Maserati Ghibli AM115

Maserati Ghibli AM115 1960s Italian classic sports car

The Maserati Ghibli AM115 was styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro. At the time, he was on the Ghia payroll. The maestro considered the Ghibli among his finest designs. It is not hard to see why!

Flat out, the Ghibli delivered 165mph. Even at that speed, suspension and handling were solid. And not withstanding its steel bodywork - meaning the Ghibli was no lightweight. Equally impressive were its four potent disc brakes.

Highest-spec Ghibli was the V8-engined SS. As you would expect, its torque curve was out of the top drawer. And from way down low in the rev range, too. A ZF 5-speed 'box did its best to stay with it. Suffice to say, acceleration was not an issue! Capacity was 4,930cc. Power maxed at 335bhp. Just 1,149 Ghiblis were built. In '67, the AM115 was a 2-seater supercar. Maserati were on a charge. Ferrari and Lamborghini - take note!

Moto Guzzi Daytona 1000

Moto Guzzi Daytona 1000 1990s Italian sports bike

It is probably not a bad marketing plan to name a bike after an iconic American circuit. It is one fraught with danger, however. Turn out a machine which does not do justice to that arena ... and you will look a tad daft! No such worries, though, for Moto Guzzi. When the Daytona 1000 was launched - in '92 - its moniker was nothing if not apt. After all, the Daytona was designed by 'Dr John' Wittner. He was an ex-racer/engineer. Indeed - back in the day - he had jacked in dentistry, to go to Guzzi. Not surprising, really. To fans of the brand, Guzzi's Mandello HQ was near-mythical. Dr John successfully campaigned Guzzis in the late '80s. Now, he sought to cement that legacy - in the shape of a road-going superbike.

The Daytona was directly descended from track-based exploits. It was a gimme, then, that it handled beautifully. Of course, the Daytona engine was suitably detuned. That said, it was still fitted with fuel injection - via its four valves per cylinder. 95bhp was duly on tap - equating to a top speed of 150mph. In tandem with that, the V-twin's torque curve was typically steep.

When it comes to motorcycles, Moto Guzzi have honed many a two-wheeled gem over the years. The Daytona 1000 was just the latest in a long line of dependable, attractive products, from the Italian stalwart. In the Daytona 1000, Dr John had dished up a mouth-watering superbike. The ex-dentist's two-wheeled delights would be savoured by bikers for years to come. Many a radiant smile resulted!

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 turned it on its head. In '59, it was a given that a racing car's engine sat at the front. The Cooper équipe set about querying that status quo. In so doing, they would revolutionise race car design. The T51 would be rear-engined - with all of the technical turnarounds that entailed. They were well worth the effort, though. At the wheel of a T51, Jack Brabham took the '59 F1 drivers' title.

It was the Cooper-Climax, though, that first sowed the rear-engined seeds. Last time around - in '58 - it had won two GPs. Admittedly, they were towards the start of the season. Notwithstanding those wins, the Cooper-Climax was taken less than seriously. A case of beginner's luck, as it were. Its early success was attributed to its squat dimensions - rather than engine location. So, it was only quick at 'twisty' circuits, it was said. And, it was true that the Cooper was down on power, compared to its competitors. But, there was good reason for that - which the Cooper-Climax's detractors neglected to take into account. Its motor was from F2 - albeit, enlarged to 2.2 litres. The front-engined brigade had 2.5-litre powerplants, at their disposal. In F1, of course, small fractions can make a big difference!

At any rate, the T51 was fitted with the full 2.5-litre unit. Cooper's engine supplier - Coventry Climax - had increased its stroke, to make up the difference. The new Cooper kicked out 230bhp. That was still less than its rivals. Its compactness-based handling advantage, however, was enough to see them off. The rear-engined set-up had knock-on positives. With no prop-shaft now needed, the driver could sit lower - with all the streamlining pluses that brought. Weight-saving, too, was a beneficiary. It was more than just junking the prop-shaft. With engine and final drive directly linked, the transmission could be less robust. That meant less weight. Overall, the T51's mass was more centrally-aligned. That made it even more manoeuvrable than it already was. In turn, tyre wear, too, improved. And, that was just the car. When it came to the T51's driving roster - it was impressive, to say the least. As well as 'Black Jack' Brabham, Stirling Moss and Bruce McLaren were on hand. Both the Monaco and British GPs fell to the Cooper, that year. Indeed, it was en route to winning the World Championship - at the first time of asking. That spoke volumes, regarding the impact the T51 made. In effect, John Cooper's team - and its 'front-to-back' engine ideas - re-wrote the F1 tech spec. And, in ways which would never be reversed!

Ford Capri

Ford Capri 1960s British classic car

The Ford Capri was 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 that theme, however ... enough to give a spare-parts dealer palpitations! 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. Stock-taking was already getting 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. Thankfully, the body shell was interchangeable. So were the struts - and beam rear axle. There were more parts choices, though, 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 - except for some of the 3.0-litre models, which were power-assisted.

Many a Capri was campaigned as a 'tin-top' racer - often, with much success. They derived from a set of souped-up roadsters. The RS2600 Mk1, for example, was a German 'homologation special'. It came with a fuel-injected 150bhp V6 ... courtesy of top tuner Harry Weslake. In '73, the British-built 3100 appeared - again, built for race homologation purposes. With its Weber carburettor - and over-bored V6 - it made 148bhp. These 'performance car' Capris featured fat alloy wheels and quarter bumpers. The 3100 sported a duck-tail spoiler. Most sought-after of all, however, was the Capri 280 Brooklands LE. Ironically, it was one of the German-built cars! Nonetheless, with its swish leather seats - and British racing green paint - it was a fitting finale to the Ford Capri story. And - as for those overworked spares departments - it is just a shame databases were still in their infancy, at the time!

Italdesign Aztec

Italdesign Aztec 1980s Italian concept car

The Italdesign Aztec came with dual cockpits. A 2-seater, driver and passenger were ensconced in separate 'compartments'. It was a concept car, after all! The Aztec was made to commemorate Italdesign's twentieth anniversary. Its designers never envisaged it on the open road. A group of maverick Japanese businessmen, however, had other ideas!

Giorgetto Giugiaro was chief stylist for the Aztec. As a rule, his work was far from flamboyant. Indeed, he had penned many a family runabout. Who knows - maybe it was just time for him to let his creative hair down. At any rate, Giugiaro was immensely proud of the Aztec. And - certainly, from a visual point of view - it was nothing, if not striking. Slick and sophisticated - and with a silvery sheen - showgoers' eyes were riveted. The Aztec's rear end was seriously high-tech. Wrapped around the wheel arches were 'service centre' panels. They housed a raft of gizmos and gadgets. There were coded door locks, built-in hydraulic jack controls and engine fluid monitors - just for starters. Somewhat more down-to-earth features included a torch and fire extinguisher. Not forgetting a petrol cap! The Aztec's interior was equally cutting edge. Communication between the two cockpits, for example, was via electronic 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 to the bay. The Aztec was unveiled in '88 - at the Turin Motor Show. Among the enraptured onlookers were the aforementioned suits. They were sure there might be a market for the car back in Japan. With the rights to the Aztec safely in their pockets, they set about putting it into production. 50 replicas of the prototype were due to be built - though less than half that number would roll off the line. The bodies were made in Italy. They were then shipped to Germany. There, they were entrusted to engine tuners Mayer MTM - who installed the Audi powerplants. Finally, they arrived in Japan. When transportation costs had been factored in, the Aztec retailed at the yen equivalent of $225,000. That was a lot of money. Each car, though, came with an added extra. Giorgetto Giugiaro signed every Italdesign Aztec personally. He was indeed proud of his outré creation!

BMW K1

BMW K1 1980s German motorcycle

Back in the day, BMW bikes were borderline staid. That all changed with the K1. Design-led flair and panache were dripping off it. The K1 looked the absolute business - and BMW did plenty of it, as a result!

In engineering terms, the K1 was straight out of the top drawer. That said, BMW know no other way! Suspension was set up per the Paralever system - specially formulated for shaft-drive power trains. The K-series engine featured four horizontally-opposed cylinders - the flat layout having been a BMW trademark since the year dot. This time around, though, it was fuel-injected. Cue 100bhp. And a top speed of 145mph.

The K1 was stylistically stunning. Paint and bodywork blended into a cool mélange. 'Cool' was not a word which had been over-associated with BMW, in the past ... at least, not so far as motorcycles were concerned. The K1, though, was a visual harbinger of 'Beemers' to come. Indeed, BMW would go on to produce some of the best-looking bikes on the planet. And, of course, it went without saying, they also exuded a touch of Teutonic class!

Renault Etoile Filante

Renault Etoile Filante classic land speed record car

You might not think there would be much to connect the Renault Dauphine runabout - and a land speed record car! The Renault Etoile Filante's LSR attempt, however, was, in part, to publicise the new roadster. To that end, Renault recruited race car designer Albert Lory. He was tasked with taking the Etoile Filante from project to projectile. Into his design, Lory duly incorporated a space-frame chassis, plastic bodywork, massive disc brakes and torsion bar suspension.

Power for the Etoile Filante's record attempt came courtesy of Turboméca. The French aero-engine manufacturer supplied the car's gas turbine motor. The device was dubbed the Turmo 1. It was a thirsty piece of kit. Three fuel tanks were required to supply it! One of them - fabricated from synthetic rubber - was in the car's nose. Placed fractionally fore of the cockpit, it would not have pleased 'Health & Safety' much! The plucky pilot was Jean Hebert. He drove the Etoile Filante to 191.2mph. That was sufficient to topple Rover's turbine-powered tally. A new record had been set!

The Etoile Filante was another example of the sci-fi mania sweeping the Fifties. In the US, especially, anything which smacked of spacecraft was a surefire hit! The Etoile Filante - or, 'Shooting Star' - fit the bill perfectly. Its record-breaking run took place at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. There could be no doubt Renault had pushed the boat out, technically. More than a mere marketing stunt, the Etoile Filante provided invaluable lesons for real-world cars, for years to come. Straight-line stuff it may have been, but there was still much for Renault to learn. Acceleration, road-holding and braking data from the Etoile Filante fed into future Renault models. After all, there is no surer test of a car's stability, than a stab at a world land speed record! The Etoile Filante made 270bhp - all of which had to be efficiently transmitted to the salt. Clearly, Renault's planning passed muster - as its successful run showed. The Renault Etoile Filante, then, was a fine example of French forward thinking ... in every sense of the phrase!

Dodge Firearrow

Dodge Firearrow 1950s American classic concept car

The Dodge Firearrow was an American-Italian collaboration. Coachbuilders Carrozzeria Ghia - based in Turin - finessed the fine details. Their craftsmanship was second to none. Resplendent in red - and sporting a polished metal belt-line - the Firearrow was an elegant, well-proportioned automobile.

Ghia liaised with Virgil Exner. He was chief stylist for the Firearrow. Exner - and his colleagues in the Chrysler art department - 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.

The Dodge's engine was an all-American V8. 152bhp shot the Firearrow III coupé up to 143mph. The Firearrow timeline was a long one. It started out as a show car mock-up. A working prototype duly followed. Decked out in yellow - and with wire wheels - it featured in '54's 'Harmony on Wheels' extravaganza. After that - along with the coupé - came the Firearrow and Firebomb convertibles. The idea was just to whack a bit of wow factor back into the jaded Dodge brand. But - so big a hit were they with the public - that a limited production run was soon mooted. It was privately funded - by Detroit's Dual Motors. 117 Firebomb replicas were built. They went under the name of the Dual-Ghia. Virgil Exner - and his feverish work ethic - had delivered on two fronts. Dodge received its much-needed facelift. And the Firearrow lit up the landscape, in its own right!

Ascari KZ1

Ascari KZ1 2000s British supercar

The story of Ascari Cars - and the KZ1 - began in '95. The firm was based in Dorset, England. It was named after Alberto Ascari - the first double F1 champion. The new enterprise had a single objective - to build a supercar. The result was the Ascari Ecosse. It was designed by Lee Noble - who would later start up his own supercar marque. The Ecosse was fast ... as in, 200mph fast! Only 17 Ecosses, though, were sold. That was sufficient, however, to get the attention of Klaas Zwart - a Dutch business magnate. He subsequently bought Ascari. The company relocated - to Banbury, Oxfordshire. It is a region renowned for high-grade motorsport and its associated activities.

Released in '03, the KZ1 was nominally a roadster. But, it had racing running through its finely-tuned veins. The beating heart of the car was a V8 engine. It had been transplanted from the BMW M5. Ascari's engineers, however, hauled out 100 more horses from the standard saloon car unit. Asa result, output rose to 500bhp. The motor 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, indeed! Nonetheless, 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. As you would expect, stats like that set you back £235,000. But, you also got a leather and polished-aluminium cockpit, for your outlay. And air conditioning. Plus - last but not least - access to your own purpose-built 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 finest circuits - and shifted them to Spain. Perfect, then, for putting your new KZ1 through its paces. Alberto Ascari would surely have approved!

Scott Squirrel

Scott Squirrel British vintage motorcycle

Scott may not be the most famous manufacturer in motorcycling history - but it certainly has its place. As, indeed, does Scott's most celebrated bike, the Squirrel. The British marque won the Senior TT - in both 1912 and '13. And the Scott trial - which began in '14 - and became a bastion of off-road motorsport - was named after the Yorkshire firm. Founded in '08, Scott went on to produce finely-crafted motorbikes for decades to come.

Engineering excellence - forged in competition's crucible - flowed down into Scott roadsters. The Squirrel was the prime beneficiary. Squirrels came in several 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 merrily skipped up to 70mph. In the Twenties, that was quick!

Squirrels were apt to be temperamental, though. Mechanically, they played up a bit, from time to time. And - with their hefty price-tags - that did not go down well with owners. As the model aged - and its cutting edge blunted - sales declined. To this day, though, there is many a motorcyclist who is nuts about Squirrels. With luck - over the years - a few of them were horded away. So, you never know ... Scott Squirrels may again be 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 suited to aerospace than automobiles. The body was made from bonded-aluminium honeycomb. Its aerodynamics came straight out of Group C racing. The result was cerebellum-splitting acceleration. '220' stood for its mph top speed. Jim Randle - Jaguar's chief engineer - conceived the car. Thereafter, he coaxed a few colleagues into spending Saturdays on the XJ project. To begin with, at any rate, we are talking spare-time supercar!

The XJ's race credentials were clear to see. Keith Helfet's svelte bodywork was just 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. Suspension was wishbone/inboard. 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. In total, 350 XJs rolled out of it. Each with a price tag of £403,000.

When the prototype appeared - at the '88 Birmingham Motor Show - it had triggered a tidal wave of excitement. Jaguar were besieged by orders. But when the supercar bubble burst, panic had set in. Suddenly, lawyers were overloaded with cases - as over-eager buyers tried to wriggle off the car's high-priced hook. The Jaguar XJ 220 story - which began in Whitley, West Midlands - morphed into something more suited to Hollywood! What started as a sideline - to keep boffins' brains busy - turned into a study in Eighties excess.

Noble M15

Noble M15 2000s British sports car

When it came to machines like the M15, 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 the same year - did 170mph. And with a normally aspirated engine! Its light plastic bodywork was key to that speed. The Noble M12 moved things up another gear. Its turbocharged Ford motor was really more racer, than roadster. Time to throttle back a tad.

The M15 was launched in 2006. Pundits - Top Gear amongst 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 smoothly delivered. As Lee Noble had clarified - his cars were about the total driving experience. The M15's motor was mounted longitudinally. That evened out weight distribution - helping handling. The M15's purposeful poise was propped up by a space-frame chassis. Topping things off was an integral rollcage.

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

Aprilia RSV Mille

Aprilia RSV Mille 1990s Italian sports bike

The designers of the Aprilia RSV Mille could never be accused of muddied intent. A lap-timer - fitted to a road bike - told you all you needed to know. Of course, it went without saying that the data would only ever have been examined at track-days! That said, commuting could never have felt more like competing.

The rest of the Mille was pretty purposeful, too. Which is what you would expect from a machine derived from a World Superbike. Its sibling - the Aprilia RS250 - was similarly sourced from the bike that took the 250cc GP title. The Mille's lap-timer was starting to make sense!

Certainly, the Mille's chassis was impeccably race-bred. It was held together by a twin-spar aluminium frame. The engine - a fuel-injected 60° V-twin - produced 128bhp. Aerodynamically, the RSV was about as slippery as it gets. The result was a top speed of 165mph. Not surprisingly, the bike was a great commercial success. All in all, then, the Aprilia RSV Mille had cemented its place in the top stratum of Italian sports bikes.