Honda CB750

Honda CB 750 1960s Japanese classic motorcycle

There is a case to be made for considering the Honda CB750 to be 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'. Timeline-wise, though, it was the CB750 that was first out of the traps - and by a full four years, at that.

The CB750's four across-the-frame cylinders were a clear signal there was a new kid on biking's block. The shiny quartet of chrome exhausts reinforced the message. The CB750 was a muscular-looking motorcycle. But, it was stylish muscularity. The rounded tank was sleek and shapely. The multi-spoked wheels were a latticed delight. Paintwork and chrome vied for attention. At the time, the CB's front disc brake was technologically advanced. Highish handlebars - and a well-padded seat - were tailor-made for long journeys. So, it made sense for the 750 to be pitched as the perfect all-rounder.

Unsurprisingly, the CB was a big success in the showrooms. That was only to be expected from a bike which topped out at 125mph - and also handled well. Honda's rivals duly fell over themselves to try to match it. Over time, then, the CB750 furthered motorcycling's cause. By setting a benchmark, it forced manufacturers worldwide to follow suit. In the form of the Honda CB750, the day of the modern Jap classic had dawned!

Pegaso Z-102

Pegaso Z-102 1950s Spanish classic car

In the Fifties, 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. For whatever reason, though, the car suffered in the showrooms. Its replacement - the Z-103 - was a toned-down version of the Z-102. Its engine, for example, came with a single-overhead-camshaft. Not surprisingly, Pegaso intended that the Z-103 sell better than its predecessor. Between the pair of them, however, only around 100 units were shifted. Thankfully, Pegaso's bread and butter sales were in trucks and coaches. Their foray into sports car manufacturing was something of a sideline.

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 substantially upped that number - to 280bhp. Taking the 2.8-litre motor out to 3.2 upped it still further - to 360bhp. That should have been enough to be competitive. Especially, given that at lower speeds, the Z-102 handled well. Despite its light alloy body, however, in overall terms, the Z-102 was heavy. That could make it recalcitrant through higher-speed corners. Its top speed of 160mph did redress the balance somewhat - but not enough. At least it sounded great - courtesy of its gear-driven camshafts!

It felt almost as if the Z-102 had been built on a whim. Dominant though they were in the commercial vehicle world, Pegaso were less than savvy about the sports car business. The Z-102 stayed in production for seven years. The last cars left the factory in '58. As a money-maker, it had been pretty futile. On the bright side, Pegaso had demonstrated that it could make stunning-looking automobiles - on top of its more monolithic stock-in-trade. Ultimately, insufficient attention had been paid to the Z-102's bottom line. The Z-103 had tried to make amends - with its more prosaic approach. But, the financial damage was done - and a line had, eventually, to be drawn. The marque of Pegaso - based in Barcelona - will probably never be spoken of in the same breath as Ferrari or Lamborghini. But, for a while, the Pegaso Z-102 showed that Spanish sports cars could be every bit as exotic as their Italian counterparts!

Spyker C8 Laviolette

Spyker C8 Laviolette 2000s Dutch supercar

In the past, the Netherlands was associated with tulips and windmills. These days, it is as likely to be supercars - like the Spyker C8 Laviolette. Spyker's roots stretch back to 1880. In '89, they built the Golden Carriage. It still transports the Dutch royal family, on state occasions. During World War 1, Spyker made fighter planes - including their engines. The firm also found time to build cars - for both road and track. Well, they did until '26 - when Spyker went bankrupt.

Thankfully, though, that was not the end of the Spyker story. In '99, 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 team was formed. It specialised in endurance racing. Visits to Le Mans, Sebring et alia duly followed. In '06, Spyker entered F1. It bought the Midland équipe - or Jordan, as it had previously been. Two years on, the team would be sold to Force India.

Spyker's C8 Laviolette debuted at the 2001 Amsterdam Motor Show. Its aluminium bodywork took visitors' breath away. Beneath, the space-frame was made from the same lightweight material. The dramatic upsweep of the 'scissors doors' was spectacularly state of the art. When open, they revealed quilted-leather seats. The Laviolette's 4.2-litre V8 produced 400bhp. Suspension was via F1-style Koni inboard 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 was sky-high. £210,000, to be precise. For that kind of wedge, you got to watch your car being built. That came courtesy of a Spyker factory web cam. Among the options was a Chronoswiss Spyker wrist-watch - complete with your car's chassis number engraved on it. That was a snip - at just £24,000. An add-on set of bespoke luggage cost a mere £12,350. There was even a Louis Vuitton tool-kit available - a bargain at just £2,500. In financial terms, then, the Spyker C8 Laviolette was not for the faint-hearted - or, indeed, cash-strapped. Most of us could not afford the extras, never mind the car itself!

Ariel Square Four

Ariel Square Four 1950s British classic motorcycle

The Ariel Square Four was designed by Edward Turner. His finest hour was yet to come. He would go on to oversee Triumph - in its Sixties glory days. The first version of the Square Four, though, was released in '28 - back when Bonnevilles and Tridents were but blurs on the 'Brit bikes' horizon. Square Four referenced the bike's 1,000cc motor. It was, in effect, two sets of parallel twins - one in front of the other. The exhaust port was shared. The downside of that layout was that - while the front brace of cylinders enjoyed lots of cooling air - the rear two did not. That could make them recalcitrant - especially on hot days!

The '58 model Square Four was good for 105mph. Warp-factor speed for a road-bike, at the time. And - by definition - more than enough to keep 'ton-up boys' entertained. They were the 100mph Rockers - who had the occasional contretemps with Mods. Turner - and Triumph - would do brisk business with them, in the coming years. What made the Square Four's top whack stat still more impressive, was its weight. 465lb needed careful coaxing through corners.

As its name suggested, the Square Four was a solid-looking motorcycle. In the sense of impressively 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. The 'Squariel' - as it was affectionately dubbed - soon took its place in the rapidly-growing roster of popular British bikes. All in all, then, the Ariel Square Four can hold its head high. Even in the company of the mythical machines toward which Edward Turner was moving!

Bugatti EB110

Bugatti EB 110 1990s French supercar

The 'EB' in Bugatti EB 110 stood for Ettore Bugatti - the firm's founder. On the 110th anniversary of his birth, the new supercar was unveiled. Fittingly, the launch took place in Paris - since Bugatti was a French firm. When it went on sale - in '91 - the EB110 had a price tag of £285,000. But, if the standard EB 110 was not to your taste, you could always stump up another £50,000 - and drive off in the Supersport version. The latter's 611bhp output delivered 221mph! The stock EB 110's top speed was 212mph. If you had the money - do the math!

Superstar designer Marcello Gandini was recruited to style the EB 110. His mock-up, though, was deemed too radical by Bugatti's top brass. The brief was passed to Italian architect Giampaolo Benedini. Clearly, he was able to style cars, as well as buildings! The aluminium body he drafted was breathtaking. Even the car's engine was a work of art. Its V12 layout took in 4 turbochargers and 60 valves. There was a 6-speed gearbox - and 4-wheel drive. Handling was precise - to put it mildly!

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In '87, entrepreneur Romano Artioli had stepped in to rescue the struggling Bugatti brand-name. He built a state of the art supercar factory - in Campogalliano, Modena, Italy. Benedini - the EB 110's designer - had previously architected the factory in which it was built! The EB 110 thus became a sort of French/Italian hybrid - the only Bugatti model to have done so. To head up the engineering team, Artioli had hired acclaimed technical director Paulo Stanzani. The EB 110's four-year run stretched to '95 - when Bugatti was wound up. 139 EB 110s were built. Among their owners was a certain Michael Schumacher. The ultimate seal of automotive approval? Sorry - off hand, I cannot think of a better one!

Triumph Speed Twin

Triumph Speed Twin 1930s British classic motorcycle

On the face of it, the Triumph Speed Twin was the quintessence of Englishness. But, it had Germany to thank for its existence. In 1902, two Germans - Siegfried Bettman and Mauritz Schulte - grafted a Belgian-made Minerva motor onto a bicycle. Believe it or not, Triumph was in business! Three years later, the Coventry-based company produced its own engine. It obviously ran well. Before too long, 'Trusty Triumph' had become a part of motorcycling vernacular.

The Speed Twin was launched in '37. Its parallel-twin motor 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 displayed commercial courage - as well as styling skill. The motorcycle industry is inherently conservative. In other words, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" Single-cylinder 'thumpers' monopolized the market for years. Turner's Speed Twin broke the engine layout mould.

Mr. Turner did double-duty at Triumph. He was both head of design and general manager. His administrative tasks clearly did not impinge upon his creativity. The Speed Twin looked great standing still. And - with a dry weight of just 365lb - it looked even better, swinging through corners. Edward Turner - visionary that he was - had dreamed up a bike ahead of its time. The Triumph Speed Twin was a blueprint for many a motorcycle to come. 'Brit bikes' were on the march ... and coming to a showroom near you!

Nissan GT-R

Nissan GT-R 2000s Japanese sports car

Launched in '07, the Nissan GT-R followed on from the Skyline GT-R. The new model was effectively two cars in one. Insomuch as it was equipped with a speed switch - to toggle between performance and cruise modes. Full-on, its 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V6 put out 479bhp.

Key to the GT-R's success was its exotic drive-train. It comprised a paddle-shift transmission, twin-clutch transaxle and 4-wheel drive. With all that in place, the GT-R's power delivery was straightforward to manage. A 6-speed gearbox helped, too. 0-60 took just 3.5s. The GT-R maxed out at 194mph.

Despite such high-performance credentials, the GT-R sported a well-appointed cabin. The deep front seats were a deliberately close fit - to assist quick, but controlled driving. Soft leather upholstery kept things comfortable. If you liked cutting edge sounds - as well as cars - there was a high-tech music centre in situ. It came complete with downloading capabilities, of course. There was even an LCD screen - courtesy of Sony Playstation. As filed under ultimate all-rounder, then, the Nissan GT-R was pretty hard to fault!

Lamborghini Countach

Lamborghini Countach 1970s Italian classic supercar

The Lamborghini Countach was styled by Bertone - Italian masters of automotive design. In its first incarnation, the Countach flew to a top speed of 186mph. That was exceptionally quick in the Seventies. Its engine - a classic Lamborghini V12 - produced 375bhp. Again - in the 1970s - that was a gargantuan stat. The models that followed 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. Weight distribution was optimised. As a consequence, the Countach's cornering capabilities soared. A 5-speed set-up only added to the fun!

Countach is a Piedmontese exclamation/expletive. In its mildest form, it means 'wow' - though it can have fruitier connotations! Certainly, the first definition was more than apt. Later versions of the Countach, though, somewhat over-egged the stylistic pudding. 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 were no longer at the helm. Financially, it found itself in choppy waters. Latter-day faux pas notwithstanding, it was largely down to the Countach that Lamborghini stayed afloat. When it made its début - in '74 - the Countach stunned show-goers. Lamborghini's rivals were left reeling. In a way - over the course of its run - the Countach summed up the Seventies. Insomuch as it was a decade which could veer 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. A straight line could be drawn from the roadster to Meccanica Verghera's competition machines. They were fettled in Gallerate, near Milan, Italy. MV ruled the racing roost, at the time. The 750 Sport's clip-on 'bars - and humped-back seat - gave the game away. Add to them, a 4-leading-shoe Grimeca front brake - and a chrome quartet of megaphone exhausts. All were clear pointers to the Sport's race-track roots.

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

Compared to its rivals in the showrooms, the 750 Sport was expensive. Suffice to say, it did not sell well. To be fair, MV had little choice but to up the price. The complexities of the Sport's engine - and labour-intensive production processes - all had to be paid for. From a purely commercial standpoint, then, the Sport turned out to be another nail in MV's coffin. Count Domenico Agusta had founded MV, in '45. In '71, he suffered a fatal heart attack. With him went the soul of MV. Indeed, it was not long afterward that the marque shut up shop. The lacklustre sales of the 750 Sport had not helped. From a non-commercial point of view, however, the MV Agusta 750 Sport summed up the spirit of motorcycling like few other bikes!

Toyota 2000GT

Toyota 2000GT 1960s Japanese classic sports car

The Toyota 2000GT was designed by Graf Goertz - an industrial design firm, based in New York. The GT's styling was clearly influenced by the Jaguar E-Type. The lines of its bodywork were off-the-dial subtle. That was a mixed blessing. While immensely pleasing on the eye, manufacturing costs soared. Just 337 GTs would be built. As a result, the car is now highly sought-after. To be fair, the GT was intended to be a loss leader. That said, Toyota did not intend the losses to be as large as they became. For all that, when the 2000GT prototype appeared - at the '65 Tokyo Show - Toyota's brand-image sky-rocketed!

The 2000GT's speed matched its staggering good looks. A twin-cam straight-six engine developed 150bhp. Top whack was 135mph. The motor's hemi-head set-up featured straight-through ports - and large valves. Suffice to say, it took deep breaths! On the inlet side were two double-throated Mikuni/Solex carbs. The engine was connected to a five-speed gearbox. Mercifully, high-grade disc brakes were fitted all round. The backbone chassis came with a full set of wishbones. Options for the final drive ratio were duly provided.

Crucially, the 2000GT failed to crack the States. A mere 63 American drivers saw fit to buy one. That was due, in large part, to its relatively high price tag. It far exceeded that of both the Porsche 911 and, indeed, E-Type Jag. In a desperate bid to placate the American market, Toyota went on to produce no less than nine more versions of the GT. To a car, they were more conservatively turned out than the original. As a bonus, they came complete with air conditioning and optional auto transmission. To no avail - as US sales continued to stagnate. Nonetheless, the Toyota 2000GT - along with the Datsun 240Z - were the strongest of signals to the sports car world that the Japanese were coming!

Edsel

Edsel 1950s American classic car

In brand-name terms, the Edsel and Mercury were peas from the same pod. In reality, the Edsel was made by Ford. Technically, though, Edsel was a marque in its own right. Certainly, it was sold as such - from '58 to '60. Ford forecast that - in the first year alone - it would sell 200,000 Edsels. As it turned out, a mere 62,000 shunted through the showrooms - in the whole of its two-year run. The Edsel had cost Ford $250,000,000 to develop - so, the mediocre sales figures were not good! To say the Edsel was a white elephant would be an understatement. Which was a shame, actually - because it was a car that could have had a lot going for it. Sadly, though, Ford's timing was out. Not that it was really the Blue Oval's fault. Ford's sales team had targeted lower-middle demographics - lodged somewhere between their up-market models and the cut-price Mercury. When the Edsel went into production, however, the automotive industry was depressed. Customers were looking to buy cheap. The Edsel was stuck in marketing no man's land.

As with the Mercury, there were echoes of the Ferrari Dino in the Edsel. At least, insofar as both were presented as stand-alone marques. Both, too, were named after prematurely deceased sons. Dino Ferrari - and Edsel Ford - passed before their time. The cars were fathers' tributes - from Enzo and Henry, respectively. It was especially sad, then, that in the case of the Edsel, sales were so poor. A front-end feature that definitely did not help was the vertically-shaped grille. American buyers simply did not take to it. Ironically, the rest of the car was quite conservatively styled. As compared with its Fifties rivals, at any rate. The Edsel 'brand' comprised 15 models - including saloons, convertibles and station-wagons. The one part 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. Manual and auto 'boxes were both 3-speed. Biggest capacity was 6,719cc. Edsels are now highly sought-after. In different economic circumstances, the Edsel may well have been a success. As it is, it has to settle for an impressively high 'one that got away' rating!