Showing posts with label 1960s Cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1960s Cars. Show all posts

Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale

Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale 1960s Italian classic sports car

The driving force behind the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale was Franco Scaglione. He was an engineering whizz-kid from an early age. He was also blessed with precocious design sensibilities. A mechanical marvel of one sort or another, then, was always on the cards. It was just a question of what. Thankfully for car buffs, automobiles were amongst the subjects Scaglione found himself drawn to.

Engineering, then, was a walk in the park for the young Scaglione. Even as a student, he was a natural. He duly graduated to more advanced learning. That is, until the Second World War threw a spanner in the works. Scaglione's studies – started so swimmingly - were decimated. Back in Civvy Street - in '46 - he was 29 years old. Training to be an engineer was in tatters. Time to look for alternative employment. Maybe the motor trade held something for him?

The Fiat Abarth was Scaglione's first full-on design gig. Not a bad way to cut your styling teeth! Launched in '52, he was on Bertone's books at the time. Surprised by the scale of the Abarth's success, Scaglione opted to go solo. In '59, he opened his own studio. The jewel in its crown would be the Stradale. Using Alfa's Type 33 racer as a template, Scaglione fashioned a suitably muscle-bound sports car. Aluminium bodywork was draped over a tubular steel frame. Alfa's 2-litre V8 was installed in the back. Scaglione drew the engine in plain view - in all its mechanised majesty. Once fired up, it made 230 bhp. And full use could be made of the power. For a start, the throttle was ultra-responsive. The gearbox was a flexible 6-speed affair. The Stradale's dimensions were hang-it-out compact. Plus, it weighed in at just 700kg. In its short production run - from '67 to '69 - just 18 Stradales were built. Oddly - given the built-in exclusivity - the price tag was relatively low. That did not detract from the Stradale's prestige one iota. Carrozzeria Marrazzi made a magnificent job of the coachbuilding. Franco Scaglione, of course, drafted a car design tour de force. In short, the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale radiated excellence. Scaglione, then - World War Two interruptions notwithstanding - got there in the end!

Excalibur SS

Excalibur SS 1960s American classic sports car

The Excalibur SS was styled by Brooks Stevens - one of the great industrial designers. Stevens was prolific, to say the least. In the course of his 61 years in the profession, he amassed 550 clients - and thousands of designs. Thankfully for gearheads, some of them were for cars. Probably the best-known was the Jeep Jeepster ... the first cool 4x4!

Arguably even cooler than the Jeep was the Excalibur J sports-racer. It first appeared in '52. But, Stevens really hit the jackpot - at least in publicity terms - with the Excalibur SS concept car. Unveiled in '63, it catered to the increasingly popular trend for all things 'retro'. The SS wowed the NY Auto Show. Stevens was inundated with orders. With its Studebaker Lark chassis - and supercharged V8 engine - the SS was an intriguing mix of old and new. Dyed-in-the-wool vintage fans did not like it. Everyone else loved it!

Concept car complete, Stevens' next step was to render the SS roadworthy. A Chevrolet Corvette engine was duly inserted into the rear of a modified chassis. In true vintage style, there were flexible metal exhaust pipes and an aluminium radiator shell. The retro body panels were, in fact, glassfibre. Stevens' two sons were tasked with marketing the SS. Roadster and Phaeton models were available. Peak power was 300bhp. Top speed was 140mph. To be fair, the Excalibur SS was never going to satisfy every taste. Just 359 cars were built. But surely - even the most fastidious vintage car aficionado can find something to like about it? Oh, well - perhaps not!

Daimler Majestic Major

Daimler Majestic Major 1960s British classic car

At first glance, the Daimler Majestic Major may not appear to be much of a performance car. But - at least by the standards of its day - it was. Notwithstanding the Major's large dimensions - and a separate chassis - it could outpace the best of them. And, it had manoeuvrability to match! Top whack was 122mph. Enough for it to glide with ease past many a sports car. Come the corners - and things were no different. Power steering saw to that. Key to the speed was a 4.7-litre hemi-head V8. 0-60 turned up in less than 10s - 9.7, to be precise. Impressive acceleration for a car of its bulk. Transmission was via a 3-speed auto 'box.

Few saloons cruised Britain's highways and byways like the Major. Of course - being a Daimler - elegance came as standard. The cabin was all one would expect from a car of its class. Leather pews - and a wooden dash - made it home from stately home. Seating arrangements were suitably spacious. The boot - about the size of your average black hole - could accomodate every golf club known to man. A limousine version - the DR45 - was tailor-made for the carriage trade. Funeral parlours doted on it. And yet - for all of its high-end charm - the Majestic Major had a trace of the common touch. It was drawn by the same designer as the FX4 taxi-cab!

1,180 saloon version Majors were built. Plus, 864 limousines. In the course of the car's run, Daimler was taken over by Jaguar. indeed, a Daimler engine was ear-marked for a new MkX - Jaguar's flagship model, at the time. Sadly, a prototype of the V8 motor was as far as it got. It blew all the Jaguar engines into the weeds. That did not endear it to Jaguar's top brass. After all, shareholders might legitimately have asked what they had been doing for the last few years! So, the Daimler Majestic Major combined edge-of-your-seat speed with rarefied styling. In short, it was a souped-up saloon car for the wannabe aristocrat in all of us. Well, all right, most of us!

Rover P5

Rover P5 1960s British classic car

The Rover P5 was private transport of the highest order. For years, it ferried the great and the good about their well-heeled business. Government ministers - and top civil servants - put down their attaché cases and relaxed on its sumptuous seats. Security picked up the purr of its engine, as one - whether at Downing Street, Parliament or Buckingham Palace. So, on state occasions, the four-wheeled presence of Rover P5s was a given.

The P5 was impeccably styled by David Bache. It was so-named because it was 'post-war design number 5'. Its exterior was the pinnacle of saloon car sophistication. Sober lines - and toned-down hues - exuded due gravitas. The interior, too, was quality incarnate. The materials used said it all. The dash was fashioned from African cherry wood. The carpet was Wilton. Seats were, of course, luxury leather. To all intents and purposes, the P5 was a banqueting-room on wheels. The pliancy of its ride echoed the subtlety of its styling. The P4's separate chassis was now history.

On the surface, the P5 was the quintessence of Englishness. From '67 on, however, the US lay beneath - in the form of a 3.5-litre Buick engine. It brought some much-needed speed to the P5 package. No more running late for top-level meetings. Previously, the P5 had been powered by a 3-litre motor. Buick's V8 made 185bhp. The P5's top speed climbed to 110mph. The powerplant was sourced from parent company GM. Rover got it at a discount - since it had become surplus to requirements. The gearbox was 3-speed auto. Thoughtfully, Rover provided a toolkit - albeit, somewhat basic. It was discreetly tucked away in the dashboard. Not that the P5's passengers would have had much of a clue what to do with it! Many of the key decisions of our times were made with the help of the P5. Many a soirée could not have happened without it. In motoring terms, society's crème de la crème had never had it so good. We must all, then, be thankful to the Rover P5 ... I think!

Panhard 24CT

Panhard 24CT 1960s French classic car

The 24 Series would be Panhard's last hurrah. The first of them hit the showrooms in '63. Founded in 1889, the French firm was floundering. It was now pitched against more state of the art cars from Peugeot, Citroën and Renault. Not even the iconic 24CT could save Panhard. It fought the financial odds, though, with all the Gallic gusto it could muster. And the 24CT had plenty to offer, in marketing terms. Not least, its aerodynamic bodywork. Large windows - supported by finely-wrought pillars - provided excellent visibility. Cowled-in headlights lit up the road, with aplomb. For all its feisty resistance, though, in the end, the automotive giant that was Citroën gobbled up little Panhard.

The 24CT's flat-twin motor made only 60bhp. Capacity was just 845cc. That was still enough, however, to give a top-spec speed of 100mph. That was with the Tigre engine option - complete with its twin-choke carb. The CT's svelte shape certainly helped, too. The standard Panhard lump provided 10bhp less. At low revs, the 24CT did not pull up any trees. Torque was reduced - and the flat-twin motor ran rough. As revs picked up, though, things 24CT settled down nicely. Transmission was via a 4-speed floor-shift. From '65 onward, disc brakes were fitted all round. Handling was more than adequate - and all the better for front-wheel drive.

The 24CT's roots were in the Panhard Dyna. The latter was styled by Grégoire - in the Forties. The Panhard PL17, also, brought good looks and innovation to the car design table. The 24 Series sold reasonably well - given their high price tags. In all, 23,245 cars were built. Citroën took Panhard over in '65 - and did its utmost to make the 24 Series a success. A car as elegant as the 24CT, though, is never cheap to make. And that, ultimately, proved to be its Achilles' heel. In '67, Citroën accepted that Panhard's Paris factory could be put to more profitable use building its own brand's cars. One of motoring's great pioneers had reached the end of the road. The Panhard 24CT, though, was an entirely fitting finale!

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 small-scale four-cylinder engine, it would have gone a whole lot quicker. For a sports car - even in the '60s - 95bhp was no more than middling. 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. No doubt, Miss World agreed. End of the day - if it was good enough for the Belfast boy - it must have been the best!

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!

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!

Chevrolet Corvair

Chevrolet Corvair 1960s American classic car

Sadly, the Chevrolet Corvair did not deliver on its potential. That was down to the fact that it garnered a reputation for oversteer. Pro motoring whistle-blower Ralph Nader pounced all over the Corvair's alleged defects. They lay, he said, mainly in the handling department. Nader duly detailed them in his book Unsafe At Any Speed. This was a tract devoted to automotive health and safety. His words were diligently read by American drivers - and the Corvair's fate was sealed. A '64 revamp - with revised rear suspension - was a last-ditch attempt to rid the Chevy of its wild child image. It did not work.

Certainly, though, the Corvair got a tick in the box marked technical innovation. For a start, it featured a rear-mounted flat-six engine. Also, its suspension was fully independent. Throughout the Sixties, several versions of the Corvair were released. As well as a sporty coupé and stylish convertible, there was a turbo-charged model. The latter produced 180bhp. Which gave a top speed of 105mph.

Chevrolet designed the Corvair to take the fight to cheap European cars, flooding into US showrooms, at the time. It was marketed as 'compact' - though that was more by American than European metrics. Size-wise, it was similar to the British-made Ford Zephyr. Styling-wise, though, the Corvair's restrained lines were cut from distinctly European cloth. More so than most of its American siblings, anyway. Indeed, Chevrolet went so far as to dub the coupé version, the Monza. And, the Corvair would go on to influence the Hillman Imp and NSU Prinz. Over a million Corvairs were built. It should have been more. Those misgivings about handling never quite subsided. As a result, '64's Ford Mustang galloped ahead, in sales terms. So far as American automobiles were concerned, however, the Chevrolet Corvair blazed a perfectly-formed trail for European-style sophistication.

NSU Ro80

NSU Ro80 1960s German classic car

The NSU Ro80's styling was ahead of its time. At first glance, the masses of glass seemed straight out of science-fiction. Closer inspection revealed the gently rising line of its profile. Its 'low front, high back' stance would influence automotive design for years to come. For a 5-seater saloon car, the Ro80 was highly aerodynamic. Cruising at speed, then, was a breeze. So well-sorted was the NSU outwardly that it barely changed in the ten years of its run. Only tail-lights were modified, over time.

Handling-wise, the Ro80 was just as impressive. FWD and power-steering kept things nicely aligned. Long-travel strut suspension soaked up bumps. New-fangled disc brakes were fitted all round. A 3-speed semi-automatic transmission swept through gears with aplomb. Top speed was a creditable 112mph.

Nothing, though, is perfect. The Ro80 was powered by a twin-rotor Wankel engine. Unfortunately - in a rush to get cars into showrooms - said motor was under-developed. Which is when the problems started. A mere 15,000 miles was all it took. The Wankel's rotor-tip seals wore out. Frustrated owners cited less power - and more fuel consumption. As wear increased, the engines grew harder to start. If the car could be coaxed into life at all, it was with thick smoke billowing from the exhaust pipe. Even in less environment-sensitive times, that did not go down well. To be fair, NSU settled claims with alacrity. Indeed, it was not unknown for it to stump up double-digit engine replacements, in due course. Which only serves to show what an alluring overall package the Ro80 was. A car which caused so many headaches - and was still in demand - must have had something going for it. And - in terms of looks, at least - the NSU Ro80 most certainly did!

Facel Vega Facel II

Facel Vega Facel II 1960s French classic car

You know when a car has cracked it. Celebrities and royals are first in line. So it was with the Facel Vega Facel II. Among them was a certain Ringo Starr - drummer in a band called The Beatles, apparently. Along with racing drivers, too, of course. Stirling Moss and Rob Walker both owned a Facel II.

The Facel II fared well at the track, as well as on road. It was, after all, powered by a tractable V8 engine. And its top speed was 140mph. A 4-speed manual Pont a' Mousson gearbox was hooked up to the 390bhp Chrysler 300 block.

Not that the Facel II's V8 motor did not have its work cut out for it. With four passengers - and a full tank of fuel - the car weighed in at almost two tons. Thoughtfully, Facel Vega had fitted Armstrong Selecta-Ride rear dampers. A full set of Dunlop brake discs did the stopping honours. The Facel II came with power steering, leather seats and electric windows - all as standard. Design-wise, the car's cockpit instrumentation was on an aeronautical theme. This particular Facel Vega, then, was fast, comfortable - and supremely stylish. Saying that, it cost as much as several comparable cars put together. So, just 160 Facel IIs were built ... in true exclusive French style!

Iso Grifo

Iso Grifo 1960s Italian classic car

The Iso Grifo was exclusive. In ten years, a mere 504 were built. Styled by Bertone, the Grifo was rooted in the Rivolta GT. Giotto Bizzarrini - ex-Ferrari engineer - shortened the latter's chassis. That added agility to the base model. It was then passed on to Bertone. With that sort of pedigree, Iso were ready to take on Ferrari!

Time, then, to add some speed to the mix. Enter the Chevrolet Corvette. Well, its engine, anyway. The American V8 imparted some serious 'grunt' to the Grifo proceedings. It probably did not please European purists. But, for drivers content with beautiful bodywork - plus muscle car oomph - things were bubbling up nicely. The top-spec Grifo came with the 7-litre version of the Chevy V8. That made it good for 170mph. It hit 70 in first gear alone. 390bhp was duly unleashed. Bizzarrini's reduced wheelbase helped transmit power to tarmac. Wisely, Iso had fitted a full set of disc brakes!

As it turned out, the Grifo did indeed go toe to toe with Ferrari - in the form of the Daytona. The Maserati Ghibli, too, was given a real run for its money. For a small outfit like Iso, that was some achievement. Sadly, financial woes would plague it, in years to come. The fuel crisis - in '74 - finally sealed the firm's fate. By then, though, the Iso Grifo had already established itself as a thoroughbred Italian sports car!

Ferrari 275 GTB

Ferrari 275 GTB 1960s Italian classic sports car

The Ferrari 275 GTB was not just beautiful to behold. It hit the technological sweet spot, too. Superlative suspension, for example, was brought to the Ferrari party - in a way not previously seen or felt. The result was a car which looked like $1m - and had handling to match. And, for once, the Ferrari engine - an alloy 60° V12 - was not the centre of attention. It was trumped by the transmission. For optimal weight distribution - and top traction - motor and gearbox were separate entities. The two were joined at the hip, on early models - by a slender prop shaft. Later, a stiffer torque tube did the job. Double-wishbone rear shock absorption had now been added to the mix. The 275 GTB was thus uniquely positioned to make the most of its 280bhp output. That came courtesy of a single-overhead-cam engine. 150mph was on tap.

Technical excellence was topped only by styling. Pininfarina did the design work. The steel body was coachbuilt by Scaglietti. They were based but a stone's throw from Ferrari HQ. That was in Modena - a town with near-mythical status among the marque's fans. Scaglietti fitted a multi-tubular frame - in familiar Ferrari fashion. The Borrani wire wheels sported a set of 'knock off' spinner centre hubs. A sporty 2-seater coupé, the GTB's exterior was pure Berlinetta. The interior did not disappoint, either. Its finely-crafted focal point was the wooden Nardi steering-wheel.

Launched in '64, there would be several versions of the GTB. '65's Series Two sported a longer nose and smaller air-intake. For '66, the quad-cam GTB/4 came with six carburettors - as well as dry-sump lubrication. The wind-in-your-hair model - the GTS - was aimed squarely at America. Just 200 GTBs were made. The GTB marked the point at which Ferrari began transcending mere beauty - to deliver on every level. Of course, the perfect Sixties roadster does not exist. The Ferrari 275 GTB, though, probably came as close as any!

Maserati Ghibli AM115

Maserati Ghibli AM115 1960s Italian classic sports car

The Maserati Ghibli AM115 was styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro. At the time, he was on the Ghia payroll. The maestro considered the Ghibli among his finest designs. It is not hard to see why!

Flat out, the Ghibli delivered 165mph. Even at that speed, suspension and handling were solid. And not withstanding its steel bodywork - meaning the Ghibli was no lightweight. Equally impressive were its four potent disc brakes.

Highest-spec Ghibli was the V8-engined SS. As you would expect, its torque curve was out of the top drawer. And from way down low in the rev range, too. A ZF 5-speed 'box did its best to stay with it. Suffice to say, acceleration was not an issue! Capacity was 4,930cc. Power maxed at 335bhp. Just 1,149 Ghiblis were built. In '67, the AM115 was a 2-seater supercar. Maserati were on a charge. Ferrari and Lamborghini - take note!

Ford Capri

Ford Capri 1960s British classic car

The Ford Capri was European sibling to the mighty Mustang - a massive seller in the US. In essence, the Capri was a standard 4-seater GT. There would be many a variation on that theme, however ... enough to give a spare-parts dealer palpitations! The Capri was manufactured in GB and West Germany. The first model came with the same 1.3-litre in-line four engine as the Ford Escort. In the UK, there were 1.6- and 2.0-litre V4 options. Add to that, a 3.0-litre V6. Germany weighed in with 1.7- and 2.3-litre versions. Stock-taking was already getting complicated. And that was before the cornucopia of trim options kicked in!

The entry-level Capri was the L. The XL was mid-range. At the top of the heap were the GT - and luxury GXL. Thankfully, the body shell was interchangeable. So were the struts - and beam rear axle. There were more parts choices, though, when it came to the 4-speed gearbox. Bigger engines had auto transmission as an option. All Capris had disc brakes up front - and drums at the rear. Rack-and-pinion steering, too, was standard - except for some of the 3.0-litre models, which were power-assisted.

Many a Capri was campaigned as a 'tin-top' racer - often, with much success. They derived from a set of souped-up roadsters. The RS2600 Mk1, for example, was a German 'homologation special'. It came with a fuel-injected 150bhp V6 ... courtesy of top tuner Harry Weslake. In '73, the British-built 3100 appeared - again, built for race homologation purposes. With its Weber carburettor - and over-bored V6 - it made 148bhp. These 'performance car' Capris featured fat alloy wheels and quarter bumpers. The 3100 sported a duck-tail spoiler. Most sought-after of all, however, was the Capri 280 Brooklands LE. Ironically, it was one of the German-built cars! Nonetheless, with its swish leather seats - and British racing green paint - it was a fitting finale to the Ford Capri story. And - as for those overworked spares departments - it is just a shame databases were still in their infancy, at the time!

Lincoln Continental

Lincoln Continental 1960s American classic car

It is not often that a car plays its part in history. Sadly, though, that was the case for the Lincoln Continental. For, it was while riding in the stretched Presidential version - through Dallas, Texas, in '63 - that John F Kennedy was fatally shot. The Continental was tailor-made for affairs of state. The MkII Continental - released in '56 - came with virtually every 'mod con' going. Naturally, it was graced with a price tag to match. What distinguished it was its pristine lines and sober styling. Chrome and fins were in evidence. But nothing like so much as on most other highway exotica, of the time. The Continental packed serious gravitas. In short, it had class!

'61 ushered in the most iconic Continental of all. That was the legendary 'clap-door' model. It acquired the tag on account of its rear-hinged back door. To say the least, it needed to be opened with care. Backwards-looking visibility was not its strong suit. Beware passing motorcycles! The second the new Lincoln was launched, celebrities' minders strong-armed their way to the showrooms. Before long, everyone who was anyone had gone Continental. The new car had the lot! Shapely elegance, lashings of luxury - and, courtesy of Ford - a rorty V8. The Continental's top speed was 125mph. Its 3-speed automatic gearbox made it a breeze to drive - especially if you were in the 'power-top' convertible version. The Continental saloon ate straightaways for breakfast. Corners - it has to be said - were slightly less to its taste. 7.0- and 7.5-litre engines were fitted. Maximum output was 365bhp. So - performance-wise - the Continental was no slouch. And that was with 5,215lb of body mass to move.

The Continental was a crowd-puller from the get-go. With its bulbous nose - and 'egg-crate' grille - it was a magnet for passers-by. Subsequent models, though, were less charismatic. The MkIII Continental, for example, had all of the size - but less of the charm - of its spotlessly-styled predecessor. So meticulously built was the original that Lincoln lost money on it. Into the '60s - and the Continental continued to pick up plaudits. It comprised, after all, the best of both worlds - American scale and European refinement. Brawn mixed with chic, so to speak. All in all, the Lincoln Continental was one of a kind. A fitting backcloth, then, for that doom-laden day in Dallas - when the whole of the world held its breath!

Studebaker Avanti

Studebaker Avanti 1960s American classic car

The Avanti was supposed to resurrect the Studebaker brand. Company president Sherwood Egbert dreamed up the car - as a means to inject some much-needed vitality into Studebaker's corporate veins. Egbert's choice of designer for the Avanti was astute. Raymond Loewy - who had previously penned the Coca-Cola bottle - was hired as stylist. Loewy went the minimalist route ... at least, as compared with many of his contemporaries. Typically, Detroit-built cars of the time were mainly comprised of chrome and fins. The Avanti, though, exuded 'European' restraint. Its glassfibre-forged lines were smart - but unshowy. On the inside, too, things were similarly sophisticated. Neat instrumentation - and leather bucket seats - were fully imbued with Italianate finesse.

But - just two years after the Avanti's release - Studebaker was no more. The firm went into receivership in '64. And that seemed like that for the new car. At the last, though, automotive saviours stepped in - in the form of Studebaker dealers Nate Altman and Leo Newman. In no mood to see the Avanti die, they bought the rights to it - and set about re-starting production. With Studebaker motors no longer around, Chevrolet Corvette units were sourced. The car was re-christened the Avanti II. The original had already received rave reviews. Now, it acquired 'sought-after' status, too. Altman and Newman's faith was rewarded. The Avanti Motor Corporation thrived ... right up until '82.

Technically, the Avanti impressed. Its V8 engine made 335bhp. That took it to a top speed of 145mph. The power was controlled from a comfortable cabin. 4,643 Avanti IIs were sold. In subsequent years, there would be further attempts to keep the car going. Like Loewy's coke bottle, certain products seem destined to be around forever. And - while not, perhaps, quite in Coca-Cola's league - the Studebaker Avanti is still being built somewhere. Last line seen somewhere in Mexico, it is said!

Oldsmobile Toronado

Oldsmobile Toronado 1960s American classic car

Of all the cars to have been made in Detroit, the Oldsmobile Toronado must be one of the biggest. This two-ton leviathan hit the road in '65. The Toronado was the first mass-produced American car with front-wheel drive. As a result, it handled better than its rivals. 60% of the Toronado's weight was over the front wheels. Torsion-bar suspension sealed the deal, stability-wise. Plus, two of the four tyres Firestone made especially for the Toronado. They featured stiffer sidewalls - and extra grip. The wheels were slotted - to cool the finned brake drums.

Power was provided by a 7-litre V8. Dubbed the 'Rocket', the engine produced 385bhp. That gave the Toronado a top speed of 130mph. The motor was mated with a 3-speed Hydra-Matic gearbox. Rubber insulation smoothed the V8 vibes. The mill sat in a solid, perimeter-framed chassis.

The Toronado was ahead of the game in its looks, too. Clean and vibrant lines set it apart. Its headlights' electric flaps were a sweet styling touch. Alec Issigonis - designer of the Mini - said large engines could never be successfully twinned with FWD. Automotive giant though he was - the Oldsmobile Toronado proved him wrong!

Dodge Charger

Dodge Charger 1960s American classic sports car

There have been few cars as iconic as the Dodge Charger! Since Steve McQueen found himself followed by one - in the movie Bullitt - it has been the stuff of legend. The Ford Mustang and Dodge Charger squared up to each other in the showrooms, too. Between the pair of them - in their battle for muscle car pre-eminence - they put Detroit on the world map. Before that, some Stateside cars were getting just a tad gaudy. There is a limit to how much chrome - and how many fins - a car can take, before it starts to become borderline kitsch. Cars like the Charger stripped things back to basics. Simple lines defined a new, no-nonsense approach to styling. The Charger was built to, well, charge - and not much more. Its only concession to design décor was the buttressed rear window.

There could be only one engine for this masterclass in American machismo. A V8 was a shoo-in for the Charger's powerplant. All that 'grunt', though - piledriving rear wheels into the tarmac - meant handling could be hairy. That was best illustrated by the R/T - Road and Track - model. Released in '68, it was the most uncompromising version of the Charger. Delivering 375bhp - and 150mph - the R/T was a heady brew of torque and speed. 0-60 arrived in 6s. This time round, rock-solid suspension - and anti-roll bars - enabled the R/T to handle as well as it went. It came with a 4-speed Hurst 'box. Powerful front disc brakes were optional. Well, according to the spec list, anyway!

The Charger would be one of the last of the muscle car breed. It was produced until '78. After that, the automotive industry took a more leisurely, safety-oriented tack. Never again would the roads of America echo with such ear-splitting gear-driven crescendos. Of course - in Bullitt - the Dodge Charger was driven by the bad guys. Certainly, it is among the most dramatic cars ever to have turned a wheel. And anyway ... we all secretly love a good baddie, don't we?

Buick Riviera

Buick Riviera 1960s American classic car

Its name alone told you all you needed to know about the Buick Riviera. It was a classy automobile! Built at a time when in your face fins and chrome were ubiquitous, the Riviera oozed cool sophistication. Automotive haute couture, so to speak. Spotlessly clean, in design terms, its shape was especially powerful in profile. The Riviera's elegantly-drawn body was along the lines of, say, a Jaguar or Bentley. So European were its looks that it might almost have been described as the Rolls-Royce of American cars! Interior décor, too, was in the continental style - complete with rounded dashboard dials and floor-mounted gear-shift. Electric windows and power steering came as standard, naturally!

But, the Riviera's charms were more than skin-deep. In highest-spec 7.0-litre guise, its V8 engine produced no less than 365bhp. Top speed was a cool 130mph ... pretty good going for a five-seater saloon car. A two-speed automatic gearbox kept it all on an even keel. Not that the Riviera was perfect, of course. Handling was average - not helped by the live rear axle. And its drum brakes were prone to high-speed fade.

The Riviera, then, was a satisfying blend of American and European. The best of both worlds, Buick hoped. For all its cosmopolitan chic, there was still more than a hint of muscle-bound machismo. Straddling the 'pond', you might say. At the time, it was the bee's knees in transatlantic travel. Indeed, many a Mediterranean tourist would not be seen in anything else. Would they, chéri?