Showing posts with label 1960s Classic Sports Cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1960s Classic Sports 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!

De Tomaso Mangusta

De Tomaso Mangusta 1960s Italian classic sports car

Coachbuilt by Ghia, the de Tomaso Mangusta was about as stylish as a sports car gets. Well, apart from its name, that is. A mangusta is a mongoose. Absolutely no offence to mongooses intended, but they are not typically considered the height of chic. Yes, I am sure there are exceptions to that rule. At any rate, so far as the roadgoing Mangusta went, its body was a sleek lattice-work of lines and slats. In like manner, graphics were elegantly scripted.

But the Mangusta was far from all show. It was bang on the money technically, too. The Ford 4.7 V8 engine put out 305bhp. Top speed was 250km/h. Released in ’66, just 400 Mangustas were made. 280 of them were sold in the States. American sales were substantially upped by fitting the Ford V8. The US was a fair old jaunt for the Mangusta, from Modena, Italy – that mythical Mecca of all things motor racing. The perfect location, then, for Alejandro de Tomaso to base his workshop.

De Tomaso hailed from Buenos Aires, Argentina. His father was a government minister – and his mother an heiress. Suffice to say, Alejandro was unlikely to go hungry. It was not long before de Tomaso’s motoring muse came calling – mainly in the shape of Maseratis. At 27, he moved to Italy – to pursue a career as a racing driver. De Tomaso was quick - but not quick enough. So instead, he set up a supercar company ... as you do! As a designer – rather than driver – de Tomaso fared better. Before long, both sports cars and single-seaters were rolling out of his 'shop. In his youth, de Tomaso idolised Fangio – the Argentinian race ace. Acolyte could never match master, in that regard. But – in penning cars like the Mangusta – de Tomaso had found his niche. His own means of automotive expression, you may say. Oh, by the way - if you are thinking about buying a de Tomaso Mangusta, a word to the wise. Never underestimate its performance. Mongooses eat snakes. You’ve been warned!

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!

Marcos GT

Marcos GT 1960s British classic sports car

As much as any manufacturer, Marcos encapsulated English eccentricity. That was amply demonstrated by a succession of GT cars. 'Marcos' was an amalgam of the names of the two founders - Jem Marsh and Frank Costin. The new firm's first product was a sports car - built mainly from wood. The race version was a stellar success. Jackie Stewart launched his career in one. Which possibly points to where Stewart first got a taste for 'health and safety' within the sport! From that ornate creation emerged the classic Marcos sports car. It was to see several shape shifts over the years. The formative lines were drawn by Dennis and Peter Adams. Unveiled in '64, the Marcos wowed London's Earls Court Racing Car Show. This time, the bodywork was fashioned from glass fibre - cutting edge, then, in every sense. Its chassis, though, still stood by wood. Suspension-wise, that first Marcos was fitted with Triumph wishbones at the front - and de Dion and Triumph arms at the rear. A Ford live-axle set-up followed in due course. Over time, Ford, Volvo and Triumph engines would be installed. So, it was already apparent that Marcos did not do 'predictable'!

Marcos and motor racing go way back. In '66, a 'Mini-Marcos' hybrid was the sole British entry to complete that year's Le Mans 24-hour race. Equipped with its Mini motor, the Marcos car was cheap to campaign. Incredibly, one could still be sourced new right up to '94. Two of Marcos' Le Mans cars were aptly code-named the LM500 and LM600. Launched in '94, they marked Marcos' return to the famous French circuit.

The Seventies got off to a good start for Marcos. The mythical Mantis was released. As the decade wore on, though, the firm was much less visible. Indeed, it fell to Jem Marsh to keep the servicing and parts departments open. '81, though, saw a Marcos resurgence. Power was supplied by Ford. With not a lot happening on the sports car scene at the time, Marcos' revival was a shot in the arm not just for the marque, but the industry. 1983's Marcos Mantula - powered by a Rover V8 - was a hit in the showrooms. Yet more plaudits followed two years later - with the arrival of the Spyder. Marcos moved into the '90s with the Mantara - which saw a styling revamp. The Adams brothers' original curves were still there - but suitably updated. '97 saw a new model Mantis. Thanks to its Ford V8 engine, the Mantis GT thundered around race-tracks at more than 170mph. While Marcos may have been 'different', those in the know have never taken the marque less than seriously. Certainly, many an eyebrow has been raised by a Marcos GT car over the years. Though one cannot help but suspect that was always part of the Marsh/Costin game-plan!

Sunbeam Tiger

Sunbeam Tiger 1960s British classic sports car

The Sunbeam Tiger was an Anglo-American hybrid. Built in West Bromwich, England, its roots were in Detroit, Michigan. Aptly, then, Rootes was Sunbeam's parent company! At least, until Chrysler took it over. In essence, the Sunbeam Tiger was a Sunbeam Alpine - but with a Ford V8 fitted. Carroll Shelby - he of AC Cobra fame - did early development work on the Tiger. Shelby then passed it to Rootes. The car's 4.2-litre engine was hooked up to a 'top loader' 4-speed gearbox. In turn, a more substantial final drive was installed. The body shell, too, was beefed up. But - with so much on its plate - Rootes was over-stretched. It still had the Sunbeam Alpine in production, too. Riding to Rootes' rescue came Jensen. Their premises were but a stone's throw away from Rootes' factory gates. It fell to Jensen to finish the Tiger project.

Power output for the Tiger was 164bhp. Top speed stood at 117mph. 0-60 came up in 9.5s. Torque - from the Ford V8 - was plentiful, to say the least. Care, though, was required in transferring it to the tarmac. Both steering and suspension were 'suspect'. But - all in all - the Tiger was good value for money. Americans bought it in their droves. British buyers did the same. However, they had to wait a year longer.

So, it was looking good for the Sunbeam Tiger. Until Chrysler's buy-out of Rootes! Chrysler's top brass took an immediate dislike to the car - mainly, on account of its V8 motor. It was, after all, made by Ford! Which would have been fine - had Chrysler had their own V8. Actually, they did. Unfortunately, it did not fit! Sadly, that was the writing on the Tiger's wall. But, all was not lost! Rootes had already built 571 MkII Tigers - complete with 4.7-litre Mustang motors. The Sunbeam Tiger was set to stroll into a few more sunsets yet!

Lamborghini 350 GT

Lamborghini 350 GT 1960s Italian classic sports car

The 350 GT was Lamborghini's first production car. It was launched in March, '64. Touring - Italian coachbuilders extraordinaire - were tasked with styling it. Headquartered in Milan, Touring's brief was based on the Lamborghini 350 GTV prototype. Bodywork comprised alloy panels. They were hung on a Superleggera steel frame. The 350 GT's light body was key to its top speed of 152mph. The solid round-tube chassis was supported by coil spring and tubular wishbone suspension. Girling disc brakes stopped the plot.

Gian Paulo Dallara - alongside Giotto Bizzarini - engineered the GT. Power was supplied by the trusty Lamborghini V12. The crankshaft of the quad-cam 60° motor was machined from a single billet. 280bhp was duly produced. The V12 was fed by side-draught carburettors. That, in turn, led to a rakishly low bonnet line. Capacity was 3,464cc. The 5-speed transmission - and steering box - were by ZF. The rear diff' was by Salisbury. Fast, smooth and tractable, the 350 GT handled superbly. So - with both the form and function of their first model sorted - it seemed Lamborghini was off to a flyer!

The 350 GT was eminently user-friendly. There was, for example, a synchro-mesh reverse gear. The cabin was a chic and comfortable place to be. Just 143 cars were built. Exclusivity, then, was part of the package. Of course - in terms of sheer glamour - the 350 GT falls short of Lamborghini's supercars. But - as an opening sports car shot - it had all the allure and panache that would become so synonymous with the marque.

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!