Renault RS01

Renault RS01

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! In the Sixties, the cash-stoked spectacle of today's billion-dollar industry, was but a glint in a financier's eye. 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

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

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

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

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 get built around. It inspired, not so much dedication, as devotion. Whether an R1 owners' club, track days, or clubman's racing - no other machine would do. In short, the Yamaha YZF R1 was a two-wheeled icon!

Lincoln Continental

Lincoln Continental

It is not often that a car plays a part in history. Sadly, though, that was the case for the Lincoln Continental. For, it was while riding in the stretched Presidential version - through Dallas, Texas, in '63 - that John F Kennedy was fatally shot. The Continental was tailor-made for affairs of state. The MkII Continental - released in '56 - came with virtually every 'mod con' going. Naturally, it was graced with a price tag to match. What distinguished it was its pristine lines and sober styling. Chrome and fins were in evidence. But nothing like so much as on most other highway exotica, of the time. The Continental packed serious gravitas. In short, it had class!

'61 ushered in the most iconic Continental of all. That was the legendary 'clap-door' model. It acquired the tag on account of its rear-hinged back door. To say the least, it needed to be opened with care. Backwards-looking visibility was not its strong suit. Beware passing motorcycles! The second the new Lincoln was launched, celebrities' minders strong-armed their way to the showrooms. Before long, everyone who was anyone had gone Continental. The new car had the lot! Shapely elegance, lashings of luxury - and, courtesy of Ford - a rorty V8. The Continental's top speed was 125mph. Its 3-speed automatic gearbox made it a breeze to drive - especially if you were in the 'power-top' convertible version. The Continental saloon ate straightaways for breakfast. Corners - it has to be said - were slightly less to its taste. 7.0- and 7.5-litre engines were fitted. Maximum output was 365bhp. So - performance-wise - the Continental was no slouch. And that was with 5,215lb of body mass to move.

The Continental was a crowd-puller from the get-go. With its bulbous nose - and 'egg-crate' grille - it was a magnet for passers-by. Subsequent models, though, were less charismatic. The MkIII Continental, for example, had all of the size - but less of the charm - of its spotlessly-styled predecessor. So meticulously built was the original that Lincoln lost money on it. Into the '60s - and the Continental continued to pick up plaudits. It comprised, after all, the best of both worlds - American scale and European refinement. Brawn mixed with chic, so to speak. All in all, the Lincoln Continental was one of a kind. A fitting backcloth, then, for that doom-laden day in Dallas - when the mouth of the world held its breath!

Harley-Davidson V-Rod

Harley-Davidson V-Rod

By Harley-Davidson standards, the V-Rod verged on the radical. It was clearly a cruiser - in true Milwaukee style. But, it was a different kind of cruiser to what Harley fans were used to. The V-Rod VRSC - V-Twin Racing Street Custom - had superbike-like performance. Top speed was 135mph. Handling-wise, things were just as impressive. In a straight line, the V-Rod was ultra-precise. That was only to be expected - given 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. And that with a dry weight of 594lb.

Visually, the V-Rod was striking, to say the least. A full-on 'silver machine', Harley did not stint on aluminium. This was no 'iron horse'. Rather, the V-Rod was an object-lesson in à la mode metalwork. Solid disc wheels set off intricate frame tubes. An elegantly-shaped tank morphed into a slanted headlamp. The clean lines of the pipes blended in perfectly. The 1130cc V-twin engine was a design delight in itself.

The 115bhp motor had its roots in Harley's VR1000 race bike. Porsche Engineering assisted in its development. In marketing terms, Harley declared this Evolution engine a 'Revolution'! It boasted twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. Water-cooled - and with a 60° 'V' - it took Harley performance to a whole new level. The venerable old pushrod motor was history. Harley-Davidson riders could not believe their luck. They had long been on bikes that ruled the roost, looks-wise. Well, in their opinion, at any rate. Now - with the advent of the V-Rod - they were competing technically, too. Talk about having your motorcycle cake and eating it!

Yamaha FZR1000

Yamaha FZR1000

'Genesis' is one heck of a tag to give a motorbike. But, that is what the first version of the Yamaha FZR1000 was called, when introduced in '87. No pressure, then! In the beginning, there had been the FZR1000 race bike. That begat the Genesis roadster ... which multiplied in great profusion. The first follow-up model was the Exup - or Exhaust Ultimate Powervalve. By that point, the FZR1000 was already selling in shedloads.

The FZR topped out at a dizzying 168mph. Output was 140bhp. It tipped the scales at a scant 461lb dry. 'Upside-down forks', on later models, reduced unsprung weight - and thereby improved handling. A 17″ front wheel - and radial tyre - helped raise the roadholding bar. At the back, a rock-solid swingarm pivoted on an aluminium twin-spar Deltabox frame. The engine's electronic Exup system extended the FZR's powerband into the middle of the rev range.

The FZR was one sweetly-styled sports bike. The twists and turns of its bodywork went every which way. Rather than being a cause of confusion, though - in this case, it 'worked'. With the FZR1000, then, Yamaha gave a blank sheet to its engineers/designers. They clearly seized the invitation to move the motorcycle onto new ground!

Pontiac Firebird

Pontiac Firebird

The Pontiac Firebird flew onto the American car scene in February, '67. Released at the same time as GM's Chevrolet Camaro, they were two peas from the same 'pony car' pod. The most iconic early 'Bird was the '69 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. Indeed, 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 in the Seventies that the car came into its own. In '78 alone, Pontiac sold more than 93,000 Trans Ams. Customers could choose one of three models - standard, luxury Esprit or Formula. For sure, the Firebird was spreading its wings. In fact, it was lucky to have fledged at all. GM considered pulling the plug on the Firebird in '72. They were not convinced that performance cars were the way to go. Thankfully, the Firebird was given the benefit of the doubt. As things turned out, GM would be well-rewarded for their faith in the Firebird.

A third generation of Firebirds arrived in the Eighties. Its charismatic, but time-worn nose had had plastic surgery. It was now more finely-chiselled - and sported cowled headlamps. '87's GTA version featured a 350 cu in V8 engine. Top-of-the-range as it was, the GTA was good for 125mph. It hit 60 in just 5.4s. Design-wise, though, the Firebird was starting to look its age - especially parked next to hot foreign competition. As a result, sales suffered. So, Nineties Firebirds were given a stylistic face-lift. No ravages of time, though, could detract from the glamour of the early years. One of the all-time great American automobiles, the Pontiac Firebird blazed a phoenix-like trail. Whatever automotive fashion dished out, it somehow always rose from the ashes!

Douglas Dragonfly

Douglas Dragonfly

The Douglas Dragonfly broke the motorcycle mould. BMW is now almost synonymous with the flat-twin layout. Other marques, too, though, have used that venerable engine configuration. Not least, Douglas. The firm was based in Bristol, England. Its early models saw the motor fitted inline with the frame. The two pistons went at it hammer and tongs - 'punching' their way fore and aft. The Dragonfly, though, saw them slung transversely across the frame - à la BMW 'Boxer'. In any case, the Dragonfly made good progress - cruising at around 60mph. Beyond that optimal speed, however, performance tailed off dramatically. Ultimately, that would lead to the Dragonfly's decline.

Design-wise, the Dragonfly was on solid ground. If anything, slightly too solid. Does the way in which the headlamp nacelle flow into the fuel tank look a bit like a dragonfly? Possibly! Certainly, the Earles forks - and robust rear shocks - visually complemented each other. And - above them - the bike's logo was elegantly scripted. The Dragonfly's flat-twin powerplant was itself impressively wrought.

In '23, Douglas won at the TT. It was in the sidecar category. Freddie Dixon did the driving. Again, that historic outfit's 'boxer' motor was installed inline. The year before, on the 'island', a Douglas solo racer had been fitted with a delicate-looking little disc brake. Douglas, then, were innovating - technically and stylistically. And - when it comes to nomenclature - the Douglas Dragonfly must be one of the most poetically-named bikes of all time. Buzzin', basically!

Studebaker Avanti

Studebaker Avanti

The Avanti was supposed to resurrect the Studebaker brand. Company president Sherwood Egbert dreamed up the car - as a means to inject some much-needed vitality into Studebaker's corporate veins. Egbert's choice of designer for the Avanti was astute. Raymond Loewy - who had previously penned the Coca-Cola bottle - was hired as stylist. Loewy went the minimalist route ... at least, as compared with many of his contemporaries. Typically, Detroit-built cars of the time were mainly comprised of 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 fully 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, automotive 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 original had already received rave reviews. Now, it acquired 'sought-after' status, too. Altman and Newman's faith was rewarded. The Avanti Motor Corporation thrived ... right up until '82.

Technically, the Avanti impressed. Its V8 engine made 335bhp. That took it to a top speed of 145mph. The power was controlled from a comfortable cabin. 4,643 Avanti IIs were sold. In subsequent years, there would be further attempts to keep the car going. Like Loewy's coke bottle, certain products seem destined to be around forever. And - while not, perhaps, quite in Coca-Cola's league - the Studebaker Avanti is still being built somewhere. Last line seen somewhere in Mexico, it is said!

Maserati Khamsin

Maserati Khamsin

The Maserati Khamsin was the latest in a line of things automotive to reference the weather. Le Mans has a straight named after the 'mistral' - the cold wind, blowing through southern France. Ford's 'Zephyr' namechecked a gentle breeze - which has meandered through many a piece of poetry over the years. Another car, too, played upon the ethereal theme. The Khamsin was a scorching gust of air, which seared through Egypt each summer. Maserati brought in Marcello Gandini - of design house Bertone - to draft the Khamsin's super-sharp shape. Its fluid bodywork lines were fabricated from steel. Spanning the back was a glass panel - inside which, tail-lights sat in suspended animation.

The Khamsin was a technological tour de force. Its four-cam V8 engine 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 354lb/ft - at 4,000rpm. The V8's powerband stretched 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. Rear suspension was double-wishbone. Only the Khamsin's dashboard let the design side down a tad. Its haphazard array of dials and switches clashed with the simple elegance of the exterior. Unveiled at the '72 Paris Show, the new Maserati was as stylish as you like. Yet, it was also practical. The huge torque reserves of its V8 powerplant further boosted its already abundant carrying capabilities. 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

The Charger Daytona 500 was Dodge's response to Ford dominance. Specifically, in the form of NASCAR racing. The Charger car had been competitive in terms of outright power. But, it had been held back by an excess of speed-sapping drag. The Charger '500' version was an attempt to redress the balance. The Charger's nose was duly enclosed. Its rear window fitment now sat flush with its surrounds. Those two changes alone made a big difference. In the '69 season, the 500 won 18 races. Unfortunately for Dodge, its biggest rival - the Ford Torino - won 30! More was clearly needed. In short order, the 500's nose grew 18″. Most noticeably, the car sprouted a huge rear wing. The updated model was 20% more aerodynamically efficient. It was duly dubbed the Daytona. NASCAR's tables had turned!

505 Daytona road cars were built. Racing homologation rules required it. Sadly - from a Dodge point of view - they did not sell well. But - just as the showroom dust was starting to settle - TV rode to the rescue. The Dukes of Hazzard series turned the Charger tide. Indeed, for many - in the guise of the General Lee - the Charger was the star of the show. Week after nerve-racking week, the Sheriff seemed in perpetual pursuit of the Dodge-borne Dukes. Though, thanks to its GM Magnum V8 engine - and the 375bhp it provided - the good ol' boys were able to stay out ahead! For real-life drivers, there was the choice of a 4-speed manual - or 3-speed TorqueFlite - gearbox. Suspension was by torsion bars, upfront - and leaf springs, at the rear. Respectively, they were connected to disc brakes and boosted drums.

Ironically, the new nose and rear wing - game-changing for the Daytona racer - hindered the roadster. The added weight slowed it down. And it was not travelling fast enough for the aerodynamic package to really kick in. That said - if performance took a tumble - turned heads and double-takes turned up by the shedload. But, it was on the oval banking that the Charger truly came into its own. Buddy Baker, for instance, drove a Daytona to NASCAR's first 200mph lap. That was in 1970 - at Talladega, Alabama. The car was, after all, named after one of the most iconic of race-tracks. The Dodge Charger Daytona 500, though, fully lived up to the legend!

Pagani Zonda

Pagani Zonda

As a boy, Horacio Pagani made supercars out of wood and clay. In adulthood, his designs would be 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 '88, 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 models. Increasingly, though, Pagani's thoughts turned to a product of his own. In '94, he and his team began work on a proprietary supercar. They duly sourced a V12 engine - from Mercedes-Benz. 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 to hold a wheel. Sadly, though - by the time it was finished - Fangio had died. Pagani then opted to call it the Zonda - after a wind which blows through the Andes mountains.

The Zonda C12 was suitably cutting edge. Mercedes' V12 motor was placed behind the cockpit - driving the rear wheels. After being tuned by AMG, it delivered 542bhp. Top speed was 220mph. 0-60 arrived in 3.7s. Key to those speed stats was the carbon-fibre bodywork. Ultra-aerodynamic lines likewise played a part. C12s retailed at $320,000. Pagani turned out just ten or so a year. There have been several additions to the Zonda range since. Each has refined and improved upon the original. The boyhood toys Pagani made have long since turned to tinder and dust. His more mature creations, however, are still dazzling onlookers the world over!

Alfa Romeo Carabo

Alfa Romeo Carabo

The Alfa Romeo Carabo is 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 combination look cool - aerodynamically, it was bang on the money. Show car though it was, the Carabo had a top speed of 160mph. It was, after all, kitted out with a 230bhp V8 engine.

To be fair, the Carabo did not stint on real-world parts. Many of them were honed at the racetrack. Its chassis was spawned by Alfa Romeo's Tipo 33 competition car. There was double-wishbone suspension all round - as well as disc brakes. For a car that was not built to be driven - at least, not in anger - the Carabo came pretty high-spec.

Marcello Gandini - of design house Bertone - was chief stylist. Certainly, the scissor-doors set-up he drew would become a supercar trademark. When fully flung up, they were not just visually stunning - they were an engineering tour de force, too. The car's finish was fittingly flamboyant. Metallic green paint was set off by orange highlights. The lightweight glass used - by Belgian firm VHR-Glaverbel - was copper-tinted. It was a gimme that the Carabo wowed the Paris Motor Show, in '68. Nuccio Bertone - and his Turin-based studio - had delivered. Lamborghini lovers, especially, will be forever indebted to the Alfa Romeo Carabo!

Oldsmobile Toronado

Oldsmobile Toronado

Of all the cars to have been made in Detroit, the Oldsmobile Toronado must be one of the biggest. This two-ton leviathan hit the road in '65. The Toronado was the first mass-produced American car 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 deal, stability-wise. Plus, two of the four tyres Firestone made especially for the Toronado. They featured stiffer sidewalls - and extra grip. The wheels were slotted - to cool the finned brake drums.

Power was provided by a 7-litre V8. Dubbed the 'Rocket', the engine produced 385bhp. That gave the Toronado a top speed of 130mph. The motor was mated with a 3-speed Hydra-Matic gearbox. Rubber insulation smoothed the V8 vibes. The mill sat in a solid, perimeter-framed chassis.

The Toronado was ahead of the game in its looks, too. Clean and vibrant lines set it apart. Its headlights' electric flaps were a sweet styling touch. Alec Issigonis - designer of the Mini - said large engines could never be successfully twinned with FWD. Automotive giant though he was - the Oldsmobile Toronado proved him wrong!

Ferrari 250 GTO

Ferrari 250 GTO

The Ferrari 250 GTO was about as focused a car as has ever been built. Designed by Giotto Bizzarrini, everything about it was geared to speed. Its cabin, for instance, was conspicuously spartan. The GTO - Gran Turismo Omologato - was made to win races, not comfort contests! Specifically, races in the World Sportscar Championship. The Ferrari 250 GT had been struggling in said series - mainly on account of poor aerodynamics. Which is where Bizzarrini came in. His brief was to draft a more slippery shape. One that could deliver more than 150mph, at any rate ... which was what the GT was currently mustering. Bizzarrini went to work. The grille was made smaller. The headlights were faired in. A foreshortened rear end now sported a spoiler. Ferrari were pleased. The GTO's top speed was clocked at 173mph.

But, Bizzarrini's bodywork was just for starters. The GTO had other weapons in its race armoury. Like a 3.0-litre Tipo 168/62 Colombo V12. The 300bhp it produced took the Ferrari from 0-60mph in 6.1s. That called for a stiff chassis. An alloy-tubed frame was duly installed. The aluminium V12 engine was suckled by six twin-barrel Webers. Because it was dry sump, the motor sat lower - as did the rest of the car. More grist to the aerodynamics mill. A 5-speed gearbox turned the rear wheels. Only suspension let the side down a tad - being somewhat outdated. Saying that, it clearly did not hamper the whole package too much. In '62, the GTO won the World Sportscar Championship. And again, in '63 and '64. At Le Mans, in '62, while it came second in the overall standings, it took the coveted Group 3 GT class.

Bizzarrini also took care that the GTO's styling was suitably seductive. As well as being one of the all-time great racers, as a roadster its low-down looks were sublime. Ferrari played a bit fast and loose with the facts, however … in true motorsport tradition! They passed the GTO off as just a streamlined GT. That got them off the hook, homologation-wise. Otherwise, they would have had to build 100 GTOs, to go racing. As it was, only 39 were built. In truth, though, the new car was unique. While the GTO - and its GT forebear - did indeed share many components, there was enough that was fresh about the GTO to set it apart. It certainly was a streamlined GT - Bizzarrini's wind-cheating wizardry had seen to that. But - should there be any doubt that the GTO was special - a price comparison is telling. When Ferrari produced the car - between '62 and '64 - it cost £6,000. In 2014 - at Bonhams Quail Lodge auction - one sold for £22,843,633. Which made it the most expensive car ever, at the time. The Ferrari 250 GTO was a one-off, all right!

Ford Shelby GT350

Ford Shelby GT350

As automotive luminaries go, they do not shine much brighter than Carroll Shelby. So - in '65 - when the erstwhile racer trained his tuning sights on the Ford Mustang, the sports car community sat up. The first-model Mustang had been released the previous year - to great acclaim. It had impressed in every area ... except one. In performance terms, the Mustang underwhelmed. Enter Carroll Shelby!

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

But, it would not have been a 'Shelby' without racing attached. It came in the form of the SCCA B-Production road-race series. The Shelby GT350R duly hit the grid. And went on to take the '65, '66 and '67 titles. The R dished out 360bhp. While the roadster was not quite in that league, it was no slouch. Koni suspension was suitably solid. The chassis was well up to taking the strain. Front discs - and rear drums - provided safe and assured braking. Transmission was 4-speed. Carroll Shelby had done it again. Cut from the same cloth as the AC Cobra, Ford's GT350 was already a thoroughbred sports car. And when a class act like Shelby got a hold of it, sparks were always going to fly. In a perfect trajectory, of course!

Dodge Charger

Dodge Charger

There have been few cars as iconic as the Dodge Charger! Since Steve McQueen found himself followed by one - in the movie Bullitt - it has been the stuff of legend. The Ford Mustang and Dodge Charger squared up to each other in the showrooms, too. Between the pair of them - in their battle for muscle car pre-eminence - they put Detroit on the world map. Before that, some Stateside 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 become borderline kitsch. Cars like the Charger stripped things back to basics. Simple lines defined a new, no-nonsense approach to styling. The Charger was built to, well, charge - and not much more. Its only concession to design décor was the buttressed rear window.

There could be only one engine for this masterclass in American machismo. A V8 was a shoo-in for the Charger's powerplant. All that 'grunt', though - piledriving rear wheels into the tarmac - meant handling could be hairy. That was best illustrated by the R/T - Road and Track - model. Released in '68, it was the most uncompromising version of the Charger. Delivering 375bhp - and 150mph - the R/T was a heady brew of torque and speed. 0-60 arrived in 6s. This time round, rock-solid suspension - and anti-roll bars - enabled the R/T to handle as well as it went. It came with a 4-speed Hurst 'box. Powerful front disc brakes were optional. Well, according to the spec list, anyway!

The Charger would be one of the last of the muscle car breed. It was produced until '78. After that, the automotive industry took a more leisurely, safety-oriented tack. Never again would the roads of America echo with such ear-splitting gear-driven crescendos. Of course - in Bullitt - the Dodge Charger was driven by the bad guys. Certainly, it is among the most dramatic cars ever to have turned a wheel. And anyway ... we all secretly love a good baddie, don't we?