Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 1960s American classic sports car

The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray was released in '63. 'Stingray' was a fitting name. For - in careless hands - the car could indeed unleash a fearsome sting, from its sweetly-shaped fastback tail. Its avant-garde fibreglass body made the Stingray a lot lighter than it looked. Its kerb weight was just 3,362lb. Combine that with 340bhp - from a small block high compression V8 - and the result was a powertrain that required respect. Even more so for the fuel-injected 360hp version - available as a $430 optional extra.

The Stingray's free-flowing form was inspired, in part, by Chevrolet's Mako Shark 1 'dream car'. Dream cars were just that. Conceptual exercises - on display at auto shows - they were never intended to traverse highways. Rather, their brief was to work buyers up into a fever-pitch of excitement. Their acme was the '50s. During that space-obsessed decade, sci-fi was the source of many a fantasy-drenched design prototype. Another GM car key to the Stingray's development was '57's Q-Corvette - designed by Bob McLean. The Stingray Special - Bill Mitchell's racing project - was also instrumental. Those machines fed into '59's XP-720 - a GM experimental model. From that, it was a short hop to the Stingray production car.

The Stingray was dubbed the 'Coke bottle' - on account of its hour-glass shape. Andy Warhol - who knew a thing or two about coke bottles - would have loved that. Designer Larry Shinoda refined those illustrious contours into something suitable for road use. Pete Brock was an able assistant. Bill Mitchell - head stylist at GM - owned a Jaguar E-Type. And that British-made sports car, too, was a clear influence on the Stingray. The latter, though, could only have been made in the US. American to its apple-pie core, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray summed up the States. On a sunny '60s day - with the convertible version's top down - driving must have seemed like the stuff of heaven!

Gumpert Apollo

Gumpert Apollo 2000s German supercar

Roland Gumpert - developer of the Apollo - was a man on a mission. He had previously been Audi's Director of Motorsport. Engineering-wise, then, the Apollo was in the surest of hands. Indeed, few cars could hold a candle to it, technically. Visual design was by Marco Vanetta. The jury has long been out on the Apollo's looks. Its shape has been critiqued as a bit 'boxy' by styling pundits. And even as downright odd, by some supercar observers!

Configuration-wise, the Apollo was, in fact, far from radical. Its two-seater, mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive set-up was pretty much par for the supercar course. But the Apollo wrung every last drop out of the layout. Its tubular steel frame was rock-solid. The fibre-glass bodywork light as a feather. Suspension was double wishbone all round - with the dampers fully adjustable. They were joined inboard by 6-piston ventilated disc brakes. The Apollo was impressively aerodynamic. On top of its wind-cheating shape, it sported a subtle rear spoiler. Beneath, lay a finely-hewn undertray. Two venturis stretched the length of the car. They generated huge amounts of downforce. The Apollo's engine dictated that. The turbocharged 4.2-litre Audi V8 produced 641bhp in base form. That was upped to 690bhp by the sport version of the motor. There was a third engine option - tuned specially for racing. Top speed - even in standard trim - was 224mph. 0-60 appeared in just 3s.

The Apollo, though, did have its docile side. Controls were power-assisted. The V8 grunt was manageable for most drivers. And cruising was a breeze. Supercar-style gull-wing doors allowed easy access. Compared with many a highly-strung rival, the Apollo was user-friendly. Its cabin was roomy and relaxing. Four-point safety harnesses were standard. So, in many ways, the Gumpert Apollo was a real-world runabout, rather than a star-chasing retro rocket. Albeit, one in a suitably space-age skin!

Ducati 916

Ducati 916 1990s Italian superbike

The Ducati 916 took motorcycle visuals to another level. It is ranked among the most beautiful bikes ever built. Launched in '94, its designer was Massimo Tamburini. He had been a co-founder of Bimota - specialist builders extraordinaire.

Tamburini's trademark styling cues were all over the 916. From its seductive snub nose - through the curves of its bodywork - to its pert tail-piece and silencers. It was so slim, it was scary! The tubular steel frame was not one millimetre wider than required. The 916 weighed in at just 429lb ... absurdly light for a bike of its size.

Engine-wise, too, the 916 scaled heights. Its torque-laden 90° V-twin made 114bhp. Top speed was 160mph. The 916's chassis/suspension geometry absorbed corners. Lean it as far as you dare ... you would not find its limits. The bike's single-sided swing-arm said it all - both technically and aesthetically. As you would expect, such a classy package was a raging success, in the showrooms. When it came to the Ducati 916, Tamburini broke the motorbike mould!

Ferrari Enzo

Ferrari Enzo 2000s Italian supercar

Technically, the Ferrari Enzo was a roadster. And technically was about as far as it went. Red-blooded racing ran in its veins. Its name alone told you all you needed to know. Founder of the myth that is Maranello - and its most famous firm - Enzo Ferrari's legacy is secure. 'Professor' Alain Prost - French F1 legend - once said he did not know why racing drivers do what they do. Cars like the Enzo - with its 660bhp power output - probably provide a few clues!

There were strong links between the Enzo and the Ferrari F1 car at the time. Its CFC/Nomex body panels, for starters, bear a striking resemblance. Beneath those panels sat a carbon-fibre monocoque - similar, again, to that of the GP car. Even the Enzo's V12 engine was cut from the same F1 cloth ... in terms of layout, at least. On the underside, huge venturis mimicked 'ground effect' - the set-up by which GP cars stay 'glued' to the tarmac. The Enzo was even equipped with 'active aerodynamics' - a system not too far removed from that of the top-flight competition cars. Its brake discs were carbon-ceramic composites ... of course!

To match the Enzo's tech spec visually, then, was always going to be a challenge. Pininfarina, though, stepped up to the plate. The great Italian design house had long been associated with the Ferrari marque. They fulfilled the Enzo brief to perfection - supplying carbon-fibre solutions, inside and out. Ferrari, however, had issues when the car went on sale. Not because of any problems with the product. Indeed, just the opposite. So sought-after was the Enzo - even with its £425,000 price tag - that all 349 units sold out within hours. To try to placate frustrated would-be buyers, Ferrari scaled the number up to 400. It is unlikely that was enough. One of the most finely-wrought supercars ever made, the Ferrari Enzo was a fitting tribute to the man who inspired it!


Goldenrod classic land speed record car

It was in 1965 that Bob Summers drove Goldenrod to a new world land speed record of 409mph. The backdrop was the Bonneville Salt Flats - Utah's Mecca of straight-line speed. What set Goldenrod apart from many of its rivals was its relative orthodoxy. It was, quintessentially, a car ... albeit, one which pushed the automotive envelope. Whereas some of its contemporaries were borderline, at best, Goldenrod proudly declared its roadster credentials.

Key to that claim was its engine. To wit, a 6.9-litre Chrysler V8. Well, actually, four 6.9-litre Chrysler V8s! Two of them turned the front wheels - the other two, the rear. Their combined output was 2,400bhp. And they were not even supercharged. Now, that is efficient engineering! Saying that, they were fuel-injected.

But, Goldenrod was about more than pure power! Aerodynamics were just as important. The car was assembled in Ontario, California - by driver Summers, and his brother Bill. Sensibly, Bob built a mock-up, beforehand. It was this scaled-down model that first caught Chrysler's eye. Summers was sure that his dream could be realised. And - after studying the mock-up - Chrysler agreed. The green light was given - and Goldenrod began to take shape. Its length alone - all 10 missile-like metres of it - buoyed Chrysler with confidence. Summers explained that Goldenrod's weight was to its advantage. It would force its aluminium wheels - shod, as they were, in Firestone tyres - solidly into the salt, he said. He was proved right. Goldenrod duly snatched back the land speed record from Brit Donald Campbell. It was almost 40 years since the USA had made the fastest four-wheeler on Earth. Goldenrod had been shot down from hot rod heaven - expressly for the purpose. A shining example of America's need for speed!

MV Agusta 750 F4

MV Agusta 750 F4 1990s Italian sports bike

The MV Agusta 750 F4 was the work of a master motorcycle designer. His name was Massimo Tamburini. Ducati and Cagiva were other legendary marques for which he picked up a pen. Arguably, the 750 F4 represented the peak of his design perfectionism. A modern-day da Vinci, Tamburini fused Science and Art. With the Serie Oro F4, Tamburini turned alchemist - morphing metal into gold.

The F4's visual prowess was matched only by its technical spec. Its top speed was a heady 165mph. That was down to an output of 126bhp. A dry weight of just 406lb helped, too. 16 radial valves - 4 per cylinder - were key to the power stat. As for the light weight - the F4's bodywork was skinnier than Twiggy's!

Exiting the rarefied air of the design studio - and encountering the rigours of the real world - never phased the F4. Its state of the art cycle parts saw to that. The bike could 'handle' any road surface thrown at it. Surging through the revs was sewing-machine smooth. The bike's brakes shed speed in an instant. It is true that the F4 had rivals, technically. But - clad in its silver and red mantle - it reigned supreme on the styling front. Italian to its core, the MV Agusta 750 F4 radiated elegance. It was, quite simply, one of the most ravishing-looking motorbikes ever made. Massimo Tamburini knew a thing or two about them!

Buell Firebolt XB9R

Buell Firebolt XB9R 2000s American sports bike

When it came to the Firebolt XB9R, Buell had broad shoulders to stand on. Harley-Davidson is a hugely successful brand. It is therefore well-placed to lend a helping hand to those lower down the pecking order, should it care to do so. To the likes of, say, Buell - who were given permission to transplant Harley's iconic V-twin into their own creations. Not that Harley was losing out. Erik Buell - founder of his firm - was a kingpin of innovation. Harley no doubt hoped some of his boundless ingenuity would rub off on their own marque. In marketing terms, at least!

Erik Buell was a Harley man through and through. He had been both an engineer and racer for them. He was uniquely positioned, then, to conceive and construct the RR1000 - a Harley-powered race bike. As is so often the case, success at the racetrack led to a road-going sequel. The Buell RS1200 featured a vibe-reducing rubber-mounting set-up. It was also fitted with a radical rear shock. Horizontally slung beneath the engine, it was both technically, and visually, arresting. It was in '93 that the 'big time' beckoned for Buell. Harley took out a 49% shareholding in the company. That was later increased. With Harley-Davidson at the helm, Buell was set fair. Exciting products were sure to follow. Erik Buell's singular vision of how a motorcycle could be built - rather than how it should be built - was always a key factor.

The Firebolt, then, was in a roster of radical bikes built by Buell. It was released in '02. Its most conventional component was its motor. That was a tuned 984cc Sportster powerplant. After that, Buell departed from the Harley script. The Firebolt's frame spars, for instance, were also its 'fuel tank'. Likewise, its swing-arm held the oil. Those chassis parts were forged from light aluminium. Bizarre as they sound, such 'double acts' harked back to motorcycling's classic era. What was indisputably 'new skool' was the Firebolt's front brake disc. Comprised of an ornately-fashioned 'ring', it was fixed to the wheel's rim, rather than its hub. On the subject of braking, top speed for the Firebolt was 130mph. Handling was impeccable - courtesy of the chassis wizardry. Cue plaudits, then, for Erik Buell - clearly, a man at one with his craft. The Firebolt XB9R came right out of the biking blue ... and shot a surge of creativity into the world of motorcycle design!