Lotus Elan

Lotus Elan 1970s British classic sports car

The Lotus Elan was launched in '62. Lotus - based at Hethel, in Norfolk, England - instantly joined the ranks of quality sports car makers. Petite as 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 other words, Lotus hit the jackpot with the Elan!

Power came courtesy of a Ford twin-cam in-line four engine. It 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. Steel backbone by design, it comprised 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.

The Elan Sprint appeared in '71. As its name implied, it took performance up a level. Key to that was the Sprint's big-valve cylinder head. It had been expertly engineered by Tony Rudd. Output was up by 25% - to 126bhp. The new motor was more oil-tight, too - and quieter. It came with a set of Weber carburettors. The Sprint marked a turning-point. From then on, Lotus began to move more up-market - and away from its kit-car roots. Throughout the ten or so years of its production run, the Elan had helped Lotus turn into one of the great sports car manufacturers!

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 supremely 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 top-end was ignored - the Cosmo's 116mph top speed testified to that. The twin-rotary motor produced 110bhp. Capacity was 2,000cc. But, though small, it had an impressive power-to-weight ratio. It was hooked up to a 4-speed manual 'box. That, in turn, was connected to a DeDion rear axle. Revs maxed out at 7,000rpm. The 'B' model Cosmo - released in '68 - upped those stats to 125mph, from 128bhp.

The Cosmo handled well, too. The DeDion rear suspension set-up was complemented by front wishbones. Steering was agile. The ride was suitably 'firm'. Brakes were top-drawer ... discs up front, drums behind. The 'B' grew a longer wheelbase. It also came with a closer-ratio 5-speed transmission. Between '66 and '72, just 1,176 Cosmos were built. Which implied that this was more of a Mazda work-in-progress, than a grab at the big yen. That would come later - in the form of saloon cars.

In terms of styling, the Cosmo sought to emulate European sports cars of the era. Most notably, the front headlights were pure 'E-Type Jag'! Saying that, the rear light set-up was more radical - the bumper 'splitting' the upper and lower sections. Engine-wise, Mazda would continue to take the rotary route. In time, the high-grossing 'RX7' would prove more than ample reward. The Mazda Cosmo, though, was a tidy iteration of a top Oriental sports car in the making.

Cagiva V-Raptor

Cagiva V-Raptor 2000s Italian sports bike

The V-Raptor was a benchmark bike for its makers. The Cagiva brand-name may not have quite the cachet of, say, Ducati or MV Agusta. But Cagiva owned both those two giants, back in the day. And Aermacchi Harley-Davidson can be added to that list. For, it was in the latter's old factory - in Varese, Italy - that the Cagiva wheels were first set in motion. Claudio and Gianfranco Castiglioni were the firm's founding fathers.

The V-Raptor was designed by Miguel Galluzzi. He had previously penned the Ducati Monster. A 996cc V-twin - borrowed from Suzuki's TL1000S - was duly dropped into Galluzzi's creation. The result was a good-looking bike, with a top speed of 150mph.

Given that it was far from the world's biggest manufacturer, Cagiva made a big impact on the Nineties motorcycle racing scene. Certainly, the Cagiva team was not afraid to square up to the Japanese 'big boys' - and, occasionally, give them a bloody nose! In '92 and '93, Cagiva won top-flight GP races. Notably, American rider John Kocinski did the honours on home soil. In '94, Cagiva topped the podium enough times to be leading the GP world championship, at one point. Sadly, that same year saw them retire from racing. Financial gremlins had lobbed an immaculately clean spanner in the works. In road-going trim, though, Cagiva motorcycles continued to impress. The V-Raptor, in particular, was given a rapturous thumbs-up!

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 could be in the top echelon, when it came to automotive design. That was due, 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. An impressive 151bhp was on tap. Capacity was a sizeable 2,393cc. That all added up to an ear-splitting exhaust note! The Z had a 5-speed manual gearbox. And all-independent suspension - struts up front, strut-and-wishbone at the rear. Rack-and-pinion steering was positive and precise.

Interior trim was not plush, as such - but the Z was comfortably enough equipped. Build quality let the side down a tad. Rust took too many Zs before their time! 156,076 Zs were built - up until '78. A lowish price tag - relative to its European rivals - of course helped the car's cause. The Datsun 240Z, though, was a pukka 2-seater. Japan was well and truly plotted on the world sports car map!

BMW 2002 Turbo

BMW 2002 Turbo 1970s German classic sports car

The BMW 2002 Turbo was not a sales success. To be fair, the timing of its launch could not have been worse. In '73, petrol-pump prices almost doubled, as a result of the OAPEC fuel crisis. Motorists panicked - and 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 circumstances, the 2002 Turbo may have been an automotive 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. The Turbo's impressive top speed stat of 130mph was just what was required. Peak output was 170bhp. The 2-litre 4-cylinder engine was fuel-injected - and came complete with a KKK turbocharger. At low to medium revs, there was little to split the Turbo and the standard 2002. That all changed, though, at 4,500rpm. When the boost kicked in, it did so in earnest! The Turbo, though, was prepped for the extra stresses. It had beefier driveshafts and bearings than the standard model. Suspension spring rates were wound up. Bilstein dampers were fitted at the back. There were anti-roll bars, front and rear. Wheels were Mahle alloys ... wearing fat Michelin XWX tyres. The front two were stopped by 4-pot ventilated disc brakes. Big drums brought up the rear.

The 2002 Turbo's racy decals - and gleaming paint-job - dazzled onlookers, wherever it went. The interior, too, was cut from the same Seventies chic cloth. Bucket seats set the scene. The focal point was the bright-red instrument fascia. There was a turbo-boost gauge in the middle of the dash. And a thick-rimmed 3-spoke sports steering-wheel. 'Boy racer' to its core, the Turbo was the right car at the wrong time. The BMW 2002 Turbo simply could not get enough of what it needed to survive. The crippling cost of petrol at the time induced a fatal thirst from which it never recovered.

Maserati Bora

Maserati Bora 1970s Italian classic supercar

The Maserati Bora was in response to the Lamborghini Miura. It matched the latter's mid-engined layout. Ferrari, too, would join the party - in the form of their Berlinetta Boxer. But, the Bora beat the Boxer to it by a couple of years. The Maserati was launched in '71 - and the Ferrari in '73. The name of the mid-engined game was handling. The Bora was an improvement on the Maserati Ghibli's front-mounted motor. Here was a car which could handle horsepower - however much was thrown at it! And the Bora did not disappoint in that department, either. Its 4.7-litre V8 now had 12 years on the clock. But, with 310bhp on tap, that timeline was not an issue. The Bora was good for 175mph. That left many a car with an engine half its age trailing in its wake.

The Bora was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Previously employed by Ghia, he had now set up his own studio. The full force of Italdesign was brought to bear on the Bora. Elegantly space-age, the car radiated Seventies chic. Finesse and excess, in equal measure.

Engineering-wise, too, the Bora exuded class. Even with its V8 heart beating for all it was worth, cockpit noise levels were eerily low. That had a lot to do with the fact that Citroën were now at the helm. They brought a host of hydraulic parts to the Maserati table. Brakes, pedals, seats, and steering-column were precision-adjusted by the French masters. Equipment levels were high for Maserati's flagship model. In the course of its nine-year run, the sole modification was a slight engine enlargement, in '76. The Maserati Bora consistently delivered a heady blend of power and panache.

Porsche 928

Porsche 928 1970s German classic sports car

The Porsche 928 was the first front-engined car the German firm produced. Up to that point, the motors had been rear-mounted ... with the exception of the 924, which was as much Audi as it was Porsche. The 928 was marketed 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 had loved and cherished for years. Porsche took the hint - and started to target the 928 squarely at the GT market.

That landmark front-mounted engine was a brand-new 4.5-litre V8. Smooth and tractable, as it was - in some drivers' eyes, it would always have a flaw. It was not as fast as the 911! In its first iteration, the 928 pulled a top speed of 143mph. And that figure would climb over time to 171. Certainly, not to be sniffed at ... but not enough to keep it alongside the 911. Transmission was a 4-speed, rear-mounted manual - or, more often, a 5-speed Mercedes automatic. Output was 240bhp. The 928S would up that to 300.

Styling-wise, the 928 was on solid ground. Its profile, in particular, was as pure as a coupé gets. The interior, too, was more than impressive. Its most striking feature was the fascia - which 'echoed' the steering-wheel, in front of it. In every respect, it was a cosseting cockpit. The 928's ride and handling, too, were never less than reassuring. Over time, there would be S4, GT and GTS versions of the 928 - all ushering in incremental improvements. The 928, then, was a substantial addition to Porsche's roster ... even it was never quite in the same league as the legendary 911!

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 their Small Heath factory. 1971 saw the legendary motorcycle marque hit the buffers, financially. They were bailed out by the Norton Villiers Triumph conglomerate. But, BSA's best days were behind it. Indeed, the last bikes off the production line wore the Triumph logo.

The A10 was nothing if not practical. British-built bikes were known to suffer the odd 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'. On the handling side, the '54 model sported a shiny new swing-arm. That was a big improvement on its 'plunger' predecessor.

Design-wise, the Golden Flash was a good-looking bike. Its BSA motor was a metallurgical masterpiece. The down-pipes splayed around an intricate semi-frame. In both engineering and styling, then, the BSA A10 displayed the best of British solidity. 'Flash' by name ... but not by nature!

Lancia Fulvia

Lancia Fulvia 1970s Italian classic sports car

The Lancia Fulvia 1.6 HF is an Italian legend. An 'homologation special', a mere 1,180 were built - enough to qualify the car to compete in international rallying. 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 there were a few factory-tuned units that upped that figure to 132. The less potent motors still 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. It used the 4-speed 'box - to which was added a 'piggy-back' set of cogs. With that novel set-up hooked up to the front wheels, the HF handled sweetly enough. Braking was via Dunlop discs. Interestingly, Lancia judged that 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 rallying roots could be found in its large 7″ headlamps. As far as the wheels went, neatly flared arches topped off a set of suitably wide tyres. The rubber was mounted on 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 of the utmost importance. The HF's interior décor - or lack of it - signified that light weight was at a premium. At the front, high-backed bucket seats were designed with rigidity, rather than comfort in mind. Behind them was a padded bench ... something to sit on, and not much more! Standard Fulvias - and the 'luxury' 1600HF - gave more in the way of mollycoddling. Nevertheless, it is the relatively unadorned HF which is the most sought-after Fulvia of all. Seriously iconic, it is probably the most illustrious car Lancia built.