Fiat 130 Coupé

Fiat 130 Coupe 1970s Italian classic car

When Pininfarina consider a design one of the best they ever did, you know it was a bit special! That was the case with the Fiat 130 Coupé. The simplicity of its styling was its strength. The 130 said it all in just a few clean lines. They gave it gravitas - as befitted a first-rate luxury car. Sadly, though - in terms of sales - Fiat simply did not have the cachet of, say, a BMW or Mercedes.

The 130 Coupé's imposing exterior was matched by the opulence within. Velour seats were drawing-room dapper. Veneer door cappings blended with electric windows. There were dual-tone town and country horns. Plus, acres of space for four well-heeled occupants. Comfort was the Coupé's stock-in-trade. Power steering pampered the driver. And for the passengers, independent suspension provided a smooth and stress-free ride.

Performance-wise, the 130 was no slouch. Top speed was 118mph. A 3.2-litre V6 gave 165bhp. Torque was plentiful. The 'box was a Borg-Warner 3-speed auto - with a 5-speed manual available. Mechanically, the 130 was solid, sound and dependable. But, it was aesthetically that the 130 shone. Classic Italian styling cues were written all over it. Commercially, though, the car was hard done by. Fiat, of course, has a fine and prestigious back catalogue. But - had it been built by a bigger, more 'luxurious' brand - the Fiat 130 Coupé would have received more of the plaudits it deserved.

Austin-Healey Sprite

Austin-Healey Sprite 1950s British classic sports car

The Austin-Healey Sprite is, arguably, the cutest car ever! Its most adorable feature? Some may go weak at the knees for its seductive smile. That came in the form of an emoji-style grille. Most, though, would faint at those 'foxy' frog eyes - hence the car's Frogeye Sprite moniker. In fact, those heart-melting windows of the automotive soul might never have opened at all - at least, not in daylight. Donald Healey - designer of the Sprite - drafted it with retractable headlights. Mercifully - for classic car buffs - the cost of fitting them proved prohibitive. So, 'pop-up' became 'pop-eyed' ... and a legend was born.

The Sprite, though, was not just about styling. In the Fifties, its top speed of 84mph impressed. Particularly, since the Sprite's inline-four engine made just 43bhp. Capacity was 948cc. We are talking efficient British engineering. Then again, there was not a lot to lug about. The Sprite, after all, measured only 3.5m in length. Certainly, the Frog-Eye was economical. 45mpg was the low-cost reward for a relaxed driving style. Saying that, tweaking the 'A Series' engine was a breeze. The whole of the Sprite's one-piece nose section lifted up - allowing for the easiest of access. The Frogeye's 4-speed 'box served up the power in bite-size chunks.

The Sprite was the younger sibling of the 3000 model - or 'big Healey', as it was commonly dubbed. BMC's shelves, then, were heaving with parts which bolted straight onto the Sprite. Most of the components also saw service on Morris Minors and Austin A35s. 38,999 Frogeyes were built. Sadly, Austin-Healey broke the mould after making the Sprite. Cars would never again be quite so cuddly!

Chevrolet Camaro

Chevrolet Camaro 1970s American classic sports car

The Chevrolet Camaro was born out of necessity. Sales of the Ford Mustang were going through the roof. GM needed a fix for that - and fast! Rolling to the rescue came the Camaro. Key to its success was its 'Coke bottle' styling - by Bill Mitchell. The Z28, especially - with its duck-tail rear spoiler - rivalled the Mustang for glamour. GM was back on track. 220,000 Camaros were shifted - in the first year alone. Buyers had a choice of V6 or V8 engine - as well as a variety of tuning options. The most uncompromising package was the SS (Super Sport). Less extreme - and more popular - was the RS (Rallye Sport). These are now the most collectible Camaros.

The Seventies ushered in an all-new Camaro. It featured monocoque construction. The new model's looks may not have been as exotic as the original - but it still stacked up as a cohesive design. Crucially, it was slimmer than the new Mustangs. Sales of '70s Camaros peaked at close to 2,000,000. GM were happy bunnies again. Though down on power compared to the '60s versions, it was clear that Stateside motorists had taken the Camaro to their hearts. When a car starts to symbolise 'the American dream', things are definitely on the up!

They say competition improves the breed. The Camaro was a case in point. Had it not had the Mustang as a rival, it is unlikely the Camaro would have soared to the heights it did. In the end, it became a car which was difficult to fault. With a top-spec speed of 125mph, performance was sorted. Design-wise, it was out of the top drawer. In short, it got just about everything right. The Mustang, not so much. It rather lost its automotive mojo, over time. While the pony car developed a paunch, the Camaro kept a solid six-pack. Ultimately, of course, both were great American automobiles. Stone-cold classics of their muscle car kind. Some say the Chevrolet Camaro got it on points. If so, it was because it had more styling stamina in its tank, as the years went by.

Harley-Davidson Model 9E

Harley-Davidson Model 9E vintage motorcycle

Strange to think that the globally renowned brand-name that is Harley-Davidson started life in a small shed in Milwaukee. That was in 1903. After a few faltering start-up steps, the fledgeling firm found its feet in '13. The first Harleys to emerge from the shed - and take to the street - had a single-cylinder engine. The Model 9E, though, came with a 45° V-twin. At that point, not even co-founders William S Harley and the three Davidson brothers, knew just how iconic that engine would turn out to be. Harley-Davidson - along with bourbon whiskey distilleries - was what made Milwaukee famous. The 9E's 1,000cc motor kicked out 10bhp. That gave a top speed of 60mph. There are modern-day wags, of course, who claim that not a lot has changed!

As a rule, Harley-Davidson is not associated with racing. Since its primary legacy is a long list of laid-back cruisers, that is not surprising. Drag-strips have been more of a Harley domain - where their torque-rich V-twin engines can be given free rein. The firm has long competed at race circuits, too, though. The first Harley-Davidson factory team was formed as far back as '14. Dubbed the 'Wrecking Crew', the équipe battled it out with the likes of Indian, Merkel and Exelsior. Such events garnered Harley much-needed early publicity. They were the perfect showcase for their 8-valve V-twin motorcycles.

By '19, Harley's 'Bikes Produced' column numbered 22,000. Added to that tally were 16,000 sidecars. The big time beckoned! Henry Ford, however - and his affordable cars - were increasingly a thorn in their side. The Model T, in particular, put paid to many an American motorbike manufacturer. Indeed, Harley's own sales halved. Milwaukee's finest, though, would survive Ford's four-wheeled onslaught. It was fortitude to which millions of bikers would be later indebted. For - while the marque has long had its fair share of detractors - it was Harley-Davidson which really put motorcycling on the map. The marketing map - as well as the geographical one - that is. The Model 9E was an important staging-post. As for that shed in Milwaukee … mighty oaks do indeed from little acorns grow!

Buick Riviera

Buick Riviera 1960s American classic car

Its name alone told you all you needed to know about the Buick Riviera. It was a classy automobile! Built at a time when in your face fins and chrome were ubiquitous, the Riviera oozed cool sophistication. Automotive haute couture, so to speak. Spotlessly clean, in design terms, its shape was especially powerful in profile. The Riviera's elegantly-drawn body was along the lines of, say, a Jaguar or Bentley. So European were its looks that it might almost have been described as the Rolls-Royce of American cars! Interior décor, too, was in the continental style - complete with rounded dashboard dials and floor-mounted gear-shift. Electric windows and power steering came as standard, naturally!

But, the Riviera's charms were more than skin-deep. In highest-spec 7.0-litre guise, its V8 engine produced no less than 365bhp. Top speed was a cool 130mph ... pretty good going for a five-seater saloon car. A two-speed automatic gearbox kept it all on an even keel. Not that the Riviera was perfect, of course. Handling was average - not helped by the live rear axle. And its drum brakes were prone to high-speed fade.

The Riviera, then, was a satisfying blend of American and European. The best of both worlds, Buick hoped. For all its cosmopolitan chic, there was still more than a hint of muscle-bound machismo. Straddling the 'pond', you might say. At the time, it was the bee's knees in transatlantic travel. Indeed, many a Mediterranean tourist would not be seen in anything else. Would they, chéri?

Mercedes-Benz W196

Mercedes-Benz W196 1950s German F1 car

In the mid-'50s, the W196 marked a welcome return to GP racing for Mercedes-Benz. As it was, they would only be back for a couple of years. In '54 and '55, Mercedes left the opposition for dead. No great surprise, really. They did, after all, have Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss on their books. Behind the wheel of a W196, both men were in their element. Past masters of their craft, they now had machines to match.

But, there was more to the W196 package - even than Fangio and Moss. Engineer Rudolph Uhlenhaut was likewise at the peak of his powers. While rival teams' technicians trod water design-wise, Uhlenhaut took risks. No parts barred streamlining was key. At first, that included the wheels. Originally, they were fully enclosed. As a result, however, handling was wayward - especially, near the limit. No worries! Uhlenhaut uncovered the wheels again - and the W196 was back to its sure-footed best.

Fangio won first time out in the new car - at the '54 French GP. That was the first rung on the ladder to his second driver's title. That season, there were just two races the W196 did not win. The '55 campaign arrived - and it was the same story. Well, almost. This time around, there was only one race victory it did not take! Sure enough, Fangio soon held aloft his third World Championship trophy. Uhlenhaut's car was packed with cutting edge spec. Its straight-eight engine, for instance, was rotated through its 'default' position. That gave a lower centre of gravity - optimising handling. The motor's valve-gear was desmodromic. Valves were opened and closed via cams. Having no bouncing springs improved efficiency. Plus, it was fuel-injected - almost a decade before that became standard GP practice. In terms of engine and bodywork, Uhlenhaut had gambled and won. Monte Carlo or bust, so to say! A consummately-crafted car, and - in Fangio and Moss - two of history's greatest drivers. Truly, the Mercedes-Benz W196 was a motor racing marriage of man and machine!

Ford GT40

Ford GT40 1960s American classic GT sports racing car

The Ford GT40 could have been a Ferrari! In the mid-'60s, Ford were in the throes of a Ferrari takeover. With the deal all but closed, though, their offer was snubbed. That displeased Henry Ford II - to say the least. Hackles suitably raised, he determined to come out fighting ... and hit Ferrari where it hurt. At the racetrack! The GT40 would be his weapon of choice. Fortunately, Ford were in a position to recruit race car constructor Lola to their cause. The British firm had just put the finishing touches to their Mk6 GT car. It had been fitted with a Ford V8 engine. Plainly, the prototype was packed with potential. Perfect timing! Ford leapt at the chance to bring Lola on board ... and duly acquired the rights to the Mk6. Eric Broadley - Lola's founder - would oversee the project.

Not that Ford would be taking a back seat. They would be styling the new car, for starters. Trouble was - for all their commercial success - Ford were not race engineers. The shape they came up with was aerodynamic - but not as much as it could have been. Lola could have made it still more slippery. That was their stock-in-trade, after all. Plus, Ford's plans for the GT40 included roadsters. Which would, of course, need to be factory-built. Thinking ahead - in terms of parts - Ford gave the go-ahead for a steel monocoque chassis for the GT40. It went without saying that it was relatively cheap. The specialised light aluminium tub Broadley had designed was surplus to requirements. So now, not only was the GT40 less aerodynamic than it might have been - it was heavier, too. Ford wanted to have their cake and eat it, too. They wanted a race car to beat Ferrari - while, at the same time, cutting production costs!

The proof of the pudding would come at Le Mans - in the form of the '65 24-Hour race. Sadly - to Ford's palate, at least - the pudding did not taste good. Ferrari won! The following year, though - after some winter-time fettling - the GT40 came on song. Indeed, it would win at La Sarthe the next four times out. The '66 and '67 campaigns were under Ford's own aegis. A privateer team took charge in '68 and '69. In the course of that string of victories, the GT40 did more than just win. It was the first car to notch up 3,000 miles in 24 hours - with New Zealanders Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon doing the driving. And after that - with Jacky Ickx at the wheel - the GT40 beat a Hans Herrmann-piloted Porsche to the flag, by a mere 100m. After a full day's high-octane racing, that was a pretty tight margin. To put it in context, the GT40 topped out at more than 200mph. As a sports car, then, it was anything but lacklustre. Its 4,727cc V8 engine made 485bhp. And no car wins four times on the bounce at Le Mans, without having something special going for it. The Ford GT40 was a fantastic racing car. It was just that - had Eric Broadley and his Lola colleagues been given free rein - it could have been even better!

Koenigsegg CC

Koenigsegg CC 2000s Swedish supercar

Christian von Koenigsegg was a Swedish tycoon. He was also a man on a mission. In '94, he decided he would build the fastest road-going four-wheeler. The result would be the Koenigsegg CC set of supercars. F1-derived technology would help. It was factored in. In 2000 - six years after von Koenigsegg conceived the project - the carbon-fibre-skinned fruit of his labours appeared. The prototype - unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show - was the Koenigsegg CC8S. The production version went on sale in '02. In '04, it was followed by the CCR. That car clocked in at 241.63mph - at the Nardo test track, in Italy. Which made it the quickest roadster on planet Earth. Von Koenigsegg had delivered. His small-scale Swedish firm had cocked a snook at the world's biggest players. Like the mighty McLaren, for example.

If the CCR was the stuff of boyhood fantasies, the CCX introduced some real-world charm. While way out of reach of the average buyer, it sought to address everyday issues. Air pollution, for one. US safety and emissions regulations are stringent. Von Koenigsegg's cars, though, met them head-on. Their engines, for instance, were squeaky-clean. Koenigsegg HQ is in Ängelholm, Sweden. An environmentally-friendly V8 was developed. Specialised heat treatment reduced the amounts of aluminium used. Two centrifugal superchargers were fitted. The result was a staggering 806bhp - from just 6,900rpm. The engine's dry-sump lubrication let the centre of mass be lowered. That helped the CCX handle. The gearbox was 6-speed. There was a custom selection of gear ratios on offer - to suit owners' personal driving styles.

Bodywork-wise, too, the CCX was well-crafted. Carbon-fibre and Kevlar came as standard. Aerodynamics were key. The car's underside was flat - save for venturis cut into the back. An optional rear spoiler added downforce. Yet - for such a state-of-the-art supercar - the CCX was compliant. Its doors were dihedral synchro-helix. They rotated forwards and up! When the sun came out, the targa top could be detached - and stowed beneath the bonnet. That was not, perhaps, the best time to test the top speed. 259mph was on tap. 0-60 arrived in 3.2s. The Koenigsegg CC range, then, fused supercar performance with practicality. Swedish supercar performance, that is!

MV Agusta 500 Four

MV Agusta 500 Four 1970s MotoGP bike

Atop a monument to motorcycle racing might well sit MV Agusta - and their 500 Four. MV is a mythical marque in the annals of the sport. Between '58 and '74, for example, MV won no less than seventeen 500cc world championships. On the spin!

Over the years, MV Agusta's rider roster featured some of the most famous names in bike racing. Among them, Agostini, Surtees, Hailwood, Read. It all began at the back end of the Second World War. Count Domenico Agusta founded Meccanica Verghera - Verghera being the Italian village in which his new firm was based. MV would go on to become the ultimate in red-blooded racing style.

Another great marque, though, was key to MV's success. Their chief engineer/manager Arturo Magni had previously been at Gilera. What he learned there was key to him later creating a twin-cam 500cc four-cylinder motor. That engine would be the bedrock upon which MV was built. The bike racing world will always be in awe of MV Agusta. They excelled so much - and for so long - in such a hostile environment. The 500 Four - both bike and engine - was an integral part of the MV legend!

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R 2000s Japanese sports bike

The letter 'Z' - on a Kawasaki motorbike - has long denoted high-performance. The Ninja ZX-6R - released in '03 - was a case in point. A race-bred riot on two wheels, it had a licence to thrill. As uncompromising as bikes come, the ZX-6R made 116bhp. Much of that was thanks to its ram-air system. Top speed was 160mph. Not bad for a 636cc capacity machine. The fact that the ZX-6R weighed in at just 354lb helped account for its awesome acceleration.

When it came to keeping all that power in line, the ZX-6R's chassis was well up to the job. Twin radial front brake callipers were there, if needed. They were directly derived from Kawasaki's race programme. As were the ZX-6R's thinly-padded seats … definitely not designed for comfort! That said - crouched racing-style atop the plot - rider and pillion were well-placed to help steer the beast. The lack of leverage from the stubby 'bars made hanging off through corners a requirement. To some degree, at least. That is an art to be acquired with caution! But - with weight distribution correctly addressed - the Ninja gave high-precision handling.

Just as the letter 'Z' can say so much when it is a Kawasaki, so can a colour. Every hue and shade in the spectrum has bedecked a motorbike, at some time or other. But seldom with the impact of lime-green. Since the heyday of the 'Green Meanies', the colour has adorned many a production Kawasaki. They were the evil-handling H2R race bikes the firm sent out onto Seventies circuits. Certainly, lime-green suited the ZX-6R. Green has been said by some to bring bad luck to a motorcycle. If so, it was not the case with the Ninja. The ZX-6R restored Kawasaki's status as sports bike supremos. 'Z-Bikes' have long been integral to the marque. Fast, dynamic, exciting? Always. Zzzzz? Never!

Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud

Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud 1950s British classic car

The most elegant car ever built? Several possible answers ... most of them made by the same company! No prizes for that one, then - Rolls-Royce. So the question resolves to, 'What's the most elegant Rolls-Royce of all time?' A clear contender for that crown has to be the Silver Cloud. Launched in '55, it as good as epitomised the marque.

No offence at all to Crewe, England - but it is not always thought of as a source of suave sophistication. The products, though, which rolled out of one of its factory's gates were possessed of pedigree, without parallel. Back in the day, no other car had the cachet of a Rolls-Royce.

There are few drawbacks associated with ownership of a Rolls-Royce. For 'high rollers' of a nervous disposition, however, not knowing if the motor is running could obviously be a source of stress. The 'culprits', in that regard, were the Rolls-Royce engineers. So meticulous were they, that by the time they reluctantly signed their charges off, the cars were virtually silent! Rolls-Royce and Silver Cloud, then, were by-words for automotive excellence. To say, 'They don't make 'em like that anymore', would be almost sinful understatement!

Suzuki Hayabusa

Suzuki Hayabusa 1990s Japanese superbike

The Suzuki Hayabusa was released in '99. At the time, the Honda Super Blackbird ruled the motorcycle roost - in top speed terms, at least. From a Suzuki standpoint, that was a stat that needed to change. The Hayabusa is a Japanese bird of prey. No doubt, one which would not object to gobbling down a tasty blackbird or two on its travels!

Suzuki's assault on the top speed slot would be a three-pronged affair. The Hayabusa's 1,299cc engine was the biggest in a sports bike, up to that point. Its ram air set-up did just that - forcing increasing amounts through the carbs, the quicker the bike went. The result was a high-octane 173bhp. The Hayabusa was also quite light - weighing in at 473lb dry. Not slimline, as such - but less than you would expect for a bike of its size. The third item on Suzuki's must-have list was good aerodynamics. The bike's bulbous-looking bodywork was not to everyone's taste. But - aesthetic considerations aside - it was a lot more slippery than it looked. At any rate, designer Koji Yoshirua's primary goal had been to make a strong visual statement.

The Hayabusa's 1300 engine was, basically, a bigger version of the GSX-R1100 unit. Each iteration of Suzuki's flagship model had refined its core components. So - by the time the Hayabusa came along - the package was pretty well primed. All of which resolved to 194mph, at full chat. That was enough to knock the Super Blackbird off its high-speed perch. Mission accomplished, then, for the Suzuki Hayabusa. As it happens, Yoshirua claims the intention was not to make it the fastest road bike on the planet. But, that can probably be taken with a generous grain of Japanese salt!

Cadillac El Camino

Cadillac El Camino 1950s classic concept car

When it came to Fifties 'dream cars', GM set the bar high. The Motorama was a travelling show of avant-garde automobilia. The Cadillac El Camino was a 'space-age' case in point. El Camino Real - The Royal Highway - was a sobriquet for Highway 101. While the El Camino sounded Spanish, it was American as apple pie. It was also one of the most influential concept cars ever created. Many El Camino features would be seen on production Cadillacs, by decade's end.

Show car though it was, a V8 was duly dropped into the engine bay. 230bhp was, in theory, available. El Camino capacity was 5,422cc. Had Cadillac's boffins wanted it to go touring, it was good to go. As it was, the lure of the open road played second fiddle to the car's publicity-seeking uses.

To that end, the El Camino had styling to die for. Its pearlescent paint-job, in particular, was a cinch to turn heads. Silver had never looked so good! And the radical roof-line was almost as engaging. Curvaceous windows - and deftly-drawn pillars - were a visual treat. Brilliantly topped off by brushed aluminium. Front bumpers referenced bullets. Front arches revealed intricate wheels. At the rear, tail-fins were a pop-up delight. The El Camino blended seamlessly into the Motorama mix. Cadillac's class of '54 also comprised the Espada and Park Avenue. But the El Camino, above all, would be their blueprint for the future.