Lotus Elan Sprint

Lotus Elan Sprint 1970s British classic sports car

The Elan was launched in '62. Lotus - based at Hethel, in Norfolk, England - instantly joined the ranks of quality sports car manufacturers. Petite though it was, it packed plenty of muscle. Beneath its lightweight glass-fibre skin, both engine and chassis were rock-solid. Acceleration was searing, handling supple, the ride comfortable. In short, Lotus had hit the automotive jackpot!

The Elan's power was produced by a twin-cam in-line four. The Ford motor made 105bhp. Top speed for the Elan was 115mph. It was fitted with a 4-speed 'box - also sourced from Ford. That all sat within a taut and tidy Lotus chassis. The frame was steel backbone. Suspension featured coils and wishbones up front - with Chapman struts and lower wishbones at the rear. Triumph provided the steering rack. Steel wheels were centre-locking. All four were stopped by Girling disc brakes.

Lotus' Elan Sprint arrived in '71. As its name suggested, it took the standard Elan's performance up a gear. Key to that was the Sprint's big-valve cylinder head. It had been expertly fettled by Tony Rudd. He and his team upped the output by 25% - to 126bhp. The new motor was more oil-tight, too - and quieter. It was attached to a set of Weber carburettors. The Sprint marked a turning-point. From then on, Lotus began to move more up-market. In so doing, it slid ever further from its kit-car roots. The Elan remained in production for ten or so years. During that time, it helped turn Lotus into a serious player in the sports car business!

Mazda Cosmo

Mazda Cosmo 1960s Japanese classic sports car

The Mazda Cosmo was the first rotary-engined production car. Dr Felix Wankel's motor was sewing-machine smooth. It was flexible, too. Compromising a tad on top-end power, Mazda put the peripheral inlet ports in the engine casing. That gave more low-down torque. It also provided seamless idling and improved low-speed fuel economy. Not that the upper end of the rev range was ignored! The Cosmo's 116mph top speed testified to that. The twin-rotary motor produced 110bhp. Capacity was 2,000cc. The Cosmo came with an efficient power-to-weight ratio. Its gearbox was 4-speed manual - connected to a DeDion rear axle. Revs maxed out at 7,000rpm. The B model Cosmo, released in '68, delivered 125mph - from 128bhp.

Sports car that it was, the Cosmo handled well. Its DeDion rear suspension set-up was complemented by front wishbones. Steering was agile. The ride was firm. Brakes were out of the top drawer - discs fore, drums aft. The B grew a longer wheelbase. It also came with a closer-ratio 5-speed transmission. Just 1,176 Cosmos were built - between '66 and '72. That implied that - for Mazda - the Cosmo was more of a work-in-progress, than a short-term grab at the big yen. That would come later - in the more lucrative form of saloon cars.

Styling-wise, the Cosmo sought to emulate European sports cars. Its front headlights, for instance, were straight out of the E-Type Jag school of design. To be fair, the rear light set-up was more radical. The bumper split its upper and lower sections. In motor manufacture terms, Mazda continued to take the rotary route. The high-grossing RX7 rewarded their faith. The Mazda Cosmo, then, was the rotary-powered template for one of the top Japanese sports cars!

Cagiva V-Raptor

Cagiva V-Raptor 2000s Italian sports bike

The V-Raptor was a benchmark bike for Cagiva. It is fair to say that the Cagiva name does not have quite the same cachet as, say, Ducati or MV Agusta. But - back in the day - Cagiva owned both. And, add Aermacchi Harley-Davidson to the list, too. Indeed, it was in the latter's old factory - in Varese, Italy - that Cagiva's wheels were set in motion. Claudio and Gianfranco Castiglioni were its founding fathers. The V-Raptor, then, signalled a return to form for the firm.

The V-Raptor was designed by Miguel Galluzzi. Previously, he had penned the Ducati Monster. A 996cc V-twin engine was 'borrowed' from Suzuki's TL1000S. It was duly dropped into Galluzzi's creation. The result was a good-looking bike - with a top speed of 150mph. Especially striking, from a styling perspective, was the bike's raptor-like fairing. Galluzzi could not have bettered its resemblance to a bird of prey's beak!

Relatively small manufacturer that it was, Cagiva made a big impact on Nineties bike racing. Certainly, it was far from afraid to square up to Japan's 'big four' teams. In '92 and '93, Cagiva were winning blue-riband races. American rider John Kocinski, for example, won his home GP on a Cagiva. At one point - in '94 - the team led the World Championship standings. Mighty impressive, given the opposition. Sadly, the same year saw them retire from racing. Financial gremlins lobbed an impeccably clean spanner in the works. In road-going form, though, Cagiva motorcycles continued to impress. The V-Raptor, in particular, was given a rapturous thumbs-up by bikers worldwide!

Datsun 240Z

Datsun 240Z 1960s Japanese classic sports car

The Datsun 240Z was released in '69. It would go on to become the best-selling sports car of the Seventies. It was proof positive that Japan was now in the top echelon, when it came to car - as well as bike - design. That was thanks, in no small part, to Yoshihico Matsuo - head of Nissan's Sports Car Styling Studio.

The 240Z was not just about looks, though. Its mean and lean straight six motor saw to that. It transported the Z to a top speed of more than 125mph. 151bhp was available. Capacity was 2,393cc. There was a 5-speed manual gearbox. As well as all-independent suspension ... struts up front, strut-and-wishbone at the rear. Rack-and-pinion steering was positive and precise. Last, but not least, was the Z's ear-splitting exhaust note!

Though its interior trim was not plush, as such, the Z came comfortably enough equipped. Its build quality let the side down a tad, however. Let us just say - rust took too many 240Zs before their time! 156,076 cars were built - up until '78. A lowish price tag - relative to its European rivals - helped the car's cause in the showrooms. All in all, the Datsun 240Z was a pukka 2-seater, to rank with the best of them. Japan was permanently plotted on the world's sports car map!

BMW 2002 Turbo

BMW 2002 Turbo 1970s German classic sports car

Sadly, the BMW 2002 Turbo was not a success in the showrooms. To be fair, the timing of its launch could not have been worse. In '73, petrol-pump prices almost doubled - because of the OAPEC fuel crisis. Motorists panicked. The 17mpg 2002 Turbo never stood a chance. BMW became very anxious, very quickly! In only the second year of its production run, the 2002 Turbo was dropped. Just 1,672 cars had been built. Bad luck, basically! In different economic circumstances, the car could have been a best-seller.

The 2002 Turbo was inspired by a BMW works racer. Its raison d'être was to breathe life back into BMW's entry-level saloon car slot. To that end, the Turbo's top speed stat of 130mph was bang on the automotive money. Peak output was 170bhp. The 2-litre 4-cylinder engine was fuel-injected. And was kitted out with a KKK turbocharger. At low to medium revs, there was little to split the Turbo and standard version 2002. That all changed, though, at 4,500rpm. When the boost kicked in, you knew about it. Thankfully, the Turbo had been prepped for the extra stress. It had beefier driveshafts and bearings than standard. Suspension spring rates were wound up. Bilstein dampers were fitted at the back. Anti-roll bars were fitted, fore and aft. Wheels were fat Mahle alloys - shod with Michelin XWX rubber. The front two were stopped by 4-pot ventilated disc brakes. Big drums brought up the rear.

The Turbo's gleaming paint-job - and racy decals - dazzled onlookers. Seventies chic, so to speak. The interior, too, was cut from the same glam cloth. Bucket seats were a snug fit. A bright-red instrument fascia focused attention. The turbo-boost gauge sat in the middle of the dash. A thick-rimmed 3-spoke sports steering-wheel topped it all off. Boy racer style, all the way. BMW's 2002 Turbo was the right car - at the wrong time. Ultimately, it could not get enough of what it needed most. The crippling cost of petrol, at the time, meant it simply could not survive!

Maserati Bora

Maserati Bora 1970s Italian classic supercar

The Bora was Maserati's response to the Lamborghini Miura. It matched the latter's mid-engined layout. Ferrari's Berlinetta Boxer also joined the mid-engined party. But, it arrived late. The Bora beat the Boxer to it by a couple of years. The Bora was launched in '71 - and the Boxer in '73. The name of the game for the mid-engined cars was handling. In Maserati's case, the Bora was an improvement on the Ghibli's front-mounted motor. Now they had a car which could 'handle' however much horsepower was thrown at it. And the Bora produced plenty of it. Its 4.7-litre Maserati V8 was a motor of a certain age, by that point. Indeed, it now had twelve years on the clock. But - with 310bhp on tap - drivers were not much fussed about its timeline. The Bora was good for 175mph. That left many a motor half its age trailing in its wake!

The Bora was styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Previously employed by Ghia, he was now in his own studio. It went by the name of Italdesign. The full creative force of the firm was brought to bear on the Bora. Elegantly space-age, the car radiated Seventies chic. In other words - finesse and excess, in equal measure.

In engineering terms, too, the Bora exuded class. Even with its V8 heart beating for all it was worth, cockpit noise levels were almost eerily low. That had a lot to do with Citroën - who now controlled Maserati. They brought a host of hydraulic parts to the Bora table. Its brakes, pedals, seats and steering-column were precision-fitted by the French firm. The Bora was Maserati's flagship model - so, equipment levels were high. In the whole of its nine-year run, the sole modification Maserati made was a slight engine enlargement, in '76. Throughout that time - in true Italian style - the Bora delivered a bravura blend of power and panache!

Porsche 928

Porsche 928 1970s German classic sports car

The Porsche 928 was the first front-engined car the firm produced. Up to that point, Porsche motors had been rear-mounted. The exception to that rule was the 924 - though that was almost as much Audi as Porsche. In the Seventies, the 928 was sold as a supercar. Indeed, Porsche were banking on it being the new 911. That was not to be. 911 fans stuck stoicly to what they loved. Porsche took the hint. They started targeting the 928 solely at the GT market.

The landmark front-mounted motor was a 4.5-litre V8. Built in Germany, it was smooth, tractable and beautifully-engineered. But - in some drivers' eyes - it had a flaw. It was not a 911! In its first iteration, the 928 pulled a top speed of 143mph. That climbed to 171, in the course of its run. Certainly, not to be sniffed at. But, also not enough to keep up with a 911. Not in a specification race, at any rate! The 928's gearbox was a 4-speed, rear-mounted manual - or, a 5-speed Mercedes automatic. Output was 240bhp. The 928S upped it to 300.

Styling-wise, the 928 was on seriously solid ground. Its profile, in particular, was pure coupé. The interior, too, was more than impressive. Its most striking feature was the fascia - which visually echoed the steering-wheel. It was a cosseting cabin, in every respect. On top of that, the 928's ride and handling were never less than reassuring. Over time, there would be S4, GT and GTS versions of the car. Each of them ushered in incremental improvements. The 928, then, was a significant addition to the Porsche roster. Even if, for some, it would never be in the same league as the 911. Saying that, nor would any other car!

BSA A10 Golden Flash

BSA A10 Golden Flash 1950s British classic motorcycle

The BSA A10 Golden Flash first appeared in 1950. In terms of engine layout, it was a classic British parallel twin. BSA were based in Birmingham - at the Small Heath factory. '71 saw the iconic marque hit the financial buffers. Mercifully, it was bailed out by the Norton Villiers Triumph conglomerate. By that point, though, BSA's best days were behind it. As if to clarify that, the last BSAs off the production line wore the Triumph logo!

The Golden Flash wrote the book on practical. British-built bikes had been known to deposit the occasional oil leak, back in the day. Not so, the A10! Economical and efficient, it was eminently reliable. Its 35bhp engine delivered user-friendly power. The A10's top speed was just a tad shy of the 'ton'. As far as handling went, the '54 model A10 sported a shiny new swing-arm. That was a big step up from its plunger-suspended predecessor.

On the visual side, the Golden Flash was a good-looking bike. Its BSA motor alone was a metallurgical masterpiece. Exiting it, sweetly-shaped down-pipes splayed around an intricate semi-frame. In both engineering and styling, then, the BSA A10 Golden Flash displayed the best of British design. Flash, by name, yes ... but certainly not by nature!

Lancia Fulvia

Lancia Fulvia 1970s Italian classic sports car

The Lancia Fulvia is a full-on automotive legend. An 'homologation special', only 1,180 Fulvias were built - just enough to qualify the car to compete in international rallying. As such, it went on to win two world championships. In standard form, the Fulvia was impressive. But the 1.6 HF model took it to another level. Revered as a roadster, it sported many of the features of a competition car.

The HF was powered by a narrow-angle V4 engine. It produced 115bhp - though a few factory-tuned units upped that number to 132. Even the less potent motors provided a top speed of 115mph. Fuel was supplied by twin Weber 42 carburettors. Power peaked at 6,200rpm. Transmission was by way of a 5-speed gearbox. Technically, a 4-speed 'box was used - and then a 'piggy-back' set of cogs was added. With all that hooked up to the front wheels, the HF handled well. Braking was via Dunlop discs. However, Lancia decided a servo was surplus to requirements.

The Fulvia's bodywork was designed to cleave cleanly through air - be it in a baking-hot desert or freezing forest! A clear pointer to the car's rally-bred roots could be found in its large 7″ headlamps. As far as wheels went, neatly flared arches topped off a set of suitably wide tyres. The rubber was fitted to deep-rimmed Campagnolo alloys. A touch of negative camber at the front - and a slightly raised rear - were hallmarks of a car for which road-holding was sacrosant. The HF's interior d├ęcor - or lack of it - indicated that weight loss was at a premium. At the front, high-backed bucket seats prioritised rigidity over comfort. Behind them was a padded bench ... something to sit on, and not much more! Standard Fulvias - and the 'luxury' 1600HF - gave slightly more by way of mollycoddling. Nevertheless, it is the unadorned HF which is the most sought-after Fulvia of all. Seriously iconic, it is arguably the most illustrious Lancia of all!