Chrysler K-310

Chrysler K-310 1950s American classic concept car

The K-310 was a Chrysler/Ghia collaboration. It was facilitated by Fiat. The firm had approached Chrysler - with a view to the American giant helping streamline its manufacturing process. Chrysler immediately spotted a symbiotic relationship. They could benefit from Italian craftsmanship. Subsequently, Ghia and Pininfarina - two of the great automotive design houses - built and submitted bodywork to Chrysler. Ghia got the gig. Their brief had been the Plymouth XX-500 saloon. Whilst slightly underwhelmed by the mock-up's looks, Chrysler were in awe of Ghia's coachbuilding skills. They liked the price, too!

Over to Virgil Exner - Chrysler chief designer. He was tasked with penning a prototype. Exner came up with the K-310. Drafts and scale models of the new car were dispatched to Turin - home to Ghia HQ. In due course, Chrysler were sent back a fully-fledged roadster. The invoice was just $20,000. Kaufman Keller was pleased. He was Chrysler's president - and the man who put the 'K' in K-310. Ghia had brought to glittering life, Exner's sculpted lines and low profile design. The car was laden with exotic 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 moulded boot lid.

Innovative as the K-310 was visually, in one respect, at least, Chrysler's song remained the same. To wit, the booming baritone from the car's V8 engine. Indeed, it could be heard all around Auburn Hills, Michigan - Chrysler's home town. With '51's K-310 concept car, Virgil Exner went out on a limb, aesthetically. And thanks to Ghia, Chrysler was now competing on every front - including craftsmanship!

Chrysler Thunderbolt

Chrysler Thunderbolt 1940s American classic concept car

The Chrysler Thunderbolt was named after the land speed record car, driven by Captain George Eyston. That mission had been accomplished at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah - in '38. The 2-seat roadster Thunderbolt sported an apt chrome lightning flash on its doors. Its straight-eight 323.5 cubic-inch engine made 143bhp. Rather less, no doubt, than its record-breaking namesake. Like the LSR car, though, the Thunderbolt prototype was a promotional tool. In '41, six Thunderbolts duly departed Detroit. They did the rounds of Chrysler dealerships, throughout the USA. The job of these 'dream cars' was to generate buzz for the new range of Chryslers to come.

Alex Tremulis was tasked with designing the Thunderbolt. A freelancer, at the time, the commission from Chrysler kick-started 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 LeBaron - later acquired by Briggs Manufacturing. Technically, too, the Thunderbolt was ahead of the game. Its roof and headlights were electrically retractable. Tiny push buttons opened the doors - rather than conventional handles. The air intake was below the front bumper. Avant-garde stuff, indeed, in the 1940s.

The chassis, at least, was mainstream. It was carried over from the Chrysler New Yorker. Indeed, the Thunderbolt had its roots in the Chrysler Crown Imperial. That was in stark contrast, then, to the sci-fi gadgetry of the interior. Saying that, it was upholstered in traditional leather. In the toy shops, tin replicas of the Thunderbolt sold by the shedload. Each of the half-dozen life-size cars came in its own custom colour scheme. One of them is on display at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum - in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The Chrysler Thunderbolt, then, was a stylish blend of automotive futurism and coachbuilt craftmanship.

Alfa Romeo BAT 7

Alfa Romeo BAT 7 1950s Italian classic concept car

The Alfa Romeo BAT 7 was a concept car out of the house of Bertone - an Italian coach-building firm, par excellence. The BAT 7 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'. As the name implied, airflow was a key concern. Scaglione's goal was to decrease cornering drag - while simultaneously increasing frontal downforce. That tied in with another performance box Scaglioni wanted ticked. That 125mph be extracted from a mere 100bhp engine. All these technical criteria were achieved 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 '54! Okay, so it helped that the BAT 7 did not come with roadster-style baggage attached. That said, its sibling - the BAT 9 - did put real miles on the clock.

The BAT 7 served only to strengthen 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 in the GT's development. Not least, the BAT 7. From its rakish low nose - to the folds of its 'tail-fins' - air-pressure did not stand a chance. In time, Bertone's lessons in shape-shifting would be learned by other automotive designers. Few of their creations, though, would have the allure of the Alfa Romeo BAT 7. A manta ray on wheels, the BAT 7 took metalwork to a whole new level. Young Italian coachbuilders - take notes!

Ferrari 312T

Ferrari 312T 1970s Italian F1 car

The 312T won the '75 F1 World Championship. Ferrari were cock-a-hoop. It had been eleven long years since the last one. Having the great Niki Lauda as driver helped, of course. But, Lauda would have been first to acknowledge the contribution of a fellow member of the Ferrari team. Namely, Mauro Forghieri - who designed the 312T's engine.

The Ferrari flat-12's motor had slimmer bores than those of the V-configured layouts of other teams. That allowed them to rev higher. Increased engine speeds meant more horsepower. It also meant more fuel consumption - so the 312T hit the grid heavier than its rivals. Thus, it fell to Ferrari's strategists to erase that handicap as the race wore on. They obviously made a good fist of it. Lauda won three consecutive races - 5, 6 and 7 - in Monaco, Belgium and Sweden. He had added two more by season's end. Deservedly, then, he took his first World Championship. Small wonder he described it as 'the unbelievable year'! To be fair to their competitors - not least, Brabham - Ferrari's car was head and shoulders above the rest.

Engine man Mauro Forghieri's masterstroke was his positioning of the 312T's gearbox. The horizontally-opposed flat-12 set-up meant the motor's mass sat lower. The result was better handling. Still a bit twitchy - but a big improvement on the Ferrari 312B3's understeer. Forghieri took weight distribution a step further. By placing the gearbox behind the engine, mass was not just lowered - but more centralised, too. The 312T now manoeuvred as well as it moved. At the start of the '76 season, the 312T was to win another three back-to-back GPs. But, '75 had been the car's finest hour. Niki Lauda - alongside team-mate Clay Regazzoni - had done the Tifosi proud. The Scuderia Ferrari fanatics had seen their team restored to the upper echelon of world motorsport. So, on top of being one of the most iconic race cars ever built, the 312T was a terrific all-round package. As such - in terms of technology - Ferrari pointed the way to the fully-integrated future of F1.

Porsche Carrera GT

Porsche Carrera GT 2000s 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 - one 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. Natch, there was a 6-speed 'box.

The Carrera GT's bodywork was streamlined - to say the least. Huge ducts cooled the engine and brakes. Rear wing action kicked in at 75mph. The cockpit was moved forward - adding to the dynamism of the design, among other things. Porsche's brief to self was to create a cutting edge supercar. The Carrera GT was proof they had delivered!

Williams FW07

Williams FW07 1970s F1 car

The FW07 moved Williams into F1's major league. Its precursor - the FW06 - had already nudged the team firmly in that direction. Patrick Head was chief designer. Key to the FW06's success was 'ground effect'. Lotus first introduced this piece of GP game-changing wizardry. Aerodynamic skirts 'sucked' the Lotus 78 to the tarmac. That groundforce helped the car corner. So much so, that it had rendered the Lotus nigh on unbeatable. But, the 78 had a chink in its armour. The car's structural strength - or lack of it - limited the amount of downforce that could be used. Fast-forward to Williams again - and the FW07 featured a robust monocoque chassis. In layman's terms, it could take as much 'vacuum-suck' as the venturi could chuck at it!

The '79 season was well underway by the time the FW07 was launched. It did not take it long to get up to speed, however. 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. By season's end, Alan Jones had added a further four wins to the tally. Next time around - in 1980 - and the FW07 was there at the start. Jones went on to win Williams' first World Championship. In doing so, he pipped Nelson Piquet to the post - in his Brabham BT49.

In '81, it was more of the same. Carlos Reutemann topped the podium for most of the season. '82, though, saw the curtain come down on the FW07. The car's final Act was staged at Long Beach, California. Keke Rosberg finished second - giving Williams another world title. Ground effect - in the form of the FW07 - had generated more than just downforce. It had provided Williams with their first - but not last - taste of F1 dominance!

Indian Powerplus

Indian Powerplus American vintage motorcycle

So far as Indian was concerned, its Powerplus model was a cut above other motorcycles. The American company's customers clearly agreed. Sales-wise, the Powerplus was a soaraway success. Between 1916 and '24 - the span of its production run - occasional modifications were all that were required.

The Powerplus' 998cc engine produced 18bhp. That gave a top speed of 60mph. As a result, Indian entered the Powerplus in the 1911 TT. It vanquished all comers. Indian collected a clean sweep of podium places. The firm broke long-distance records, too. In '14, 'Cannon Ball' Baker shot across America. It took him 11 days, 12 hours, 10 minutes ... precision-timing, back then!

But, the Powerplus did not just perform well. In design terms, too, it impressed - clad in a mantle of Indian red. Its fuel tank was embellished with the 'Indian' scripted logo - in appropriate gold paint. Viewed today, the swept-back handlebars were a vintage objet d'art. Throughout, old school engineering was in artful abundance. Hours could be spent taking in the visual delights of the Indian Powerplus. Almost as many, in fact, as it took it to traverse the States!

Excelsior Manxman

Excelsior Manxman 1930s British classic sports racing bike

Excelsior was the first British motorbike manufacturer. The company's best-known machine, the Manxman, was named after the TT - Tourist Trophy. That being the ultimate devil-may-care road race - through the picturesque scenery of the Isle of Man.

In '33, Excelsior took the Lightweight TT title. Overnight, the English firm became a motorcycling name to be reckoned with. The bike which achieved said feat was dubbed the 'Mechanical Marvel'! Keen to capitalise on their success, Excelsior conceived a racing replica roadster. At the last, though, the project was cancelled. Excelsior were worried about long-term sales. They feared its engine might prove too complex for Clubman-level 'tinkering'!

While that eleventh hour change of heart was a loss to amateur racing, it was a boon to road riders. Instead of the 'race rep' they had planned, Excelsior served up the more orthodox Manxman. Its single overhead camshaft motor came in 250, 350 and 500cc versions. For those so inclined, a bit of light tuning sorted it for the track. In standard trim, it was more than adequate for country lane heroics. In short, the Excelsior Manxman pleased everyone. In so doing, it signalled the finest hour for an historic marque!

Jaguar D-Type

Jaguar D-Type 1950s British classic sports racing car

In the mid-Fifties, the Jaguar D-Type was motor racing's top dog. It won consective Le Mans 24 hour races - in '55, '56 and '57. At the '57 event - come the chequered flag - D-Types occupied five of the first six places. Fair to say, then, it was their day. Not only that - but they were all privateer entries. It would seem the famous French circuit was a second home to Jaguar at the time. Silverstone, of course, being their primary stamping-ground.

As was apt, the Jaguar C-Type blazed the trail. 'C' stood for Competition. Jaguar turned to their XK120 sports car. It was a proven success - on both road and track. William Lyons was boss at Jaguar. He opined that - when it came to racing - pure production cars could no longer cut it. A dedicated Jaguar motorsport division was required. As a result, a race-spec body kit was grafted onto the XK120 chassis. The C-Type subsequently won twice at Le Mans. In doing so, it demonstrated its new-fangled disc brakes were the way to go. The race department was paying for itself already!

The D-Type was Jaguar's first full-on racer. It hit the grid in '54. From the get-go, it was clear 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. Beneath it sat a 'monocoque' chassis. Disc brakes were fitted all-round. They had been jointly developed by Jaguar and Dunlop. The front-mounted 6-cylinder engine fed 250bhp to the rear wheels. Top speed was 175mph. In the '54 Le Mans race, a D-Type harried a Ferrari all the way to the flag. Though Ferrari fended it off, it had a much bigger motor. When it came to the 'press conference', Jaguar no doubt chalked that up as a moral victory! The D-Type was still available to privateer drivers, and race wins were duly recorded around the world. Coventry, England was Jaguar HQ. The city was now well and truly on the automotive map. The D-Type was a racer, rather than a roadster. To that extent, it changed motor racing. No longer were competition cars within easy reach of the average driver. Motor racing would become less accessible. Few cars, then, have moved motorsport on more dramatically than the Jaguar D-Type!