Chrysler K-310


Chrysler K-310 1950s American classic concept car The K-310 was a Chrysler / Ghia collaboration. It came about through Fiat. They had approached Chrysler - in the hope that the American giant could help streamline their manufacturing process. Chrysler, though, spotted a reverse case scenario. They could benefit from Italian design acumen. Ghia and Pininfarina - two of the great Italian houses - duly built and submitted bodywork. Ghia got the gig! Their brief had been the Plymouth XX-500 saloon. While slightly underwhelmed by the styling, Chrysler loved the craftsmanship. And the budget! Ultimately, Chrysler would be doing the design work. But, those sort of coach-building skills would prove invaluable!
Over to Virgil Exner! He was Chrysler's chief designer. In short order, he came up with the K-310. Drafts and scale models were dispatched to Ghia HQ, in Turin. They sent back a fully-fledged prototype. Chrysler were billed just $20,000. Exner was pleased. So, too, was Kaufman Keller. He was president of Chrysler ... and the man who put the 'K' into K-310. Exner's sculpted lines - and low profile - had been brought to shining life by Ghia. The car was laden with new features. Most notably, the enlarged wheels were highlighted by whitewall tyres - and generously-sized arches. The front-end was adorned by a diminutive 'egg-crate' grille. At the back, the shape of the spare wheel embellished a molded boot lid.
This was innovative design-work. In one respect, though, the song remained the same ... the booming baritone from the car's V8 engine! As ever, Virgil Exner had gone out on a design limb. In so doing, Chrysler had shown it could compete with the best of them, stylistically!

Chrysler Thunderbolt

Chrysler Thunderbolt 1940s American classic concept car

The Chrysler Thunderbolt was named after a land speed record car. That mission had been accomplished at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, in 1938. Hence, the chrome lightning flash on the Thunderbolt's doors. Its straight-eight engine made 143bhp. Doubtless, somewhat short of its LSR-breaking namesake. The 'dream car', too, was a promotional tool. In 1941, six Thunderbolts duly departed Detroit. They would do the rounds of Chrysler dealerships, throughout the USA. These prototypes generated publicity for the roadsters to come.

Alex Tremulis was tasked with styling the Thunderbolt. A freelance designer, the commission from Chrysler would kick-start his career. The Thunderbolt was radical. Its bodywork was a rounded slab of aluminium. Beneath it, wheels and tyres were only partially visible. The body was built by Briggs coach-builders. Technically, too, the Thunderbolt was new. Its roof and headlights were electrically retractable. Tiny push buttons opened the doors. The air intake was below the front bumper. All avant-garde, for the time.

The chassis, at least, was mainstream. It was carried over from the Chrysler New Yorker. Otherwise, sci-fi 'gadgetry' ruled the design roost. Toy tin replicas sold by the shedload! Chrysler's Thunderbolt did commercially, what its precursor had done competitively. Went ballistic, basically!

Alfa Romeo BAT 7

Alfa Romeo BAT 7 1950s Italian classic concept car

The Alfa Romeo BAT 7 came out of the house of Bertone - Italian coach-building firm, par excellence. It was the work of the young Franco Scaglione - a rising star of the Bertone team. It was one of a series of cars he designed - which also included the BAT 5 and BAT 9.

BAT stood for 'Berlinetta Aerodinamica Technica'. Airflow was key. Scaglione's goal was to decrease cornering drag - at the same time as increasing frontal downforce. A by-product of that - and another core objective - would be to extract 125mph from the 100bhp engine. Scaglioni met all these criteria - with flying colours. The BAT 7's drag coefficient was 0.19 - a figure a modern-day supercar would struggle to match. And that, from a car built in 1954! Okay, the BAT 7 was never going to be a roadster. That said, its sibling - the BAT 9 - did put some real miles on the clock.

The BAT 7 only strengthened the bond between Alfa and Bertone. The latter had designed the bodywork for the Giulietta Sprint GT - now an established product in the Alfa range. The insights gleaned by Bertone from the three 'BAT' cars had been vital. From its rakish low nose - to the folds of its 'tail-fins' - air did not stand a chance! In time, Bertone's lessons in shape-shifting would be learned by other cars. Few, though, would have the magic of the Alfa Romeo BAT 7. An automotive manta ray, Alfa had taken metalwork to another level!

Ferrari 312T

Ferrari 312T 1970s Italian F1 car

The Ferrari 312T won the '75 F1 World Championship. Ferrari were glad about that ... it had been eleven long years since the last one! Of course, having Niki Lauda do the driving had helped. But he would have been first to acknowledge that a fellow member of the Ferrari team deserved due credit. Mauro Forghieri had designed the 312T's engine.

The slimmer bores of the Ferrari flat-12 - relative to the V-configured layouts of other teams - allowed for higher engine speeds. That meant more power! It also meant more fuel consumption - so the 312T had to hit the grid heavier than its rivals. It fell to the Ferrari strategists to erase that handicap as the race went on. They clearly made a good fist of it ... Lauda won three consecutive races. He had added two more by season's end.

Mauro Forghieri's masterstroke was his positioning of the 312T's gearbox. The horizontally-opposed flat-12 set-up meant the motor's mass could be moved lower. That meant better handling. A little twitchy, at times, perhaps - but, a big improvement on the Ferrari 312B3's under-steer. Forghieri took the weight distribution factor one step further. By placing the gearbox behind the engine, mass was centralised - as well as lowered. The 312T now manoeuvred as well as it went! At the start of the '76 season, the 312T won another three back-to-back GPs. But, '75 had been the car's finest hour. Niki Lauda - and team-mate Clay Regazzoni - had done the 'prancing horse' marque proud. On top of being one of the most iconic Ferrari race-cars ever built, the 312T was a great all-rounder. As such, it pointed the way to the fully-integrated future of F1.

Porsche Carrera GT

Porsche Carrera GT German supercar

The Porsche Carrera GT was shot through with motorsport. Nominally a roadster, number-plates were about as far as it went! It started as a Le Mans prototype - though that was subsequently shelved. The roots of its V10 engine were in F1. Porsche had built it for the Footwork team, in the early '90s. The Carrera GT concept car was launched at the Geneva Show, in 2000. It set off a tsunami of excitement. Showgoers jostled to get out their cheque-books! Porsche knew they had hit pay dirt. A limited-edition run was swiftly announced.

The Carrera was chock-full of competition-calibre components. The monocoque chassis was carbon-fibre. Diffusers and venturis were the stuff of F1. Wheels were super-light magnesium. So were the seats - with added carbon-fibre. Stainless-steel push-rods compressed the suspension - rigorously developed for rock-solid strength. The clutch was ceramic ... as were the disc brakes. Naturally, there was a 6-speed 'box.

Carrera GT bodywork was streamlined, to say the least. Huge ducts cooled the engine and brakes. The rear wing kicked in at 75mph. The cockpit was set forward - adding to the dynamism of the design. Porsche's brief to self had been to create a cutting edge supercar. The Carrera GT was clear proof that brief had been fulfilled.

Williams FW07

Williams FW07 F1 car

The FW07 put Williams firmly on the F1 map! Its precursor - the FW06 - had guided 'Williams Grand Prix Engineering' into motorsport's big league. Patrick Head was chief designer. Key to the FW06 was 'ground-effect' ... the technical wizardry Lotus had first introduced. Aerodynamic skirts 'sucked' the Lotus 78 to the tarmac. Ground-effect was a GP game changer. It made the '78' nigh on unbeatable. But, Lotus had a chink in their armour. The 78's structural strength - or lack of it - limited the amount of down-force that could be used. The new Williams - the FW07 - featured a monocoque chassis. It could take as much 'vacuum-suck' as the venturi could chuck at it!

The '79 season was well under way by the time the FW07 was launched. It did not take long for it to get up to speed. Come the mid-point of the campaign, and the FW07 was flying! Clay Regazzoni took its first win. Fittingly, for Williams, it was at Silverstone, England. Alan Jones added a further four wins to the tally, by season's end. Next time round - in 1980 - Jones took Williams' first World Championship. He pipped Nelson Piquet - in his Brabham - to the F1 post.

In '81, it was more of the same. Carlos Reutemann - in the FW07 - topped the podium for most of the season. 1982 - and the final act for the FW07 was staged at Long Beach, California. Keke Rosberg finished second - giving Williams another world title. Ground-force - in the guise of the FW07 - had generated more than just traction. It administered Williams' first - but not last - dose of F1 dominance.

Indian Powerplus

Indian Powerplus American vintage motorcycle

The Powerplus was a cut above other motorcycles ... at least, so far as Indian were concerned! Their customers clearly did not disagree. Sales-wise, the Powerplus was a soaraway success. Between 1916 and '24 - the span of its production run - slight modifications were all that were needed.

The Powerplus gave up 18bhp - from its 998cc engine. The result was a top speed of 60mph. Indian entered the Powerplus in the 1911 TT. It vanquished all comers - a clean sweep of places being duly snatched. Indian were breaking long-distance records, too. In 1914, 'Cannon Ball' Baker shot across America. It took him 11 days, 12 hours, 10 minutes ... which was precision-timing, back then!

The Powerplus looked superb - in its mantle of Indian red. The fuel tank was embellished with the 'Indian' script. The swept-back 'bars were a vintage delight. Old school engineering is in artful abundance. Indeed, hours would be required to fully take in the Indian Powerplus!

Excelsior Manxman

Excelsior Manxman classic racing motorcycle

Excelsior was the UK's first motorcycle manufacturer. The company's best-known bike, the 'Manxman', was named for the TT - or, Tourist Trophy - the devil-may-care road-race, on the Isle of Man.

After Excelsior won the Lightweight TT - in 1933 - people began to sit up and take notice. The bike was was the so-called 'Mechanical Marvel'! Keen to capitalise on their success, Excelsior conceived a 'racing replica' roadster. At the last, though, the project was cancelled. Excelsior feared its engine would prove too complex for 'Clubman'-level 'tinkering'.

While that change of heart was a loss to amateur racing, it was a boon to road riders. Instead of the 'race rep', Excelsior served up the Manxman. Its single overhead camshaft engine came in 250, 350 and 500cc guises. Light tuning sorted it for the track. Standard, it was more than adequate for country lane heroics. The Excelsior Manxman, then, was a product which pleased everyone. The finest hour of an historic marque!

Jaguar D-Type

Jaguar D-Type 1950s British classic sports racing car

In the mid-'50s, the Jaguar D-Type dominated the motor racing scene. It won at Le Mans in '55, '56 and '57. In '57, five D-Types took the first six places. And they were all privateers. It is safe to say that Jaguar 'targeted' the famous French circuit!

Jaguar's C-Type had paved the way. 'C' stood for Competition. Jaguar took their XK120 sports car - a proven success, on both road and track - and grafted on a race-spec body kit. William Lyons - Jaguar boss - opined that pure production cars could no longer cut it, at the race-track. A Jaguar motorsport division was required. The C-Type won twice at Le Mans ... and, in so doing, demonstrated that disc brakes were the way to go.

The D-Type, then, was Jaguar's first dedicated racer. It hit the grid in '54. From the get-go, it was clear that Jaguar had been busy! The flowing curves of its bodywork came courtesy of Malcolm Sayer. The stabilising fin at the rear looked like it had been lifted from a land speed record car. Underneath lay a 'monocoque' chassis. Disc brakes were fitted all-round ... jointly developed by Jaguar and Dunlop. A front-mounted 6-cylinder motor fed 250bhp to the rear wheels. Top speed was 175mph. In the '54 Le Mans race, a D-Type pushed Ferrari all the way to the flag. The Ferrari, though, had a much bigger engine. Jaguar, no doubt, chalked that up as a moral victory! The D-Type was still available to privateer drivers, and race wins were recorded around the world. Coventry, England - Jaguar HQ - was well and truly on the automotive map! The D-Type first bridged the gap between road and track. To that extent, it changed motor racing. No longer would 'competition cars' be within easy reach of the average driver. Motor racing, generally, would become less accessible. Whatever the verdict on that, few cars have moved motorsport on more radically than the Jaguar D-Type.

Lotus 25

Lotus 25 1960s classic GP racing car

The Lotus 25 was all about innovation. It was designed by Colin Chapman - charismatic top man at Lotus. In a quest to lower the nose of the car - in the interests of aerodynamics - Chapman envisioned a one-piece chassis. The previous car - the Lotus 24 - had been built around space-frame steel tubing. That was the standard, in '61. The '25', though, allowed its aluminium shell to act as the frame. Not only was the 'monocoque' lower and narrower - it was stronger and lighter, too. Frame flex was substantially reduced. That also let the suspension function to better effect.

Chapman boxed clever! The '62 season started with the old Lotus 24 on the grid - complete with its space-frame chassis. Early, non-championship races were a perfect opportunity to pull the wool over rival teams' eyes. Come the Dutch GP, though - and the Lotus 25 was revealed! With master craftsman Jim Clark at the wheel, the new Lotus quickly established itself as the class of the field. It would have won the World Championship at the first time of asking - were it not for last-round reliability issues. The following season, though, saw no such slip-up. A record-breaking seven win haul saw Lotus take its first world crown. They would repeat the feat, in '65 - with the wider-wheeled '33'. That was a great year for the Norfolk-based team ... Lotus also won the Indy 500!

The synergy, then, between the 25 and Clark was an automotive marriage from heaven. They lit up the F1 1.5-litre era. Colin Chapman - the arch-innovator - had done it again. Chassis and frame technology had morphed into the modern era. GP cornering would never be the same again!

Brough Superior SS100

Brough Superior SS100 British vintage motorcycle

When it came to his best-known motorbike, George Brough did not beat about the bush. 'Superior' said it all. And, to be fair, it was! Saying that, Brough - and his small team of Nottingham-based engineers - were responsible only for the frame. The engine, and cycle parts were outsourced. Initially, JAP - and later Matchless - provided the power. All the parts, though, still had to be coaxed to work as one. Brough, and the boys, clearly did a good job ... the SS100 was widely considered to be the best bike in the world!

Brough was among a group of riders, who, time and again, set about proving the Superior's worth. Both at circuits - and in land speed record attempts - the bike was a regular sight, in the '20s and '30s. As usual, racing 'improved the breed'. Tweaks at the track trickled down into mainstream SS100 production.

TE Lawrence - better known as 'Lawrence of Arabia' - was in love with Brough Superiors. He owned a succession of them ... all topped off with his trademark stainless steel tank. Sadly, he was to be fatally injured, whilst riding one of them. Of course, his best-known mode of transport was the cantankerous camel. But, for many, no 'ship of the desert' could ever match a Brough Superior steaming along at full chat!

Citroën DS

Citroen DS 1950s French classic car

From an engineering perspective, the Citroën DS must be one of the most exciting roadsters ever built. Its 4-cylinder engine powered a hydraulic system - which found its way into just about every part of the car. The motor itself was straightforward - dating back to the '34 'Traction-avant'. But, the hydraulic set-up it sparked into life was revolutionary. Most notable was the suspension. Instead of springs, the 'DS' was fitted with 'self-levelling hydropneumatic struts'. As a result, the car was able to raise and lower itself in a way that had never been seen - or felt - before. Potholes and bumps were easy pickings for the DS. When stationary - with the engine switched off - the Citroën sank serenely down. The power steering, disc brakes, and 'clutchless' gearbox were all hydraulically-operated. In each case, performance was substantially improved.

At its Paris début - in '55 - the DS' avant-garde styling went down a storm! The fluid lines of the bodywork were - and are - unique. They were functional, too - cleaving cleanly through French air. Front-wheel-drive, the DS handled well. But, to custom coach-builders - like Henri Chapron - the standard car was just a jumping-off point. They created coupés and stretched limos - taking DS aesthetics to the next level.

The DS set a trend for Citroëns. The ID19, and D Super became stalwarts of the Paris taxi scene. Sprawling Safari Estates ferried many from 'A to B'. The convertible version looked stunning - and had a price tag to match. The last of the high-end derivatives was the DS23. With a 5-speed 'box - and fuel injection - it delivered 117mph. In the end, almost 1.5m DSs were sold ... a fittingly high figure for a fine product.

Pontiac Club de Mer

Pontiac Club de Mer 1950s American classic concept car

The Pontiac Club de Mer prototype was inspired by land speed record cars. Head of design, Harley Earl - and studio leader Paul Gillian - were given the styling brief. It went without saying that 'space-age' imagery - pretty much ubiquitous in the '50s - would get its foot in the design door, too!

The most obvious lift from LSR cars was the shark-like stabilising fin at the rear. The front-end featured retractable headlights. The low nose tapered into a blunt arrowhead. Two chrome bands flowed up to air scoops at the back of the hood. The Club de Mer was a shoo-in for the '56 'Motorama'. It acquitted itself well - alongside GM's other 'dream car' exotica.

Not that the Club de Mer was all style, and no substance! Beneath the aerodynamic hood was a 4,392cc, 300bhp V8. First and foremost, though, the car was a trend-setter. 'Club de Mer' evoked Meditteranean panache. That was blended with all-American élan. A tad outlandish for some tastes, perhaps ... but then, the Pontiac Club de Mer was was in 'show' business!

Fiat 500

Fiat 500 1950s Italian classic car

In '57 - when the Fiat 500 was released - motorcycles ruled Italian roads. Whether solo - or attached to a side-car - they were the way most people 'got from A to B'. The Fiat 500 was set to change that. It was convenient, and economical. Okay, so were motorbikes. But, the '500' came with a roof ... and a sun-roof, at that! By '77 - twenty years later - Fiat had sold over 4,000,000 of them.

The 500's stats were not shattering! It had a twin-cylinder, 499cc motor - producing 18bhp, in standard trim. Top speed was 60mph. Enter Carlo Abarth! His 695cc SS model pushed 90mph. The 'Abarth' featured flared wheel arches, oil cooler, and raised rear engine cover. They were there to prevent over-heating, and increase stability. A pleasant side-effect was that the Abarth acquitted itself well at the racetracks. The roadster, too, handled well. Complete with rear-mounted motor, it delivered a desirable 52mpg. It cruised at 55mph. It was best not to ask too much of it, though - due to the drum brakes, and non-synchromesh gearbox. A modification made to later models was the move from rear to front hinges for the doors. That was especially good news for those still on two wheels!

So far as comfort was concerned, the little Fiat was 'utilitarian'. That said, '68's '500L' came with reclining seats, and carpets. Not exactly 'Rolls-Royce' ... but then a Rolls-Royce did not do 52mpg! The Fiat 500's mission was to provide stess-free motoring, to as many people as possible. That mission it accomplished ... with petite, but impressive aplomb!

Indian Chief

Indian Chief 1950s American classic motorcycle

Harley-Davidson can lay claim to manufacturing the world's best-known motorcycles. Well, certainly American ones, anyway. But, Harley have always had a rival. The mere mention of 'Indians' has long instilled panic in the suited and booted in the Harley marketing department!

In the '20s, Indian's Springfield factory was high up the motorcycle heap. The 'Chief' was their biggest asset. The 1200cc engine, in the 1947 model, was good for 85mph. Tuning took it to the 'ton'. An Indian, though, was not about death-defying numbers. Rather, it evoked the spirit of adventure. A bit like that firm in Milwaukee, in fact!

Indians were extravagantly styled. Nowhere more so than the finely-fettled fenders. Their trademark curvature was unmistakable. Harley front mudguards are sometimes skimpy affairs. Those which adorn an Indian are heraldic. Almost as if the front wheel were wearing a headdress! Indian, then, were a company which liked to 'cut a dash'. Sadly, the 'Roaring Twenties' glory days faded for Indian - while Harley went on to world domination! But, as in the game ... while most kids grow up wanting to be a cowboy, there are always one or two who would really much rather be an Indian!