Harley-Davidson Electra Glide

Harley-Davidson Electra Glide 1960s American classic motorcycle

As glamorous as they are, not many bikes have made it in the movies! One that did swan serenely across screen was a Harley-Davidson. The film was Electra Glide in Blue. The Electra Glide lived up to its star billing! It caught Harley-Davidson's 'free-wheeling' spirit, to a tee. A kingpin of long-legged tourers, the 'Glide' was American to its apple-pie core. It was built to go places! 'It's a big country', as another American movie had it.

Styling-wise, the Glide is pure Harley. Big everything, basically! Big fenders, big tyres, big tank. Big attitude, while we are at it! No marque does machismo quite like Harley-Davidson. If you hate being stared at, don't even think about it. On a Harley, you are a star! Whether you like it, or not. There are those who would give anything for that kind of kudos - as the company accounts no doubt confirm! Though, to be fair, having started out in a shed in Milwaukee, the Harley brand-name has paid its dues.

On the technical front, numbers are suitably huge. The '65 Electra Glide's motor was 1,198cc - with a 100.6mm stroke. In a word, 'torquey'! That translated into a top speed of 95mph ... which was pretty quick, at the time. And - thanks to all that torque - getting there was even quicker! Mind you, 770lb was a lot of weight to shift, so the Glide needed its 'pulling-power'. But then, as a movie star, it was always going to have plenty of that! The Electra Glide ripped up the red carpet - and did so in style. To paraphrase a line from yet another movie ... 'Here's looking at you, 'Glide'!

Maserati 250F

Maserati 250F 1950s classic GP racing car

Maserati was a red-blooded racing équipe, if ever there was one! Founded in 1926, it took the team just eight years to become the world's biggest builder of single-seater race-cars. For the first twenty years of its existence, the Maserati marque was devoted solely to racing. By the time it got around to production cars, then, it had learned a thing or two! Certainly, when the 250F hit the track - in 1954 - masses of technical know-how had been already accrued.

The car was fully prepared for the rigours ahead! Its straight-six engine was equipped with three twin-choke Weber carburettors. As with most other GP cars of the era, the motor was front-mounted, and powered the rear wheels. To the tune of 185mph! Capacity was 2,490cc. The chassis comprised a tubular frame, independent wishbone/coil spring front suspension, and a de Dion rear axle. And then came a new 250F! Unleashed in '57, it featured a five-speed gearbox, and fuel injection. Power had been upped to 270bhp. The bodywork had been revised. It was now stiletto-sharp at the front ... well, getting on that way! Brakes, too, had been uprated. The 250F was now at the peak of its development. Which was a very good thing - given the talent of the man who would be driving it!

Juan Manuel Fangio was already a celebrated driver. This new car would bring him his fifth World Championship. On the way to that, the Argentinian's win in the German GP - at the Nürburgring - has gone down in legend. Peter Collins - in a Ferrari - was the hapless victim of a genius at work. Collins' Ferrari was way out in front ... before Fangio turned up the wick! Four-wheel drifting his 'Maser' with robotic precision, it was but a question of time before he caught up with Collins. As he went by him, it was as if man and machine melded. Probably, it was the finest performance either of them gave - Fangio, or the 250F, that is. Motor racing as science - and sporting endeavour of the highest order. Fortunate, indeed, were those in attendance - that August day, in Germany!

Cisitalia 202

Cisitalia 202 1940s Italian classic car

Surely, no car has ever qualified as Art, more than the Cisitalia 202! Indeed, MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art, in New York - has had it on display, since 1951. Proof positive of the 202's credentials, in the art department. Designed by Pininfarina, innovative styling was a given. Features were 'integrated', as never before. Mudguard and headlights, for example, bled seamlessly into the front wings. Bodywork lines flowed with a new and striking simplicity. In a few strokes of the Pininfarina pen, automotive design moved on.

Of course, the best design is fully-functional. The 202 had a solid round-tube frame - the better to support its aerodynamic bodywork. The car cut through the air like a scalpel. It was good for 105mph ... 120, in competition mode! And all from just 50bhp - courtesy of a tuned in-line four Fiat 1100 motor. Its 4-speed transmission eased the 202 effortlessly up to such speeds.

Naturally, Pininfarina fingers finessed the fine details. Flip-out door handles were a trademark flourish. The 202's interior was a paragon of minimalism ... and safety! No redundant instrumentation here to distract the eyes from the road ahead! When the 202 was released, Cisitalia had only been around for two years. The company was founded in 1946 - by Piero Dusio - a racing driver, and businessman. His firm's first offering was a single-seater racer. Built by Fiat engineers Giacosa and Savonuzzi, it would subsequently serve as a finely-wrought template for Pininfarina designs. Sadly, though, just a year after the 202's release, Cisitalia was already in trouble. Dusio hankered after a GP car - to be designed by Porsche. Sadly, that did not sit well with his fledgling firm's finances! In lifespan terms, then, Cisitalia was a mere flash in the pan. The 202, though, burned brightly. A mechanical masterpiece, it lit up the world of automotive design!

Triumph Trident T150

Triumph Trident T150 1960s British classic motorcycle

Perhaps, not even its most ardent admirer would profess the Triumph Trident to be the prettiest motorcycle ever made. And - at the time of its 1969 release - there were those who agreed! Especially, in the curve-conscious USA - where the Trident's straight-line styling was not everyone's cup of tea ... or, coffee! True, the Trident's 'ray-gun' silencer was Batman-flash - but that alone was not sufficient to rescue a somewhat staid design. Ergonomically, too, things were relatively conventional - thanks to the upright riding position dictated by high handlebars. Visually, then, it would be fair to say that the Trident did not set the motorcycle world on fire.

On the performance chart, though, the Trident's spikes were higher. It made good, if steady progress - to a top speed of 125mph. And the bike had high-quality handling, to match. But, the Trident's timing was not great ... in terms of its release-date, that is! The Honda CB750 was just around the corner - and its four-cylinder engine would usher in a new dawn for motorcycling.

At the racetrack, things were better ... much better! Triumph's Trident would be etched into the annals of motorcycle history by the legend that was 'Slippery Sam'. Percy Tait took the Trident-based racer to Production TT 'triumph' - from 1971 through to '75. Stateside, too, the Triumph triples blazed a trail. Not least, on account of their Rob North frames. Gene Romero finished second at Daytona, in 1971 - his Triumph resplendent behind its blue-and-white fairing. So, mixed reviews for Triumph's Trident. While it was cheered to the echo at the citadels of racing, design-conscious road-riders were not always as rapturous. Some may even have thought it a tad dull ... but, that was before they opened up the throttle!

Vincent Rapide Series C

Vincent Rapide Series C 1950s British classic motorcycle

In 1949, the Vincent Rapide was a superbike - its top speed of 110mph being very quick for the time. The Rapide's handling was pretty impressive, too. Philip Vincent had designed its cantilever rear suspension system, while still at school ... he just had not got round to founding the company yet! The Rapide's front-end was suspended by state of the art hydraulic forks.

Naturally, such avant-garde engineering sought competitive expression. Land speed record attempts duly followed. In line with tradition, Bonneville Salt Flats - in Utah, USA - played host to them. Rollie Free topped out at fractionally over 150mph. His protective clothing consisted of shoes and swimming trunks ... yes, just shoes and swimming trunks. Now, that is commitment to aerodynamics!

The 'Series C' Rapide was seriously good-looking! Vincent's scrolled emblem embellished a shapely tank - which sat astride a metal masterpiece of engine parts. There were pleasing lines everywhere you looked - latticed spokes, curved exhausts - and the deft diagonal of the rear shock. So, the Vincent Rapide was visually striking - and with performance to match. 'Series C', by name ... 'triple A' in every other regard!

Moto Guzzi Falcone

Moto Guzzi Falcone 1950s classic Italian sports motorcycle

The Moto Guzzi Falcone was one of the most successful machines in the firm's history. It flew onto the European bike scene in 1950. Falcone was fitting - since Moto Guzzi's emblem is an eagle. That was decided when one of the founders - Giovanni Ravelli - was killed in a plane crash. In tribute, his two partners co-opted the winged insignia of their air corps.

The Falcone was the latest in a line of flat-single-cylinder bikes from Guzzi. They took in everything from luxury tourers to pared-down racers. Twin versions of the Falcone were offered - Sport and Touring. They kept the Falcone flag flying until '76 - a full 26 years after its launch. It became an icon on Italian roads. In Sport mode - with its flat 'bars and rear-set footrests - the Falcone was an impressive sight. Its fire-engine red paintwork was eye-catching, to say the least. Ordinarily, top speed was 85mph. But the cognoscenti knew that a sprinkling of Dondolino engine parts served up an appetising 100mph. With a bracing shot of low-down grunt as an apéritif.

The blueprint for the Falcone's 498cc engine was drawn in 1920. Back when Carlo Guzzi designed the first of the bikes that would bear his name. The 4-stroke motor - with its horizontal cylinder - had plenty of stamina. It just kept on going - whatever was asked of it. Moto Guzzi has been around for a century now. Its products have always been stylish - but with a homely feel, to boot. Borne up by their ever-loyal fan base, here is to another 100 years of gorgeous Guzzis. And more bikes with the finesse of the Falcone!

Bimota SB6

Bimota SB6 1990s Italian superbike

Without question, the Bimota SB6 was made from the right stuff. For decades, Italian motorbike manufacturers have provided us with unfathomably good-looking products. In an ever-growing array of shapes and sizes, their common denominator has always been style. Many such machines have passed through a certain set of factory gates. They belong to Bimota - based in Rimini.

Over the years, Bimota have 'borrowed' several proprietary powerplants. Suzuki, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Honda have all bequeathed engines to the Bimota brand. Even rivals Ducati have played ball with Bimota. The high-flying design firm mated the motors with their unique take on bodywork. In turn, specialist cycle parts, too, were sourced. Of course, it did their partners no harm at all to be linked with Bimota's cool creativity. In the case of the SB6, it was Suzuki's GSX-R1100 engine which piled on the coals. Right the way up to 175mph!

The three men who founded the firm were Bianchi, Morri and Tamburini - voilà, 'BiMoTa'. It was right that they were recognised. Since '73, Bimota have been pushing motorcycling's envelope. In terms of performance, development and design, they have set two-wheeled trends with the best of them. The Bimota SB6 was proof positive of that!

Mercedes-Benz 300SL

Mercedes-Benz 300SL 1950s German classic sports car

Whilst car doors have their uses, they are seldom the focal point of the overall design. In the case of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, though, that is exactly what they were. Dubbed the Gullwing, its dexterously hinged doors 'flew' upwards. And if the seagull might not be considered the height of elegance, the 300SL certainly was. Especially with those doors flung high to the sky, the Mercedes was a magnificent sight. Not when perched on its roof, however ... following an accident, say. prising the doors open would then have proved difficult!

But, even with the SL's 'rubber side down', things were far from glitch-free. For starters, its handling was below par. Mainly, because the rear suspension was way too soft. Comfort-wise, too, it was not the best. In the event of rain, let us just say the 300SL's bodywork was not as 'well-sealed' as it might have been! The SL's 'SuperLight' space-frame was sweetly engineered. That said, it was literally a pain in the neck for mechanics. And the SL's engine was inclined 45° - to accomodate a lower bonnet line. Again - while designers doubtless cheered that to the echo - mechanics were not quite so appreciative!

To be fair, the SL was trying to span the gap between a Le Mans prototype and a well-appointed roadster. To say the least, different automotive worlds. For sheer sports car style, it had few peers. On the practical side, well - room for improvement. While it did not come cheap, if you could afford one, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL was, in fact, good value for money. Though - with its technical blemishes - deep pockets of patience also came in handy!

Honda GL1000 Gold Wing

Honda GL1000 Gold Wing 1970s Japanese classic motorbike

The Honda GL1000 Gold Wing was a luxury motorcycle. Then again, Gold Wings always are! Whichever 'Wing' you plump for, there will always be a few constants. It will be big, it will be heavy - and, surest of all, it will be comfortable. So much so, indeed, that extra care may be called for. When riding a motorcycle, it pays to be alert. On a bike as relaxing as the Gold Wing, that could pose a problem!

Not that such concerns have harmed the Wing's sales. The GL1000 had a five-year production run - from '74 to '79. Obviously, it was doing something right. Overall - given its gargantuan girth - the Wing was a smooth and compliant mount. A dry weight of 571lb was a lot to coax through corners - and a handful to haul up. On both counts, though, the Wing scored well. Just in case, the 'Aspencade' came with a compressor ... for on-board suspension adjustment.

The Gold Wing is a bike with a cult following. For an owner, the 'season' starts early and ends late. Summer rallies cascade like confetti ... for those married to a Wing! The bike was always big in the US. And the Gold Wing has graced many a European get-together, too. In fact, the Gold Wing has gone global. Wherever there is a road, there will be a Wing flying up it. And - with a top speed of 122mph - the Honda GL1000 Gold Wing would have soared!