Maserati Ghibli

Maserati Ghibli 1960s Italian classic sports car

The Maserati Ghibli was styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro. At the time, he was on the Ghia payroll. He considered the car to be one of his finest designs. Certainly, it was classically spare, and low-slung.

Top speed for the Ghibli was a cool 165mph. Even at that speed, suspension was solid. And with its steel bodywork, the Ghibli was no lightweight. Notwithstanding, it handled well. Four potent disc brakes pulled it up just as impressively.

The Ghibli's highest-spec engine was the 4.9-litre V8 SS. Torque was out of the top drawer. Especially, way down low in the rev range. There was a ZF 5-speed 'box. Acceleration for the Ghibli, then, was not an issue! Capacity was 4,930cc. Power maxed at 335bhp. Just 1,149 Ghiblis were built. Back in '67, the Maserati Ghibli was a 2-seater supercar. Ferrari and Lamborghini had a rival!

Moto Guzzi Daytona 1000

Moto Guzzi Daytona 1000 1990s Italian sports bike

It is not a bad marketing ploy to name a bike after an iconic American race-track. It is fraught with danger, though. Deliver a machine which does not do justice to that arena ... and you going to look a tad silly. No such worries for Moto Guzzi! When the Daytona 1000 was released - in 1992 - its descriptor was perfectly apt. The Daytona was designed by 'Dr John' Wittner. He was a racer and engineer - who jacked in dentistry to go to Guzzi. To fans of the brand, their Mandello HQ was mythical. Dr John had campaigned Guzzis in the late '80s, with much success. He looked now to cement that legacy - in the shape of a road-going superbike.

The Daytona was directly descended from those track-based exploits. Its chassis provided excellent handling. The bike's engine had been suitably detuned - but was still fitted with fuel injection, and four valves per cylinder. That gave 95bhp - which equated to a top speed of 150mph. The V-twin's torque curve was typically steady.

Moto Guzzi have honed many a two-wheeled gem over the years. The Daytona 1000 was just the latest in a long line of solid, dependable, attractive products. Dr John - the ex-dentist - had indeed dished up a superbike to savour.

Cooper T51

Cooper T51 1950s F1 car

The Cooper T51 is one of the most radical racing cars ever built. John Cooper, and his small-scale team, took the prevailing motorsport wisdom of the time - and trashed it! Well, turned it on its head, at any rate. In 1959, it was a given that a racing car's engine sat at the front. Cooper - and his équipe - questioned that established practice. In so doing, they revolutionised race-car design. The T51 would be rear-engined - with all of the technical turnarounds that entailed. They were to be well worth the effort, however. 'Black Jack' Brabham took the '59 drivers' title, in the T51.

The 'Cooper-Climax' car sowed the rear-engined seeds, in '58. It won two GPs, early in the season. Notwithstanding that, the car was taken less than seriously. Its success was put down to its squat dimensions. It was only quick at 'twisty' circuits, it was said. And it was true that the Cooper was down on power, compared to the competition. But there was a reason for that. Its motor was an F2 unit - enlarged to 2.2 litres. The front-engined brigade were using 2.5-litre motors. In F1, small fractions make a big difference!

Happily, the T51 was fitted with the full 2.5-litre powerplant. Cooper's engine supplier - Coventry Climax - had increased the stroke. The Cooper now kicked out 230bhp. That was still less than its rivals - but its handling advantage was enough to see them off. The rear-engined set-up had knock-on effects. With no prop-shaft now needed, the driver sat lower - with all of the streamlining benefits that brought. And when it came to weight-saving, there was more than just junking the prop-shaft. With engine and final drive directly linked, their structural surrounds could be less robust. And the T51's mass was more centrally-aligned - making it more manoeuvrable. Tyre wear, in turn, improved. As for the T51's driving roster - it was impressive, to say the least. As well as Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss and Bruce McLaren were on call. Both the Monaco and British GPs duly fell to the Cooper - en route to the World Championship, at the first time of asking. That was testament to the impact the T51 made. Cooper had re-written the F1 tech spec in ways which would never be reversed.

Ford Capri

Ford Capri 1960s British classic car

The Ford Capri was the European sibling to the mighty Mustang - a massive seller in the US. In essence, the Capri was a standard 4-seater GT. There would be many a variation on the theme, though ... enough to give a spare-parts dealer nightmares. The Capri was manufactured in GB and West Germany. The first model came with the same 1.3-litre in-line four engine as the Ford Escort. In the UK, there were 1.6- and 2.0-litre V4 options. Add to that a 3.0-litre V6. Germany weighed in with 1.7- and 2.3-litre versions. Capri stock-taking was already starting to get complicated. And that was before the cornucopia of trim options kicked in!

The entry-level Capri was the L. The XL was mid-range. At the top of the heap were the GT, and luxury GXL models. The body shell - and struts, with beam rear axle - were interchangeable. There were more parts choices when it came to the 4-speed gearbox. Bigger engines had auto transmission as an option. All Capris had disc brakes up front - and drums at the rear. Rack-and-pinion steering, too, was standard ... oh, except for some of the 3.0-litre models, which were power-assisted. Whew!

Capris were campaigned as 'tin-top' racers - with much success. In their wake trailed a series of souped-up roadsters. The RS2600 Mk1 was a German 'homologation special'. It came with a fuel-injected 150bhp V6 ... courtesy of Harry Weslake. In 1973, the British-built 3100 appeared - another homologation special. With its Weber carburettor - and over-bored V6 - it made 148bhp. These 'performance car' Capris featured fat alloys, and quarter bumpers. The 3100 sported a duck-tail spoiler. Most sought-after of all was the Capri 280 Brooklands LE. Ironically, it was one of the German-built cars! But, with its swish leather seats - and British racing green paint - it was a fine finale to the Ford Capri story.

Italdesign Aztec

Italdesign Aztec 1980s Japanese concept car

The Italdesign Aztec was two cars for the price of one! Well, not two cars - but two cockpits. Driving responsibilities could be toggled between 'driver' and 'passenger'. Though which was which, at any one time, could have been a bone of contention! Of course, the whole point of concept cars is to put 'reality' on hold. The Aztec's designers never envisaged it going into production. A group of maverick Japanese businessmen, however, had other ideas.

Giorgetto Giugiaro was the Aztec's chief designer. Typically, his work was far from flamboyant. He had penned many a family runabout. Maybe it was just time for him to let his hair down! At any rate, Giugiaro was immensely proud of the Aztec. Slick and sophisticated - and with a silvery sheen - it was nothing if not striking. The Aztec's rear was seriously high-tech! Around the wheel arches were 'service centre' panels. They housed a raft of gizmos and gadgets. There were coded door locks, inbuilt hydraulic jack controls, and engine fluid monitors. More down-to-earth were a torch and fire extinguisher. Oh, and a petrol cap. The Aztec's interior was cutting edge, too. Cockpits communication was via headsets.

The Aztec's engine was a 5-cylinder Audi unit - turbo-charged, and transversely mounted. Transmission was Quattro 4-wheel drive. A dual-canopy body allowed easy access. The Aztec first appeared at the Turin Motor Show, Italy - in '88. There it was espied by those Japanese businessmen. They thought there might be a market for the car back home. Having bought the rights to the Aztec, they set about putting it into production. 50 replicas were duly built. The bodies were made in Italy - before being shipped to Germany. There they were handed over to tuners Mayer MTM - who installed the Audi powerplants. Finally, they reached Japan. The transportation costs were included in the price tag. The Aztec retailed at the yen equivalent of $225,000. But each car sold came with an added extra. Stylist Giorgetto Giugiaro signed them all personally. He was indeed proud of his Italdesign Aztec!


BMW K1 1980s German motorbike

Back in the day, it might have been said that BMW motorbikes bordered on the staid. If so, that all changed with the K1. Flair and panache dripped off it. The K1 looked the business - and BMW did plenty of it, as a result!

In engineering terms, the K1 was top-drawer. Then again, BMW know no other way! Suspension was set up per the 'Paralever' system - designed to cater to shaft-drive power trains. The 'K-series' engine featured four horizontally-opposed cylinders. It was fuel-injected, too. The result was 100bhp. And a top speed of 145mph.

The K1 was stylistically stunning. Paint and bodywork blended into a cool mix. 'Cool' had not been a word over-associated with the BMW brand ... at least, not so far as motorcycles were concerned! The K1, though, was a harbinger of things to come, in that regard. BMW would go on to produce some of the best-looking bikes on the planet. And - it went without saying - always with a touch of class!

Renault Etoile Filante

Renault Etoile Filante classic LSR car

You might think there would not be a lot to connect the Renault Dauphine 'runabout', and a turbine-powered land speed record car. Part of the reason for the record attempt, though, was to boost sales of the new Renault roadster. Renault recruited race car designer Albert Lory to the Etoile Filante - or 'Shooting Star' - project. He duly incorporated a space-frame chassis, plastic bodywork, massive disc brakes, and torsion bar suspension into the car.

But, the Etoile Filante's pièce de résistance came courtesy of Turboméca - the French aero-engine manufacturer. They supplied the car's gas turbine motor. It was dubbed the 'Turmo 1'. It was a thirsty bit of kit - needing three fuel tanks to feed it! One of them - forged from synthetic rubber - was placed in the car's nose. Located fractionally fore of the cockpit, it was hardly the safest arrangement! The plucky pilot was test driver Jean Hebert. Putting all 'inflammatory' thoughts out of his mind, he drove the Etoile Filante to 191.2mph. That was enough to topple Rover's turbine-powered tally - and set a new record.

The Etoile Filante was a product of 'space mania', which was sweeping Fifties culture. In the USA, especially, anything which smacked of 'rocket-ships' was a surefire hit. Fittingly, then, the Etoile Filante's record-breaking run took place at Bonneville Salt Flats, in Utah. Renault had pushed the envelope, technically. More than a mere marketing stunt, the Etoile Filante taught lessons that would be applied to real-world roadsters. Straight-line stuff it may have been, but there was much for Renault to learn - about acceleration, road-holding and braking. There is no surer test of a car's stability, than a stab at a world land speed record! The Etoile Filante made 270bhp - which had to be safely transferred to the salt flats. Clearly, the car was up to the job - as its successful run showed. The pride of Paris at the time, the Renault Etoile Filante was a fine example of French forward thinking ... in every sense!

Dodge Firearrow

Dodge Firearrow 1950s American classic concept car

The Dodge Firearrow was Italian-American. Ghia coach-built the car. Their craftsmanship was second to none. Resplendent in red - and sporting a polished metal belt-line - the Firearrow was an elegant, well-proportioned product.

Virgil Exner was chief stylist for the Firearrow. He - and his Chrysler colleagues - came up with a clean and tidy design. Restrained, and tastefully-placed lines were the backdrop for a plethora of neat features. The way the bodywork overhung the wheels was a sweet touch. Inside, the wooden steering wheel bespoke class. Twin seats were sumptuously upholstered.

A V8 engine oozed power. 152bhp shot the Firearrow III coupé to 143mph. The Firearrow's 'show car' timeline was a long one. It started out as a mock-up. That was followed by a working prototype. Decked out in yellow - and with wire wheels - it featured in the '54 'Harmony on Wheels' extravaganza. After that - along with the coupé - came the Firearrow and Firebomb convertibles. They were designed simply to whack a bit of 'wow factor' back into the Dodge brand. But so big a hit were they with show-goers, that a limited production run was soon mooted. Detroit's 'Dual Motors' privately funded it. 117 Firebomb replicas were built. They went under the name of the Dual-Ghia. Virgil Exner's feverish work ethic had paid off. The Dodge brand had been given a much-needed makeover. And the Firearrow had become a star in its own right!

Ascari KZ1

Ascari KZ1 2000s British supercar

Ascari Cars started up in 1995 - in Dorset, England. It was named after Alberto Ascari - the first double F1 champion. The new enterprise had a single goal - to build a supercar! The result was the Ascari Ecosse. It was designed by Lee Noble - who would later lay claim to his own supercar marque. The Ecosse was fast ... 200mph fast! But, only 17 Ecosses were sold. That was enough, though, to get the attention of Klaas Zwart - a Dutch business magnate. He subsequently bought Ascari. The firm relocated - to Banbury, Oxfordshire - a region renowned for high-grade motorsport activity.

Released in '03, the KZ1 was a roadster. But, it had racing in its veins. The beating heart of the car was its V8 engine. It had been transplanted from the BMW M5. Ascari's engineers, though, hauled out 100 more horses from the standard saloon car unit. Output rose to 500bhp. That was mated to a 6-speed CIMA transmission. The chassis - sorted by ex-Lotus staff - was race-bred. The tub and body were cut from carbon-fibre. The KZ1 had a drag coefficient of just 0.35. Slippery stuff! Super-stiff ventilated discs stopped it on a sixpence.

Like its Ecosse predecessor, the KZ1 topped out at 200mph. 0-60 arrived in 3.8s. 0-100, in 8.3. Stats like that set you back £235,000. But, you also got a leather and polished-aluminium cockpit. And air conditioning! Plus, access to your own test-track. As a KZ1 owner, 'Race Resort Ascari' was at your disposal. CEO Klaas Zwart built it for his own private use ... and for those who purchased his products! Zwart's custom design borrowed corners from the world's greatest race-tracks ... and 'moved' them to Spain. Perfect for putting your high-powered purchase through its paces. Alberto Ascari would surely have approved!

Scott Squirrel

Scott Squirrel British vintage motorcycle

Scott may not be the best-known name in motorcycle history ... but it certainly has its place in it! The British marque won the Senior TT - in both 1912 and '13. And the Scott trial - which began in 1914, and became a bastion of two-wheeled motorsport - was named for the Yorkshire firm. Founded in 1908, Scott went on to produce well-crafted motorcycles for decades to come.

Engineering excellence forged in the crucible of competition, trickled down into roadsters. The Scott Squirrel was the prime beneficiary. The Squirrel came in various flavours. There were Super Squirrels, Sports Squirrels and Flying Squirrels. All came with a 596cc motor - mated to a 3-speed hand-change 'box. Squirrels handled well, looked and sounded good - and skipped to 70mph. That was quick, in the 1920s!

Squirrels had a temperamental side - and were known to play up a bit, from time to time. Their price tags, though, were uniformly hefty. So, as the Squirrels aged, and started to lose their edge, sales declined. To this day, however, there is still many a motorcyclist nuts about Squirrels. Hopefully, a few Scotts have been horded away. That being the case, Squirrels may again become a common sight on the highways and byways of Britain.

Jaguar XJ 220

Jaguar XJ 220 1990s British supercar

The Jaguar XJ 220 parts-list seemed more aerospace, than automobile! The body was bonded-aluminium honeycomb - aerodynamically derived from Group C racing. It induced cerebellum-shifting acceleration. Indeed, the XJ was named the '220', for the mph top speed it so rapidly reached. It was Jim Randle - Jaguar's chief engineer - who conceived the car. He coaxed a few colleagues into spending Saturdays on the project. Things were looking good for the 'spare-time' supercar!

The 220's racing credentials were clear to see. Keith Helfet's svelte bodywork was for starters. A 5-speed transaxle ran through an AP clutch. Alloy wheels were centre-locking - for speedy wheel changes. Hefty brakes had 4-piston calipers. There was wishbone/inboard suspension. Power output was 500bhp! In theory, at least, though, the XJ was a roadster. Jaguar teamed up with TWR - to found JaguarSport. A production facility was built - in Bloxham, Oxfordshire. 350 XJ 220s rolled out of it. Each with a price tag of £403,000!

When the prototype had appeared - at the '88 Birmingham Motor Show - it triggered a tidal wave of excitement. Jaguar were besieged by orders. But when the supercar bubble burst, panic set in! Lawyers were loaded down - as buyers tried to wriggle off the XJ's high-priced hook. What had begun in Whitley, West Midlands, had morphed into a story more suited to Hollywood. A sideline - to keep boffins' brains busy - was now a case study in Eighties excess!

Noble M15

Noble M15 2000s British supercar

Noble's sports car credo was simple. Let the driver do the driving! That was in sharp contrast to many other manufacturers - who were happy to let gizmos have half the input. To Lee Noble, half the input meant half the fun! Founded in '99, his firm shot straight out of the automotive blocks. The Noble M10 - released that year - did 170mph. With a normally aspirated engine! Its light plastic bodywork was key to that speed. The Noble M12 moved things up a gear. Its turbocharged Ford motor was, perhaps, more racer than roadster. Time to throttle back a tad.

The M15 was launched in 2006. Pundits - Top Gear among them - praised its performance. 185mph was on tap - with 0-60 coming up in 3.4s. The twin turbocharged Ford Duratec engine made 455bhp. And the power was evenly delivered. As Lee Noble had made clear - his cars were about the total driving experience! The M15's motor was mounted longitudinally. That smoothed out weight distribution - helping handling. The M15's purposeful poise was propped up by a space-frame chassis. That was, in turn, backed up by an integral rollcage.

The car's cabin was comfortable. There were electric windows, and sat-nav. Traction control, and ABS, too. Did that border on computer control? Possibly ... but Noble had a duty to protect its customers! And their wallets, for that matter. By supercar standards, the M15 came cheap. £74,950 was small change compared with some of its peers!

Aprilia RSV Mille

Aprilia RSV Mille 1990s Italian superbike

The designers of the Aprilia RSV Mille could not be accused of muddying their intentions. A lap-timer on a road-bike spoke volumes. Naturally, it would only ever have been used at track-days! Even so, commuting could never have felt more like competing.

The rest of the bike was pretty purposeful, too. Which is what you would expect from a machine derived from a World Superbike. Its kid brother - the RS250 - was similarly linked to the bike which took the 250cc GP title.

The Mille's chassis was impeccably race-bred. It was secured by a twin-spar aluminium frame. The engine - a fuel-injected 60° V-twin - produced 128bhp. Aerodynamics were as good as a roadster gets. Put the two together - and top speed worked out at 165mph. With so much going for it, the Mille did the business, commercially. All in all, the Aprilia RSV took its place in the top-flight of Italian sports-bikes.