Showing posts with label 1970s Cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1970s Cars. Show all posts

Costin Amigo

Costin Amigo 1970s British classic sports car

Frank Costin - creator of the Amigo - was an automotive pioneer. That said, he learned a lot of what he knew from the aircraft industry. He had been a top aeronautical engineer in his time. In the Fifties, Costin shifted his skill-set to motor racing. Lotus and Vanwall benefitted directly. Indirectly, the ripples of his expertise spread far wider. When Frank Costin met Jem Marsh, they founded sports car maker MarCos. The marque had a unique take on English eccentricity. That was fully in keeping with Costin's character. An out and out maverick, he did things his way. That certainly extended to his cars' construction. Costin liked wood. The chassis in Marcos' first sports cars were made from laminated marine plywood.

In time, Marcos moved to more orthodox chassis. That was probably partly as a result of Marsh's input. Costin, though, was still a believer. He sought backing to build a car of his own. Enter the Costin Amigo! Its monocoque frame was forged from, yes, plywood - albeit with strengthening pine strips bonded on. The chassis' light weight was echoed by a glassfibre body. The latter was sublimely smooth - both of shape and finish. Visually and aerodynamically, it cut straight to the chase.

The Amigo's engine, drive-train and suspension were sourced from the Vauxhall VX4/90. Indeed, the Amigo was built close by Vauxhall's Luton HQ. Fittingly - given Costin's former employment - it was at an airfield. And the Amigo's performance was jet-plane impressive. Top speed was 137mph. Handling was high-calibre. Design-wise, only the spartan interior let the side down a tad. It certainly contributed to the Amigo's woefully low sales. A scant eight units were shifted. To be fair to the Amigo, had Frank Costin been more of a marketing man, it might have helped. To be fair to Frank Costin - engineering was all he knew. Anyway - the Costin Amigo story was richer than that of many cars that sold a thousand times more. Not that the bank manager would have seen it that way!

Ford Escort RS

Ford Escort RS 1970s British classic sports car

For many motorists, the Ford Escort RS was a must-have. Especially when sporting 'go faster' stripes, it ticked all the right boy racer boxes. RWD - plus light bodywork - were just the ticket ... sometimes literally! Starring in Seventies TV show The Professionals bolstered the Escort's hard-hitting image. As well as doing its sales figures no harm at all!

The RS, though, was more than a rocketship roadster. It doubled up as a top-flight rally car. The Mexico model marked Ford's win in the London to Mexico Rally. The smaller RS1800 version was still ultra-competitive. With its twin-cam motor - and all round disc brakes - many an owner took to the stages. On the road, too, it did not disappoint. An X-Pack of optional extras saw to that. Between its nose and the tarmac, the RS2000 sported a 'droopsnoot' - a polyurethane spoiler/air dam. It cut drag, according to Ford.

Technologically, then, the Escort impressed. Certainly, its suspension was on solid ground. A set of MacPherson struts sorted the front. A live axle - on leaf springs - looked after the rear. The Escort's monocoque steel shell could be strengthened. Its in-line four engine produced 86bhp. Top speed was 103mph. Later versions upped both stats. The gearbox was 4-speed manual. As '70s interiors went, the Escort's was slick. An array of dials, bucket seats and a sports steering-wheel all helped with harum-scarum high-speed shenanigans. Which - if you bought a Ford Escort RS - was usually what you wanted!

BMW M1

BMW M1 1970s German classic supercar

The BMW M1 was race-based, to its beautifully-conceived core. It was made - by BMW Motorsport - as a response to the Porsche 935. BMW's CSL was by then past its sell-by date - and struggling to keep up with the Porsche. That was in the Group 5 Silhouette series. From BMW's point of view, the gap needed to be closed - lest race losses lead to the same on the balance-sheet! Cometh the M1 - and its M88 straight-six motor. The M1 was the first BMW roadster to be fitted with this race-bred powerplant. The cast-iron bottom-end was sourced from the BMW parts bin. In every other respect, it comprised state of the art engineering. The 24-valve twin-cam head was chain-driven. The crankshaft was fashioned from forged-steel. The M88 had longer conrods - and a race-derived dry sump. It was fed by Kugelfischer-Bosch indirect injection. The net result was a top speed for the M1 of 161mph. BMW were back on track!

Group 5 homologation made the M1 roadster resemble its racing counterpart - within reason, at least. 400 road-going 'equivalents' were required to be built, before the M1 racer be given the keys to the grid. Unfortunately for BMW, by the time the M1 was ready to go racing, the homologation rules had changed! The stipulation now was that 400 cars already have been sold. That threw a giant-sized spanner in the works - since that was liable to take a while, even for a company with the cachet of BMW. By the time it had complied with the new regs - in '81 - the M1 was no longer competitive! Not at the racetrack, that is. On the road, it was more than a match for most of its rivals. A tubular steel chassis - and mid-engined layout - provided near-perfect handling. The ride was comfort incarnate. Initially, Lamborghini had been asked to design the chassis. Mounting financial woes, though, at the Italian marque, meant BMW sorted their own chassis, in the end. Once done, a 5-speed ZF trans-axle transferred 277bhp to the tarmac. Massive vented disc brakes retarded the M1 with aplomb.

The M1's looks were seen to by Italdesign. The agency would, however, have been first to acknowledge the debt owed to the BMW Turbo - the prototype by Paul Bracq. Between the pair of them, the M1 was a masterclass in supercar styling. It was built in both Germany and Italy. Indeed, it may be said to have embodied the best of both realms. For all that, a mere 450 M1s were manufactured. A harsh critic, then, might judge it a failure. After all, it was no great shakes, either at circuits, or in showrooms. Saying that, the BMW M1 was still a hugely impressive sports car ... which surely smacks more of success than failure!

Aston Martin Lagonda

Aston Martin Lagonda 1970s British classic car

There was little doubt which car was the star of the '76 Earls Court Show. The Aston Martin Lagonda fired up a furore of excitement around its stand. 170 orders were placed, there and then. Aston - still reeling from recent travails - were on cloud nine. Then the problems set in! The Lagonda sported futuristic looks - designed by William Towns. His cutting edge styling included not just the exterior lines, but the cabin area, too. A digital dash - and touch-sensitive controls - seemed straight out of Star Trek. But, this was '70s Britain - not '90s Silicon Valley. Technical gremlins surfaced from the get-go. As a result, the Lagonda's launch was delayed three years. By the time it was finally released, its price tag had risen to £32,000. Aston thanked their lucky stars that it was still in demand!

In terms of traditional engineering, the Lagonda was fine. Its chassis was an updated version of a tried and tested set-up. Suspension, too, had been seen before. Following a few tweaks to sort an increase in weight, ride and handling were spot-on. Press reviews were upbeat. The Lagonda's engine, especially, was praised. Its 5.3-litre V8 - with quad-cam layout - made 340bhp. Top speed was 140mph. That was impressive - for a saloon car weighing nearly two tons. Transmission was 3-speed auto.

Ultimately, the Lagonda was all about leisure. Avant-garde though it was, it also harked back to a more luxurious past. On its launch, then - in '79 - Lord and Lady Tavistock were first in line. Air conditioning - and electric seats - came as standard. Coachbuilders Tickford turned out three stretched Lagondas - complete with colour TVs. But, for all of its state of the art buzz - and genteel pretensions - the Lagonda did not sell well. By the end of its run - in 1990 - a scant 645 cars had been built. It had signally failed to back up the hype - commercially-speaking, anyway. The high-tech teething troubles had not helped. In that regard, however, it paved the way for cars to come. At the time, though, Aston Martin's Lagonda bit off more of the future than it could comfortably chew!

Citroën SM

Citroen SM 1970s French classic car

The SM was almost as much Maserati as it was Citroën. The late Sixties saw the French manufacturer also at the helm of the iconic Italian carmaker. Indeed, the SM was the first showpiece from the new automotive 'double act'. And, it was a best of both worlds scenario. Citroën's slick, slippery shape was mated with Maserati's expert engine know-how. The nose - with its panoply of lights - was deftly faired in behind a slender strip of glass. At the back, a sweetly-styled hatchback sloped gently down to the rear light cluster. Between the two were some of the most eye-catching lines ever to grace a Grand Tourer. Indeed - for budding designers - the SM's window geometry alone warrented close scrutiny!

Power was provided by a scaled-down version of Maserati's four-cam V8. The resulting V6 had a capacity of 2.7 litres. There was a good reason for such precision. French tax rules hammered engines over 2.8 litres. The 'micro' Maser motor delivered 170bhp. That still made it good for 140mph. In keeping with Citroën tradition, the SM was FWD. To enable that, the gearbox/transaxle sat fore of the front-mounted motor. Citroën's self-levelling hydro-pneumatic suspension saw power to road, in safe and seamless style. Ultimately, that was the SM's trump card. The union of French and Italian technical excellence meant the ride stayed serenely smooth - whatever the speed. And - when it came to the latter - Maserati had made sure there was plenty of it!

Classic car though it now is, in its day, the SM felt futuristic. The switches and dials on its expansive dash were impeccably avant-garde. And, the single-spoke steering-wheel would have worked in a lunar landing module! Exterior lines, too, were ahead of the game. The SM's launch-date, though, proved to be its undoing. Released in 1970, it was just in time for the '73 oil crisis! With a lowish 18mpg fuel economy, the SM was dead in the water from that point on. Which was doubly sad - because, until then, SM business had been brisk. French drivers had gorged on the first luxury GT car since the Facel Vega Facel II. Citroën did what they could to stem the tide, sales-wise. Subsequently, an SM model was offered with a 3-litre injected engine. Plus, optional auto transmission. All that incurred an upwardly-revised price tag, of course. If Citroën hoped those with deep pockets would save the day, it was not to be. When the plug was finally pulled - in '75 - just shy of 13,000 SMs had been sold. Not great - for one of the world's leading manufacturers. Shame, really - since, for a few short years, the Citroën SM showcased European collaboration at its best. An exquisite mix of French/Italian style and technology!

Lotus Elan Sprint

Lotus Elan Sprint 1970s British classic sports car

The Elan was launched in '62. Lotus - based at Hethel, in Norfolk, England - instantly joined the ranks of quality sports car manufacturers. Petite though 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 short, Lotus had hit the automotive jackpot!

The Elan's power was produced by a twin-cam in-line four. The Ford motor 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. The frame was steel backbone. Suspension featured 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.

Lotus' Elan Sprint arrived in '71. As its name suggested, it took the standard Elan's performance up a gear. Key to that was the Sprint's big-valve cylinder head. It had been expertly fettled by Tony Rudd. He and his team upped the output by 25% - to 126bhp. The new motor was more oil-tight, too - and quieter. It was attached to a set of Weber carburettors. The Sprint marked a turning-point. From then on, Lotus began to move more up-market. In so doing, it slid ever further from its kit-car roots. The Elan remained in production for ten or so years. During that time, it helped turn Lotus into a serious player in the sports car business!

BMW 2002 Turbo

BMW 2002 Turbo 1970s German classic sports car

Sadly, the BMW 2002 Turbo was not a success in the showrooms. To be fair, the timing of its launch could not have been worse. In '73, petrol-pump prices almost doubled - because of the OAPEC fuel crisis. Motorists panicked. 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 economic circumstances, the car could have been a 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. To that end, the Turbo's top speed stat of 130mph was bang on the automotive money. Peak output was 170bhp. The 2-litre 4-cylinder engine was fuel-injected. And was kitted out with a KKK turbocharger. At low to medium revs, there was little to split the Turbo and standard version 2002. That all changed, though, at 4,500rpm. When the boost kicked in, you knew about it. Thankfully, the Turbo had been prepped for the extra stress. It had beefier driveshafts and bearings than standard. Suspension spring rates were wound up. Bilstein dampers were fitted at the back. Anti-roll bars were fitted, fore and aft. Wheels were fat Mahle alloys - shod with Michelin XWX rubber. The front two were stopped by 4-pot ventilated disc brakes. Big drums brought up the rear.

The Turbo's gleaming paint-job - and racy decals - dazzled onlookers. Seventies chic, so to speak. The interior, too, was cut from the same glam cloth. Bucket seats were a snug fit. A bright-red instrument fascia focused attention. The turbo-boost gauge sat in the middle of the dash. A thick-rimmed 3-spoke sports steering-wheel topped it all off. Boy racer style, all the way. BMW's 2002 Turbo was the right car - at the wrong time. Ultimately, it could not get enough of what it needed most. The crippling cost of petrol, at the time, meant it simply could not survive!

Porsche 928

Porsche 928 1970s German classic sports car

The Porsche 928 was the first front-engined car the firm produced. Up to that point, Porsche motors had been rear-mounted. The exception to that rule was the 924 - though that was almost as much Audi as Porsche. In the Seventies, the 928 was sold 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 loved. Porsche took the hint. They started targeting the 928 solely at the GT market.

The landmark front-mounted motor was a 4.5-litre V8. Built in Germany, it was smooth, tractable and beautifully-engineered. But - in some drivers' eyes - it had a flaw. It was not a 911! In its first iteration, the 928 pulled a top speed of 143mph. That climbed to 171, in the course of its run. Certainly, not to be sniffed at. But, also not enough to keep up with a 911. Not in a specification race, at any rate! The 928's gearbox was a 4-speed, rear-mounted manual - or, a 5-speed Mercedes automatic. Output was 240bhp. The 928S upped it to 300.

Styling-wise, the 928 was on seriously solid ground. Its profile, in particular, was pure coupé. The interior, too, was more than impressive. Its most striking feature was the fascia - which visually echoed the steering-wheel. It was a cosseting cabin, in every respect. On top of that, the 928's ride and handling were never less than reassuring. Over time, there would be S4, GT and GTS versions of the car. Each of them ushered in incremental improvements. The 928, then, was a significant addition to the Porsche roster. Even if, for some, it would never be in the same league as the 911. Saying that, nor would any other car!

Caterham 7

Caterham 7 1970s British classic sports car

The Caterham 7 began life as the Lotus 7. Colin Chapman - boss of the latter marque - claimed to have built the prototype in a weekend, in '57. Lotus manufactured the Seven for fifteen years. It was marketed through Caterham Cars - run by Graham Nearns. In '73, Lotus stopped making the 7. The rights for it passed to Caterham. They set about building a plastic-bodied Series 4 Seven. Encountering issues with the new material, however, Nearns and his team went back to the aluminium-bodied Series 3 model.

Caterham were committed to the 'pure driving experience'. Key to that was light weight - always a top priority for Chapman, too. To that end, the 7's nose cone and wings were glass-fibre. As said, the light aluminium body was already in situ. Beneath, sat a tubular steel chassis. The 7's rear axles had been sourced from Ford and Morris - though Caterham would later install a De Dion-based set-up. Caterham kept faith with Lotus' Twin Cam motor. The 126bhp engine was spot-on ... until stocks ran out. Ford duly did the engine honours. Tuning options came in the form of GT, Sprint and Supersprint. Subsequently, more power was provided by a Cosworth BDA motor. And still more, by a Vauxhall 2.0-litre - producing 175bhp. From '91 onwards, Caterhams came with Rover K-Series engines. There was a choice of 1.4 and 1.4 Supersport - or, 1.6 and 1.6 Supersport - units.

The top-of-the-range Seven was the JPE - Jonathan Palmer Evolution - version. Named after the F1 driver who helped develop it, the JPE encapsulated the Caterham creed. Technically a roadster, its race-spec 250bhp engine catapulted it to 150mph. It hit 60 in less than 3.5s. The JPE 7 could out-drag a Ferrari F40 - right up to 100mph. Which made it the fastest-accelerating car in the world, at the time. With no windscreen - and wings made from carbon-fibre - the JPE 7 had 'track-day' written all over it. So, the Caterham 7 was - as Colin Chapman had made sure - a one-stop shop for automotive exhilaration!

Pontiac Firebird

Pontiac Firebird 1970s American classic muscle car

The Pontiac Firebird flew onto the American car scene in February, '67. Released at the same time as GM's Chevrolet Camaro, they were two peas from the same 'pony car' pod. The most iconic early 'Bird was the '69 Trans Am. The 'Trans-American' was a road race - organised by The Sports Car Club of America. The Pontiac Trans Am was a star turn. Complete with rear spoiler, beefed-up chassis and Ram Air power delivery, it was a muscle car par excellence. Blue and white livery set it off to a tee. Its split-grille nose became the stuff of legend. Indeed, the Firebird would be a flagship for the Pontiac brand for years to come.

The Firebird entered its second phase in 1970. Restyled for the new decade, it was in the Seventies that the car came into its own. In '78 alone, Pontiac sold more than 93,000 Trans Ams. Customers could choose one of three models - standard, luxury Esprit or Formula. For sure, the Firebird was spreading its wings. In fact, it was lucky to have fledged at all. GM considered pulling the plug on the Firebird in '72. They were not convinced that performance cars were the way to go. Thankfully, the Firebird was given the benefit of the doubt. As things turned out, GM would be well-rewarded for their faith in the Firebird.

A third generation of Firebirds arrived in the Eighties. Its charismatic, but time-worn nose had had plastic surgery. It was now more finely-chiselled - and sported cowled headlamps. '87's GTA version featured a 350 cu in V8 engine. Top-of-the-range as it was, the GTA was good for 125mph. It hit 60 in just 5.4s. Design-wise, though, the Firebird was starting to look its age - especially parked next to hot foreign competition. As a result, sales suffered. So, Nineties Firebirds were given a stylistic face-lift. No ravages of time, though, could detract from the glamour of the early years. One of the all-time great American automobiles, the Pontiac Firebird blazed a phoenix-like trail. Whatever automotive fashion dished out, it somehow always rose from the ashes!

Maserati Khamsin

Maserati Khamsin 1970s Italian classic sports car

The Maserati Khamsin was the latest in a line of things automotive to reference the weather. Le Mans has a straight named after the 'mistral' - the cold wind, blowing through southern France. Ford's 'Zephyr' namechecked a gentle breeze - which has meandered through many a piece of poetry over the years. Another car, too, played upon the ethereal theme. The Khamsin was a scorching gust of air, which seared through Egypt each summer. Maserati brought in Marcello Gandini - of design house Bertone - to draft the Khamsin's super-sharp shape. Its fluid bodywork lines were fabricated from steel. Spanning the back was a glass panel - inside which, tail-lights sat in suspended animation.

The Khamsin was a technological tour de force. Its four-cam V8 engine abutted the bulkhead. Front-engined though it was - with a full tank of gas, weight distribution was 50/50. The motor was an all-alloy marvel. Its 320bhp gave a top speed of 153mph. Torque output was 354lb/ft - at 4,000rpm. The V8's powerband stretched from 800-5,500rpm.

When the Khamsin entered production - in '74 - Citroën were still a part of Maserati. A year later - and they were gone. The Khamsin, though, felt the full hydraulic force of the French giant. The steering, brakes and clutch - plus, pop-up headlights and driver's seat adjustment - were all Citroën-controlled. Rear suspension was double-wishbone. Only the Khamsin's dashboard let the design side down a tad. Its haphazard array of dials and switches clashed with the simple elegance of the exterior. Unveiled at the '72 Paris Show, the new Maserati was as stylish as you like. Yet, it was also practical. The huge torque reserves of its V8 powerplant further boosted its already abundant carrying capabilities. And, on top of all of that - as its name implied - the Maserati Khamsin went like the wind!

Fiat 130 Coupé

Fiat 130 Coupe 1970s Italian classic car

When Pininfarina consider a design one of the best they ever did, you know it was a bit special! That was the case with the Fiat 130 Coupé. The simplicity of its styling was its strength. The 130 said it all in just a few clean lines. They gave it gravitas - as befitted a first-rate luxury car. Sadly, though - in terms of sales - Fiat simply did not have the cachet of, say, a BMW or Mercedes.

The 130 Coupé's imposing exterior was matched by the opulence within. Velour seats were drawing-room dapper. Veneer door cappings blended with electric windows. There were dual-tone town and country horns. Plus, acres of space for four well-heeled occupants. Comfort was the Coupé's stock-in-trade. Power steering pampered the driver. And for the passengers, independent suspension provided a smooth and stress-free ride.

Performance-wise, the 130 was no slouch. Top speed was 118mph. A 3.2-litre V6 gave 165bhp. Torque was plentiful. The 'box was a Borg-Warner 3-speed auto - with a 5-speed manual available. Mechanically, the 130 was solid, sound and dependable. But, it was aesthetically that the 130 shone. Classic Italian styling cues were written all over it. Commercially, though, the car was hard done by. Fiat, of course, has a fine and prestigious back catalogue. But - had it been built by a bigger, more 'luxurious' brand - the Fiat 130 Coupé would have received more of the plaudits it deserved.

Chevrolet Camaro

Chevrolet Camaro 1970s American classic muscle car

The Chevrolet Camaro was born out of necessity. Sales of the Ford Mustang were going through the roof. GM needed a fix for that - and fast! Rolling to the rescue came the Camaro. Key to its success was its 'Coke bottle' styling - by Bill Mitchell. The Z28, especially - with its duck-tail rear spoiler - rivalled the Mustang for glamour. GM was back on track. 220,000 Camaros were shifted - in the first year alone. Buyers had a choice of V6 or V8 engine - as well as a variety of tuning options. The most uncompromising package was the SS (Super Sport). Less extreme - and more popular - was the RS (Rallye Sport). These are now the most collectible Camaros.

The Seventies ushered in an all-new Camaro. It featured monocoque construction. The new model's looks may not have been as exotic as the original - but it still stacked up as a cohesive design. Crucially, it was slimmer than the new Mustangs. Sales of '70s Camaros peaked at close to 2,000,000. GM were happy bunnies again. Though down on power compared to the '60s versions, it was clear that Stateside motorists had taken the Camaro to their hearts. When a car starts to symbolise 'the American dream', things are definitely on the up!

They say competition improves the breed. The Camaro was a case in point. Had it not had the Mustang as a rival, it is unlikely the Camaro would have soared to the heights it did. In the end, it became a car which was difficult to fault. With a top-spec speed of 125mph, performance was sorted. Design-wise, it was out of the top drawer. In short, it got just about everything right. The Mustang, not so much. It rather lost its automotive mojo, over time. While the pony car developed a paunch, the Camaro kept a solid six-pack. Ultimately, of course, both were great American automobiles. Stone-cold classics of their muscle car kind. Some say the Chevrolet Camaro got it on points. If so, it was because it had more styling stamina in its tank, as the years went by.

De Tomaso Pantera

De Tomaso Pantera 1970s Italian classic supercar

Elvis Presley shot his De Tomaso Pantera - when it would not start! 'Pantera' is Italian for panther. To be fair to Presley, he was far from the only owner to lose patience with the car. The Pantera did have a bit of a 'rep'. Build quality - or the lack of it - was a topic which came up a lot. Mainly, in terms of rust and overheating. Then again, 10,000 Panteras were built. They must have had their good points, surely?

Ghia is one of the most illustrious names in coachbuilding. The firm was owned by Alejandro De Tomaso. He was an Argentinian business magnate, who had moved to Italy - home to the design icon. So revered was Ghia that Ford of North America sought to acquire it. De Tomaso did a deal with them. He sold them the rights to Ghia - in return for their distribution of the new Pantera. Ford, of course, had a huge US dealership network. Fittingly, the Pantera was powered by a 5.8-litre Ford V8. The automotive giant signed up to the deal. Not the wisest move, as it turned out. At first, things looked good. In short order, Ford shifted 4,000 units. But then the rot set in. Literally, in some cases! Before long, the Pantera became a liability. Ford were snowed under by customer complaints. By '74, they had had enough. Time was called on any more imports.

But - as indicated by the number of cars made - it was not all bad. The Pantera's top speed, for example, was a more than acceptable 160mph. Handling was excellent - in part on account of its mid-mounted engine. And should anything go wrong with that engine, breakers' yards were full of Ford V8s. As for the car's styling - it was certainly striking! De Tomaso was a maverick. Before the Pantera, he had overseen the Vallelunga and Mangusta. They, too, were one-of-a-kind cars. Later in his career, De Tomaso took over the reins at Maserati and Innocenti. The Pantera stayed in production for 25 years. That suggests that - for all its flaws - the De Tomaso Pantera had a good side. As for Elvis taking a potshot at his ... he was probably just having a bad day!

Lotus Esprit S1

Lotus Esprit S1 1970s British classic supercar

The Lotus Esprit S1 was the product of a more than fertile mind. 'Genius' is not a word bandied about in the car world so much as in certain other sectors. Most notably, Art and Science. But, automotive design straddles both disciplines. Someone in motoring to whom the tag has been applied is Colin Chapman - founder of Lotus Cars. Chapman was as enigmatic as they come. He could also be controversial - in a way only the seriously single-minded can be. What was never in doubt was that Chapman lived for Lotus. And for cars like the Esprit.

The Esprit S1 prototype was styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro. It was a futuristic fantasy … albeit, one built in rural Norfolk! Hethel has long been the home of Lotus - both physically and spiritually. Technologically, the Esprit was impressive. Its 2-litre 4-cylinder engine produced 160bhp in European spec. Its central location spread out the mass loads - helping the car handle. A Lotus maxim was 'Performance through light weight'. To that end, its bodywork 'wedge' was made from glass-fibre.

Chapman's mission statement was to create cars he himself would want to own. A supercar of its day, the Esprit was nothing if not head-turning. Styling-wise, it summed up the Seventies ... teetering, as it did, on the brink of kitsch - but backing up in the nick of time. The Lotus Esprit S1 was glamorous, mercurial - and an all-round class act. Just like Colin Chapman, in fact!