Renault RS01

Renault RS01 1970s F1 car

The Renault RS01 never won a race. Not much to write about, then? But, winning is not everything - even in Formula One! The RS01 was one of the most important GP cars ever built. That is because of what it brought to the sport ... money! The cash-stoked spectacle of today's billion-dollar industry, was but a glint in a money-man's eye back in the Sixties. Then, F1 was about gas, grease - and the spirit of motoring. It was not that far removed from the cars and parts that could be viewed in any quality showroom. The Renault RS01 would change that ... for better, or worse! In the Seventies, GP racing would start to 'go global'. For an investor, that was worth risking the odd oil stain on a suit!

Renault's RS01 set a trend. The Gallic giant's commitment to F1 led fellow manufacturers to do likewise. Alfa Romeo, Honda, BMW et al. - they would all want a piece of the F1 pie! It was the mid-'60s when Renault spotted a shot at the big time. A 'blue riband' 3-litre Formula was in the offing. Motorsport's governing body had given the green light to supercharged, and turbocharged cars .... so long as they had no more than half the capacity of their normally aspirated rivals. Renault saw a chance to position themselves at the cutting edge of engineering! They chose to go the turbocharged route. Already in F2, the team had a two-litre V6 on its bench. Pared back to 1.5 litres - and duly turbocharged - the new Renault engine was done. Slot it into a stiff chassis - by Andre de Cortanze and Jean-Pierre Jabouille - and Renault were ready to go racing. Jabouille would even double up as driver!

In theory, the RS01 should have been pace-setting. It made substantially more power than its rivals. In practice, though, it was a mixed bag. The downside was poor reliability. Added to that, was 'turbo lag'. The charge was far from light-switch sharp! That made the car a real handful - even for a driver of Jabouille's talent. Improvements were made ... but the RS01 'did not finish' too many times! Fourth place points eventually came - at the '78 US GP. A year later, Jabouille put the RS01 on pole - at Kyalami, South Africa. The non-turbocharged cars were suffering high altitude sickness! Jabouille did go on to win - in the Renault RS10 - but that was with 'ground effect' aerodynamics. The RS01, though, was a game-changer - spawning a legacy of successors with turbocharged power. Those cars - and their constructors - reaped rewards their progenitor did not. But it was the Renault RS01 that made motorsport history!

TVR Speed 12

TVR Speed 12 concept car

The TVR Speed 12 concept car followed on from the 'Project 7/12' prototype - named for its 7.0-litre V12 engine. The latter car wowed the crowd, at the 1996 British Motor Show. It had done the same at the racetracks. It made it from 0-60mph, in around 3s. Speed 12 stats were always a tad hazy. The 7/12 was far from forgiving, handling-wise, however ... providing for some splendidly 'hairy' spectating! The 48-valve V12 was, in effect, two 6-cylinder motors combined. A 6-speed 'box did its best to transmit power to the rear wheels. All that was wrapped in a TVR 'Tuscan' modified chassis. With 800bhp output by what was essentially a souped-up sports car, it is not surprising the 7/12 was a popular sight!

But, there was a new chapter to be written for the Project 7/12. In 2000, a new version was unveiled. Now known as the Speed 12, it was everything its predecessor had been - and more! TVR had used the McLaren F1 supercar as a benchmark - which sort of said it all! The F1 was good for 231mph. The TVR was about to top that - with a reputed top speed of 240! That was in no small part down to the Speed 12's weight - or lack thereof. It had been pared down to just 1,000kg. The bodywork was breathtaking to behold - and hyper-light, too. Aerodynamics were a gimme!

Sadly, just a single Speed 12 was built. TVR - based in Blackpool, England - had built a beast of a car, but one which could be fatal, in the hands of the foolhardy! 'TVR' had been founded by TreVoR Wilkinson ... but, Peter Wheeler was now the man at the helm. A seasoned, and skilled racer of his company's products, Wheeler felt that the Speed 12 was simply too powerful to take to the roads. It was mooted that the car might compete at Le Mans - so, he was probably right! The Speed 12 served up some 960bhp. A price tag of £188,000 had been pencilled in. Stunning to look at - and with power to match - TVR's Speed 12 might well have been worth it!

Ariel Red Hunter

Ariel Red Hunter 1940s British classic motorcycle

Ariel were based in Selly Oak - the Midlands, England. One of the original motorcycle manufacturers, by the 1930s, Ariel was big business! As a result, it was able to attract design talent of the calibre of Edward Turner, Val Page and Bert Hopwood. They would go on to become three legendary figures in the history of British bike building. Turner, in particular - he would prove to be pivotal in the success of Triumph.

Ariel produced a steady stream of stylish, but practical machines. One of the best was the Red Hunter. It was one of a batch of successful single-cylinder four-strokes. These machines were a godsend to Ariel. Financial woes had forced the factory to close. Jack Sangster took over Ariel - from his father Charles, the firm's founder. Sangster turned to Val Page - and asked him to come up with something. The Red Hunter soon had the ailing firm back on its feet!

The Red Hunter's top speed - 82mph - was darned quick in '37! Especially, from a 497cc motor. To extract the stat from just 26bhp was testament to the quality of the engineering. Sadly, the suspension of the time was not quite in the same league. Girder forks, at the front - and a rigid rear end! Notwithstanding, the Red Hunter's handling was quite acceptable. And the sprung seat was a comfort ... of sorts. What with its push-rod single-pot motor, the bike was always going to be a bone-shaker! Back in the day, though, it was a luxury product. Certainly, it looked the part - resplendent in its 'red robin' plumage. A classic bike, if ever there was one, Ariel's Red Hunter was refined, respectable ... and could shift a bit, too!

Dodge Viper

Dodge Viper American sports car

Chrysler recruited Carroll Shelby - linchpin of the AC Cobra - as a consultant on the Viper project. He was eminently well-placed to assist - both with its venom-spitting power, and serpentine lines. On its début - at the '89 Detroit Motor Show - the Viper mesmerised all who saw it. Such was the frenzy that the concept car created, that Chrysler hastily hatched plans to put it into production. Fast-forward two and a half years - and the Viper was sliding onto the highway. Its 8-litre V10 gave 400bhp. Top speed was 180mph. Thankfully, it had been fitted with 13″ rims ... which went some way toward transmitting torque to tarmac. For, torque there was - 450lb ft of it!

The Viper's motor had begun life in a truck. That was before Lamborghini were given it. They cast the block from aluminium, rather than iron - and designed a bright-red cylinder-head. That said, it was hardly cutting edge. It had just two valves per cylinder, hydraulic lifters, and pushrods. With Shelby's help, however, big numbers were coaxed out of it. The transmission was state-of-the-art. A 6-speed 'box was still a rarity, in the early '90s.

Styling-wise, the Viper hit the target. Its sinuous bodywork was seriously aerodynamic. Drivers loved the Viper. A real seal of approval came when it was selected as pace car for the Indy 500 race. Stateside, sports cars had been in the doldrums. Thanks to the Viper, they were reinvigorated. For Carroll Shelby, the Cobra was always going to be a hard act to top. The Dodge Viper, though, had 'em dancing in the aisles. Well, in the showrooms, at any rate!

Yamaha YZF R1

Yamaha YZF R1 Japanese superbike

The Yamaha YZF R1 was about as close to a race-bike as a roadster can get! Everything about it screamed speed. Its fairing parted air, like a shark's nose shifts water. Its tail-piece was sharp enough to shave with. The R1 tasted number-crunching good! A power output of 160bhp. A dry weight of 389lb. A top speed of 170mph. Satisfying stats, to be sure!

The R1 was not just quick, and aerodynamic - it was agile as an acrobat. If anything, it was 'flickable' to a fault. Corners could be too tempting! Short and slim, its wheelbase was minimal. Were the R1 human, its weight loss would be worrying! Engine-wise, there were 5 valves per cylinder. Do the math ... and that made 20 of them - doing a mechanised dance of staggering precision. Cycle parts were state-of-the-art. Suspension, and brakes responsive as razor-blades. In every department, the R1 excelled. As you would expect - it sold in shedloads!

The R1 was the kind of machine lives are built around. It inspired, not dedication - but devotion! Whether an R1 owners' club, track days, or clubman's racing - no other bike would do! In short, the Yamaha YZF R1 was a two-wheeled icon!

Lincoln Continental

Lincoln Continental 1960s American classic car

It is not often that a car plays a part in history. But, sadly, such was the case with the Lincoln Continental. For, it was while riding in the stretched Presidential version, that John F Kennedy was fatally shot - in Dallas, Texas, 1963. The 'Continental' was tailor-made for affairs of state. The MkII Continental - released in '56 - came with every 'mod con' going. It had a price tag to match! What made it stand out, though, were its clean lines - and restrained styling! Yes, it had chrome and fins. But, nothing like so much as other exotica on highways, at the time. The Continental packed some serious gravitas!

'61 ushered in the most iconic Continental of all ... the legendary 'clap-door'. It acquired the tag on account of its rear-hinged rear door - which needed to be opened with care. Backward-looking visibility was not its strong suit! As soon as the new Lincoln was released, celebrities strong-armed their way to the showrooms. Before long, everyone who was anyone had gone Continental! The new car had the lot! To wit, shapely elegance, lashings of luxury - and a rorty Ford V8. Top speed was 125mph. The 3-speed auto 'box made it a breeze to drive ... especially, the 'power-top' convertible version. The saloon ate up the straights. Corners were less to its taste, however! 7.0- and 7.5-litre engines were fitted - with a maximum output of 365bhp. Performance-wise, the car was no slouch ... even with 5,215lb of body-weight to haul about.

The first Continental was a crowd-puller. It came complete with bulbous, but beautiful nose - and 'egg-crate' grille. Some subsequent models, though, lacked in that department. The MkIII Continental, say, had all of the size - but less of the charm - of its spotlessly-styled predecessors. Indeed, the first model had been so meticulously made, that Lincoln lost money on every car built! Into the '60s - and the car continued to pick up plaudits, like confetti. It was as if it was the best of both worlds - American scale, and European refinement. Mixing brawn with chic in equal measure, the Lincoln Continental was a one-off. A fitting backcloth, then, for that day in Dallas - when the world held its breath!

Harley-Davidson V-Rod

Harley-Davidson V-Rod American modern classic sports motorbike

By Harley-Davidson standards, the 'V-Rod' verged on the radical! It was clearly a cruiser - in true Harley style. But, it was a different kind of cruiser to what 'hog' fans were used to. The VRSC - V-Twin Racing Street Custom - had superbike-like performance. Top speed was 135mph. In handling terms, the V-Rod was ultra-precise, in a straight line. That was to be expected - due to its long wheelbase. The front forks were raked out to 38°, after all. But, whereas in the past, cornering would then have been compromised, the V-rod's cutting edge engineering saw it sail through twists and turns. A dry weight of 594lb was not that excessive - which helped out agility-wise, too.

Stylistically, the V-Rod was striking, to say the least! A 'silver machine', if ever there was one, it was a banquet of à la carte aluminium. No 'iron horse', this, the V-Rod was an object-lesson in à la mode metalwork. Solid disc wheels - and a feast of frame tubes - were for starters. They underlay an elegantly-shaped tank, and slanted headlamp. The clean lines of the pipes blended in with the design. The 1130cc V-twin was itself a visual delight.

That 115bhp motor had its roots in Harley's VR1000 race-bike. Porsche Engineering assisted in its development. Harley dubbed it a 'Revolution' - rather than 'Evolution' - engine. Water-cooled - and with a 60° 'V' - its twin overhead camshafts, and four valves per cylinder, took Harley performance to a whole new level. It was performance that far exceeded that of the 'push-rod' motor, of old. Harley aficionados had long been on bikes that looked better than anything else on the road. Or, so they thought, anyway! Now - with the advent of the V-Rod - they were competing technically, too. Talk about having your cake ... and eating it!

Yamaha FZR1000

Yamaha FZR1000 Japanese modern classic sports motorbike

'Genesis' is one heck of a tag to give a motorbike. Talk about having a lot to live up to! But, that is what Yamaha did with the FZR1000. In the beginning, there was the FZR1000 race-bike. That begat the roadster of the same name - which multiplied in great profusion. Or - in other words - it sold in shedloads!

The Genesis topped out at a dizzying 168mph. Power was 140bhp. It tipped the scales at just 461lb dry. 'Upside-down forks', on later models, reduced un-sprung weight - and improved handling. A 17″ front wheel - and radial tyre - raised the bar for road-holding. At the back, a rock-solid swing-arm pivoted on an aluminium twin-spar Deltabox frame. The engine was fitted with an 'electronic exhaust valve system' - Exup - which increased power in the middle of the rev range.

The 'FZR' was consummately well-styled. The twists and turns of its bodywork go every which way! Rather than that being grounds for confusion, though - with the FZR, it 'worked'. In so many ways, then, the Genesis was a blank sheet for designers ... who grabbed the opportunity to move the motorcycle onto new ground.

Pontiac Firebird

Pontiac Firebird 1970s American classic sports car

The first Pontiac Firebird flew onto the automotive scene in the 1960s. The Chevrolet Camaro was a clear influence. Probably the most iconic of the early 'Birds was '69's 'Trans Am'. The 'Trans-American' was a road-race - organised by The Sports Car Club of America. The Pontiac Trans Am was a star turn! Complete with rear spoiler, beefed-up chassis, and 'Ram Air' power delivery, it was a 'muscle car' par excellence. Blue and white livery set it off to a tee. Its split-grille nose became the stuff of legend. The Firebird would be a flagship for the Pontiac brand for years to come.

The Firebird entered its second phase in 1970. Restyled for the new decade, it was now that the car came into its own. In '78, Pontiac sold more than 93,000 of the new Trans Am. Customers could choose from standard, luxury 'Esprit', and 'Formula' models. The Firebird was spreading its wings! Mind you, it was lucky to have fledged at all. GM had considered pulling the plug on the Firebird - in '72. They were far from sure that performance cars were the way to go. Thankfully, the Firebird was given the benefit of the doubt. GM would be solidly re-imbursed, for their faith!

A third generation of Firebirds arrived for the 1980s. That well-worn nose had had plastic surgery. It was now more finely-hewn - and sported cowled headlamps. 1987's 'GTA' came with a 350 cu in V8. This top-of-the-range model was good for 125mph - hitting 60 in just 5.4s. Design-wise, though, the Firebird was beginning to look a tad dowdy ... especially next to hot foreign competitors! Sales were starting to suffer, as a result. '90s Firebirds were treated to a bit of a face-lift. No passage of time, though, could take away the glamour of its youth. One of the great American cars, the Pontiac Firebird blazed a phoenix-like trail ... and never even needed to rise from the ashes!

Douglas Dragonfly

Douglas Dragonfly 1950s British classic motorcycle

BMW are almost synonymous with the 'flat-twin' engine configuration. Other marques, though, have also used that venerable layout. Not least among them were Douglas. They were based in Bristol, England. Early models had the motor in-line with the frame - the two pistons 'punching' fore and aft. The 'Dragonfly', though, saw them transversely slung across the frame - à la BMW 'Boxer'. Either way, the Dragonfly made steady progress - at around 60mph! Outside of that optimal speed, however, performance was more 'limited'. In the end, that would lead to the Dragonfly's decline.

In design terms, the Dragonfly shone. Does the way in which the headlamp nacelle 'flows' back into the fuel tank, look a bit like a dragonfly? I would say so! Certainly, the Earles forks - and solid rear shocks - echo each other sweetly. Above them, the bike's logo is elegantly scripted. And that flat-twin motor is itself delightfully wrought.

In 1923, Douglas won a TT race. It was in the sidecar category - with Freddie Dixon doing the 'driving'. That historic outfit had its 'boxer' engine in-line with the frame. The year before, a Douglas race-bike was fitted with a delicate-looking little disc brake. Douglas, then, were innovating - both technically, and stylistically. And as for the 'Dragonfly' name ... it is certainly poetic!

Studebaker Avanti

Studebaker Avanti 1960s American classic car

The 'Avanti' was supposed to resurrect Studebaker! Company president Sherwood Egbert dreamed up the car - as a means to inject some much-needed vitality into Studebaker's veins. Egbert's choice of designer was astute. Raymond Loewy - who had penned the 'Coca-Cola' bottle, in the past - was brought in as stylist. Loewy went the minimalist route ... at least, as compared with many of his contemporaries. Typically, Detroit-built cars at the time were all chrome and fins! The Avanti, though, exuded 'European' restraint. Its glassfibre-forged lines were smart, but unshowy. On the inside, too, things were similarly sophisticated. Neat instrumentation - and leather bucket seats - were imbued with Italianate finesse.

But - just two years after the Avanti's release - Studebaker was no more! The firm went into receivership in '64. And that seemed like that for the new car. At the last, though, saviours stepped in - in the form of Studebaker dealers Nate Altman and Leo Newman. In no mood to see the Avanti die, they bought the rights to it - and set about re-starting production. With Studebaker motors no longer around, Chevrolet Corvette units were sourced. The car was re-christened the Avanti II. The first model had received rave reviews. Now, it acquired 'sought-after' status, too! Altman and Newman's faith was rewarded. Their 'Avanti Motor Corporation' thrived ... right up until '82.

The Avanti's V8 made 335bhp ... taking it to a top speed of 145mph. That 'poke' came with a comfortable cabin. 4,643 Avanti IIs were sold. In later years, there were more attempts to keep the car going. Like Loewy's coke bottle, certain products seem destined always to be with us. And - while not, perhaps, quite in Coca-Cola's league - the Studebaker Avanti will still be going strong somewhere. Last heard of in Mexico, apparently!

Maserati Khamsin

Maserati Khamsin 1970s Italian classic sports car

Let it never be said that the automotive world lacks 'atmosphere'. The Le Mans racetrack has a straight named after the 'mistral' - a cold wind, which blows through southern France. And, Ford's 'Zephyr' references a gentle breeze - which has meandered through many a piece of poetry over the years. But, there was another automotive legend, which played upon this ethereal theme. Maserati's 'Khamsin' was named after the scorching gusts, which sear through Egypt each summer. Marcello Gandini - of design house Bertone - was brought in, to draft the Khamsin's super-sharp shape. The fluid lines of the bodywork were fabricated from steel. Spanning the back was a glass panel - inside which, the tail-lights sat in 'suspended animation'.

Technologically, the Khamsin was a tour de force. Its four-cam V8 abutted the bulkhead. Front-engined, though it was - with a full tank of gas, weight distribution was 50/50. The motor was an all-alloy marvel. Its 320bhp gave a top speed of 153mph. Torque output was a splendid 354lb/ft - at 4,000rpm. The Khamsin's power-band stretched all the way from 800-5,500rpm!

When the Khamsin entered production - in '74 - Citroën were still a part of Maserati. A year later - and they were gone. The Khamsin, though, felt the full hydraulic force of the French giant. The steering, brakes, and clutch - plus, pop-up headlights, and driver's seat adjustment - were all Citroën-controlled. There was 'double-wishbone' rear suspension. Only the dashboard let the side down a tad. The haphazard array of dials and switches was in marked contrast to the simple elegance of the exterior. Mere nit-picking! Unveiled at the '72 Paris Show, the new Maserati was as stylish as you liked. And yet, it was also practical - those huge torque reserves providing abundant carrying capability. And, on top of all of that, as its name implied ... the Maserati Khamsin went like the wind!

Dodge Charger Daytona 500

Dodge Charger Daytona 500 1960s American classic sports car

The 500 'Daytona' was a response to Ford dominance, in NASCAR racing. The Charger was competitive power-wise - but let down by too much speed-sapping drag. The Charger '500' was the first attempt to redress that balance. Aerodynamics were key. The nose was enclosed - and the rear window made flush with its surrounds. Those two changes alone made a big difference. The 500 won 18 races, in '69. Ford's 'Torino', though, won 30! More was clearly needed. The 500's nose grew 18″ - and a huge rear wing sprung up. This new version was 20% more efficient, in terms of airflow. It was dubbed the 'Daytona'. NASCAR's tables were turned!

505 production cars were built - for race homologation purposes. But, the road-going Chargers did not sell well. They were gathering showroom dust - when TV came to the rescue! The Dukes of Hazzard series turned the Charger tide. In the form of the General Lee, it was the star of the show. The sheriff was in perpetual pursuit of the Dodge-borne Dukes! Though, thanks to its engine - a GM 'Magnum' V8 - 375bhp kept the good ol' boys out ahead! For more law-abiding drivers, there was the choice of a 4-speed manual - or 3-speed TorqueFlite 'box. Suspension was by torsion bars, up front - and leaf springs, to the rear. And there were disc brakes fore - and 'boosted' drums aft.

Ironically, the new nose and rear wing hindered the roadster. The extra weight slowed it down. But, it was on the NASCAR banking, that the Charger came into its own. Buddy Baker was in a Daytona, when he recorded NASCAR's first 200mph lap. That was in 1970 - at Talladega, Alabama. Named after one of the world's most iconic race-tracks, the 'Daytona' lived up to the legend!

Pagani Zonda

Pagani Zonda Italian supercar

As a boy, Horacio Pagani made supercars out of wood and clay. Later, his designs were fashioned from the most exotic of materials. They included carbon-titanium, and carbon-fibre. An early spell at Lamborghini did his career no harm at all. Pagani worked for them as a junior mechanic. While there, he helped develop the Countach Evoluzione - the first car to be built around a carbon-fibre chassis.

In 1988, Pagani set up his own company. But, the ties with Lamborghini were still strong. Pagani's new firm did some development work for them - on composites for the Diablo and Countach Anniversary cars. Increasingly, though, Pagani's thoughts turned to a product of his own. He and his team duly began work on a supercar. In 1994, Mercedes-Benz supplied it with a V12 engine. It was not until '99, however, that the prototype was unveiled - at the Geneva Motor Show. Pagani had intended it be called the Fangio F1 - after one of the finest GP drivers ever. Sadly - by the time it was finished - Fangio had died. Pagani then opted to call the new car the C12 'Zonda' - after a wind which blows through the Andes mountains.

The Zonda was cutting edge. The Mercedes-Benz V12 was placed behind the cockpit - to drive the rear wheels. It delivered 542bhp - after being tuned by AMG. Top speed was 220mph. 0-60 arrived in 3.7s. A carbon-fibre body - and slippery lines - played no small part in that. The Zonda retailed at $320,000. Pagani were selling ten or so units a year. There have been several additions to the Zonda range since - each refining, and improving on the original. Doubtless, those boyhood models Pagani played with have long since turned to tinder and dust. Most of his more mature creations, though, are still going strong!

Alfa Romeo Carabo

Alfa Romeo Carabo 1960s Italian concept car

The Alfa Romeo Carabo was one of the most influential concept cars ever created. Think Lamborghini Countach, for example! The Carabo was the ultimate in wedge-shaped styling. As diagonal lines go, the one from the tip of its nose - to the top of its roof - was about as dynamic as it gets. That was in sharp contrast to its cute stub of a tail. Not only did that look cool - aerodynamically, it was on the money, too. Concept car, or no, the Carabo had a top speed of 160mph ... or so it was claimed. It was, after all, kitted out with a 230bhp V8!

The Carabo 'concept' was packed with real world parts. Many of them had been honed at the track. Its chassis, for example, was spawned by Alfa Romeo's 'Tipo 33' race-car. That meant double-wishbone suspension, all round - and disc brakes. For a car that was never really intended to be driven - at least, not in anger - the Alfa Romeo Carabo was pretty high-spec!

Marcello Gandini was chief designer. The Carabo's 'scissor-doors' would become a supercar trademark. Not only were they amazing to look at - when fully flung up - they were an engineering tour de force. The car's finish was fittingly flamboyant. Metallic green paint was set off by orange highlights. Light-weight glass - made by Belgian firm VHR-Glaverbel - was copper-tinted. As was to be expected, the Carabo wowed the '68 Paris Motor Show. Nuccio Bertone - and his Turin-based studio - had delivered! Lamborghini lovers, especially, will be forever in his debt.

Oldsmobile Toronado

Oldsmobile Toronado 1960s American classic car

Of all the cars to have come out of Detroit, the Oldsmobile Toronado must be one of the biggest! This two-ton leviathan hit the road in 1965. The Toronado was the first mass-produced American car to be fitted with front-wheel drive. As a result, it handled better than its rivals. 60% of the Toronado's weight was over the front wheels. Torsion-bar suspension sealed the stability deal, at the front end. Well, that, and two of the tyres Firestone had made especially for the Toronado. They came with stiffer sidewalls - and extra grip. Wheels were slotted - to cool the finned brake drums.

Power was provided by a seven-litre V8. Dubbed the 'Rocket', the engine produced 385bhp - giving a top speed of 130mph. Intricate work went into mating the motor with the 3-speed Hydra-Matic 'box. Rubber insulation was provided. All that sat in a solid, perimeter-framed chassis.

The Toronado was avant-garde in its styling, too. Clean and vibrant lines set it apart. And its headlights' electric flaps were a sweet touch. Alec Issigonis - designer of the BMC 'Mini' - predicted that large engines would never successfully be twinned with front-wheel drive. Historic automobile that it was - the Oldsmobile Toronado proved him wrong!

Ferrari 250 GTO

Ferrari 250 GTO 1960s Italian classic sports car

The Ferrari 250 GTO was as focused a car as has ever been built. Designed by Giotto Bizzarrini, everything about it was geared to speed. Seductively styled though it was, its cabin was conspicuously spartan. The GTO - Gran Turismo Omologato - was made to win races, not comfort contests! Specifically, races in the World Sportscar Championship. Ferrari's '250 GT' had been struggling - mainly, because of its poor aerodynamics. Which is where Bizzarrini came in! His brief was to draft a more slippery shape. More than 150mph slippery, at any rate - which was what the GT was currently mustering. Bizzarrini delivered! The grille was made smaller - and the headlights faired in. The foreshortened rear end now sported a spoiler. Top speed leapt to 173mph!

But, Bizzarrini's bodywork was just for starters. The GTO had other tools in its kit. Like a 3.0-litre V12! Its 300bhp took the car from 0-60mph in 6.1s. That needed a stiff chassis! An alloy-tubed frame obliged. The aluminium V12 was suckled by six twin-barrel Webers. Because it was dry sump, the motor sat lower - and so did the car, as a whole. A 5-speed gearbox turned the rear wheels. Only suspension let the side down a tad - being far from state-of-the-art! Saying that, it obviously did not hamper the GTO too much. In 1962, it won the World Sportscar Championship. And again, in '63 and '64! At Le Mans, in '62, it came second overall - but took the coveted 'GT' class.

The GTO, then, was a searing blend of styling and speed. Among the all-time great race-cars, as a roadster its looks were sublime. Ferrari played a bit fast and loose with the facts, however - passing the GTO off as merely a streamlined GT. That got them off the hook, homologation-wise. Otherwise, they would have had to build 100 GTOs, to go racing. In the event, just 39 were built. The truth, though, was that the new car was unique. While the GTO - and its GT forebear - did share many components, there was enough that was fresh about the GTO to set it apart. Certainly, it was a 'streamlined GT' - Bizzarrini's wind-cheating wizardry saw to that. But, should there be any doubt that the GTO was special in its own right, a couple of numbers are telling. When Ferrari launched the 250 GTO - in the 1960s - it cost £6,000. In 2014, one sold for £22,843,633. The GTO was a one-off, all right!

Ford Shelby GT350

Ford Shelby GT350 1960s American classic sports car

As automotive luminaries go, they do not shine much brighter than Carroll Shelby! So, when the erstwhile racer turned his attention to the Ford Mustang - in 1965 - the sports car community sat up. The Mustang had been released the previous year - to great public acclaim! It had impressed in every area ... except one. In performance terms, the car was underwhelming. Enter Carroll Shelby!

Styling-wise, the Mustang was fine. So, Shelby left that alone ... apart from side exhausts and stripes. Instead, he headed straight for the engine - a Cobra 4.7-litre V8. He already knew plenty about it - Shelby, it was, who had been the catalyst for the AC Cobra. When Shelby picked up his spanners, the V8 was producing 271bhp. Ford had already up-rated the original spec. Shelby, though, was sure there was more. He was right! By the time he put down his spanners, the figure had risen to 306bhp! Mainly, that was by modifying the manifolds. Though, a Holley carburettor certainly helped. Top speed had risen to 149mph ... with a 0-60 stat of 6.5s. Shelby, and his team - in their LA workshops - had made a 'meek and mild' Mustang into a 'muscle car'!

But, it would not have been a 'Shelby' without racing attached! To wit, the 'SCCA B-Production' road-race series. The 'GT350R' duly hit the grid. It took the '65, '66 and '67 titles! Race series rules required that the car be a two-seater. The GT350R racer dished out 360bhp. And, while the roadster was not in that league, it was no slouch! Suspension and chassis were suitably solid - Koni shocks taking the strain. Front discs, and rear drums gave safe and sound braking. Transmission was 4-speed. Carroll Shelby had done it again! Cut from the same cloth as the AC Cobra, the GT350 was a thoroughbred sports car. But then, when a class act like Shelby got a hold of the Mustang, sparks were always going to fly. In a perfect trajectory, of course!

Dodge Charger

Dodge Charger 1960s American classic sports car

There are few cars as iconic as the Dodge Charger! Ever since Steve McQueen first trained his sights on one - in the movie Bullitt - it has been the stuff of legend. The 'muscle car' par excellence, it was the Dodge Charger that truly put Detroit on the map. Before the Charger came along, American cars were getting just a tad 'gaudy'. There is a limit to how much chrome - and how many fins - a car can take, before it starts to border on the kitsch. The Charger stripped things back to basics. Simple, straightforward lines defined a no-nonsense approach. The Charger was built to, well, charge ... and not much more. Its only concession to décor was the buttressed rear window!

There could be only one motor for this masterpiece of machismo. A V8 was a shoo-in for the Charger power-plant. All that 'grunt', though, driving rear wheels into tarmac meant handling could be haphazard! That was best illustrated by the 'R/T' - Road and Track - version. Released in '68, it is the most iconic of the Chargers. Delivering 375bhp - or 150mph - the R/T was a heady brew of torque and speed. 0-60 arrived in six seconds - and the rest was not far behind! This time, though, rock-solid suspension parts - and anti-roll bars - enabled the R/T to handle as well as it went. It came with a 4-speed Hurst 'box. Front brake discs were optional. Yeah, right!

The Dodge Charger was one of the last of the 'muscle cars'. It was produced until '78. After that, the industry took a more leisurely, safety-oriented tack. Never again would American roads resound with the ear-splitting din of cars like the Charger. The Dodge Charger is one of the most dramatic cars ever to have turned a wheel!

Matchless G50

Matchless G50 classic GP racing motorcycle

To name your new company 'Matchless' requires self-confidence! Which is what Charlie and Harry Collier clearly possessed, in 1899, in Plumstead, south-east London. Both brothers were racers, of some renown. Indeed, Charlie rode a Matchless to victory - in the single-cylinder category - at the first TT. That was in 1907. Brother Harry performed the same feat two years later. At the time, then, the Matchless moniker must have seemed pretty much justified!

Fast-forward to the '60s - and Matchless were still dominant. Now, it was the turn of the G50 to hold all-comers at bay. First unveiled in the late Fifties, the Matchless G50 was - to all intents and purposes - an AJS 7R, re-badged. Matchless had acquired AJS in 1931.

More evidence of self-confidence within the Matchless set-up can be found in its logo. It takes some hutzpah to rely on a single letter to get your marketing message across. But, Charlie and Harry obviously felt that a winged 'M' was all that was needed to identify a motorcycle as a Matchless! There is a fine line, of course, between self-belief and hubris. The former is a prerequisite for success - the latter, a cast-iron guarantee of failure. However, it would appear that the two young Londoners got it spot-on. Matchless motorcycles began winning races at the turn of the 20th century. They are still doing so - at classic bike events - well into the new millennium!