylinder engine. Top-spec output was 220bhp.

Certainly, the Audi rally team had taken 4-wheel drive to its heart! As with the roadster, the Quattro rally car significantly upped traction in the rough stuff. Somewhere between the road and rally cars was the Quattro Sport - a 2-seater 'homologation special'. It was fitted with a 300bhp motor. Just enough production cars were built to qualify it to go rallying. Its shorter wheelbase meant it handled even better than the standard version. Though it was three times the price of the base model, a top speed of 155mph made it more than tempting!

When Audi announced they were pulling the plug on the Quattro, there was uproar. Audi succumbed to public pressure - and production continued until '91. Motorists had fallen in love with four-wheel drive. The Audi Quattro rally car's remarkable tally of wins only intensified that love!

Chevrolet Corvair

Chevrolet Corvair 1960s American classic car

The Chevrolet Corvair never fulfilled its potential. The car garnered a largely unwarranted reputation for oversteer. Professional 'whistle-blower' Ralph Nader pounced on the Corvair's supposed handling defects - duly detailing them in his book 'Unsafe At Any Speed'. This was a tract devoted to automotive health and safety. His views were duly taken up by American motorists - and the Corvair's fate was sealed. A '64 revamp - with revised rear suspension - was a last-ditch attempt to rid the Chevy of its 'wild child' image. It did not work.

The Corvair, though, got a tick in the box marked 'technical innovation'. It featured a rear-mounted flat-six engine. Suspension was fully independent. Several versions of the Corvair were released throughout the '60s. There was a sporty coupé, a convertible, and even a turbo-charged model. At its most potent, it produced 180bhp. That gave a top speed of 105mph.

The Corvair was designed to take on cheap European cars flooding the US at the time. It was marketed as 'compact' - though that was more by American than European metrics. Certainly - in terms of styling - the Corvair's restrained lines were cut from a more European cloth than many of its American siblings. It went on to influence the Hillman Imp and NSU Prinz. Size-wise, it was similar to the British-made Ford Zephyr. Chevrolet went so far as to dub the coupé the 'Monza'. More than 1,000,000 Corvairs were built. Sadly, those misgivings about the car's handling never subsided. As a result, '64's Ford Mustang galloped on ahead. The Chevrolet Corvair, though, had blazed a neat and tidy trail for European-style sophistication.

Lotus Elite

Lotus Elite 1950s British classic sports car

The Lotus Elite is widely regarded as one of the most stylish cars the firm made. Primarily, that was down to Peter Kirwan Taylor. Though not a leading light in the automotive design field at the time, Lotus put their faith in him - and it paid off. Launched in '59, the Elite remained in production for four years. In the course of that time, it became an iconic British sports car. As always - with Colin Chapman at the helm - light weight was key. The Elite was the first car to be built on a glass-fibre monocoque chassis. That helped it reach a top speed of 130mph. Supremely aerodynamic lines also helped. The Elite was agile, too. Few cars could hold a candle to it through corners.

Power was provided by an overhead-cam 'Coventry Climax' engine. When kitted out with one carburettor, it delivered 71bhp. A twin-carb set-up increased that to 83bhp. The 4-speed gearbox came courtesy of BMC. The SE version would be fitted with a close-ratio, 5-speed ZF 'box. Power went up to 105bhp. The Elite was always economical, though - in large part because of its light weight. As impressive as the Elite's straight-line speed was its handling. The car was suspended by coil-spring dampers at the front - and Chapman struts (modified MacPherson struts) at the rear. Steering was by rack-and-pinion. A full complement of high-grade disc brakes came as standard. Of slightly more questionable quality were the windows. While pleasing on the eye, their unusual profile meant they would not wind down fully. Not what you wanted on a hot summer's day!

In most other respects, though, the Elite did full justice to its name. Certainly, it was out of the top drawer styling-wise. For example, the dash was designed to echo the car's chic low profile. The Elite did have its faults, however. Apart from the wind-down window problem, the monocoque was prone to noisy vibration. And interior decor was somewhat sparse. In a lesser car, such flaws might have been an 'issue'. In the case of the Elite, though, the blemishes merely 'added character'. Taken in the round, the Lotus Elite was a fine - and quintessentially British - sports car.

Jaguar MKII

Jaguar MKII 1950s British classic car

The Jaguar MKII was one of the great all-rounders. Pretty much anything you wanted from a car, it would do. Indeed, so versatile was the 'MKII Jag' that both cops and robbers fell in love with it! There was a shared reason for that. The top-spec 3.8 version - with manual overdrive - was good for 125mph. And with no speed limit on British roads at the time, you could make the most of that number. Not that observing the speed limit would have been top of the robbers' list of priorities! Saying that, the MKII Jag was also the ideal commuter-car for the business class. As refined as you like when it wanted to be, the MKII would ferry its well-heeled occupants with sumptuous ease. The Jaguar MKII, then, was all things to all men and women. Included in that was that it was - like all Lyons' cars - affordably-priced.

Not surprisingly, then - for a car with such universal appeal - the MKII got a call from the movie studios. It played cameo rôles in Performance, alongside James Fox and Mick Jagger - and Get Carter, in which it was hard on the tail of Michael Caine. On TV, Inspector Morse would not be seen in anything else. Of course, such sashaying across screens did the car's sales figures no harm at all. 83,980 MKIIs were built. At race-tracks, too, the Jag played a starring part. In saloon-car showdowns, it was highly competitive. And the fact that legends like racing driver Graham Hill, and Lotus boss Colin Chapman owned MKIIs only added to its mystique.

Certainly, the MKII was beautiful to behold. And that, really, was the reason for its popularity. Stock-broker, or law-breaker ... either way, in a MKII, you looked like $1,000,000! The car had Sir William Lyons' stamp all over it - both in terms of styling and engineering. Inside, the leather seats, wooden dash and door cappings, and dial- and switch-encrusted facia - all displayed Lyons' keen eye for design detail. On the performance front, the MKII used tried and tested Jaguar technology. Its straight-six XK engine delivered 220bhp in 3.8-litre format. For a while, that made the MKII Jag the quickest saloon car around. Technically, it was released in '59 - though it will always be synonymous with the Sixties. Instantly recognisable, the Jaguar MKII defined its times. Or, in other words - it was a cast-iron classic car!

Lancia Aurelia B20

Lancia Aurelia B20 1950s Italian classic car

The Lancia Aurelia B20 was the first Gran Turismo car. It passed through six series of production - from 1950 to '58. GP stars Juan Manuel Fangio and Mike Hawthorn both drove B20s off-duty. Safe to say, then, that they were reasonably quick! Styling-wise, too, B20s were ahead of the field. After all, the design brief had been given to Pininfarina. Credit, though, must also go to Vittorio Jano. He it was who conceived the Lancia Aurelia B10 saloon car - in 1950. That had served as the template for the B20.

The B20 was powered by a V6 engine - again, the first in series production. Output was 112bhp - co-incidentally, the same figure as the B20's top speed. The alloy block was rubber-mounted - to reduce vibration in parts of the rev range. A single camshaft operated on light alloy push-rods. Hemispherical combustion chambers housed in-line valves. A double-choke Weber 40 carburettor squeezed through the juice. Transmission was via a 4-speed gear-box - and column-shift. Later versions of the B20 were fitted with DeDion rear suspension - to improve handling in the wet. Front suspension, too, was duly beefed up - to counter brake judder, and steering shimmy. Handling and braking on the 5th and 6th Series B20s would have been helped by their increased torque levels. That was the result of de-tuning the motor - by means of a 'softer' cam.

Lancia supplied a succession of coach-builders with a rolling chassis. Chief amongst them were Vignale. None of them, though, topped the simple sophistication of Pininfarina's original. Rarely has coupé bodywork looked so good. Arguably, Lancia broke the GT mould with the Aurelia B20 - at the first time of asking. If so, rival manufacturers have been trying to piece it back together ever since!

Lamborghini Espada

Lamborghini Espada 1960s Italian classic supercar

The Lamborghini Espada was styled by Bertone. Design standards were of the highest - both inside and out. Sitting pretty atop the tail lights, for example, was a clear glass panel. Not only was it a sweet visual flourish - it assisted with parking, too. The Espada's interior was state of the art. Its focal point was a control console, between the front seats. That - and a 'techie' dash - provided an aircraft-style array of dials and switches. And classic supercar though it was, the 4-seater Espada was far from cramped.

The top-spec Espada was good for 155mph. The engine was a 4-litre V12. It sat beneath an alloy bonnet - pleasingly pierced by NACA ducts along the sides. A one-off 5-speed gearbox did the transmission honours.

The Espada's ride was pliant and smooth. That was aided by all round wishbone suspension - plus a wide track, and fat tyres. Overall handling was excellent. Power steering, and auto transmission were options on later models. The Espada was based on the 'Marzal' concept car. When the Espada was released - in 1968 - it set a new speed benchmark for 4-seater cars. In terms of both looks and engineering, then, the Lamborghini Espada was a genuine Italian masterpiece!

Triumph Speed Triple

Triumph Speed Triple 1990s British sports bike

The Triumph marque looked dead in the water in 1983, when the once-famous firm went into receivership. If it was to survive, it needed a saviour - and fast! Up to the plate strode multi-millionaire building magnate, John Bloor. A new HQ was set up in Hinckley, England. Which was actually quite close to the original Triumph factory - in Meriden, Birmingham. For the next eight years - behind walls of secrecy - Bloor and his colleagues planned a new range of Triumphs. Throwing off the shackles of the wilderness years, the new bikes would be modern marvels of engineering. There would also, though, be designer references to Triumph's glory days.

In '91, six new Triumphs rolled into the showrooms. The parallel twins of yore were no more. Instead, there were three- and four-cylinder engines - complete with double overhead camshafts, and water-cooling. Stylistically, a sea change had occurred. The new machines were every bit as slick and futuristic as their Japanese counterparts. Indeed, suspension and brakes on the new bikes were manufactured in Japan. Notwithstanding, they were welcomed into the bosom of the 'Brit Bike' family with open arms. No doubt, there were a few 'dyed-in-the-wool' riders with reservations. Overall, though, a new generation of bikers was just glad to have one of the great British brand-names back in the mix.

Certainly, the naming of the new arrivals harked back to the past. Trident, Trophy, Thunderbird ... this was the stuff of legend! In '94 came the 'Speed Triple'. Its name recalled the 'Speed Twin' of the Sixties - but in every other respect it was state of the art. Of course, Triumph had long turned out a tasty 'triple' - and this new bike was no exception. Clocking up a top speed of 130mph, it output 97bhp from an 885cc motor. Looks-wise, the 'naked' layout pared weight down to 460lb dry - and lent itself to lean and aggressive styling. The Speed Triple was more than competent in every department. Unsightly oil stains were definitely now the stuff of history! The mighty Triumph marque was back on its feet ... and looking like it would be around for a while!

Lotus 79

Lotus 79 1970s classic F1 car

The Lotus 79 was yet another offering from the fertile mind of Colin Chapman. This time, the legendary Lotus boss trained his sights on 'ground-effect' - the process of aerodynamically 'pressing' the car to the race-track. In theory, it is said, an F1 car could be driven upside-down - so strong is the 'down-force' it generates. It was that kind of handling Chapman sought to incorporate into the new Lotus!

Lotus started out on their ground-effect quest with the '78' - dubbed the 'wing car'. Each side-pod housed an inverted aerofoil. 'Skirts' below the side-pods ducted air through a venturi. That created a vacuum - by slowing down, and then speeding up air through a bottle-neck. The skirt sealed in the air - which the aerofoil then used to 'suction-clamp' the car to the tarmac. The upshot was that the Lotus 78 was the fastest car on the grid. Though that would be partly offset by reliability issues. The Lotus 79, then, up-dated the ground-effect project. The best parts of the '78' car were retained. And Chapman and the team added a couple of extras. By placing the fuel tank behind the driver, the chassis could be narrowed. That helped the venturi do its thing - so increasing down-force. The side-pod skirts had also been up-rated. Now they were free to move up and down - providing a surer seal than previously.

The net result of these developments was exactly as Lotus had hoped. The '79' car was streets ahead in the 1978 season. Mario Andretti drove the car to five GP wins - enough to take the World Championship. Team-mate Ronnie Peterson also won - and was runner-up in the final standings. Lotus-Ford took the Constructors' Championship at a canter. Chapman - and the team - were understandably ecstatic. But it was not to last. When the '79 season dawned, it was clear that the competition had come prepared! Almost to a team, they were armed with their own versions of 'ground-effect'. And some of the engineers had twigged that yet more down-force could be wrung from it - so long as parts of the car were strengthened to cope. Lotus would be outstripped by their beefed-up rivals. But that never obscured the fact that - during its season in the sun - the Lotus 79 had put its F1 rivals well and truly in the shade!

NSU Ro80

NSU Ro80 1960s German classic car

The styling of the NSU Ro80 was ahead of its time. At first glance, masses of glass were straight out of science-fiction. Closer inspection revealed the gently rising line of its profile - giving it a low front, high back stance - which would influence automotive design for years to come. The 5-seater body was supremely aerodynamic for a saloon car - making cruising at speed a breeze. So flawless was it outwardly that it was hardly touched in ten years of production. Just the tail-lights were modified, on later versions.

The Ro80's handling was equally impressive. FWD - and precision power-steering - kept it perfectly pointed. The long-travel strut suspension soaked up bumps. High-efficiency disc brakes were fitted all round. The 3-speed semi-automatic transmission swept through the gears with aplomb. Top speed was a sound 112mph.

But, of course, nothing is ever perfect. The Ro80 was powered by a twin-rotor Wankel engine. Unfortunately - in a rush to get the car into showrooms - the motor had been under-developed. A mere 15,000 miles revealed the fault. The Wankel's rotor-tip seals wore out prematurely. Frustrated owners reported less power - and more fuel consumption! As wear increased, engines were harder to start. If the car could be coaxed into life at all, it was with thick smoke billowing from its exhaust pipe. NSU settled warranty claims without ado - and kept on settling them. Indeed, it was not uncommon for an Ro80 to have near double-digit engine replacements by the end of its days! Which only serves to illustrate what an alluring package the Ro80 must have been overall. Any car which can cause so may problems - and still be in demand - must have something pretty special going for it. In terms of its looks, the NSU Ro80 certainly did!

Bristol 401

Bristol 401 1940s British classic car

The 'Aerodyne' body shape - as exemplified by the Bristol 401 - was the work of Italian design house Touring. As its name suggests, aerodynamics were the name of the Aerodyne game. The 401's fluid lines - and 'teardrop' tail - moved it through air with the minimum of resistance. Indeed - years after its production run ended - there were still few cars that could match the 401's aerodynamic package. Aptly, the car was developed at an airport - along the two-mile stretch of the Filton runway - in Bristol, England. Tests showed that it was travelling at a tad shy of 100mph. It was powered by a two-litre, 85bhp engine. Pretty small beer, given that the 401 was a four-seater saloon car - carrying plenty of interior trim. Clearly, aerodynamics were playing a pivotal part in that 100mph top speed stat. Saying that, Bristol had 'borrowed' the engine from BMW - as part of the First World War reparations. So, no doubt, Teutonic efficiency helped. Low wind noise - and 25mpg fuel economy - were welcome by-products of the 401's 'slipperiness'.

The same kind of rarefied design work found its way into other areas of the 401, too. The body panels, for example, were graded for thickness - according to the job that they did. So, those that made up the wings were more meaty - thus, giving mechanics something to lean against. Now, that is functional design! The 4-speed gearbox was a slick piece of precision engineering. The 401's steering-wheel was on a suitably aeronautical theme. With its 'banana' spoke, it mimicked that which was found in Bristol aircraft, at the time.

The Bristol 401, then, was the sort of machine which makes people - born years after the 401 expired - seek to become design students. Hopefully, of the automotive kind! If you had used the phrase 'built-in obsolescence' to those who styled and manufactured the Bristol 401, they would not have had the first idea what you were talking about. Not because they were stupid ... but because it simply would never have occurred to them to think in that way!

Bentley Continental R

Bentley Continental R 1950s British classic car

The Bentley Continental R was beautiful - coach-built, as it was, by London's HJ Mulliner, among others. But that was not all! It had a top speed of 124mph - making it the fastest 4-seater automobile in the world at the time. Mind you, it was a combination few could afford - in what was still post-war Britain. The Continental R was strictly for business magnates, movie stars and royalty. And the odd member of the landed gentry. The highest levels of comfort came as standard. Put simply - in the early '50s, the Continental R was the best car money could buy!

The Continental R's stately lines were refined in the Rolls-Royce wind tunnel - at Hucknall, England. John Blatchley was the stylist extraordinaire who oversaw the operation. When combined with HJ Mulliner's alloy body - and a one-off Supersports chassis - the result was a cutting edge coupé. Gearing was raised from that of the Bentley R - the Continental's less sophisticated predecessor. That meant long-legged power throughout the rev range. The straight six motor's compression ratio was also upped. And a big-bore exhaust system was introduced. As a consequence, the Continental's deep-breathing 4,566cc engine made light work of country roads. Aluminium bumpers, and alloy-framed bucket seats, helped keep the Continental's weight down - notwithstanding its gargantuan size.

In austerity-ravaged '50s Britain, the name 'Continental' must have conjured up visions of exotic locales. Replete with cars like the 'R' sweeping majestically through idyllic villages, and rolling landscapes. Certainly, the car's interior was furnished for far-flung travel. The wide, wooden dashboard housed a rev counter, and oil temperature gauge. Such items had been considered surplus to requirements for the saloon version of the car. Only 208 Continentals were built. The Bentley Continental R was about as exclusive as a motor-car gets. But then - since it was at the top of its game in every department - it was always going to be that way!

Facel Vega Facel II

Facel Vega Facel II 1960s French classic car

You know when a car has cracked it - celebrities and royalty queue round the block to snap one up! So it was with the Facel Vega Facel II. Among them would have been Ringo Starr - drummer in a band called The Beatles. There were racing drivers, too, of course - like Stirling Moss and Rob Walker.

Fittingly, the Facel II fared well at the race-track, as well as on-road. It was, after all, powered by a highly tractable V8. Top speed was 140mph. A 4-speed manual Pont a' Mousson gearbox was hooked up to that 390bhp Chrysler 300 block.

With four passengers and a full tank of fuel, the Facel II weighed in at almost two tons. Thankfully, Armstrong 'Selecta-Ride' rear dampers were fitted. Brakes-wise, a full set of Dunlop discs did the honours. The Facel II came with power steering, leather seats and electric windows, as standard. Cockpit instrumentation was on an aeronautical theme. The Facel II, then, was fast, comfortable - and, above all, supremely stylish. It cost as much as several comparable cars put together. So - as you would expect - just 160 Facel Vegas were built ... in true exclusive style!

Marcos 1800 GT

Marcos 1800 GT 1960s British classic sports car

If ever there was a company which encapsulated English eccentricity, it was Marcos. The name was an amalgam of the two founders - Jem Marsh and Frank Costin. Their opening salvo was a wooden sports-car! So successful was it at the track, that Jackie Stewart launched his career in one. Now we know where Stewart first got a heads up for racing 'health and safety'! Out of that ornate oddity emerged the classic Marcos sports car. It was to sport several changes of shape over the years. The formative lines were drawn by Dennis and Peter Adams. Unveiled in '64, the Marcos wowed London's 'Earls Court Racing Car Show'. Its body was fashioned from cutting edge glass-fibre. Its chassis, though, was still made out of wood! Suspension-wise, the Marcos was first fitted with Triumph wishbones at the front, and de Dion and Triumph arms at the rear. That was later replaced by a Ford live-axle set-up. Over time, Ford, Volvo and Triumph motors would be installed. It was already apparent that Marcos did not do 'predictable'!

Marcos have long been associated with motor racing. In '66, a 'Mini-Marcos' hybrid was the sole British entry to complete that year's Le Mans 24-hour race. Equipped with a Mini motor, the Marcos was relatively cheap to campaign. It could still be sourced new right up to '94. Marcos' Le Mans exploits were referenced by the LM500 and LM600 models. Launched in '94, they marked Marcos' return to the legendary French circuit.

At the start of the '70s, Marcos released the iconic Mantis. As the decade wore on, though, the marque was less visible. It fell to Jem Marsh to keep the servicing and parts departments open. '81 saw a Marcos resurgence - with power supplied by Ford. It was perfect timing. With not a lot happening on the sports-car scene at the time, Marcos' revival was a shot in the arm not only for the marque, but the industry. 1983's Marcos Mantula - complete with a Rover V8 motor - was a hit in the showrooms. More plaudits followed two years later - with the arrival of the Spyder. Marcos moved into the '90s with the Mantara - which saw a shift in styling. The Adams brothers' original curves were still there - but suitably revised for the run-up to the new millennium. '97 saw an update of the mythical Marcos Mantis. Thanks to its Ford V8 engine, the Mantis GT thundered around race-tracks at a top speed of more than 170mph. All in all, then, Marcos had definitely ticked the 'quirkiness' box! But those in the automotive know have never taken the marque less than seriously. Certainly, Marcos cars have raised many an eyebrow, over the years. But one cannot help but suspect that that was always part of the Marsh/Costin game-plan!

Bugatti T251

Bugatti T251 1950s French F1 car

The Bugatti T251 was designed by Gioacchino Colombo. He had formerly worked for Ferrari. F1 cars of the era were typically front-engined - but Columbo's T251 broke with that tradition. Its straight-eight engine was placed behind the driver. The 5-speed Porsche gearbox - and final drive - were unitary with the motor. That gave weight distribution way ahead of its time. All this sat in a tubular space-frame chassis. It was hitched up to deDion axles. The fuel tanks flanked the driver. Again, that presaged later developments in F1.

The catalyst for the T251 was Jacques Bolore. He had recently married into the Bugatti family. It was not long before he was influencing the way the company was run. Since founder Ettore Bugatti's death - in 1947 - racing had been put on hold by the firm. But Bolore had a vision of Bugatti back in F1. Enter the T251! It was unveiled in late '55 - at an airfield, close to Bugatti's Molsheim base. It was there, too, that the car was first put through its paces - though not until March of the following year. Tester was Maurice Trintignant. The T251 was subsequently entered for Reims' French GP. But not without concerns - for testing had revealed serious flaws! Both designer Columbo - and driver Trintignant - were adamant that further development was required. But Bolore's mind was made up. He wanted to go racing - and it was he who now held the reins of power!

Two 251s subsequently went to Reims. In the event, it was all a bit of an anti-climax. The T251's avant-garde weight distribution provided top-notch traction - especially out of slower corners. High-speed handling, though, was hairy! The 251 qualified 18th out of 20 starters. Ironically, it was to retire after 18 laps! The pretext given was that the throttle was sticking ... but it was clear that the T251 was way off the pace. And with Bugatti coffers depleted, there was no money for more development, anyway. All in all, then, a sad end to Bugatti's return to top-flight racing. The T251 project rather fizzled out in a damp squib of under-achievement.

Ferrari California

Ferrari California 2000s Italian sports car

The Ferrari 250 California - launched in 1957 - is one of the most iconic cars ever created. Half a century later, though, came another 'California'. The 2008 model was designed by Pininfarina - the legendary Italian design house. Superb aerodynamics were key to the car's styling. An 'F1-Trac' traction-control set-up helped keep the power usable - especially when exiting bends and corners!

The F1-style Manettino dials on the California's steering-wheel modulated the gearbox, suspension and traction-control settings. Should even their limits be exceeded, an automatic roll bar - and front and side airbags - were deployed. There was a choice of Comfort or Sport modes. At track-days, however, safety controls could be switched off ... apart from ABS braking, that is.

The California produced power in abundance. Its 4,300cc V8 made 460bhp. That catapulted the California to 193mph. Torque was on tap from way down low. A 7-speed semi-automatic transmission saw to that. The California was light - its chassis and body both fashioned from aluminium. Inside, there was a roomy and comfortable cabin. And plenty of luggage-space. The retractable top completed the set of creature comforts. So, like its fabled 250 predecessor, the Ferrari California was built for speed. But - also like that car - it was kitted out for cruising, should that have been what was required.

Norton Commando Fastback 750

Norton Commando Fastback 750 1960s British classic motorcycle

Unlike some of its 'Brit Bike' brethren, the Norton Commando Fastback 750 was a smooth and comfortable ride. This was due in no small part to Norton's 'isolastic' engine-mounting set-up - which dialled out the worst excesses of the parallel twin's 'vibes'.

Norton had long prided itself on the good handling and road-holding of its products - and the Commando was no exception. In '73, Peter Williams took the bike to the toughest road test of all - an Isle of Man TT race! He departed the 'island' with the Formula 750 trophy.

The Commando Fastback's performance on the road was almost as impressive. The 745cc motor put out a resounding 58bhp. With the bike weighing in at just 418lb, that equated to a top speed of 117mph. As was only to be expected from such a sound all-round package, the Commando sold well. Sadly, though, not well enough to save Norton from its financial date with destiny. But - for its uncommon blend of style and substance - the Norton Commando Fastback 750 will forever be revered by the classic bike community.

Austin A90 Atlantic

Austin A90 Atlantic 1940s British classic car

If ever there was a car which spanned two countries, it was the Austin A90 Atlantic. Both Austin and Pontiac emblems adorned the A90's bonnet. Built in Longbridge, England, it was one of the cars blazing a trail out of the post-Second World War slump. The Austin Atlantic was the first British car built primarily for the American market. Sadly, its trans-oceanic mission would fail. Stateside, they were used to 6- or 8-cylinder engines. So the A90's 4-pot tally did not make the cut. When an Atlantic broke 63 stock-car records in a week at Indianapolis - and sales still did not pick up - it was clear the American Dream was not going to come true in this case!

As the A90's foray into stock-car racing had proved, it did not lack for performance. The Atlantic was one of few post-war cars good for 90mph. It was practical, too. Petrol was still being rationed in '48. The A90's fuel consumption was a valuable 25mpg. Its in-line four motor made 88bhp - rounded up to 90, hence the car's name. Peak power kicked in at 4,000rpm. Top torque - all 140lb/ft of it - arrived at 2,500rpm. Four speeds could be selected on the American-style steering-column shift.

Just 7,981 Atlantics were built. Of those, a mere 350 made it to America. But back in '48 - when the A90 took the Earls Court Motor Show by storm - Austin must have been sure they had backed a winner. The new convertible came with all mod cons. As well as a power-hood and -windows, there were an Ecko radio, adjustable steering-wheel, and heater. But as soon as 1951, it was the end of the road for the convertible version. The saloon car followed suit in '52. And that was it for the Atlantic. 'Special relationship' there may be ... but there are some things the UK and USA do differently. The Austin A90 Atlantic was an admirable automobile in many ways. But - to crack the States - four cylinders were never going to be enough!

Ferrari Daytona

Ferrari Daytona 1960s Italian classic supercar

If attendees at the 1968 launch of the Ferrari Daytona were expecting the mid-engined equivalent of Lamborghini's Miura - they were to be disappointed. The Daytona on display that day - designed by Pininfarina - was a front-engined GT car, of the old school. Its multi-tube frame, for example, supported a steel shell.

The Daytona was, nonetheless, the fastest road car in the world, at the time. Flat out, the Daytona was good for 174mph. Its V12 motor meted out 352bhp - via a manual 5-speed 'box. Capacity was 4,390cc. It needed to be - 3,530lb was a lot to lug about. The weight was evenly distributed, though - the rearward gearbox/trans-axle unit balancing out the frontal excess of the engine. Wishbone and coil suspension - on a firm anti-roll setting - provided plenty of traction. A tad difficult around town, the more the Daytona was given its head, the better-behaved it became. Steering lightened up nicely. Road-holding grew increasingly sticky. 1,426 Daytonas were eventually built.

Interior décor was far from lavish for a car of its class. At least electric windows, contoured leather seats, and air conditioning came as standard. Ultimately, though, the Daytona was a sales boon for Ferrari. The car was christened after the legendary American race-track of the same name. Ferrari had enjoyed much success at The Daytona Raceway, over the years. A suitably famous name, then, for what would go on to be one of the most iconic of Ferraris!

Sunbeam Tiger

Sunbeam Tiger 1960s British classic sports car

The Sunbeam Tiger was an Anglo-American hybrid. Built in West Bromwich, England, its roots were in Detroit, Michigan. Almost literally - Rootes being the parent company. Until Chrysler took Rootes over, that is. The Sunbeam Tiger was a Sunbeam Alpine - fitted with a Ford V8. Carroll Shelby - he of AC Cobra fame - did early development work on the Tiger. It was then passed to Rootes. The new 4.2-litre engine was hooked up to a 'top loader' 4-speed gearbox. In turn, a more substantial final drive was installed. The body shell, too, was beefed up. But Rootes were becoming over-stretched. They still had the Sunbeam Alpine in production, after all. Riding to Rootes' rescue came Jensen. Their premises were but a stone's throw away from the Rootes factory gates. It fell to them to complete the Tiger project.

The Sunbeam Tiger's power output was 164bhp. Top speed stood at 117mph. 0-60 came up in 9.5s. Torque from the Ford V8 was plentiful, to say the least. Extra care was required in transferring it to the tarmac - since steering and suspension were suspect. Ultimately, though, the Tiger was good value for money. Americans bought it in their droves. British buyers had to wait a year to do the same.

Everything looked good for the Sunbeam Tiger. Until Chrysler's buy-out of Rootes, that is. The Chrysler top brass took an immediate dislike to the Tiger's V8 motor - mainly, because it was made by Ford! Which would have been okay, had there been a Chrysler V8 to replace it. Actually, there was - but it did not fit! Which was the writing on the wall for the Tiger. Thankfully, Rootes had already built 571 MkII Tigers - complete with a 4.7-litre Mustang motor. One of the highest compliments that can be paid to the Sunbeam Tiger is that it is spoken of in the same breath as Carroll Shelby's AC Cobra. Cars that bear that kind of comparison are thin on the ground, indeed!

KTM Adventure 990

KTM Adventure 990 2000s Austrian sports bike

Produced between 2006-13, the Adventure 990 hailed from Austria - home of KTM. It was designed as a dual-purpose machine - equally happy on- and off-road. In large part, that was due to its engine - an LC8 liquid-cooled 4-stroke 75° V-twin. Clocking in at 999cc, power output was 105bhp. With a dry weight of 461lb, the Adventure maxed out at 123mph.

The bike was honed by the rigours of the Paris-Dakar Rally. Probably not much pre-release testing was required after that! The Adventure's long-travel suspension came courtesy of Dutch masters WP. The bike's flexible tubular steel frame was among the many parts which were near-identical to those on Fabrizio Meoni's KTM 950 desert racer. Indeed, he had won two of the three Paris-Dakar rallies preceding the Adventure's launch. A serious sales pitch!

Styling-wise, the 990 was supermodel tall and svelte. But this was a supermodel that packed a punch - as in 100 N-m of torque, at 6,750 rpm. And with its chromium-molybdenum trellis frame, the Adventure could roll with the punches, too. As far as all-round capability comes, then, the KTM Adventure 990 was about as versatile as a motorcycle gets!


BMW 3.0 CSL 1970s German classic sports car

The 'L' in CSL stands for Lightweight - and BMW invested much time and money in making it so. The rationale behind the CSL was to homologate BMW's 6-cylinder coupé, for European Touring Car Group 2 racing. The list of the car's light components was a long one! There were skinny body panels, a fibreglass back bumper, and racing latches on the bonnet. In addition, the CSL had Plexiglas side-windows, and alloy-skinned opening panels. Interior trim, too, was grist to the weight-saving mill. And under-body rust protection, and sound muffling - or the lack of them - all contributed to the super-svelte package. In the end, 400lb was shaved off the base model. As it turned out, the CSL's top speed was not much changed - remaining at 135mph. Acceleration, however, was vastly improved.

To cope with all this hard-won 'grunt', BMW stiffened the suspension. Bilstein gas shock absorbers incorporated state-of-the-art progressive-rate springs. Wheels were chunky Alpina 7″ alloys. Chrome wheel-arch extensions were added, to keep things street-legal. The first CSLs came with a 2,958cc engine - normally-aspirated, and producing 180bhp. In '72, BMW took the bore out to 3,003cc - qualifying the coupé to compete in the 3-litre Group 2 series. In the process, output was upped to 200bhp. Bosch electronic injection was also fitted - in place of the twin Zenith carburettors.

Thus far, the CSLs had all been left-hand drive cars. But '72 saw a right-hand drive CSL released in the UK. Known as the 'RHD City package', the car had 'boy racer' performance, as well as comfort in abundance. In this case, BMW restored most of the weight-saving features they had previously so painstakingly removed! But that was not enough for all British buyers! There were those who complained that the Scheel bucket seats were difficult to climb into. And the CSL's lightweight alloy panels - more prone, as they were, to accident damage - were not to every Brit's taste. Nor, indeed, was the price tag - more than both an Aston Martin or Jensen. Just 1,095 cars were built. Ultimately, though, the BMW 3.0 CSL was an 'homologation special'. And CSL coupés would go on to have great success at race-tracks around the world.

Lamborghini 350GT

Lamborghini 350GT 1960s Italian classic sports car

The 350GT was Lamborghini's first production car - way back in March '64. Coachbuilders Touring - of Milan, Italy - were tasked with styling the car. Their work was based on the 350GTV prototype. Touring's bodywork was composed of alloy panels. They were hung on a Superleggera steel frame. The 350GT's light body was key to its top speed of 152mph. The solid round-tube chassis was held up by coil spring and tubular wishbone suspension. Girling disc brakes stopped the plot.

Gian Paulo Dallara and Giotto Bizzarini engineered the 350GT. Power was supplied by the trusty Lamborghini V12. The crankshaft of the quad-cam 60° motor was machined from a single billet. Complete with side-draught carburettors - to allow for a low bonnet line - that made for 280bhp. Capacity was 3,464cc. The 5-speed transmission - and steering box - were by ZF. The rear differential was by Salisbury. Fast, smooth and tractable, the 350GT handled well, to boot. Both in terms of form and function, then, that first Lamborghini production run was off to a flyer!

Inside, the 350GT was a blend of user-friendly luxury. There was, for example, a synchro-mesh reverse gear. Just 143 350GTs were built. From the start, then, exclusivity was part of the package! While in many ways different from the Lamborghini supercars of today, that first 350GT had all the allure and panache that were to become so synonymous with the marque.

Ferrari F50

Ferrari F50 1990s Italian supercar

There was only one car with which Ferrari were going to top their F40 - the F50! In fact, it was less of a flat-out racer than its predecessor - providing its passengers with more by way of comfort. That said, the F50 was still far from luxurious. Especially, for a car that retailed at £330,000. But, the leather-covered carbon-fibre seats, at least, were a nod in that direction. And, at the front, the spring/damper set-up was transverse - rather than longitudinal - to allow for extra leg-room. The F50 gave a smooth ride - given its performance prowess, and the 'firmness' of its computerised damping system. The V12 engine - and 6-speed 'box - delivered usable power. And the combination of titanium uprights, magnesium wheels and all-metal ball joints produced ultra-precise steering.

With a top speed of 202mph - and lightning-quick reflexes - the F50 was, in effect, a race/road hybrid. Its 5-litre motor, for example, made a heady 521bhp! The 5-valves-per-cylinder V12 had its roots in 1990's Ferrari 641/2 F1 car. Peak revs for the road-going unit, though, were 8,500rpm - rather less than the 14,000 of the GP racer. But, with chain drive spinning its quad overhead camshafts - the F1 car used gears - the noise from the road car was still ear-splitting! Just 349 F50s were built. 'Health and safety' may have thought that a good thing!

So, the F50 was technically awesome. But, of course, a true supercar needed styling to match. Up to the plate stepped Pininfarina. The esteemed Italian design house unveiled a visual feast of tastefully-placed lines. Ducting was particularly delicious. Cowled projector headlights lit up the F50's front-end. Inside, the LCD instrument panel was straight out of F1. The F50 was even fitted with a 'black box' flight recorder, for goodness' sake! For sure, it was track day-inclined ... brakes and suspension were both race-derived. But, give it a road with enough scope - and the Ferrari F50 could unleash a lifetime of thrills in a single drive.

Ferrari F40

Ferrari F40 1980s Italian supercar

The F40 was christened in honour of forty years of the Ferrari marque. It was boss Enzo Ferrari's brainchild ... but even he had to get board approval! Once given, the F40 project was passed to stylists Pininfarina. It took only a year for the F40 to go from concept to production. It helped that it was based on the Ferrari 288 GTO. In theory, the F40 was a roadster. It required little modification, though, to go racing. In large part, that was down to its weight - or lack of it. For a car that cost $275,000, there was a noticeable lack of creature comforts. The cabin verged on the spartan!

The F40's low weight was due to the composite materials used in its bodywork. They were 20% lighter than their metallic equivalents. That - plus the absence of interior décor - meant the F40 tipped the scales at just 2,425lb. When that was combined with the 288 GTO V8 motor, the results were explosive! The 3-litre twin-turbocharged engine was fitted with sequential ignition and fuel injection. There were silver/cadmium con-rod bushes - and nicasil-coated liners. That all added up to 478bhp. If needed, another 200bhp came courtesy of 'competition mode'.

The F40 topped out at 201mph. 0-60 arrived in 3.9s. At the time of its release - in 1987 - that made it the fastest road car Ferrari had yet produced. It remained in production until 1992. Even the standard version featured a raft of competition parts. It had Group C brakes, 3-piece wheels, and removable rear bodywork. Oh, and soft fuel cells. The Ferrari F40's racing pedigree could not have been clearer!

Iso Grifo

Iso Grifo 1960s Italian classic car

There were just 504 of the Iso Grifo built - in ten years. We are talking exclusive! But then, it was styled by Bertone. The 'Grifo' was based on the Rivolta GT car. Ex-Ferrari engineer Bizzarrini shortened the chassis - for added agility. It was then passed on to Bertone. After that, Iso started to think of it a potential rival to Ferrari!

Time to add some speed to the mix! Enter the Chevrolet Corvette. Well, its engine, at any rate. The iconic American V8 imparted some serious 'grunt' to proceedings. That did not please the European purists. But for those content with beautiful bodywork - plus supercar oomph - things were gelling nicely! The top-spec Grifo came with the 7-litre version of the Chevy V8. With a fair wind, that made it good for 170mph. It hit 70 in first gear! The V8 unleashed 390bhp. And all the while, Bizzarrini's reduced wheelbase was helping transmit that power to the tarmac. The full complement of brake discs was wisely provided.

By now, the Grifo was going head to head with the Ferrari Daytona, and Maserati Ghibli. For a firm the size of Iso, that was some achievement! Sadly, financial woes were set to plague it, in later years. Iso finally succumbed to the fuel crisis, in '74. But by then - in the form of the Grifo - they had produced a thoroughbred sports car of the highest order.

Lotus Europa

Lotus Europa 1960s British classic sports car

Powerful though it was, the Lotus Europa was no F1 car. And yet, in a way, that was what it was all about. Colin Chapman - legendary boss of Lotus - wanted a roadster that handled like it was in a GP! Okay, that might be stretching it a bit - but he certainly wanted to simulate the mid-engined layout, which had become such a prevalent part of F1.

In short order, the Lotus 'Europe' was up and running. The name was changed to Europa for trademark reasons. Handling-wise, the car was everything Chapman had hoped for. Road-test reviews were upbeat - at least as far as cornering was concerned. Steering was light - and the Europa felt perfectly poised. The rear suspension - comprised of lower wishbones and transverse top links - was key to that stability. The laid-back driving position made sweeping through bends all the more fun. Brakes were suitably solid.

But the Europa was not without flaws. Creature comforts were in short supply. With a heavy clutch - and jarring ride - the Europa was not exactly user-friendly. Side window-opening problems did not help. And rear vision - or lack of it - bordered on the unsafe. Lotus did address the issues, giving the Europa a mini-makeover. It stayed in production until '75. Almost 10,000 Europas were built, in a nine-year run. Standing just 42″ 'short' - and with a drag coefficient of only 0.29 - the Europa's aerodynamic credentials were never in doubt. Built in Hethel, Norfolk, its goal was to bring F1-style handling to the roads of the UK! And while that was, of course, an impossible task, it came as close to realising it as a sports car had yet done.

Ferrari 275 GTB

Ferrari 275 GTB 1960s Italian classic sports car

The Ferrari 275 GTB was not just beautiful to behold - it was technically innovative, too. For example, it brought suspension to the Ferrari table, in a way that had never been seen - or felt - before. The result was a car which looked like $1,000,000 ... and had handling capabilities to match. For once, the Ferrari engine - the alloy 60° V12 - was not the centre of attention. It was trumped by the transmission! For optimal weight distribution - and, with it, top traction - the motor and gearbox were separate. The two were linked on early models by a slender prop shaft - and later, by a stiffer torque tube. When double-wishbone rear suspension was added to the mix, this Ferrari was uniquely positioned to make the most of the 280bhp from its single-overhead-cam motor. An automotive marriage made in heaven, the 275 GTB was exquisitely styled by Pininfarina. Plus, it had 150mph on tap ... every last drop of which could be poured safely onto the tarmac!

Scaglietti built the GTB's body. They were but a stone's throw away from Ferrari's Modena HQ. Scaglietti's steel metalwork was then transferred to Pininfarina, to apply the finishing touches. The GTB's frame was multi-tubular - in familiar Ferrari fashion. There was a set of Borrani alloy wheels - complete with knock-on centre hubs. As sporty 2-seater coupés go, from the outside the GTB was about as good as a Berlinetta gets! The interior did not let the side down, either. Suitably well-equipped, its focal point was the deliciously-designed Nardi steering-wheel.

Launched in '64, there would be several versions of the GTB. '65's 'Series Two' model sported a longer nose, and a smaller air intake. And in '66, the quad-cam GTB/4 was fitted with six carbs and dry-sump lubrication. The wind-in-your-hair option - the GTS - was aimed squarely at fair-weather American buyers. All GTBs are rare - there were only 200 of them built. Especially scarce, however, are the 9 NART Spiders - and the 12 lightweight aluminium racing GTCs. A landmark Ferrari, if ever there was one, the GTB was the point at which the Modena marque transcended mere beauty - and started to deliver on every level. Of course, the perfect road car does not exist. The Ferrari 275 GTB, though, probably came as close as any!

Indian Four

Indian Four 1940s American classic motorcycle

As its name suggests, the Indian Four sported a longitudinal inline-four engine configuration. Which provided a top speed of 90mph. Pretty quick, in '42.

The Four's side-valve set-up - 2 per cylinder - gave 40bhp, at 5,000rpm. The longitudinal layout meant overheating could be an issue - as cooling air struggled to find its way to the rear cylinders.

The Four looked every inch the classic American motorcycle. The rakish lines of the fenders were pure Indian. The bike nailed the 'laid-back' look firmly into place. The solo saddle, front forks, and straight exhaust perfectly complemented the relaxed diagonal of the top frame rail. Styling comparisons cannot help but be made with arch-rival Harley-Davidson. But - complete with its in-line motor - the Indian Four was every bit as iconic as anything coming out of Milwaukee. Always open to debate, of course!

Hudson Commodore

Hudson Commodore 1940s American classic car

Founded in 1909, Hudson was a manufacturer of mediocre motor cars. Until 1948, that is - which is when their new Step Down range was launched. Overnight, Hudson became a byword for 'cool'. Even the bottom-of-the-range 'Pacemaker' was sought-after. The 'Commodore' was positively coveted!

Hudson's styling department had been working overtime. The curves of the Commodore's bodywork presaged shapes which would dominate '50s automotive design. Certainly, the Commodore's 'low-rider' profile was ahead of the game. Hence, the 'Step Down' tag. That was due to 'Monobilt' - a unitary-construction process Hudson had developed. The floor-pan was beneath the chassis. Passengers, then, stepped down into the cabin. But Monobilt was more than aesthetically pleasing. It was safer, too. Passengers were surrounded - and protected - by a robust perimeter frame.

As 6-seater saloon cars go, the Commodore was pretty quick. The 8-cylinder engine version made 128bhp - which was good for 93mph. Half a million Commodores were sold. But unfortunately for Hudson - and other small car companies - the automotive sharks were circling. They were small fry, compared to the big fish in the Detroit pool. With Ford, GM and Chrysler nearby, Hudson were always going to be struggling. In '54, the firm bowed to the inevitable. They merged with Nash, in order to stay afloat. Hudson, though, had had its day in the sun. Its 'Step Down' cars - and most notably the Commodore - were stylish, functional, fast and safe. Which is what you want!

Lotus 56B

Lotus 56B 1970s classic British F1 car

The 56B was yet another 'envelope-pusher' from Lotus boss Colin Chapman. Powered by a turbine engine - supplied by Pratt and Whitney - it was to be a new departure for F1. The car had its beginnings in Indianapolis, America. Chapman entered the STP-Paxton turbo car in the '67 Indy 500. It performed well. Driver Parnelli Jones would have won the famous race - had he not broken down, just yards before the chequered flag. Nothing daunted, Chapman returned to Indy in '68. With backing from STP's Andy Granatelli, Chapman hired Maurice Phillipe to design the '56' car. Sadly, Chapman was to experience an unpleasant case of déja vu. Pilot Joe Leonard also broke down, with victory as good as in the bag.

With luck like that, maybe it was time to try another race series! In any event, the American powers that be then banned turbine-powered cars. Chapman decided to move to F1. Sticking with the turbine power the Lotus 56 had pioneered, the 56B was ready for the start of the '71 season. It would have appeared the previous year - but for the death of driver Jochen Rindt, at Monza. Understandably, that threw a spanner in the works of the 56B's development schedule. But - with Emerson Fittipaldi at the wheel - Chapman's latest creation duly rolled onto the grid for the Race of Champions, at England's Brands Hatch circuit. Things did not go well. The 56B bottomed out so much it snapped its suspension. It then crashed out at Oulton Park. Next stop Silverstone - where the 56B started on the front row, for the International Trophy. The first heat did for the suspension again. Fittipaldi, though, finished third second time out.

These initial outings were non-World Championship events. F1 'friendlies', as it were. The 56B's first race that mattered was the '71 Dutch GP. Driver Dave Walker started from the back of the grid - and on a wet track. By the fifth lap, though, he was up to tenth ... notwithstanding turbine throttle lag. Chapman - and the rest of the Lotus team - must have been cock-a-hoop! Unfortunately, it was not to last. Walker subsequently slid off the track - at the Tarzan hairpin. At Monza - a year on from Rindt's fatal accident - the 56B ended up eighth. At Hockenheim - in another non-championship race - Fittipaldi placed second. And that was pretty much it for the Lotus 56B. Ultimately, interest in it lay more in the technical elements of its fabled '70s 'turbo car' power delivery, than in its F1 points tally.

Maserati Ghibli

Maserati Ghibli 1960s Italian classic sports car

The Maserati Ghibli was styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro. At the time, he was on the Ghia payroll. He considered the car to be one of his finest designs. Certainly, it was classically spare, and low-slung.

Top speed for the Ghibli was a cool 165mph. Even at that speed, suspension was solid. And with its steel bodywork, the Ghibli was no lightweight. Notwithstanding, it handled well. Four potent disc brakes pulled it up just as impressively.

The Ghibli's highest-spec engine was the 4.9-litre V8 SS. Torque was out of the top drawer. Especially, way down low in the rev range. There was a ZF 5-speed 'box. Acceleration for the Ghibli, then, was not an issue! Capacity was 4,930cc. Power maxed at 335bhp. Just 1,149 Ghiblis were built. Back in '67, the Maserati Ghibli was a 2-seater supercar. Ferrari and Lamborghini had a rival!

Moto Guzzi Daytona 1000

Moto Guzzi Daytona 1000 1990s Italian sports bike

It is not a bad marketing ploy to name a bike after an iconic American race-track. It is fraught with danger, though. Deliver a machine which does not do justice to that arena ... and you going to look a tad silly. No such worries for Moto Guzzi! When the Daytona 1000 was released - in 1992 - its descriptor was perfectly apt. The Daytona was designed by 'Dr John' Wittner. He was a racer and engineer - who jacked in dentistry to go to Guzzi. To fans of the brand, their Mandello HQ was mythical. Dr John had campaigned Guzzis in the late '80s, with much success. He looked now to cement that legacy - in the shape of a road-going superbike.

The Daytona was directly descended from those track-based exploits. Its chassis provided excellent handling. The bike's engine had been suitably detuned - but was still fitted with fuel injection, and four valves per cylinder. That gave 95bhp - which equated to a top speed of 150mph. The V-twin's torque curve was typically steady.

Moto Guzzi have honed many a two-wheeled gem over the years. The Daytona 1000 was just the latest in a long line of solid, dependable, attractive products. Dr John - the ex-dentist - had indeed dished up a superbike to savour.

Cooper T51

Cooper T51 1950s F1 car

The Cooper T51 is one of the most radical racing cars ever built. John Cooper, and his small-scale team, took the prevailing motorsport wisdom of the time - and trashed it! Well, turned it on its head, at any rate. In 1959, it was a given that a racing car's engine sat at the front. Cooper - and his équipe - questioned that established practice. In so doing, they revolutionised race-car design. The T51 would be rear-engined - with all of the technical turnarounds that entailed. They were to be well worth the effort, however. 'Black Jack' Brabham took the '59 drivers' title, in the T51.

The 'Cooper-Climax' car sowed the rear-engined seeds, in '58. It won two GPs, early in the season. Notwithstanding that, the car was taken less than seriously. Its success was put down to its squat dimensions. It was only quick at 'twisty' circuits, it was said. And it was true that the Cooper was down on power, compared to the competition. But there was a reason for that. Its motor was an F2 unit - enlarged to 2.2 litres. The front-engined brigade were using 2.5-litre motors. In F1, small fractions make a big difference!

Happily, the T51 was fitted with the full 2.5-litre powerplant. Cooper's engine supplier - Coventry Climax - had increased the stroke. The Cooper now kicked out 230bhp. That was still less than its rivals - but its handling advantage was enough to see them off. The rear-engined set-up had knock-on effects. With no prop-shaft now needed, the driver sat lower - with all of the streamlining benefits that brought. And when it came to weight-saving, there was more than just junking the prop-shaft. With engine and final drive directly linked, their structural surrounds could be less robust. And the T51's mass was more centrally-aligned - making it more manoeuvrable. Tyre wear, in turn, improved. As for the T51's driving roster - it was impressive, to say the least. As well as Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss and Bruce McLaren were on call. Both the Monaco and British GPs duly fell to the Cooper - en route to the World Championship, at the first time of asking. That was testament to the impact the T51 made. Cooper had re-written the F1 tech spec in ways which would never be reversed.

Ford Capri

Ford Capri 1960s British classic car

The Ford Capri was the European sibling to the mighty Mustang - a massive seller in the US. In essence, the Capri was a standard 4-seater GT. There would be many a variation on the theme, though ... enough to give a spare-parts dealer nightmares. The Capri was manufactured in GB and West Germany. The first model came with the same 1.3-litre in-line four engine as the Ford Escort. In the UK, there were 1.6- and 2.0-litre V4 options. Add to that a 3.0-litre V6. Germany weighed in with 1.7- and 2.3-litre versions. Capri stock-taking was already starting to get complicated. And that was before the cornucopia of trim options kicked in!

The entry-level Capri was the L. The XL was mid-range. At the top of the heap were the GT, and luxury GXL models. The body shell - and struts, with beam rear axle - were interchangeable. There were more parts choices when it came to the 4-speed gearbox. Bigger engines had auto transmission as an option. All Capris had disc brakes up front - and drums at the rear. Rack-and-pinion steering, too, was standard ... oh, except for some of the 3.0-litre models, which were power-assisted. Whew!

Capris were campaigned as 'tin-top' racers - with much success. In their wake trailed a series of souped-up roadsters. The RS2600 Mk1 was a German 'homologation special'. It came with a fuel-injected 150bhp V6 ... courtesy of Harry Weslake. In 1973, the British-built 3100 appeared - another homologation special. With its Weber carburettor - and over-bored V6 - it made 148bhp. These 'performance car' Capris featured fat alloys, and quarter bumpers. The 3100 sported a duck-tail spoiler. Most sought-after of all was the Capri 280 Brooklands LE. Ironically, it was one of the German-built cars! But, with its swish leather seats - and British racing green paint - it was a fine finale to the Ford Capri story.

Italdesign Aztec

Italdesign Aztec 1980s Japanese concept car

The Italdesign Aztec was two cars for the price of one! Well, not two cars - but two cockpits. Driving responsibilities could be toggled between 'driver' and 'passenger'. Though which was which, at any one time, could have been a bone of contention! Of course, the whole point of concept cars is to put 'reality' on hold. The Aztec's designers never envisaged it going into production. A group of maverick Japanese businessmen, however, had other ideas.

Giorgetto Giugiaro was the Aztec's chief designer. Typically, his work was far from flamboyant. He had penned many a family runabout. Maybe it was just time for him to let his hair down! At any rate, Giugiaro was immensely proud of the Aztec. Slick and sophisticated - and with a silvery sheen - it was nothing if not striking. The Aztec's rear was seriously high-tech! Around the wheel arches were 'service centre' panels. They housed a raft of gizmos and gadgets. There were coded door locks, inbuilt hydraulic jack controls, and engine fluid monitors. More down-to-earth were a torch and fire extinguisher. Oh, and a petrol cap. The Aztec's interior was cutting edge, too. Cockpits communication was via headsets.

The Aztec's engine was a 5-cylinder Audi unit - turbo-charged, and transversely mounted. Transmission was Quattro 4-wheel drive. A dual-canopy body allowed easy access. The Aztec first appeared at the Turin Motor Show, Italy - in '88. There it was espied by those Japanese businessmen. They thought there might be a market for the car back home. Having bought the rights to the Aztec, they set about putting it into production. 50 replicas were duly built. The bodies were made in Italy - before being shipped to Germany. There they were handed over to tuners Mayer MTM - who installed the Audi powerplants. Finally, they reached Japan. The transportation costs were included in the price tag. The Aztec retailed at the yen equivalent of $225,000. But each car sold came with an added extra. Stylist Giorgetto Giugiaro signed them all personally. He was indeed proud of his Italdesign Aztec!


BMW K1 1980s German motorbike

Back in the day, it might have been said that BMW motorbikes bordered on the staid. If so, that all changed with the K1. Flair and panache dripped off it. The K1 looked the business - and BMW did plenty of it, as a result!

In engineering terms, the K1 was top-drawer. Then again, BMW know no other way! Suspension was set up per the 'Paralever' system - designed to cater to shaft-drive power trains. The 'K-series' engine featured four horizontally-opposed cylinders. It was fuel-injected, too. The result was 100bhp. And a top speed of 145mph.

The K1 was stylistically stunning. Paint and bodywork blended into a cool mix. 'Cool' had not been a word over-associated with the BMW brand ... at least, not so far as motorcycles were concerned! The K1, though, was a harbinger of things to come, in that regard. BMW would go on to produce some of the best-looking bikes on the planet. And - it went without saying - always with a touch of class!

Renault Etoile Filante

Renault Etoile Filante classic LSR car

You might think there would not be a lot to connect the Renault Dauphine 'runabout', and a turbine-powered land speed record car. Part of the reason for the record attempt, though, was to boost sales of the new Renault roadster. Renault recruited race car designer Albert Lory to the Etoile Filante - or 'Shooting Star' - project. He duly incorporated a space-frame chassis, plastic bodywork, massive disc brakes, and torsion bar suspension into the car.

But, the Etoile Filante's pièce de résistance came courtesy of Turboméca - the French aero-engine manufacturer. They supplied the car's gas turbine motor. It was dubbed the 'Turmo 1'. It was a thirsty bit of kit - needing three fuel tanks to feed it! One of them - forged from synthetic rubber - was placed in the car's nose. Located fractionally fore of the cockpit, it was hardly the safest arrangement! The plucky pilot was test driver Jean Hebert. Putting all 'inflammatory' thoughts out of his mind, he drove the Etoile Filante to 191.2mph. That was enough to topple Rover's turbine-powered tally - and set a new record.

The Etoile Filante was a product of 'space mania', which was sweeping Fifties culture. In the USA, especially, anything which smacked of 'rocket-ships' was a surefire hit. Fittingly, then, the Etoile Filante's record-breaking run took place at Bonneville Salt Flats, in Utah. Renault had pushed the envelope, technically. More than a mere marketing stunt, the Etoile Filante taught lessons that would be applied to real-world roadsters. Straight-line stuff it may have been, but there was much for Renault to learn - about acceleration, road-holding and braking. There is no surer test of a car's stability, than a stab at a world land speed record! The Etoile Filante made 270bhp - which had to be safely transferred to the salt flats. Clearly, the car was up to the job - as its successful run showed. The pride of Paris at the time, the Renault Etoile Filante was a fine example of French forward thinking ... in every sense!

Dodge Firearrow

Dodge Firearrow 1950s American classic concept car

The Dodge Firearrow was Italian-American. Ghia coach-built the car. Their craftsmanship was second to none. Resplendent in red - and sporting a polished metal belt-line - the Firearrow was an elegant, well-proportioned product.

Virgil Exner was chief stylist for the Firearrow. He - and his Chrysler colleagues - came up with a clean and tidy design. Restrained, and tastefully-placed lines were the backdrop for a plethora of neat features. The way the bodywork overhung the wheels was a sweet touch. Inside, the wooden steering wheel bespoke class. Twin seats were sumptuously upholstered.

A V8 engine oozed power. 152bhp shot the Firearrow III coupé to 143mph. The Firearrow's 'show car' timeline was a long one. It started out as a mock-up. That was followed by a working prototype. Decked out in yellow - and with wire wheels - it featured in the '54 'Harmony on Wheels' extravaganza. After that - along with the coupé - came the Firearrow and Firebomb convertibles. They were designed simply to whack a bit of 'wow factor' back into the Dodge brand. But so big a hit were they with show-goers, that a limited production run was soon mooted. Detroit's 'Dual Motors' privately funded it. 117 Firebomb replicas were built. They went under the name of the Dual-Ghia. Virgil Exner's feverish work ethic had paid off. The Dodge brand had been given a much-needed makeover. And the Firearrow had become a star in its own right!

Ascari KZ1

Ascari KZ1 2000s British supercar

Ascari Cars started up in 1995 - in Dorset, England. It was named after Alberto Ascari - the first double F1 champion. The new enterprise had a single goal - to build a supercar! The result was the Ascari Ecosse. It was designed by Lee Noble - who would later lay claim to his own supercar marque. The Ecosse was fast ... 200mph fast! But, only 17 Ecosses were sold. That was enough, though, to get the attention of Klaas Zwart - a Dutch business magnate. He subsequently bought Ascari. The firm relocated - to Banbury, Oxfordshire - a region renowned for high-grade motorsport activity.

Released in '03, the KZ1 was a roadster. But, it had racing in its veins. The beating heart of the car was its V8 engine. It had been transplanted from the BMW M5. Ascari's engineers, though, hauled out 100 more horses from the standard saloon car unit. Output rose to 500bhp. That was mated to a 6-speed CIMA transmission. The chassis - sorted by ex-Lotus staff - was race-bred. The tub and body were cut from carbon-fibre. The KZ1 had a drag coefficient of just 0.35. Slippery stuff! Super-stiff ventilated discs stopped it on a sixpence.

Like its Ecosse predecessor, the KZ1 topped out at 200mph. 0-60 arrived in 3.8s. 0-100, in 8.3. Stats like that set you back £235,000. But, you also got a leather and polished-aluminium cockpit. And air conditioning! Plus, access to your own test-track. As a KZ1 owner, 'Race Resort Ascari' was at your disposal. CEO Klaas Zwart built it for his own private use ... and for those who purchased his products! Zwart's custom design borrowed corners from the world's greatest race-tracks ... and 'moved' them to Spain. Perfect for putting your high-powered purchase through its paces. Alberto Ascari would surely have approved!

Scott Squirrel

Scott Squirrel British vintage motorcycle

Scott may not be the best-known name in motorcycle history ... but it certainly has its place in it! The British marque won the Senior TT - in both 1912 and '13. And the Scott trial - which began in 1914, and became a bastion of two-wheeled motorsport - was named for the Yorkshire firm. Founded in 1908, Scott went on to produce well-crafted motorcycles for decades to come.

Engineering excellence forged in the crucible of competition, trickled down into roadsters. The Scott Squirrel was the prime beneficiary. The Squirrel came in various flavours. There were Super Squirrels, Sports Squirrels and Flying Squirrels. All came with a 596cc motor - mated to a 3-speed hand-change 'box. Squirrels handled well, looked and sounded good - and skipped to 70mph. That was quick, in the 1920s!

Squirrels had a temperamental side - and were known to play up a bit, from time to time. Their price tags, though, were uniformly hefty. So, as the Squirrels aged, and started to lose their edge, sales declined. To this day, however, there is still many a motorcyclist nuts about Squirrels. Hopefully, a few Scotts have been horded away. That being the case, Squirrels may again become a common sight on the highways and byways of Britain.

Jaguar XJ 220

Jaguar XJ 220 1990s British supercar

The Jaguar XJ 220 parts-list seemed more aerospace, than automobile! The body was bonded-aluminium honeycomb - aerodynamically derived from Group C racing. It induced cerebellum-shifting acceleration. Indeed, the XJ was named the '220', for the mph top speed it so rapidly reached. It was Jim Randle - Jaguar's chief engineer - who conceived the car. He coaxed a few colleagues into spending Saturdays on the project. Things were looking good for the 'spare-time' supercar!

The 220's racing credentials were clear to see. Keith Helfet's svelte bodywork was for starters. A 5-speed transaxle ran through an AP clutch. Alloy wheels were centre-locking - for speedy wheel changes. Hefty brakes had 4-piston calipers. There was wishbone/inboard suspension. Power output was 500bhp! In theory, at least, though, the XJ was a roadster. Jaguar teamed up with TWR - to found JaguarSport. A production facility was built - in Bloxham, Oxfordshire. 350 XJ 220s rolled out of it. Each with a price tag of £403,000!

When the prototype had appeared - at the '88 Birmingham Motor Show - it triggered a tidal wave of excitement. Jaguar were besieged by orders. But when the supercar bubble burst, panic set in! Lawyers were loaded down - as buyers tried to wriggle off the XJ's high-priced hook. What had begun in Whitley, West Midlands, had morphed into a story more suited to Hollywood. A sideline - to keep boffins' brains busy - was now a case study in Eighties excess!

Noble M15

Noble M15 2000s British supercar

Noble's sports car credo was simple. Let the driver do the driving! That was in sharp contrast to many other manufacturers - who were happy to let gizmos have half the input. To Lee Noble, half the input meant half the fun! Founded in '99, his firm shot straight out of the automotive blocks. The Noble M10 - released that year - did 170mph. With a normally aspirated engine! Its light plastic bodywork was key to that speed. The Noble M12 moved things up a gear. Its turbocharged Ford motor was, perhaps, more racer than roadster. Time to throttle back a tad.

The M15 was launched in 2006. Pundits - Top Gear among them - praised its performance. 185mph was on tap - with 0-60 coming up in 3.4s. The twin turbocharged Ford Duratec engine made 455bhp. And the power was evenly delivered. As Lee Noble had made clear - his cars were about the total driving experience! The M15's motor was mounted longitudinally. That smoothed out weight distribution - helping handling. The M15's purposeful poise was propped up by a space-frame chassis. That was, in turn, backed up by an integral rollcage.

The car's cabin was comfortable. There were electric windows, and sat-nav. Traction control, and ABS, too. Did that border on computer control? Possibly ... but Noble had a duty to protect its customers! And their wallets, for that matter. By supercar standards, the M15 came cheap. £74,950 was small change compared with some of its peers!

Aprilia RSV Mille

Aprilia RSV Mille 1990s Italian superbike

The designers of the Aprilia RSV Mille could not be accused of muddying their intentions. A lap-timer on a road-bike spoke volumes. Naturally, it would only ever have been used at track-days! Even so, commuting could never have felt more like competing.

The rest of the bike was pretty purposeful, too. Which is what you would expect from a machine derived from a World Superbike. Its kid brother - the RS250 - was similarly linked to the bike which took the 250cc GP title.

The Mille's chassis was impeccably race-bred. It was secured by a twin-spar aluminium frame. The engine - a fuel-injected 60° V-twin - produced 128bhp. Aerodynamics were as good as a roadster gets. Put the two together - and top speed worked out at 165mph. With so much going for it, the Mille did the business, commercially. All in all, the Aprilia RSV took its place in the top-flight of Italian sports-bikes.