Riley 2.5 Walter Köng Saloon

Riley 2.5 Walter Kong Saloon 1940s British classic concept car

Walter Köng's Riley 2.5 Saloon was unique. That made sense - since it was a solo effort. Well, apart from the engine. All other aspects of the car were overseen by Köng. No wonder, then, that it took him 5,000 man-hours - or two years - to complete.

Köng was Swiss. In '45 - with the war only just over - not a huge amount was happening in his native land. Switzerland's key industries - textiles and clock-making - were having a tough time of it. Köng was well-versed in all things automotive. He had worked at Sala, in Italy - as well as French firm Gallee. Oh, not forgetting Chrysler and Packard. With the fighting now finished, Köng was hankering to get back to work. With Swiss manufacturing still in the doldrums, he decided to take things into his own hands. Köng would build his own car!

Köng's inspiration came in the form of aircraft. Specifically, fighter planes. That was hardly surprising - since he had, after all, seen a few in recent times. The design brief was radical - especially for someone putting it into practice himself. Bodywork would be aluminium. The roof would be a two-panel, removable affair. In truth, Pontiac and Ford had already pioneered that set-up. What they had not pioneered were mahogany bumpers. They came courtesy of Köng - and his fertile imagination. Eventually, the time came when all the car needed was an engine. A Riley 2.5 was duly sourced and installed. Sadly - after so much effort - Köng's project was not to be a lucrative one. While his work appeared at '49's Geneva Motor Show - and generated a good deal of interest - no sales materialised. But, all was not lost. The annals of motoring history were another matter entirely. Walter Köng slotted into them with aplomb. To motoring's cognoscenti, he was now a kingpin of bespoke car-builders. The Riley 2.5 Saloon was proof positive of that!

Bimota SB2

Bimota SB2 1970s Italian classic sports bike

'SB' stood for Suzuki/Bimota. It signalled Bimota's standard practice of incorporating other marques' engines into its own bespoke chassis. In the case of the SB2, power was provided by the Suzuki GS750. The 8-valve inline-four motor peaked at 68bhp. That gave the the SB2 a top speed of 130mph. Credit was also due to its slippery lines. A dry weight of just 440lb sealed the high-speed deal. This was still the Seventies, do not forget.

The driving force behind the SB2 was Massimo Tamburini. He had been a Bimota co-founder. Tamburini fitted the 'legendary engineer' bill to a tee. In his time, he had designed chassis for 250 and 350cc World Championship-winning bikes. In '77, Tamburini tipped his technical brilliance into the new Bimota. It was a gimme, then, that the SB2 would handle as well as it went. Ceriani telescopic forks - and a first-of-its-kind rear monoshock - did the business suspension-wise. They were duly hitched up to a tubular steel space-frame. The monoshock alone separated the SB2 from its rivals ... in every sense of the word!

First and foremost, though, a Bimota is about style. As befits a firm from Rimini, Italy. Certainly, the SB2 ran true to form, in that regard. Its bodywork wrote the book on 'swoopy'. The tank protector/seat was a self-supporting one-piece - which saved the weight of a subframe. That innovation - like the rising-rate rear shock - would subsequently be seen on mass-produced machines. So, Bimota - that consummate special-builder - had done what it did best. In the beguiling form of the SB2, it merged dynamite design and top-drawer technology. Again!

Fiat 8V

Fiat 8V 1950s Italian classic sports car

Had the 8V - or, Otto Vu - been built in the US, it would have been dubbed the V8! But since it was, of course, built in Italy, the Fiat powers that be opted to call it the 8V. Then again, countries often do things different ways round - like letting people drive on the wrong side of the road, for instance! Anyway - the engine in question was a 2-litre 70° V8 ... in American money, that is. Whatever the nomenclature, once put through its paces, Fiat declared itself well-pleased with the result.

The 8V was released in '52. At the beginning of the Fifties, the upper echelons at Fiat were in disarray. Rumours spread that chicanery and sharp practice were rife. In fact, it was an ideal time to consider climbing Fiat's corporate ladder. Young Dante Giacosa - head of testing - saw the new car as a chance to impress. Amidst all the chaos, his superiors made it clear the 8V needed to deliver.

The 8V was conceived as a luxury sedan. So impressive, though, was its V8 motor, that thoughts soon turned to the sports car market. Initially, the 8V served up 105bhp. That was later upped to 115. After still more development, it finally maxed out at 127bhp. Top speed was a handy 190km/h. The 8V's price tag was 2,850,000 lire. Value was added by all-round independent suspension - a first for Fiat. Originally, the idea was to lengthen - and co-opt - the Fiat 1400 chassis. Then have Pininfarina work its stylistic magic on top. Excess weight, however, put the kibosh on that plan. Into the design breach stepped Fiat's Fabio Rapi. It was his proprietary bodywork which bewitched visitors to '52's Geneva Motor Show. Just 114 8Vs, though, would subsequently be built. By '54 - a mere two years after its launch - it was game over for the 8V coupé. A bit of a damp squib, then, all in all? In a way - but, during its brief lifespan, the 8V returned Fiat to the sports car fold. It got the illustrious Italian firm back on track - manufacturing classy, fast and agile automobiles!

Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 Superflow

Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 Superflow 1960s Italian concept car

The Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 Superflow was a dream car. Actually, four dream cars! 'Dream cars' are offbeat design prototypes. Typically, they are displayed at motor shows. In the same way couturiers go out on a limb to impress fashionistas, so coachbuilders create a 'buzz' for potential car buyers. So, a catwalk dress is not designed to be worn, just as a concept car is not designed to be driven. In other words, the whole point of a dream car is to make an exhibition of itself!

When it came to creativity, Battista 'Pinin' Farina was a past master. His career started in Turin, Italy, in 1930. Pininfarina - his automotive design studio - would become world-famous. In '46, Alfa presented Pinin and his team with a template. A 3,000cc 246bhp template. Alfa - based in Milan - had built half a dozen cars for experimental purposes. Pininfarina was briefed to put fancier flesh on the Alfa bones. 'Superflow' would be the way to go. As in advanced aerodynamics.

The inspiration for the Superflow was the US. Alfa had its sales sights set on America. Stateside motorists had gone gaga over Sixties sci-fi - as they had in the Fifties, too. Basically, they were suckers for anything that smacked of Space. The Ford Mystere had a lot to do with it. Its roof consisted of a transparent plastic bubble. Back in the day, it conjured up images of lunar landing craft and the like. Alfa were minded to cash in on the fad. In all, Pininfarina would have four conceptual shots at the Superflow - namely, the I, II, III and IV. For starters, fins were added to the rear wings. Technically, they were there to assist with high-speed stability. However, it did no harm at all that they also looked Saturn 5 cool. The Superflow's roof emulated that of the Mystere - since it, too, was made from see-through plexiglass. Likewise, the headlights were covered by the same streamlined material. As things turned out, the Superflow's space-age charms did not cut it with gizmo-addicted Americans. As a result, Alfa U-turned - and readdressed the European market. Styling briefs would be altered accordingly. Nonetheless, the Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 Superflow had given futuristic wings to Pininfarina's distinguished design skills.

B Engineering Edonis

B Engineering Edonis 2000s Italian supercar

B Engineering began as an offshoot of Bugatti - when the latter went bust, in '95. A small group of ex-Bugatti staffers banded together to create their own take on a supercar. Not just any old supercar, mind - a one-of-a-kind supercar. Enter the Edonis! Arguably, the best tagline a car could have would be 'Made in Modena!' Certainly, the Italian city is now synonymous with automotive excellence. B Engineering never used that slogan. But - while 'B Engineering' may not have quite the same cachet as 'Ferrari' - it can still hold its own in high-calibre company.

'Edonis' is Greek for pleasure. In the case of a supercar, the kind of pleasure that 720bhp generates. It came courtesy of a twin-turbocharged V12 engine. The Edonis' top speed was 223mph. No surprise, then, that it broke the lap record at the Nardo racetrack. When it came to the car's colossal power output, every other component was clearly supremely in sync with it. Edonis project director Nicola Materazzi led a crack team of engineers. Between them, they had worked for all of the top supercar marques. Jut 21 Edonis units were built. The figure referenced the 21st century.

B Engineering's links with Bugatti stayed strong. Its owner - Jean-Marc Borel - had been Bugatti's vice chairman. 21 carbon-fibre tubs - originally earmarked for the Bugatti EB110 - were duly used for the Edonis. The latter's 3.7-litre engine was developed from that of the EB110. It was hooked up to a 6-speed gearbox. The Edonis cost a cool £450,000 - from a manufacturer without a proven pedigree. Those in the know, though, did not baulk at the price. After all, the crème de la crème of the car industry had contributed. For the B Engineering Edonis, then, quality was never going to be an issue!

Kawasaki H1

Kawasaki H1 1960s Japanese classic motorcycle

Kawasaki built its first bike - a 125cc two-stroke - in 1960. From the outset, Kawasaki was synonymous with high-performance sports bikes. Bikes like the H1, for instance. Technically, it was released at the tail-end of the Sixties. But, it is one of those machines which make lovers of Seventies superbikes come over all misty-eyed. That was the decade in which the H1 was most often seen - being ridden hell for leather - along the highways and byways of Britain. And, indeed, other locales - usually in the same high-spirited fashion. It was what two-strokes were made for, basically. And, if the H1's handling was a bit imprecise - at least as compared with bikes of today - hey, it only added to the fun!

The H1's 500cc three-cylinder engine output 60bhp. The 'stroker' motor screamed all the way to a top speed of 120mph. It did so in a way that induced mile-wide eyes - and smiles - in those brought up on a strict 'Brit bike' diet. Heck, the sound alone was worth the asking price! The H1's slimmed-down weight of 383lb only added to its searing acceleration. Revs peaked at 7,500rpm - with a noticeable surge as they hit the power band.

Kawasaki's first forays into motorcycle manufacture had been influenced by BSA. By the time of the H1, though, the Japanese giant had forged its own style. Middleweight though it was, the H1 passed muster among the big Seventies 'muscle bikes'. Naked aggression more than made up for its diminutive dimensions. The Kawasaki H1 hurled bodies and souls into two-stroke hyperdrive. Some '70s bikers never fully recovered!

Honda CB77

Honda CB77 1960s Japanese classic motorcycle

The CB77 was a landmark bike for Honda. The firm started up in Hamamatsu, Japan. In a wooden shed! Just as Harley-Davidson had done, in Milwaukee, USA ... except theirs was made out of tin! Okay - so sheds is where similarities end between the two marques! Of course - like Harley-Davidson - what Soichiro Honda's company went on to achieve is the stuff of motorcycling legend. Not surprising, really. That small shed was home to the Honda Technical Research Institute. In its early days, that is!

Three years in and Honda produced its first bike. The 98cc machine was dubbed the Dream. Sales were sound. That set the scene for the two bikes which put Honda on motorcycling's map - the CB72 and CB77. The larger of the two - the 305cc CB77 - was launched in '63. It was up against the 'Brit bikes' of the early Sixties. They ruled the two-wheeled roost, at the time. Not for much longer! Next to the likes of Triumph and Norton, the 'Jap bike' came supremely well-equipped. In engineering terms, it blew them away, basically. While it did not quite clock up the mythical 'ton' - the 100mph so beloved of British riders - its acceleration was scorching. By comparison with Brit bikes, anyway. And - with a top speed of 95mph - it came close. The CB77's parallel twin motor revved out to 9,000rpm. The bike weighed in at just 350lb dry. Do the math, as they say!

Several factors gave the CB77 the edge over similarly-sized British bikes. Top of the list was engine design. A 180° crankshaft allowed the two pistons to move up and down alternately - balancing each other out. That took the smoothness of the ride to another level - at least, relative to the Brit bikes. The engine was held securely in situ by a tubular steel frame. Telescopic front forks - and twin rear shocks - raised the suspension game, too. Two sets of solid, sure-stopping drum brakes were fitted. The net result was that the CB77 accelerated smoothly, handled well and pulled up in short order. On top of all that, it was oil-tight and reliable. Not something that could be said of every British-made bike! In the States, it was sold as the Super Hawk. The CB77, then, was Honda's first attempt at a full-on sports bike. Suffice to say - there were others in the pipeline!

Royal Enfield Interceptor 750

Royal Enfield Interceptor 750 1960s British classic motorcycle

Royal Enfield may not be quite so celebrated as some of its 'Brit bike' brethren. Its logo, though, adorned a long line of sturdy, but stylish motorcycles. A perfect example was the Interceptor 750.

Power output for the Interceptor was 53bhp. Revs rose smoothly to 6,000rpm. Those stats no doubt impressed American - as well as British - buyers. Which was good, because the bike - and its 750cc capacity - were largely targeted at the US market. Indeed, the excellence of the Interceptor's engine made up for 'deficiencies' in other departments. The front brake, for example, was not the most reassuring ever made. And the forks could have been firmer.

Eventually, Royal Enfield suffered a financial meltdown. Sadly, it was one from which it never recovered. The Interceptor range had been in production throughout the Sixties. It might not have been at the cutting edge of Harold Wilson's 'white heat of technology', but the 750 certainly showcased some of the best of British innovation. After the collapse, the rights to Royal Enfield were licensed to India. In time, the marque became part of the 'retro revival' marketing boom. For sure, the Interceptor 750 helped inspire it. Royal Enfield now has the kudos of being the oldest motorcycle manufacturer still shipping product. Long may that continue!

NSU Supermax

NSU Supermax 1950s German classic motorcycle

NSU began by knocking out knitting machines. Then it branched into bicycles. It built its first motorcycle in 1901. The German firm went on to release a steady stream of successful motorbikes - including, of course, the Supermax. It carried on doing so until the early Sixties. On both road and track, NSU was at the forefront of bike design and development. Cars, too, were added to its catalogue. NSU, then, deserves its berth in motoring history every bit as much as its illustrious compatriot, BMW. Well, almost!

NSU hit pay dirt when - in '29 - it recruited Walter Moore. Previously, he had worked for Norton. Moore helped shape NSU's first bike to be fitted with an overhead-camshaft engine. No doubt partly due to his past employment, the result was not entirely dissimilar to the Norton CS1. Wags at the British firm suggested NSU was short for Norton Spares Used! Ignoring such ribaldry, Moore pressed on regardless. He must have done something right. By the time of the Second World War, NSU was one of the world's biggest bike manufacturers.

A decade after the end of the war came NSU's finest hour. The 250cc Supermax was launched in '55. Thankfully for NSU, it lived up to its billing. The Supermax did pretty much everything well. Acceleration and braking were equally impressive. Handling-wise, too, it excelled. The mix of its single-overhead-cam motor, pressed-steel frame and leading-link forks was bang on the money. The Supermax sailed to a top speed of 75mph. Said performance, though, came at a price. Sadly, one which most motorcyclists were not prepared to pay. As a result, the '60s saw NSU switch to car production. But not before it had secured its place in the annals of bike racing. In '53 - on NSUs - Werner Haas won both 125 and 250cc World Championships. He was the first German rider to achieve such a feat. In '54, Haas took the 250 title again. Indeed, '55 found NSU taking the 250 crown for the third time in as many years. So, BMW's bike division always had a rival. NSU, too, produced a panoply of sublime motorcycles. None more so than the Supermax!

Panther M100

Panther M100 1930s British classic motorcycle

A swift glance at the Panther M100 showed up its most striking asset. Compared with your average engine design, the M100's looked distinctly skewed. Enter the 598cc Sloper motor. It was tilted forward 45°. If that caused technically-minded riders to be concerned about oil circulation, no worries. The M100 was eminently reliable.

The Sloper's cylinder block was blessed with a long stroke. 100mm, to be precise. Hence an abundance of neck-twisting torque. In a good way! That was handy - since many M100s had side-cars attached. This was before automobiles were two a penny. The M100's top speed was 68mph. If you were the one wedged into the Watsonian, that was probably quite quick enough!

Panther was based in Cleckheaton, Yorkshire. No surprise, then, that its bikes were solid, rugged and dependable. Panther started out as Phelon and Moore (P&M). The first Sloper-equipped bike appeared in 1904. The single-cylinder push-rod powerplant came with two air-cooled overhead valves. Sporting its dramatically-inclined mill, a parked-up Panther was guaranteed to draw a crowd. It was only made bigger by the way in which the exhausts swooped down from the steeply-banked ports. And this from a bike born and bred in Yorkshire ... not a county associated with razzmatazz. As alluded to, this was a time when motorcycles and side-cars were still standard family transport. It followed that a Panther's top priority was to get from A to B - and back again - with a minimum of fuss. The M100 accomplished that - and with style thrown in, for good measure. Connoisseurs of classic motorcycles rejoiced!

AJS Model 30

AJS Model 30 1950s British classic motorcycle

AJS - Albert John Stevens - set up shop in 1909, in Wolverhampton, England. Though the firm bore Albert's initials, it was in fact a Stevens family concern. In its own right, it lasted until '31. After that, the AJS brand-name went through several changes of ownership. Pay attention, as this does get complicated. First off, AJS was subsumed into Matchless - based in Plumstead, London. Then, in '38, the AJS marque merged into AMC - Associated Motor Cycles. In '67, AMC were taken over by Norton Villiers - along with AJS. Two years later - in '69 - the 'classic' period of the AJS timeline came to an end. So - in the sixty years since its founding - AJS lived through a sizeable chunk of modern British history! Because of its connections to several other big British brands, it can be seen as something of a hybrid. The Model 30 was released in '56. As a result of all the marque-mixing, it was in many ways the exact same machine as the Matchless G11! Well, apart from the AJS livery and exhaust set-up. Matchless were keen to keep AJS devotees onside. So, the 'two' bikes were effectively twinned. In like manner - following the AMC takeover - some 'AJS' stock had Norton parts fitted. Classic bike nerds never had it so good!

At the circuits, though, things were much simpler. AJS won a lot of races! In 1914, its race team took the Junior TT title. Finer feats were to follow. In '49, AJS made racing history by winning the first 500cc World Championship. Les Graham rode a Porcupine twin to the title. Was that painful? He had previously been an RAF pilot - in World War II. One cannot help but wonder which was the more exciting! Arguably the most iconic AJS competition bike, however, was the 'Boy Racer'. A single-cylinder machine, the 350cc 7R hit the grid in '48. The 7R's motor was subsequently enlarged to 500cc - to power the Matchless G50 racer. So, it was not just AJS roadsters which mixed and matched with sibling marques, so to speak.

The Model 30's 593cc engine powered it to a top speed of 95mph. The bike handled well, into the bargain. It was also comfortable, reliable and economical. In other words, the Model 30 was a paragon of motorcycling virtue. Entirely fitting, then, that a company of the calibre of AJS was the source of its two-wheeled excellence. Saying that, AJS did make cars as well. Though not, perhaps, to the same standard. In the opinion of Model 30 owners, at any rate!