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 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 - 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 1970s 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 underway 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 1930s British classic sports racing bike

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.