Honda CB 750

Honda CB 750 1960s Japanese classic motorcycle

The Honda CB750 could be considered the point at which motorcycling's modern era began. Technically, it was released in '69 - but its presence so suffused the Seventies that it cannot but be grouped with bikes of that decade. Kawasaki's Z1 is often thought of as the first Japanese 'superbike' - and with some justification. But timeline-wise, the CB 750 was first out of the traps ... and by four years, at that.

The CB 750's four, across-the-frame cylinders were clear evidence there was a new kid on the block. The corresponding quartet of silencers served to hammer home that powerful message. Overall, the CB 750 was 'solidity' encapsulated. But it was stylish solidity. The petrol tank, in particular, was sleek and well-rounded. The multi-spoked wheels were a latticed delight. Paintwork and chrome vied for attention. The CB's front disc brake was technologically advanced. High handlebars - and a well-padded seat - were tailor-made for long journeys. Of course, the 750 was primarily pitched as an all-rounder in the showrooms.

The CB was a big success, sales-wise. That was only to be expected from a bike which topped out at 125mph - and also handled reasonaby well. Honda's rivals fell over themselves to match it. As a result, the CB furthered the cause of motorcycling. The day of the 'Jap Classic' had dawned!

Pegaso Z-102

Pegaso Z-102 1950s Spanish classic car

In the 1950s, the Spanish firm Pegaso made some of the most glamorous cars in the world. Among them was the Pegaso Z-102. Designed by Touring, the Z-102's alloy bodywork combined beauty with light weight. The Z-103 - which came later - was a simplified version of the Z-102. Its engine came with a single overhead-camshaft, for example. With the Z-102 suffering in the showrooms, the Z-103 was intended to be more of a commercial success. Between the pair of them, however, only around 100 cars were built. Thankfully, Pegaso's bread and butter sales were in trucks and coaches. Their foray into sports car manufacture was something of an aside.

At the race-tracks, too, the Z-102 under-achieved. It started out with a 2.8-litre V8 engine. Baseline power was 175bhp. Bolting on a supercharger upped that number considerably - to 280bhp. Taking the 2.8-litre motor out to 3.2 produced 360bhp. That should have been enough to be competitive. Especially, given that at lower speeds, the Z-102 handled quite well. But - despite its light alloy body - overall, the Z-102 was heavy. That could make it incalcitrant through corners. Its top speed of 160mph redressed the balance somewhat ... but not enough! At least it sounded great - thanks to its gear-driven camshafts.

It was almost as if the Z-102 was built on a whim! With money rolling in from trucks and coaches, Pegaso were less than savvy about the sports car business. The Z-102's seven-year production run was probably enough - the last cars leaving the factory in '58. As a money-maker, it had been pretty futile. Then again, Pegaso had shown the world that it could make stunning-looking machines ... on top of its more 'monolithic' stock-in-trade! Ultimately, insufficient attention was paid to the Z-102's bottom line. The Z-103 tried to make amends, with its more straightforward approach. But the damage was done! The marque of Pegaso - based in Barcelona - will never be spoken of in the same breath as Ferrari or Lamborghini. But for a short while - as cars like the Pegaso Z-102 showed - Spanish automobiles were every bit as exotic as their Italian counterparts.

Spyker C8 Laviolette

Spyker C8 Laviolette 2000s Dutch supercar

The Spyker C8 Laviolette was no Dutch flash in the pan. Spyker's roots stretch back to 1880. In '89, they built the 'Golden Carriage' ... to this day, the Dutch royal family's transport, on state occasions. During World War 1, Spyker built planes - including their engines. But the firm also found time to build cars - for both road and track. Well, they did until 1926 ... when Spyker went bankrupt!

But that was not the end of the Spyker story. In 1999, Victor Muller - a Dutch business magnate - bought the Spyker brand-name. He duly set about resurrecting the marque. Supercars would be Spyker's new stock-in-trade. The Spyker Squadron équipe was formed - specialising in endurance races, like Le Mans and Sebring. In 2006, Spyker entered FI. It bought the Midland team - or Jordan, as it had previously been. Two years on, it would be sold to Force India.

The Spyker C8 Laviolette débuted at the 2001 Amsterdam Motor Show. The car's aluminium bodywork was breathtaking. Beneath it, the space-frame was made from the same light material. The up-swinging 'scissors doors' were impressively state of the art. When open, they revealed quilted-leather seats. The Laviolette's 4.2-litre V8 produced 400bhp. Suspension was F1-style - comprising Koni in-board shocks. Ventilated disc brakes were suitably solid. The Laviolette's top speed was 187mph. 0-60 came up in 4.5s. Of course, the price tag for all that was sky-high. All of £210,000. Saying that, you did get to watch your car being built ... courtesy of a Spyker factory web cam. Among the C8's optional extras was a Chronoswiss Spyker wrist-watch - complete with your car's chassis number engraved on it. A snip, at £24,000. A set of bespoke luggage cost a mere £12,350. There was even a Louis Vuitton tool-kit available - a bargain at just £2,500. Financially, the Spyker C8 Laviolette was not playing games. Most of us could not afford the extras, never mind the car!

Ariel Square Four

Ariel Square Four 1950s British classic motorcycle

The Ariel Square Four was designed by Edward Turner. He would go on to oversee Triumph - in its Sixties glory days. But the Square Four was released back in '28 - when 'Bonnevilles' and 'Tridents' were but a blur on motorcycling's horizon.

In effect, the Square Four's 1,000cc engine was two sets of parallel twins - one in front of the other. The upside of that layout was that plenty of power was produced. The '58 version of the Square Four was good for 105mph. Slightly more than enough, then, to satisfy the 'ton-up boys' - the legendary Rockers, to whom Turner and Triumph would in due time cater. The downside of the 'fore and aft' configuration was that, while the front brace of cylinders enjoyed lots of cooling air - the rear two did not. That could make them a tad cantankerous - especially on a hot day! Saying that, given its ton-plus top speed, the Square Four's performance did not suffer too much. What made the top speed stat still more impressive was the Square Four's weight. Certainly, 465lb needed careful guidance through fast corners.

The 'Squariel' - as it was affectionately dubbed - was a solid-looking motorcycle. In the sense of pleasingly robust, that is. Its telescopic front - and plunger rear - suspension units complemented each other nicely. The four-header exhaust set-up sat neatly between the two. So, all in all, the Ariel Square Four can hold its head high. Even in the lofty company of the mythical machines toward which Edward Turner was inexorably moving.

Bugatti EB110

Bugatti EB110 1990s French supercar

The Bugatti EB110's code-name was a tribute to the firm's founder, Ettore Bugatti. It was launched on the 110th anniversary of his birth. Fittingly, Bugatti's new supercar was unveiled in Paris. When it went on sale, the EB110 had a price tag of £285,000. If the standard EB110 was not enough, you could always front up another £50,000 - and drive off in the Supersport version. Its 611bhp output delivered 221mph! Even in standard trim, the EB110's top speed was 212mph.

Top-drawer supercar designer Marcello Gandini was originally recruited to style the EB110. His mock-up, though, was deemed too radical by the Bugatti top brass. Subsequently re-worked by Italian architect Giampaolo Benedini, the EB110's aluminium body looked superb. The engine, too, was a work of art. Its V12 layout comprised 4 turbochargers, and 60 valves. There was a 6-speed 'box, and 4-wheel drive. Handling was precise - to say the least!

In 1987, entrepreneur Romano Artioli had stepped in to rescue the Bugatti brand-name. He built a state of the art supercar factory - in Campogalliano, Modena, Italy. Indeed, Giampaolo Benedini - the car's designer - had previously architected the factory in which it was built! To head up the engineering team, Artioli had hired acclaimed technical director Paulo Stanzani. Among the Bugatti EB110 owners would be famed racing driver Michael Schumacher. Which pretty much says it all, really!

Triumph Speed Twin

Triumph Speed Twin 1930s British classic motorcycle

The Triumph Speed Twin - quintessence of 'Britishness' - had Germany to thank for its existence. In 1902, Germans Siegfried Bettman and Mauritz Schulte grafted a Belgian-made Minerva motor onto a bicycle. Triumph were in business! It took three years for the Coventry-based company to produce a proprietary engine. It obviously ran well ... the phrase 'Trusty Triumph' was soon a part of the motorcycle vernacular.

The Speed Twin was launched in '37. Its parallel-twin engine layout made it faster and smoother than its single-cylinder rivals. The 498cc motor made 29bhp. Top speed was 90mph - heady stuff at the time. The new bike was the brainchild of Edward Turner. It showed courage, as well as design acumen. The motorcycle industry is inherently conservative. In Britain, at least, single-cylinder 'thumpers' monopolized the market for years. Turner's Speed Twin broke the two-wheeled mould.

Turner was Triumph's head of design/general manager. His 'admin' duties clearly did not hinder his creativity. The Speed Twin looked the business! And with a dry weight of just 365lb, it was agile, too. Edward Turner - visionary that he was - had dreamed up a bike ahead of its time. His Triumph Speed Twin was a blueprint for all that was to come. 'Brit bikes' were on the march!

Nissan GT-R

Nissan GT-R 2000s Japanese sports car

Launched in 2007, the Nissan GT-R was effectively two cars in one. It was equipped with a switch to toggle it between performance and cruise modes.

Key to the GT-R's success was its exotic drive-train. Comprising, as it did, a twin-clutch transaxle, paddle-shift transmission, and 4-wheel drive, the GT-R's power was comparatively easy to manage. An automatic transmission helped, too. Saying that, 0-60 came up in just 3.5s. And the GT-R maxed out at 194mph. All that from a supremely efficient Nissan V6.

The GT-R came with a comfortable cockpit. The deep front seats were a snug fit - to assist quick, but controlled driving. In the 'relaxed' setting, though, the soft leather upholstery could be fully appreciated. If the latest sounds were your thing, there was a high-tech music centre available - complete with downloading capabilities. There was an LCD screen, too - courtesy of Sony Playstation. As an ultimate all-rounder, then, the Nissan GT-R was hard to fault.

Lamborghini Countach

Lamborghini Countach 1970s Italian classic supercar

The Lamborghini Countach was styled by Italian design masters Bertone. In its first incarnaton, the Countach flew to a top speed of 186mph. That was more than impressive in the '70s. Its classic Lamborghini V12 engine produced 375bhp. Subsequent models output still more power.

Handling-wise, too, the Countach was well up to snuff. Mid-engined as it was, its gearbox was at the front - nestled snugly beneath the banana seats. As a result, the Countach's cornering capabilities soared. A 5-speed transmission only added to the fun!

Countach is a Piedmontese exclamation/expletive. In its mildest form, it simply means 'wow' ... though it can have fruitier connotations! The first definition, at any rate, is spot-on. Later versions of the Countach, though, over-egged the stylistic pudding somewhat. Pointless spoilers - and over-sized wheel-arches and ducts - bordered on the kitsch. To be fair, by the time such models hit the showrooms, the firm's founders had departed. Indeed, it was in large part due to the Countach that the Lamborghini logo stayed afloat. When it made its début - in '74 - the Countach stunned show-goers. Lamborghini's rivals were pretty shaken up, too. Over the course of its run, then, the Lamborghini Countach summed up the Seventies ... a decade which veered wildly between masterpiece and parody.

MV Agusta 750 Sport

MV Agusta 750 Sport 1970s Italian classic sports bike

The MV Agusta 750 Sport was race-bred. Indeed, a line could be drawn from this 750 roadster through to the 'Gallerate' race-bikes. And they ruled the 2-wheeled GP roost at the time. The 750 Sport's clip-on 'bars and humped-back seat screamed racing. The 4-leading-shoe Grimeca front brake - and chrome quartet of megaphone exhausts - were clear pointers, too, to the bike's race-track roots.

The 750 Sport's top speed of 120mph was good going in the Seventies. Especially since the bike was a tad portly - weighing in at 506lb. Its in-line 4-cylinder engine produced 69bhp - at 7,900rpm. Power was delivered via gear-drive - spinning twin overhead camshafts.

Sat next to its rivals in the showrooms, the 750 Sport was a pricey buy. As a result, it did not sell well. The complexity of its engine - and labour-intensive production processes - counted against it when it came to price tag time. Looked at from a purely commercial standpoint, the Sport was just one more nail in MV Agusta's coffin! Domenico Agusta - the firm's founder and driving force - suffered a fatal heart attack, in '71. With him went the soul of 'MV'. It was not long before the marque shut up shop. It is sometimes hard to convey to those who do not 'get' motorcycles, just what it is that holds spellbound those who do. A bike built by MV Agusta makes it so much easier to explain. For many, MV encapsulates the spirit of biking like no other marque. Without doubt, the MV Agusta 750 Sport played its part in that!

Toyota 2000GT

Toyota 2000GT 1960s Japanese classic sports car

The Toyota 2000GT was designed by Graf Goertz - the NY industrial design firm. So subtle were the lines of its bodywork that manufacturing costs soared. A mere 337 2000GTs were subsequently built - ensuring that the car is now highly sought-after. Though the GT was intended as a loss leader, Toyota no doubt did not expect the losses to be quite as large as they were! That said, when the 2000GT prototype débuted - at the '65 Tokyo Show - Toyota's brand-image sky-rocketed.

The 2000GT had speed to match its staggering good looks. The twin-cam straight-six engine developed 150bhp. That gave a top speed of 135mph. The motor's hemi-head set-up featured straight-through ports, and large valves. In other words, it breathed deeply! On the inlet side were two double-throated Mikuni/Solex carbs. There were also a five-speed 'box, disc brakes all round, and a backbone chassis with a full set of wishbones. There were options for the final drive ratio, too.

Crucially, the 2000GT failed to crack the States. A mere 63 Americans saw fit to buy one! That was in large part down to its hefty price tag - at least, as compared with its rivals. It exceeded that of the Porsche 911 - and Jaguar E-Type - by a considerable margin. And, arguably, they were better cars! Toyota went on to produce no less than nine more conservative versions of the GT - in a desperate bid to woo the American market. They came complete with air conditioning, and optional auto transmission. It did not work! Elsewhere, however, the Toyota 2000GT - along with the Datsun 240Z - was a clear signal to the sports car world that the Japanese were coming!


Edsel 1950s American classic car

The Edsel was made by Ford. The great American manufacturer, though, sold the Edsel as a marque in its own right. Ford confidently predicted that it would sell 200,000 Edsels - in the first year alone! As it turned out, a mere 62,000 units were shifted. Since the Edsel had cost Ford $250,000,000 to develop, that was not good! The Edsel ended up a white elephant. Which was a shame, because it was not a bad car. It was just that the timing was out. Ford's sales team had targeted lower-middle demographics - somewhere between their luxury models and the cut-price Mercury. When the Edsel went into production, the automotive trade was depressed - with customers looking to buy cheap. The Edsel was stuck in marketing no man's land!

There were echoes of the Ferrari Dino in the Edsel. Both cars were presented as unique marques. Both, too, were named after sons who had died prematurely. Dino Ferrari and Edsel Ford both passed away early - and the cars were fathers' tributes. It was especially sad, then, in the case of the Edsel, that sales were so poor. A feature of the car that certainly did not help was its vertical grille. American buyers simply did not take to it. Ironically, the rest of the Edsel was conservatively styled - at least as compared with its Fifties rivals! The Edsel 'brand' comprised 15 models - including saloons, convertibles and station-wagons. The one thing they had in common was the floor-pan.

The Edsel's engine came in one of two flavours - straight-six or V8. Peak power was 350bhp. Top speed 108mph. The manual and auto gearboxes were both 3-speed. Biggest capacity was 6,719cc. Those Edsels that are left are highly sought-after. Indeed, in different circumstances, the Edsel may well have been a success story. As it is, it has to settle for an impressively high 'quirkiness' quotient!