Caterham 7

Caterham 7 1970s British classic sports car

The Caterham 7 began life as the Lotus 7. Colin Chapman - boss of the latter marque - claimed to have built the prototype in a weekend, in '57. Lotus manufactured the Seven for fifteen years. It was marketed through Caterham Cars - run by Graham Nearns. In '73, Lotus stopped making the 7. The rights for it passed to Caterham. They set about building a plastic-bodied Series 4 Seven. Encountering issues with the new material, however, Nearns and his team went back to the aluminium-bodied Series 3 model.

Caterham were committed to the 'pure driving experience'. Key to that was light weight - always a top priority for Chapman, too. To that end, the 7's nose cone and wings were glass-fibre. As said, the light aluminium body was already in situ. Beneath, sat a tubular steel chassis. The 7's rear axles had been sourced from Ford and Morris - though Caterham would later install a De Dion-based set-up. Caterham kept faith with Lotus' Twin Cam motor. The 126bhp engine was spot-on ... until stocks ran out. Ford duly did the engine honours. Tuning options came in the form of GT, Sprint and Supersprint. Subsequently, more power was provided by a Cosworth BDA motor. And still more, by a Vauxhall 2.0-litre - producing 175bhp. From '91 onwards, Caterhams came with Rover K-Series engines. There was a choice of 1.4 and 1.4 Supersport - or, 1.6 and 1.6 Supersport - units.

The top-of-the-range Seven was the JPE - Jonathan Palmer Evolution - version. Named after the F1 driver who helped develop it, the JPE encapsulated the Caterham creed. Technically a roadster, its race-spec 250bhp engine catapulted it to 150mph. It hit 60 in less than 3.5s. The JPE 7 could out-drag a Ferrari F40 - right up to 100mph. Which made it the fastest-accelerating car in the world, at the time. With no windscreen - and wings made from carbon-fibre - the JPE 7 had 'track-day' written all over it. So, the Caterham 7 was - as Colin Chapman had made sure - a one-stop shop for automotive exhilaration!

Audi Quattro

Audi Quattro 1980s German sports car

The Audi Quattro was launched in 1980 - at the Geneva Motor Show. It is safe to say that it revolutionised motoring. The Quattro's state of the art four-wheel drive system pushed roadholding to a new level. Top speed was 142mph. 0-60 took 6.3s. That came courtesy of a turbocharged 2.1-litre 5-cylinder engine. The Quattro's top-spec output was 220bhp.

The Quattro turned into a truly iconic rally car. For the Audi team's technicians, its 4-wheel drive set-up was love at first sight! As with the roadster, the increased grip levels significantly upped the competition car's traction in the rough stuff. Sat between the road and rally cars was the Sport Quattro - a 2-seater 'homologation special'. It was fitted with a 300bhp motor. The Sport's shortened wheelbase meant it handled even better than the standard Quattro. It retailed at three times the price of the base model. Still, a top speed of 155mph made it more than tempting!

When Audi announced they were pulling the plug on the Quattro, there was uproar. So, Audi succumbed to the pressure - and production continued until '91. Not just rally fans, but motorists too had fallen in love with the car. They had taken to four-wheel drive like ... well, like a rally driver to water. The Audi Quattro's remarkable tally of wins said it all!

Chevrolet Corvair

Chevrolet Corvair 1960s American classic car

Sadly, the Chevrolet Corvair did not deliver on its potential. That was down to the fact that it garnered a reputation for oversteer. Pro motoring whistle-blower Ralph Nader pounced all over the Corvair's alleged defects. They lay, he said, mainly in the handling department. Nader duly detailed them in his book Unsafe At Any Speed. This was a tract devoted to automotive health and safety. His words were diligently read by American drivers - 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.

Certainly, though, the Corvair got a tick in the box marked technical innovation. For a start, it featured a rear-mounted flat-six engine. Also, its suspension was fully independent. Throughout the Sixties, several versions of the Corvair were released. As well as a sporty coupé and stylish convertible, there was a turbo-charged model. The latter produced 180bhp. Which gave a top speed of 105mph.

Chevrolet designed the Corvair to take the fight to cheap European cars, flooding into US showrooms, at the time. It was marketed as 'compact' - though that was more by American than European metrics. Size-wise, it was similar to the British-made Ford Zephyr. Styling-wise, though, the Corvair's restrained lines were cut from distinctly European cloth. More so than most of its American siblings, anyway. Indeed, Chevrolet went so far as to dub the coupé version, the Monza. And, the Corvair would go on to influence the Hillman Imp and NSU Prinz. Over a million Corvairs were built. It should have been more. Those misgivings about handling never quite subsided. As a result, '64's Ford Mustang galloped ahead, in sales terms. So far as American automobiles were concerned, however, the Chevrolet Corvair blazed a perfectly-formed 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 was rewarded. Launched in '59 - along with the Mini and Jaguar MKII - the Elite was produced for four years. In the course of that time, it became one of the iconic British sports cars. As always - with Colin Chapman at the helm - light weight was key. With that in mind, the Elite was the first car to be built on a glass-fibre monocoque chassis. That helped it reach a top speed of 130mph. Aerodynamic lines assisted. The Elite was agile, too. Few sports cars could hold a candle to it through corners!

Power was provided by an overhead-cam Coventry Climax motor. When kitted out with a single carburettor, it delivered 71bhp. A twin-carb set-up increased that to 83bhp. A 4-speed gearbox came courtesy of BMC. The SE version would be fitted with a close-ratio, 5-speed ZF 'box. Power increased to 105bhp. The Elite was economical, though - as a result 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. The full complement of high-grade disc brakes came as standard. Of more questionable quality were the windows. While pleasing on the eye, their unique profile meant they were difficult to wind down fully. Not what you wanted, on a hot summer's day!

Generally speaking, though, the Elite did its name justice. In styling terms, it was from the top drawer. The Elite's dashboard, for example, echoed its chic low profile. Nevertheless, there were faults - other than the wind-down windows issue. The car's monocoque - cutting edge, though it was - was prone to noisy vibration. Also, interior décor was somewhat sparse. All things considered, however, the Lotus Elite was a fine example of a top-flight 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 could do. So versatile was the 'MKII Jag' that both cops and robbers fell in love with it! That was understandable. 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 - whichever side of the law you were on. Not that observing speed limits would have been top of the robbers' list of priorities, of course! For all 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 transport its well-heeled occupants with ease. The MKII Jaguar, then, was all things to all men. It was also affordably-priced.

It was not long before the movie studios came calling. The MKII played a cameo rôle in Performance - alongside James Fox and Mick Jagger. And starred in Get Carter - in which it was hard on the tail of Michael Caine. On TV, Inspector Morse would not be seen in anything else. Such sashaying across screens did sales figures no harm at all. 83,980 MKIIs were built. At racetracks, too, the Jag played a leading part. In saloon car showdowns, it was highly competitive. Indeed, racing driver Graham Hill - as well as Lotus boss Colin Chapman - both owned MKIIs.

Certainly, the car was beautiful to behold. Designer William Lyons - or, Mr. Jaguar, as he was affectionately known - had seen to that. And that, really, was the reason for its popularity. Stock-broker or law-breaker - in a MKII, you looked like $1,000,000, either way! The car had Sir William's styling stamped all over it. Inside, the leather seats, wooden dash and door cappings all displayed Lyons' keen eye for design detail. As did the dial- and switch-encrusted facia. On the engineering front, the MKII used tried and tested Jaguar technology. Its straight-six 3.8-litre XK engine delivered 220bhp. For a while, that made the MKII the quickest saloon car around. Technically, it was released in '59 - though it will always be synonymous with the '60s. As was the Mini - that other Sixties automotive icon. Instantly recognisable, the MKII helped define its times. In other words, the Jaguar MKII was as cast-iron a classic as cars come!

Lancia Aurelia B20

Lancia Aurelia B20 1950s Italian classic car

The Lancia Aurelia B20 was the first GT - or, Gran Turismo car. It passed through six production phases - from 1950 to '58. F1 stars Juan Manuel Fangio and Mike Hawthorn both drove B20s - when off-duty, of course! That would suggest they were on the speedy side - and they were. Styling-wise, too, B20s were ahead of the field. After all, they had been designed by Pininfarina. Credit, though, must also go to Vittorio Jano. He it was who conceived the Aurelia B10 saloon - in 1950. The B20 was based on that model.

The Aurelia was powered by a V6 motor. Again, this was the first time that that layout had been used in series production. Output was 112bhp. Co-incidentally, that was the same figure as the B20's top speed. The V6's alloy block was rubber-mounted - to reduce engine vibration. 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 'box - and column-shift. Later versions of the B20 were fitted with DeDion rear suspension. That improved the car's wet weather handling. Front suspension, too, was beefed up - to counteract brake judder and steering shimmy. On the fifth and sixth versions of the B20, handling and braking were helped by increased torque stats. That was achieved by de-tuning the motor - with a 'softer' cam profile.

To produce the B20 series, Lancia supplied a a rolling chassis to a succession of coachbuilders. Chief amongst them was Vignale. None of them, though, topped the simple sophistication of Pininfarina's original. Rarely has coupé bodywork looked as good. You could almost say Lancia broke the GT mould with the Aurelia B20 - at the first time of asking!

Lamborghini Espada

Lamborghini Espada 1960s Italian sports car

The Lamborghini Espada was designed by Bertone. Their styling 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. An impressive blend, then, of form and function. The Espada's interior was state of the art. Its focal point was a control console, between the front seats. The console - and 'techie' dashboard above it - housed an aircraft-type array of dials and switches. And - Sixties supercar though it was - the 4-seater Espada was far from cramped.

The top-spec Espada was good for 155mph. It was powered by a 4-litre V12. The motor sat beneath an alloy bonnet. Pierced NACA ducts adorned the front profile. Engineering-wise, a one-off 5-speed gearbox did shifting duty.

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. On its release - in '68 - the Espada set a new speed benchmark for 4-seaters. So - in every automotive aspect - the Lamborghini Espada was a genuine Italian masterpiece!

Triumph Speed Triple

Triumph Speed Triple 1990s British sports bike

In '83, Triumph looked dead in the water. Finally, 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. That was not a million miles away from the original Triumph factory - in Meriden, Birmingham. For the next eight years, Bloor and his colleagues planned a new range of Triumphs. One of them would be the Speed Triple. Throwing off the shackles of the wilderness years, the new bikes would be modern marvels of engineering. There would also, though, be design references to Triumph's glory days.

In '91, six new Triumphs rolled into the showrooms. The parallel twins of yore were no more. Now, three- and four-cylinder engines were the norm - complete with double overhead camshafts and water-cooling. Stylistically, a sea change had occurred. The new 'British' bikes were as futuristically slick as their Far Eastern counterparts. Indeed, their suspension and brakes had been made in Japan. Notwithstanding, they were clutched to the 'Brit Bike' bosom with eager arms. Whilst there were reservations amongst dyed-in-the-wool riders, a new breed of bikers was just glad to have a British brand-name back in motorcycling's mix.

The names of the new arrivals harked back to the past. Trident, Trophy, Thunderbird ... these were legendary labels! In '94, came the Speed Triple. For bikers of a certain age, that evoked memories of the Sixties' Speed Twin. Technically, though, it was state of the art. Saying that, Triumph had long turned out a tasty 'triple'. But, this was a three-cylinder machine with some major updates. As a result, it clocked up a top speed of 130mph. 97bhp was output from an 885cc motor. The bike's 'naked' look - devoid of a fairing - pared weight down to 460lb dry. It also lent itself to lean and aggressive styling. Road tests were positive. The Speed Triple was competent in every category. Unsightly oil stains were a thing of the past. A mighty marque was back on its feet. The Triumph Speed Triple - and its second-generation siblings - would take another tilt at the two-wheeled big time!

Lotus 79

Lotus 79 1970s classic F1 car

The Lotus 79 was yet another product of Colin Chapman's fertile mind. 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 'downforce' it generates. It was that kind of handling, then, that Chapman sought to incorporate into the new Lotus.

Lotus had started their ground-effect quest with the 78 - or, '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 had been the fastest car on F1's grid. The 78's speed advantage, however, had been offset by reliability issues. The 79 would sort them - or so Lotus hoped. The best parts of the 78 car were retained. Lotus then added a couple of updates. By placing the fuel tank behind the driver, the chassis could be narrowed. That helped the venturi do its thing - which was increasing the downforce. The side-pod skirts, too, had been upgraded. They now moved up and down, as required - providing a surer seal.

The net result of these changes was precisely as Lotus had planned. The 79 car was streets ahead, in the '78 season. Mario Andretti drove the car to five F1 wins - enough to take the World Championship. Team-mate Ronnie Peterson also won - and was runner-up in the final standings. And Lotus-Ford took the Constructors' Championship, at a canter. Chapman - and the Norfolk-based team - were ecstatic. But - as is so often the case in F1 - it was not to last. From the start of the '79 season, it was clear Lotus' competition had come prepared. Almost to a team, they were armed with their own takes on the ground-effect phenomenon. Indeed, some of the engineers had twigged that yet more downforce could be served up - so long as parts of the car were strengthened to cope. Lotus was duly outstripped by its beefed-up rivals. But, that would never obscure the fact that - during its brief season in the F1 sun - the Lotus 79 had put the opposition well and truly in the shade!

NSU Ro80

NSU Ro80 1960s German classic car

The NSU Ro80's styling was ahead of its time. At first glance, the masses of glass seemed straight out of science-fiction. Closer inspection revealed the gently rising line of its profile. Its 'low front, high back' stance would influence automotive design for years to come. For a 5-seater saloon car, the Ro80 was highly aerodynamic. Cruising at speed, then, was a breeze. So well-sorted was the NSU outwardly that it barely changed in the ten years of its run. Only tail-lights were modified, over time.

Handling-wise, the Ro80 was just as impressive. FWD and power-steering kept things nicely aligned. Long-travel strut suspension soaked up bumps. New-fangled disc brakes were fitted all round. A 3-speed semi-automatic transmission swept through gears with aplomb. Top speed was a creditable 112mph.

Nothing, though, is perfect. The Ro80 was powered by a twin-rotor Wankel engine. Unfortunately - in a rush to get cars into showrooms - said motor was under-developed. Which is when the problems started. A mere 15,000 miles was all it took. The Wankel's rotor-tip seals wore out. Frustrated owners cited less power - and more fuel consumption. As wear increased, the engines grew harder to start. If the car could be coaxed into life at all, it was with thick smoke billowing from the exhaust pipe. Even in less environment-sensitive times, that did not go down well. To be fair, NSU settled claims with alacrity. Indeed, it was not unknown for it to stump up double-digit engine replacements, in due course. Which only serves to show what an alluring overall package the Ro80 was. A car which caused so many headaches - and was still in demand - must have had something going for it. And - in terms of looks, at least - the NSU Ro80 most certainly did!

Bristol 401

Bristol 401 1940s British classic car

The Bristol 401 showed off the Aerodyne body shell. It was the work of Italian design house Touring. As its name suggested, aerodynamics were the name of the game. The 401's Aerodyne lines - and 'teardrop' tail - flowed through air with minimal resistance. Indeed - years after its production run ended - there were few cars that could match the 401's aerodynamic package. Aptly, then, the car was developed at an airport. Specifically, along the two-mile stretch of the Filton runway - in Bristol, England. Tests measured it travelling at a tad shy of 100mph - powered by a two-litre, 85bhp engine. Not much to play with, given that the 401 was a four-seater saloon car - with plenty of interior trim. Clearly, aerodynamics were playing a pivotal part in that 100mph top speed stat. Saying that, it was no ordinary motor it was using. Bristol had 'borrowed' the engine from BMW - as part of Germany's First World War reparations. As far as the 401's 'slipperiness' went, low wind noise - and 25mpg fuel economy - were more than welcome by-products.

With regard to the 401's shape, the same degree of rarefied design found its way into other aspects of the car, too. The body panels, for example, were graded for thickness - according to function. Thus, those that made up the wings were more meaty. Mechanics liked that - it was something solid for them to lean against! The 401's four-speed gearbox was all slick engineering. Its steering-wheel, too, was exquisitely crafted. Complete with its 'banana' spoke, it mimicked the one found in Bristol aircraft, of the time.

The 401, then, was a gift to design students - many of them born years after the end of its run. Bristol's stylists and coachbuilders were a rare breed indeed. If you had used the phrase 'built-in obsolescence' to them, they would have been seriously confused. Not because they were stupid - but, because it simply would not have occurred to them to think in that way!

Bentley Continental R

Bentley Continental R 1950s British classic car

The Bentley Continental R was always going to be beautiful. It was, after all, coachbuilt by HJ Mulliner - out of their London HQ. But, there was more! It also had a top speed of 124mph - which made it the fastest 4-seater in the world, at the time. Mind you, that was a combination few could afford - in what was still, technically, post-war Britain. The Continental R was strictly for business magnates and movie stars - oh, and possibly, royalty! High levels of comfort came as standard. In a nutshell - in the early Fifties - 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 - stylist extraordinaire - oversaw the operation. Combined with Mulliner's alloy body - and a one-off Supersports chassis - the result was a cutting edge British 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 upped. A big-bore exhaust system was installed. As a result, the Continental's deep-breathing 4,566cc engine made light work of country roads. Notwithstanding the car's gargantuan size, aluminium bumpers - and alloy-framed bucket seats - helped keep the weight down.

In austerity-ravaged '50s Britain, then, 'Continental' must have conjured up an exotic vision. Filled with cars like the R, sweeping through idyllic villages and rolling landscapes. Certainly, the interior came fully-furnished for far-flung travels. The wide wooden dashboard housed a rev counter and oil temperature gauge. Such items had been deemed surplus to requirements for the saloon version. Only 208 Continentals were built. So, the Bentley Continental R was exclusive, to say the least. It was, however, at the top of its game in virtually every department!

Facel Vega Facel II

Facel Vega Facel II 1960s French classic car

You know when a car has cracked it. Celebrities and royals are first in line. So it was with the Facel Vega Facel II. Among them was a certain Ringo Starr - drummer in a band called The Beatles, apparently. Along with racing drivers, too, of course. Stirling Moss and Rob Walker both owned a Facel II.

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

Not that the Facel II's V8 motor did not have its work cut out for it. With four passengers - and a full tank of fuel - the car weighed in at almost two tons. Thoughtfully, Facel Vega had fitted Armstrong Selecta-Ride rear dampers. A full set of Dunlop brake discs did the stopping honours. The Facel II came with power steering, leather seats and electric windows - all as standard. Design-wise, the car's cockpit instrumentation was on an aeronautical theme. This particular Facel Vega, then, was fast, comfortable - and supremely stylish. Saying that, it cost as much as several comparable cars put together. So, just 160 Facel IIs were built ... in true exclusive French style!

Marcos GT

Marcos GT 1960s British classic sports car

As much as any manufacturer, Marcos encapsulated English eccentricity. That was amply demonstrated by a succession of GT cars. 'Marcos' was an amalgam of the names of the two founders - Jem Marsh and Frank Costin. The new firm's first product was a sports car - built mainly from wood. The race version was a stellar success. Jackie Stewart launched his career in one. Which possibly points to where Stewart first got a taste for 'health and safety' within the sport! From that ornate creation emerged the classic Marcos sports car. It was to see several shape shifts 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. This time, the bodywork was fashioned from glass fibre - cutting edge, then, in every sense. Its chassis, though, still stood by wood. Suspension-wise, that first Marcos was fitted with Triumph wishbones at the front - and de Dion and Triumph arms at the rear. A Ford live-axle set-up followed in due course. Over time, Ford, Volvo and Triumph engines would be installed. So, it was already apparent that Marcos did not do 'predictable'!

Marcos and motor racing go way back. In '66, a 'Mini-Marcos' hybrid was the sole British entry to complete that year's Le Mans 24-hour race. Equipped with its Mini motor, the Marcos car was cheap to campaign. Incredibly, one could still be sourced new right up to '94. Two of Marcos' Le Mans cars were aptly code-named the LM500 and LM600. Launched in '94, they marked Marcos' return to the famous French circuit.

The Seventies got off to a good start for Marcos. The mythical Mantis was released. As the decade wore on, though, the firm was much less visible. Indeed, it fell to Jem Marsh to keep the servicing and parts departments open. '81, though, saw a Marcos resurgence. Power was supplied by Ford. With not a lot happening on the sports car scene at the time, Marcos' revival was a shot in the arm not just for the marque, but the industry. 1983's Marcos Mantula - powered by a Rover V8 - was a hit in the showrooms. Yet more plaudits followed two years later - with the arrival of the Spyder. Marcos moved into the '90s with the Mantara - which saw a styling revamp. The Adams brothers' original curves were still there - but suitably updated. '97 saw a new model Mantis. Thanks to its Ford V8 engine, the Mantis GT thundered around race-tracks at more than 170mph. While Marcos may have been 'different', those in the know have never taken the marque less than seriously. Certainly, many an eyebrow has been raised by a Marcos GT car over the years. Though one cannot help but suspect 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. Fifties F1 cars were front-engined. Or, they were until Columbo came along. His 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 allowed for weight distribution ahead of its time. It all sat in a tubular space-frame chassis. Which was, in turn, hitched up to deDion axles. The fuel tanks flanked the driver. Another harbinger of F1 things to come.

The catalyst for the T251 was Jacques Bolore. He had recently married into the Bugatti family. It was not long before Bolore was influencing the way Bugatti was run. Since founder Ettore Bugatti's death - in '47 - the firm had put racing on hold. Bolore, though, had visions 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 duly entered for the French GP, at Reims. Not, however, without qualms. T251 testing had revealed flaws. Designer Columbo - and driver Trintignant - maintained that more development was needed. But, Bolore's mind was made up. He wanted to go racing. And - in terms of executive clout - Bolore was now in Bugatti's driving seat.

Two 251s were taken to Reims. As the race got underway, the cars' avant-garde layout seemed on the money. Traction was noticeably improved - especially out of slower corners. High-speed handling, on the other hand, was hairy. The 251 had qualified 18th out of 20 starters. Ironically, it was to retire after only 18 laps. The pretext Bugatti gave was that the throttle was sticking. But, it was clear - to anyone with eyes to see - that the T251 was way off the pace. And - with Bugatti's coffers depleted - there was no more money for development, anyway. All a bit of an anti-climax, then - as far as Bugatti's return to top-flight racing was concerned. Sadly, Jacques Bolore's beloved T251 project turned into something of a damp squib!

Ferrari California

Ferrari California 2000s Italian sports car

The Ferrari 250 California - released in '57 - was one of the most iconic cars ever created. A tad over half a century later, came another California. Designed by Pininfarina, seamless aerodynamics were key to the new car's styling. And the 2008 California was light. Both chassis and body were aluminium.

The F1-style steering-wheel featured Manettino dials. They modulated the gearbox, suspension and traction-control settings. The latter came in the form of the F1-Trac set-up. Should those systems' limits still be exceeded, an automatic roll bar was deployed. As well as front and side airbags. The California could be set to Comfort or Sport mode, too. At track-days, however - or, indeed, at any other time - the safety controls could be switched off. Apart from ABS braking, that is.

Ferrari's 4,300cc V8 engine made 460bhp. That catapulted the California to 193mph. Torque was on tap from way down low. The 7-speed semi-automatic transmission saw to that. Unlike some supercars, the California's cabin was roomy and comfortable. There was a retractable top. And plenty of luggage-space was provided. So, the Ferrari California was built for speed. To that extent, it echoed its fabled 250 predecessor. But - in common with that design classic - it was kitted out for cruising, too, if 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. Well, by 1960s standards, anyway. That was due, in no small part, to Norton's proprietary engine-mounting set-up. Made up mostly of rubber, it was dubbed 'isolastic'. The Commando's motor was a parallel twin - not a layout synonymous with seamless power delivery. The isolastic system, though, duly dialled out the worst excesses of the inherent engine vibrations.

Norton had long prided itself on its bikes' handling prowess. The Commando turned out to be no exception. In '73, the bike was taken to the toughest road test of all - the Isle of Man TT race. Norton's road-holding claims were upheld. Peter Williams - the Commando's rider - took the Formula 750 trophy.

The road-going Fastback's performance was almost as impressive. Its 745cc motor put out 58bhp. And with the Commando weighing in at just 418lb, that meant a top speed of 117mph. With so much all-rounder status in its pocket, the Commando was bound to sell well. Sadly, though, not well enough to save Norton from its date with financial destiny. For its uncommon blend of style and substance, however, the Commando Fastback 750 will be forever revered by classic bike enthusiasts!

Austin A90 Atlantic

Austin A90 Atlantic 1940s British classic car

If ever there was a car which straddled two countries, it was the Austin A90 Atlantic. Both Austin and Pontiac emblems adorned the A90's bonnet/hood. Built in Longbridge, England, it was one of the cars which blazed a trail out of the post-Second World War slump. The Atlantic was the first British car built primarily for the American market. In hindsight, its trans-oceanic mission was doomed from the outset. Stateside, they were used to 6- and 8-cylinder engines. So, the A90's 4-pot tally simply did not cut the mustard. The writing was on the wall when an Atlantic broke 63 stock-car records, at Indianapolis - in a week. Sales still did not pick up. Sadly, this was a case in which the American Dream just was not going to come true!

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

7,981 Atlantics were built. Of those, a mere 350 made it to America. The A90 had taken the '48 Earls Court Motor Show by storm. Austin must have been sure they had backed a winner. Especially, since the convertible model came with all mod cons. As well as the power-hood and -windows, the A90 boasted an Ecko radio, adjustable steering-wheel and heater. As early as '51, though, it was the end of the road for the convertible. The saloon followed suit in '52. And that was it for the Atlantic. For all of the 'special relationship', there are some things the UK and US do differently. The Austin A90 Atlantic was, in many ways, an admirable British automobile. But - to crack the States - four cylinders were just never going to be enough!

Ferrari Daytona

Ferrari Daytona 1960s Italian classic sports car

The Ferrari Daytona was launched in '68. Those in attendance were probably expecting a mid-engined equivalent of the Lamborghini Miura. If so, they were wrong. The Daytona on display that day was a front-engined GT car. Designed by Pininfarina, it was in the traditional sports car mould. A multi-tube frame, for example, supported a steel shell.

Despite its relative orthodoxy, the Daytona was still the fastest road car on the planet. Flat out, it was good for 174mph. Its V12 motor meted out 352bhp - via a manual 5-speed 'box. Capacity was 4,390cc. Dampening down performance was weight. The Daytona had a lot of it to lug about. 3,530lb, in all. Saying that, the weight was at least evenly distributed. Rearward positioning of the gearbox/trans-axle unit helped counterbalance the frontal mass 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 precise.

For a car of its class, the Daytona's interior décor was far from lavish. Electric windows, contoured leather seats and air conditioning, though, did come as standard. Only 1,426 Daytonas were built. Overall, however, it was a success in the showrooms. Of course, the car was christened after the legendary American race-track. Ferrari had picked up many a win at The Daytona Raceway, over the years. So, it was a fitting name for what would become one of the most celebrated of Ferrari sports cars.

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. Aptly, then, Rootes was Sunbeam's parent company! At least, until Chrysler took it over. In essence, the Sunbeam Tiger was a Sunbeam Alpine - but with a Ford V8 fitted. Carroll Shelby - he of AC Cobra fame - did early development work on the Tiger. Shelby then passed it to Rootes. The car's 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 - with so much on its plate - Rootes was over-stretched. It still had the Sunbeam Alpine in production, too. Riding to Rootes' rescue came Jensen. Their premises were but a stone's throw away from Rootes' factory gates. It fell to Jensen to finish the Tiger project.

Power output for the Tiger 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. Care, though, was required in transferring it to the tarmac. Both steering and suspension were 'suspect'. But - all in all - the Tiger was good value for money. Americans bought it in their droves. British buyers did the same. However, they had to wait a year longer.

So, it was looking good for the Sunbeam Tiger. Until Chrysler's buy-out of Rootes! Chrysler's top brass took an immediate dislike to the car - mainly, on account of its V8 motor. It was, after all, made by Ford! Which would have been fine - had Chrysler had their own V8. Actually, they did. Unfortunately, it did not fit! Sadly, that was the writing on the Tiger's wall. But, all was not lost! Rootes had already built 571 MkII Tigers - complete with 4.7-litre Mustang motors. The Sunbeam Tiger was set to stroll into a few more sunsets yet!

KTM Adventure 990

KTM Adventure 990 2000s Austrian sports bike

The KTM Adventure 990 was made in Austria. Produced between 2006-13, it was designed to be dual-purpose. The Adventure was equally at home both on and off road. At least, that is what the marketing men said! Its engine - the LC8 liquid-cooled 4-stroke 75° V-twin - was tailor-made for rough terrain. Power output was 105bhp. Capacity was 999cc - to be precise. With a dry weight of 461lb, the Adventure maxed out at 123mph - on flat tarmac!

R & D for the Adventure was the Paris-Dakar Rally. Lessons learned from that hotbed of competition trickled down to the roadster. Probably not too much pre-release testing was needed after that! The Adventure's long-travel suspension came courtesy of Dutch masters WP. The flexible tubular steel frame was almost identical to that on the 950 desert racer. So, indeed, were many other parts. Fabrizio Meoni sat tall in the saddle. He won two of the three Paris-Dakars preceding the Adventure's release. Not a bad sales pitch!

Styling-wise, the Adventure was supermodel svelte. But, a model that packed a punch! At 6,750 rpm, no less than 100 N-m of torque was on tap. And - thanks to its chromium-molybdenum trellis frame - the Adventure rolled with the punches, too. Anything that less than snooker-table smooth green lanes could throw at it, anyway! As far as all-round capabilities go, then, the KTM Adventure 990 was about as kitted-out as a motorbike gets!

BMW 3.0 CSL

BMW 3.0 CSL 1970s German classic sports car

The 'L' in BMW 3.0 CSL stood for Lightweight. It was a vital attribute. After all, the CSL was built to homologate BMW's 6-cylinder coupé - for European Touring Car Group 2 racing. To that end, the list of the CSL's super-light parts 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-losing mill. In all, 400lb was shaved off the base model. Top speed for the super-svelte CSL was 135mph. Acceleration had sky-rocketed.

To accomodate the CSL's added 'grunt', BMW stiffened the suspension. Bilstein gas shock absorbers featured state-of-the-art progressive-rate springs. Alpina wheels were chunky 7″ alloys. Chrome wheel-arch extensions kept things street-legal. The first CSLs came with a 2,958cc engine. It was normally-aspirated - making 180bhp. In '72, BMW took the bore out to 3,003cc. That qualified the coupé to compete in the 3-litre Group 2 series. Output was upped to 200bhp. Bosch electronic injection was fitted - replacing twin Zenith carburettors.

Up until '72, CSLs were left-hand drive. But, that year saw a right-hand drive option released in the UK. Described as the 'RHD City package', the car had performance and comfort in abundance. For this model, BMW restored most of the weight-saving features they had so painstakingly removed. Some British buyers still managed to find fault. They found the Scheel bucket seats difficult to get into. And the light alloy panels - still part of the bodywork - were too prone to accident damage, they said. Nor was the CSL's price tag to every Brit's taste. Both an Aston Martin and Jensen set them back less. To be fair, only 1,095 cars were sold globally. Ultimately, though, the BMW 3.0 CSL was an 'homologation special'. Certainly, the CSL racing coupés went on to be a roaring success!

Lamborghini 350 GT

Lamborghini 350 GT 1960s Italian classic sports car

The 350 GT was Lamborghini's first production car. It was launched in March, '64. Touring - Italian coachbuilders extraordinaire - were tasked with styling it. Headquartered in Milan, Touring's brief was based on the Lamborghini 350 GTV prototype. Bodywork comprised alloy panels. They were hung on a Superleggera steel frame. The 350 GT's light body was key to its top speed of 152mph. The solid round-tube chassis was supported by coil spring and tubular wishbone suspension. Girling disc brakes stopped the plot.

Gian Paulo Dallara - alongside Giotto Bizzarini - engineered the GT. Power was supplied by the trusty Lamborghini V12. The crankshaft of the quad-cam 60° motor was machined from a single billet. 280bhp was duly produced. The V12 was fed by side-draught carburettors. That, in turn, led to a rakishly low bonnet line. Capacity was 3,464cc. The 5-speed transmission - and steering box - were by ZF. The rear diff' was by Salisbury. Fast, smooth and tractable, the 350 GT handled superbly. So - with both the form and function of their first model sorted - it seemed Lamborghini was off to a flyer!

The 350 GT was eminently user-friendly. There was, for example, a synchro-mesh reverse gear. The cabin was a chic and comfortable place to be. Just 143 cars were built. Exclusivity, then, was part of the package. Of course - in terms of sheer glamour - the 350 GT falls short of Lamborghini's supercars. But - as an opening sports car shot - it had all the allure and panache that would become so synonymous with the marque.

Ferrari F50

Ferrari F50 1990s Italian sports car

How to top the Ferrari F40? Well, with the F50, of course! While the former was focused solely on speed, the new car offered more by way of creature comfort. Even so, the F50 was far from luxurious - given that it was a supercar, retailing at £330,000. There were leather seats, though, for starters - of course, cast from carbon-fibre. And, the front suspension spring/damper set-up was transverse - allowing extra leg-room. The F50's ride was smooth, considering its performance stats. They were upped by a 'firm' computerised damping system. A V12 engine - and 6-speed gearbox - gave up tractable power. Precise steering was provided by titanium uprights, magnesium wheels and all-metal ball joints.

So, with a top speed of 202mph - and lightning-quick reflexes - the F50 was, effectively, a road/race hybrid. Its 5-litre motor made 521bhp. The 5-valves-per-cylinder V12 had its roots in F1 - in 1990's Ferrari 641/2. Saying that, peak revs for the road car were 8,500rpm. Rather less than the 14,000 for the GP car! Still - with chain-drive spinning its quad overhead camshafts - the sound from the roadster was still pretty ear-splitting! By contrast, the F1 car's engine used gears.

The Ferrari F50, then, was technically awesome. Naturally, it needed styling to match. Up to the plate stepped Pininfarina. The esteemed Italian design house unveiled a feast of tastefully-placed lines. Ducting was particularly delicious. Cowled projector headlights lit up the front-end. Inside, the LCD instrument panel was straight out of F1. A 'black box' flight recorder was included! Track days beckoned - brakes and suspension both being race-derived. 349 Ferrari F50s were built. All they needed was a road with enough scope!

Ferrari F40

Ferrari F40 1980s Italian sports car

The F40's name referenced forty years of the Ferrari marque. It was boss Enzo Ferrari's brainchild ... but, even he had to get board approval! Once given, the project was passed to Pininfarina. The doyen of Italian design agencies had a longstanding relationship with Ferrari. Just a year passed for the F40 to go from concept to production. It helped that it was based on the Ferrari 288 GTO. Theoretically, then, the F40 was a roadster. Practically, though, it required little modification 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 notable lack of luxury. Indeed, the cabin verged on the spartan!

The F40's low weight was down to its bodywork. Composite materials had been used to fashion it. They were 20% lighter than their metallic counterparts would have been. That - and minimal interior décor - meant the F40 weighed in at just 2,425lb. Add a 288 GTO V8 engine - and the result was explosive! The 3-litre twin-turbocharged set-up was fitted with sequential ignition and fuel injection. There were silver/cadmium con-rod bushes and nicasil-coated liners. Grand total - 478bhp. 'Competition mode' threw in a further 200bhp, if needed.

The F40 topped out at 201mph. 0-60 arrived in 3.9s. On its '87 launch, it was the fastest road-going Ferrari yet. It stayed in production until '92. 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 racing pedigree of the Ferrari F40 was clear to see!

Iso Grifo

Iso Grifo 1960s Italian classic car

The Iso Grifo was exclusive. In ten years, a mere 504 were built. Styled by Bertone, the Grifo was rooted in the Rivolta GT. Giotto Bizzarrini - ex-Ferrari engineer - shortened the latter's chassis. That added agility to the base model. It was then passed on to Bertone. With that sort of pedigree, Iso were ready to take on Ferrari!

Time, then, to add some speed to the mix. Enter the Chevrolet Corvette. Well, its engine, anyway. The American V8 imparted some serious 'grunt' to the Grifo proceedings. It probably did not please European purists. But, for drivers content with beautiful bodywork - plus muscle car oomph - things were bubbling up nicely. The top-spec Grifo came with the 7-litre version of the Chevy V8. That made it good for 170mph. It hit 70 in first gear alone. 390bhp was duly unleashed. Bizzarrini's reduced wheelbase helped transmit power to tarmac. Wisely, Iso had fitted a full set of disc brakes!

As it turned out, the Grifo did indeed go toe to toe with Ferrari - in the form of the Daytona. The Maserati Ghibli, too, was given a real run for its money. For a small outfit like Iso, that was some achievement. Sadly, financial woes would plague it, in years to come. The fuel crisis - in '74 - finally sealed the firm's fate. By then, though, the Iso Grifo had already established itself as a thoroughbred Italian sports car!

Lotus Europa

Lotus Europa 1960s British classic sports car

For all its power, the Lotus Europa was a sports car - not an F1 car! Yet - at least, up to a point - that was its raison d'être. Colin Chapman - head man at Lotus - wanted a roadster that handled like a racer. At any rate, he sought to simulate the mid-engined layout - now de rigueur in F1. Certainly, at just 42″ tall - and with a drag coefficient of only 0.29 - the Europa's aerodynamic credentials were never in doubt.

The new car started out as the Lotus Europe. Trademark problems led to it being re-named the Europa. 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 perfectly poised. Key to the stability was rear suspension. It was comprised of lower wishbones and transverse top links. The Europa's laid-back driving position made sweeping through bends a breeze. Brakes were suitably solid.

But, the Europa was not without flaws. Creature comforts were in short supply. And, with a heavy clutch - and jarring ride - the Europa was far from user-friendly. Side-window gremlins did not help. Rear vision - or lack of it - was not exactly a selling-point. To be fair, Lotus did address the issues. The Europa was given a mini-makeover. Built in Hethel, Norfolk, the car stayed in production until '75. Almost 10,000 Europas were built - in a nine-year run. Its goal, then, was to bring F1-style handling to the roads of the UK. And - while that was, for a sports car, an impossible dream - it came as close to living it as any!

Ferrari 275 GTB

Ferrari 275 GTB 1960s Italian classic sports car

The Ferrari 275 GTB was not just beautiful to behold. It hit the technological sweet spot, too. Superlative suspension, for example, was brought to the Ferrari party - in a way not previously seen or felt. The result was a car which looked like $1m - and had handling to match. And, for once, the Ferrari engine - an alloy 60° V12 - was not the centre of attention. It was trumped by the transmission. For optimal weight distribution - and top traction - motor and gearbox were separate entities. The two were joined at the hip, on early models - by a slender prop shaft. Later, a stiffer torque tube did the job. Double-wishbone rear shock absorption had now been added to the mix. The 275 GTB was thus uniquely positioned to make the most of its 280bhp output. That came courtesy of a single-overhead-cam engine. 150mph was on tap.

Technical excellence was topped only by styling. Pininfarina did the design work. The steel body was coachbuilt by Scaglietti. They were based but a stone's throw from Ferrari HQ. That was in Modena - a town with near-mythical status among the marque's fans. Scaglietti fitted a multi-tubular frame - in familiar Ferrari fashion. The Borrani wire wheels sported a set of 'knock off' spinner centre hubs. A sporty 2-seater coupé, the GTB's exterior was pure Berlinetta. The interior did not disappoint, either. Its finely-crafted focal point was the wooden Nardi steering-wheel.

Launched in '64, there would be several versions of the GTB. '65's Series Two sported a longer nose and smaller air-intake. For '66, the quad-cam GTB/4 came with six carburettors - as well as dry-sump lubrication. The wind-in-your-hair model - the GTS - was aimed squarely at America. Just 200 GTBs were made. The GTB marked the point at which Ferrari began transcending mere beauty - to deliver on every level. Of course, the perfect Sixties roadster does not exist. The Ferrari 275 GTB, though, probably came as close as any!

Indian Four

Indian Four 1940s American classic motorcycle

The Indian story started in 1901 - in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA. It continued until '42 - and the outbreak of the Second World War. Originally called Hendee, the Indian Motocycle Company came into being in '23. And, no, that is not a typo! One of Indian's most iconic machines was the succinctly-named Four. As the name suggests, its engine sported four cylinders. They were arranged in a longitudinal inline-four configuration.

Top speed for the Four was 90mph. Pretty quick, in the early Forties. The Four's side-valve set-up - 2 per cylinder - gave 40bhp, at 5,000rpm. The longitudinal layout meant overheating could be an issue, though. Cooling air struggled to find its way to the rear pots.

The Four looked every inch the classic American motorcycle. The fenders' rakish lines were pure Indian. Certainly, the bike had nailed down the 'laid-back' custom look. Styling-wise, the solo saddle, front forks and straight exhaust perfectly complemented the downward diagonal of the top frame rail. 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 glamorous as a motorbike from Milwaukee. V-twin fans may conceivably disagree, of course!

Hudson Commodore

Hudson Commodore 1940s American classic car

Founded in 1909, Hudson was a middling motor car manufacturer. Up until '48, that is. Which is when their Step Down models were launched. Overnight, Hudson became a byword for 'cool'. Even the bottom-of-the-range Pacemaker was sought-after. The Commodore was coveted!

Hudson's design department had worked overtime. Either that, or something had suddenly clicked. The curves of the Commodore's bodywork revealed a new set of shapes. They would dominate car styling through the Fifties. In particular, the Commodore's 'low-rider' profile was ahead of the game. It was enabled by Monobilt - a unitary-construction process Hudson had developed. The Commodore's floor-pan was beneath the chassis. So, occupants literally 'stepped down' into the cabin. But, Monobilt was more than merely pleasing on the eye. It was safer, too. Passengers were surrounded - and, indeed, protected - by a robust perimeter frame.

As 6-seater saloon cars go, the Commodore was pretty quick. The 8-cylinder engine version produced 128bhp. That made it good for 93mph. Half a million Commodores were duly sold. But - sadly for small car companies - the automotive sharks were circling. Firms like Hudson were small fry, compared to the bigger fish in Detroit's pool. With Ford, GM and Chrysler as rivals, it had always been on the back foot. In '54, Hudson bowed to the inevitable and merged with Nash - simply to stay afloat. By then, though, it had had its day in the sun. Hudson's Step Down cars - most notably, the Commodore - were stylish, functional, fast and safe. What was not to like?

Lotus 56B

Lotus 56B 1970s British F1 car

The 56B was another example of Lotus pushing motor racing's technical envelope. Saying that, boss Colin Chapman knew no other way. Powered by a turbine engine, it was a new first for F1. Said motor was supplied by Pratt and Whitney. The car had its genesis in Indianapolis, America. Lotus had entered the STP-Paxton turbo car in the '67 Indy 500. It performed well. Driver Parnelli Jones would have won the iconic race - had he not broken down, just yards from the flag. Nothing daunted, Chapman returned to Indy in '68. With backing from STP's Andy Granatelli, Chapman hired Maurice Phillipe to design the Lotus 56. Sadly, Chapman was to experience an unpleasant case of déja vu. Pilot Joe Leonard again broke down, with victory as good as in the bag.

Shortly after Lotus' streak of bad luck, American motorsport banned turbine-powered cars. Chapman decided it was time for F1. Sticking with the turbine power the 56 had pioneered, the 56B was readied for the '71 season. Lotus had intended to unveil the new car the previous year. Tragically, the death of driver Jochen Rindt - at Monza - upset the 56B's development schedule. In due course, however, it rolled onto the grid at Brands Hatch - for the Race of Champions. Emerson Fittipaldi was at the wheel. It did not go well. The 56B bottomed out so much, the suspension snapped. Subsequently, it crashed out at Oulton Park. Next stop Silverstone - and the International Trophy. The 56B started on the front row. In the first heat, the suspension again gave up the ghost. Second time out, though, Fittipaldi finished third. Things were finally looking up, it seemed!

Thankfully, these early outings were non-World Championship events. F1 'friendlies', so to speak. The 56B's first race that mattered was the '71 Dutch GP. Driver Dave Walker started from the back of the grid - on a wet track. By the fifth lap he was up to tenth - notwithstanding turbine throttle lag. Sadly, it was not to last. Walker slid off the track - at the Tarzan hairpin. Next, to Monza - a year on from Rindt's fatal accident. The 56B placed eighth. At Hockenheim - albeit in another non-championship race - Fittipaldi finished second. And that was pretty much it for the Lotus 56B. In truth, its points tally was unremarkable. What fascinates aficionados, though, is that it was the first of F1's fabled 'turbo cars'!

Maserati Ghibli AM115

Maserati Ghibli AM115 1960s Italian classic sports car

The Maserati Ghibli AM115 was styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro. At the time, he was on the Ghia payroll. The maestro considered the Ghibli among his finest designs. It is not hard to see why!

Flat out, the Ghibli delivered 165mph. Even at that speed, suspension and handling were solid. And not withstanding its steel bodywork - meaning the Ghibli was no lightweight. Equally impressive were its four potent disc brakes.

Highest-spec Ghibli was the V8-engined SS. As you would expect, its torque curve was out of the top drawer. And from way down low in the rev range, too. A ZF 5-speed 'box did its best to stay with it. Suffice to say, acceleration was not an issue! Capacity was 4,930cc. Power maxed at 335bhp. Just 1,149 Ghiblis were built. In '67, the AM115 was a 2-seater supercar. Maserati were on a charge. Ferrari and Lamborghini - take note!

Moto Guzzi Daytona 1000

Moto Guzzi Daytona 1000 1990s Italian sports bike

It is probably not a bad marketing plan to name a bike after an iconic American circuit. It is one fraught with danger, however. Turn out a machine which does not do justice to that arena ... and you will look a tad daft! No such worries, though, for Moto Guzzi. When the Daytona 1000 was launched - in '92 - its moniker was nothing if not apt. After all, the Daytona was designed by 'Dr John' Wittner. He was an ex-racer/engineer. Indeed - back in the day - he had jacked in dentistry, to go to Guzzi. Not surprising, really. To fans of the brand, Guzzi's Mandello HQ was near-mythical. Dr John successfully campaigned Guzzis in the late '80s. Now, he sought to cement that legacy - in the shape of a road-going superbike.

The Daytona was directly descended from track-based exploits. It was a gimme, then, that it handled beautifully. Of course, the Daytona engine was suitably detuned. That said, it was still fitted with fuel injection - via its four valves per cylinder. 95bhp was duly on tap - equating to a top speed of 150mph. In tandem with that, the V-twin's torque curve was typically steep.

When it comes to motorcycles, Moto Guzzi have honed many a two-wheeled gem over the years. The Daytona 1000 was just the latest in a long line of dependable, attractive products, from the Italian stalwart. In the Daytona 1000, Dr John had dished up a mouth-watering superbike. The ex-dentist's two-wheeled delights would be savoured by bikers for years to come. Many a radiant smile resulted!

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 turned it on its head. In '59, it was a given that a racing car's engine sat at the front. The Cooper équipe set about querying that status quo. In so doing, they would revolutionise race car design. The T51 would be rear-engined - with all of the technical turnarounds that entailed. They were well worth the effort, though. At the wheel of a T51, Jack Brabham took the '59 F1 drivers' title.

It was the Cooper-Climax, though, that first sowed the rear-engined seeds. Last time around - in '58 - it had won two GPs. Admittedly, they were towards the start of the season. Notwithstanding those wins, the Cooper-Climax was taken less than seriously. A case of beginner's luck, as it were. Its early success was attributed to its squat dimensions - rather than engine location. So, it was only quick at 'twisty' circuits, it was said. And, it was true that the Cooper was down on power, compared to its competitors. But, there was good reason for that - which the Cooper-Climax's detractors neglected to take into account. Its motor was from F2 - albeit, enlarged to 2.2 litres. The front-engined brigade had 2.5-litre powerplants, at their disposal. In F1, of course, small fractions can make a big difference!

At any rate, the T51 was fitted with the full 2.5-litre unit. Cooper's engine supplier - Coventry Climax - had increased its stroke, to make up the difference. The new Cooper kicked out 230bhp. That was still less than its rivals. Its compactness-based handling advantage, however, was enough to see them off. The rear-engined set-up had knock-on positives. With no prop-shaft now needed, the driver could sit lower - with all the streamlining pluses that brought. Weight-saving, too, was a beneficiary. It was more than just junking the prop-shaft. With engine and final drive directly linked, the transmission could be less robust. That meant less weight. Overall, the T51's mass was more centrally-aligned. That made it even more manoeuvrable than it already was. In turn, tyre wear, too, improved. And, that was just the car. When it came to the T51's driving roster - it was impressive, to say the least. As well as 'Black Jack' Brabham, Stirling Moss and Bruce McLaren were on hand. Both the Monaco and British GPs fell to the Cooper, that year. Indeed, it was en route to winning the World Championship - at the first time of asking. That spoke volumes, regarding the impact the T51 made. In effect, John Cooper's team - and its 'front-to-back' engine ideas - re-wrote the F1 tech spec. And, in ways which would never be reversed!

Ford Capri

Ford Capri 1960s British classic car

The Ford Capri was 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 that theme, however ... enough to give a spare-parts dealer palpitations! 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. Stock-taking was already getting 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. Thankfully, the body shell was interchangeable. So were the struts - and beam rear axle. There were more parts choices, though, 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 - except for some of the 3.0-litre models, which were power-assisted.

Many a Capri was campaigned as a 'tin-top' racer - often, with much success. They derived from a set of souped-up roadsters. The RS2600 Mk1, for example, was a German 'homologation special'. It came with a fuel-injected 150bhp V6 ... courtesy of top tuner Harry Weslake. In '73, the British-built 3100 appeared - again, built for race homologation purposes. With its Weber carburettor - and over-bored V6 - it made 148bhp. These 'performance car' Capris featured fat alloy wheels and quarter bumpers. The 3100 sported a duck-tail spoiler. Most sought-after of all, however, was the Capri 280 Brooklands LE. Ironically, it was one of the German-built cars! Nonetheless, with its swish leather seats - and British racing green paint - it was a fitting finale to the Ford Capri story. And - as for those overworked spares departments - it is just a shame databases were still in their infancy, at the time!

Italdesign Aztec

Italdesign Aztec 1980s Italian concept car

The Italdesign Aztec came with dual cockpits. A 2-seater, driver and passenger were ensconced in separate 'compartments'. It was a concept car, after all! The Aztec was made to commemorate Italdesign's twentieth anniversary. Its designers never envisaged it on the open road. A group of maverick Japanese businessmen, however, had other ideas!

Giorgetto Giugiaro was chief stylist for the Aztec. As a rule, his work was far from flamboyant. Indeed, he had penned many a family runabout. Who knows - maybe it was just time for him to let his creative hair down. At any rate, Giugiaro was immensely proud of the Aztec. And - certainly, from a visual point of view - it was nothing, if not striking. Slick and sophisticated - and with a silvery sheen - showgoers' eyes were riveted. The Aztec's rear end was seriously high-tech. Wrapped around the wheel arches were 'service centre' panels. They housed a raft of gizmos and gadgets. There were coded door locks, built-in hydraulic jack controls and engine fluid monitors - just for starters. Somewhat more down-to-earth features included a torch and fire extinguisher. Not forgetting a petrol cap! The Aztec's interior was equally cutting edge. Communication between the two cockpits, for example, was via electronic 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 to the bay. The Aztec was unveiled in '88 - at the Turin Motor Show. Among the enraptured onlookers were the aforementioned suits. They were sure there might be a market for the car back in Japan. With the rights to the Aztec safely in their pockets, they set about putting it into production. 50 replicas of the prototype were due to be built - though less than half that number would roll off the line. The bodies were made in Italy. They were then shipped to Germany. There, they were entrusted to engine tuners Mayer MTM - who installed the Audi powerplants. Finally, they arrived in Japan. When transportation costs had been factored in, the Aztec retailed at the yen equivalent of $225,000. That was a lot of money. Each car, though, came with an added extra. Giorgetto Giugiaro signed every Italdesign Aztec personally. He was indeed proud of his outré creation!

BMW K1

BMW K1 1980s German motorcycle

Back in the day, BMW bikes were borderline staid. That all changed with the K1. Design-led flair and panache were dripping off it. The K1 looked the absolute business - and BMW did plenty of it, as a result!

In engineering terms, the K1 was straight out of the top drawer. That said, BMW know no other way! Suspension was set up per the Paralever system - specially formulated for shaft-drive power trains. The K-series engine featured four horizontally-opposed cylinders - the flat layout having been a BMW trademark since the year dot. This time around, though, it was fuel-injected. Cue 100bhp. And a top speed of 145mph.

The K1 was stylistically stunning. Paint and bodywork blended into a cool mélange. 'Cool' was not a word which had been over-associated with BMW, in the past ... at least, not so far as motorcycles were concerned. The K1, though, was a visual harbinger of 'Beemers' to come. Indeed, BMW would go on to produce some of the best-looking bikes on the planet. And, of course, it went without saying, they also exuded a touch of Teutonic class!

Renault Etoile Filante

Renault Etoile Filante classic land speed record car

You might not think there would be much to connect the Renault Dauphine runabout - and a land speed record car! The Renault Etoile Filante's LSR attempt, however, was, in part, to publicise the new roadster. To that end, Renault recruited race car designer Albert Lory. He was tasked with taking the Etoile Filante from project to projectile. Into his design, Lory duly incorporated a space-frame chassis, plastic bodywork, massive disc brakes and torsion bar suspension.

Power for the Etoile Filante's record attempt came courtesy of Turboméca. The French aero-engine manufacturer supplied the car's gas turbine motor. The device was dubbed the Turmo 1. It was a thirsty piece of kit. Three fuel tanks were required to supply it! One of them - fabricated from synthetic rubber - was in the car's nose. Placed fractionally fore of the cockpit, it would not have pleased 'Health & Safety' much! The plucky pilot was Jean Hebert. He drove the Etoile Filante to 191.2mph. That was sufficient to topple Rover's turbine-powered tally. A new record had been set!

The Etoile Filante was another example of the sci-fi mania sweeping the Fifties. In the US, especially, anything which smacked of spacecraft was a surefire hit! The Etoile Filante - or, 'Shooting Star' - fit the bill perfectly. Its record-breaking run took place at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. There could be no doubt Renault had pushed the boat out, technically. More than a mere marketing stunt, the Etoile Filante provided invaluable lesons for real-world cars, for years to come. Straight-line stuff it may have been, but there was still much for Renault to learn. Acceleration, road-holding and braking data from the Etoile Filante fed into future Renault models. After all, there is no surer test of a car's stability, than a stab at a world land speed record! The Etoile Filante made 270bhp - all of which had to be efficiently transmitted to the salt. Clearly, Renault's planning passed muster - as its successful run showed. The Renault Etoile Filante, then, was a fine example of French forward thinking ... in every sense of the phrase!

Dodge Firearrow

Dodge Firearrow 1950s American classic concept car

The Dodge Firearrow was an American-Italian collaboration. Coachbuilders Carrozzeria Ghia - based in Turin - finessed the fine details. Their craftsmanship was second to none. Resplendent in red - and sporting a polished metal belt-line - the Firearrow was an elegant, well-proportioned automobile.

Ghia liaised with Virgil Exner. He was chief stylist for the Firearrow. Exner - and his colleagues in the Chrysler art department - 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.

The Dodge's engine was an all-American V8. 152bhp shot the Firearrow III coupé up to 143mph. The Firearrow timeline was a long one. It started out as a show car mock-up. A working prototype duly followed. Decked out in yellow - and with wire wheels - it featured in '54's 'Harmony on Wheels' extravaganza. After that - along with the coupé - came the Firearrow and Firebomb convertibles. The idea was just to whack a bit of wow factor back into the jaded Dodge brand. But - so big a hit were they with the public - that a limited production run was soon mooted. It was privately funded - by Detroit's Dual Motors. 117 Firebomb replicas were built. They went under the name of the Dual-Ghia. Virgil Exner - and his feverish work ethic - had delivered on two fronts. Dodge received its much-needed facelift. And the Firearrow lit up the landscape, in its own right!

Ascari KZ1

Ascari KZ1 2000s British supercar

The story of Ascari Cars - and the KZ1 - began in '95. The firm was based in Dorset, England. It was named after Alberto Ascari - the first double F1 champion. The new enterprise had a single objective - to build a supercar. The result was the Ascari Ecosse. It was designed by Lee Noble - who would later start up his own supercar marque. The Ecosse was fast ... as in, 200mph fast! Only 17 Ecosses, though, were sold. That was sufficient, however, to get the attention of Klaas Zwart - a Dutch business magnate. He subsequently bought Ascari. The company relocated - to Banbury, Oxfordshire. It is a region renowned for high-grade motorsport and its associated activities.

Released in '03, the KZ1 was nominally a roadster. But, it had racing running through its finely-tuned veins. The beating heart of the car was a V8 engine. It had been transplanted from the BMW M5. Ascari's engineers, however, hauled out 100 more horses from the standard saloon car unit. Asa result, output rose to 500bhp. The motor 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, indeed! Nonetheless, 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. As you would expect, stats like that set you back £235,000. But, you also got a leather and polished-aluminium cockpit, for your outlay. And air conditioning. Plus - last but not least - access to your own purpose-built 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 finest circuits - and shifted them to Spain. Perfect, then, for putting your new KZ1 through its paces. Alberto Ascari would surely have approved!

Scott Squirrel

Scott Squirrel British vintage motorcycle

Scott may not be the most famous manufacturer in motorcycling history - but it certainly has its place. As, indeed, does Scott's most celebrated bike, the Squirrel. The British marque won the Senior TT - in both 1912 and '13. And the Scott trial - which began in '14 - and became a bastion of off-road motorsport - was named after the Yorkshire firm. Founded in '08, Scott went on to produce finely-crafted motorbikes for decades to come.

Engineering excellence - forged in competition's crucible - flowed down into Scott roadsters. The Squirrel was the prime beneficiary. Squirrels came in several 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 merrily skipped up to 70mph. In the Twenties, that was quick!

Squirrels were apt to be temperamental, though. Mechanically, they played up a bit, from time to time. And - with their hefty price-tags - that did not go down well with owners. As the model aged - and its cutting edge blunted - sales declined. To this day, though, there is many a motorcyclist who is nuts about Squirrels. With luck - over the years - a few of them were horded away. So, you never know ... Scott Squirrels may again be 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 suited to aerospace than automobiles. The body was made from bonded-aluminium honeycomb. Its aerodynamics came straight out of Group C racing. The result was cerebellum-splitting acceleration. '220' stood for its mph top speed. Jim Randle - Jaguar's chief engineer - conceived the car. Thereafter, he coaxed a few colleagues into spending Saturdays on the XJ project. To begin with, at any rate, we are talking spare-time supercar!

The XJ's race credentials were clear to see. Keith Helfet's svelte bodywork was just 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. Suspension was wishbone/inboard. 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. In total, 350 XJs rolled out of it. Each with a price tag of £403,000.

When the prototype appeared - at the '88 Birmingham Motor Show - it had triggered a tidal wave of excitement. Jaguar were besieged by orders. But when the supercar bubble burst, panic had set in. Suddenly, lawyers were overloaded with cases - as over-eager buyers tried to wriggle off the car's high-priced hook. The Jaguar XJ 220 story - which began in Whitley, West Midlands - morphed into something more suited to Hollywood! What started as a sideline - to keep boffins' brains busy - turned into a study in Eighties excess.