BMW 507

BMW 507 1950s German classic sports car

The BMW 507 was styled by Albrecht von Goertz. He was a German aristocrat - who owned an American industrial design agency. Goertz took the big box-section chassis of the BMW saloon car - and shortened it. The result was a more than tidy 2-seater. The 507 was an unabashed attempt to crack the American glamour market. Post-war, BMW had watched their brand-image slide into mediocrity. It was high time the great German manufacturer raised its profile again. The 507 was supposed to do just that. It was not to be. Only 253 BMW 507s were sold. To all intents and purposes, the 507 was automotive haute couture. But - as in the fashion industry - it costs gargantuan amounts to produce. The Second World War was not long gone. For most motorists, the 507 simply was not affordable.

The 507 got its well-heeled occupants from A to B with a minimum of fuss. Not that it could not push on, if required. Should you have been a tad late for the opera, for instance, a firm brogue on the go pedal would definitely get you there for curtain up. The 3-litre V8 engine gave 160bhp. That translated to 140mph, flat out. 0-60 came up in 9s. The sounds emitted from the 507's twin rear pipes were music to the ears. Even at speed, its ride was unflustered. Front and rear torsion-bar suspension saw to that.

The 507's detailing was exquisite. And not just the beautiful BMW badge. The cross-hatched heat-vents were a notable touch. They were matched by the car's kidney-shaped grille - a trademark BMW feature. The 507's front-end was almost shark-like - courtesy of its stylishly protruding nose. The long, flowing bonnet-line was complemented by a cute stub-tail. The 507 stayed in production for just four years. Consummately-crafted, it mated motoring and fine art. Ultimately, the 507 cost BMW more than it recouped. But then, what price do you put on perfection?

Harley-Davidson Sportster

Harley-Davidson Sportster 1950s American classic motorcycle

The Harley-Davidson Sportster is a motorcycle institution. It first hit American highways in '57. There has been many a model since - and the Sportster still shows no sign of stopping. Throughout its venerable run, it has given many a new rider a first taste of the biker brotherhood. The Sportster has long held pride of place as the entry-level Harley. Pared down to bare biking bones, it has always cut straight to the chase. By '62, the Sportster was dishing up 55bhp - at 5,000rpm. That was thanks to its iconic V-twin engine layout. The motor's stroke, at that point, was a tall 96.8mm. That translated into hefty dollops of acceleration-laden torque. Top speed for the Sportster, in the early Sixties, was 110mph.

The XLCH Sportster weighed in at 485lb. That was light enough for a skilled rider to cruise through corners with relative ease. While hardly a sports bike, by modern standards - back in the day, it was a lithe and agile ride. Before the Sportster, British-built bikes had been the only way to go - at any sort of speed, anyway. So, the Sportster was a welcome addition to the roster of quick and capable roadsters on offer.

The Sportster has long been a mainstay of tidy, uncluttered design. As with any bike, the focal point was its small - but perfectly-formed - fuel-tank. Alongside it were a diminutive headlamp and relatively low-set 'bars. At least, as compared with many a custom-style machine. A single seat - and slender fenders - were in keeping with the Sportster's minimalist approach. In many ways, then, the Harley-Davidson Sportster has been the bedrock of this most prestigious of two-wheeled marques. Long may it continue to be so!

MGB

MGB 1960s British classic sports car

Among other cars, footballer George Best drove an MGB. A man synonymous with style - in both the Sixties and Seventies - he doubtless took the odd Miss World or two out for a spin in it. He would have needed to watch out, though, for his glamorous passengers. The MGB's handling was no match for Best's dynamic dribbling! Suspension and steering parts - as well as its live axle - were stock BMC items. In other words - manoeuvrability-wise - they were nothing to write home about. In a straight line, however, things MGB were much improved. Top speed was a creditable 106mph. With the top down, Best - and his busty companions - would certainly have felt the breeze blowing through their Vidal Sassoon-sorted locks. At one point, more than 50,000 MGBs per annum were passing through the Abingdon factory gates. Add another nought to that figure, and you have total sales for the MGB. More than half a million were shifted - between '62 and '80. Numbers like that make it one of the best-selling sports cars ever!

Safe to say, then, the MGB's success was due mainly to its lithe good looks. Technically, it was no great shakes. Nonetheless, it was an improvement on its predecessor. The MGA's hefty separate chassis had been ditched - hopefully, not literally - for a lighter unit-construction item. The MGB scored well, too, in terms of torque. There was a rip-roaring 110lb/ft of the stuff - and at just 3,000rpm.

It was in the design department, though, that the MGB shone. Its seductively low lines were drawn with stunning simplicity. The car was inherently aerodynamic. Were it not for its smallish four-cylinder engine, it could have gone a lot quicker. For a sports car - even in the '60s - 95bhp was pretty mediocre. That said - taken in the round - the MGB embodied the best of British motoring. Obviously, Georgie thought so - or, he would not have spent his hard-earned money on one. Hey - if it was good enough for the Belfast boy - well, it really must have been the best!

BRM H16

BRM H16 1960s classic F1 car

The BRM H16 was far from F1's most successful machine. But, it was one of the most unusual. And while points are not awarded to the most interesting cars, without them motorsport would be the poorer. For example, how about producing a V16 - conforming to F1's new 3.0-litre size limit - by linking two 1.5-litre V8s? That is precisely what Tony Rudd - BRM's engine designer - opted to do. Not the first idea that might pop into an F1 fan's head, perhaps - but, it was a logical step. After all, BRM - British Racing Motors - already had said V8s at its disposal. All Rudd had to do was shorten them a tad, place one on top of the other - and marry them up. Unfortunately, Rudd was not in a position to rid the engine of its excess weight.

Rudd was inspired to build the V16 by Napier Dagger's H24 aero engine. Rudd reckoned it was good for 600bhp, fully developed. Later, he would say he wished he had gone down the 12-cylinder route instead. But at the time, 16 cylinders seemed like the way to go. Gremlins got in from the get-go. Vibrations would be ironed out in one part of the engine ... only to re-appear in another! The upshot was that the H16 car did not make it onto the grid until the end of the '66 season. Reliability was duly improved For '67. Unfortunately for BRM, it came at the expense of power.

The H16's P83 chassis did not help. Like the engine it supported, it was heavy. A lighter 115 chassis replaced it - but that, too, was substantially heavier than its rivals. Jackie Stewart was a BRM driver, at the time. He did not exactly gush with praise for the H16. Its performance limits were too easy to find, he said. That made it hard for a driver to shine - even one of his calibre. At least the more challenging tracks - like Spa Francorchamps and the Nürburgring - levelled the F1 playing-field somewhat. The H16 motor did win a GP, though. However, it needed Lotus' help to do it. In '66 - while awaiting delivery of the Ford DFV motor - Colin Chapman hired the H16 engine to power the Lotus Type 43. Ironic, really, given Chapman's obsession with weight-saving. Heavy as the H16 was, Jim Clark eased the Type 43 to victory - at Watkins Glen, USA. And in '67 - for all his dislike of the H16 car - Jackie Stewart placed it second at Spa. And that was pretty much it, in terms of results. A real racing oddity, the BRM H16 made for great spectating. Driving it, on the other hand - as Stewart pointed out - was not always quite so much fun!

Gordon-Keeble

Gordon-Keeble 1960s British classic car

The Gordon-Keeble was named after its makers. John Gordon and Jim Keeble founded the firm. Unfortunately, the car substantially under-achieved. On paper, an American V8 engine, plus a British chassis, plus Italian styling, should have equalled plenty of sales. It did not. The Gordon-Keeble entered production in '64. By the end of the following year, only 80 had been built. By '67 - the end of its run - that figure had risen to a paltry 99. Poor parts supply - and under-funding - were to blame.

The Gordon-Keeble was powered by a V8 - courtesy of the Chevrolet Corvette. It produced 300bhp. Top speed was 135mph. The Gordon-Keeble hit 70 in first gear alone. Unsurprisingly, the motor was enclosed in a lightweight glassfibre shell. It was designed by the great Giorgetto Giugiaro. He was just 21 when he penned the Gordon-Keeble's lines. Even by that tender age, he was lead stylist at Bertone. Later, he joined Ghia. Then, in '67, Giugiaro started up his own studio - Italdesign. For Gordon-Keeble to have attracted talent such as his, was a beautifully-proportioned feather in the company cap. The car's delicately-slanted headlamps were just one of the styling subtleties Giugiaro brought to bear. Beneath his bodywork was a square-section space-frame chassis. It incorporated a DeDion rear axle. Lashings of torque were ladled out to it by a 4-speed 'box.

The Gordon-Keeble factory was at an airport - near Southampton, England. It seemed like some of that aeronautical ambience rubbed off on the car. Certainly, its dashboard looked like it would be equally at home in a jet-plane. It was made up of a small multitude of toggle switches. In pride of place on the factory façade was a small sign - which spoke volumes. 'The car built to aircraft standards', it said. Sadly, though - in the annals of automotive success stories - the Gordon-Keeble was one of those that got away!