Showing posts with label Classic British Sports Cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Classic British Sports 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!

Jaguar E-Type

Jaguar E-Type 1960s British classic sports car

The Jaguar E-Type is one of the most recognisable sports cars of all time. Logically enough, its shell was derived from the D-Type. A production racer, par excellence, the D-Type had been a multiple Le Mans 24 Hours winner. In large part, that was due to its slippery shape. Like its forebear, the E-Type cleaved quickly through air. After all, it pretty much wrote the book on long, low and sleek. Road-holding was also a forte. Notwithstanding its cross-ply tyres being Kate Moss thin, hard cornering induced nary a wobble. The E-Type was a technological trendsetter. Its unibody construction helped make it lighter and more robust than the competition. Its disc brakes - and all-round independent suspension set-up - made it safer and more agile. A rack-and-pinion steering system only ramped up the car's smiles per mile quotient.

The E-Type was a Sixties icon. Anyone who was anyone wanted one … as well as many who were not. Rock stars and footballers were especially susceptible to its charms. The E-Type, though, transcended celebrity. When exhibited at NY's Museum of Modern Art, it became a design classic in its own right. Malcolm Sayer was the man who had drawn such illustrious bodywork. Built in Coventry, England, E-Type production lasted from '61 to '75. On the day of its launch, no less a critic than Enzo Ferrari described it as 'the most beautiful car ever made'. A string of prestigious automotive publications found themselves agreeing with him. Doubtless, MoMA had taken note.

E-Type power was provided by Jaguar's 3.8-litre XK engine. Though a bit long in the tooth, even then, the venerable motor could still pack a punch. The gracefully rising contours of the E-Type's bonnet were practical - as well as aesthetic. They were there, first and foremost, to accommodate the dimensions of the XK. The resulting top speed was around 150mph. 0-65 mph came up in less than 7s. The Jaguar E-Type, then, merged cooler than cool lines with prodigious poke. A shortlist of items defining 'Swinging London' would simply have to include the 'E-Type Jag', darling!

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!

Aston Martin DB5

Aston Martin DB5 1960s British classic sports car

The Aston Martin DB5 was a blue-blooded aristocrat. The member of society's upper tier with whom the car is most associated is, of course, James Bond. For, the DB5 played a starring rĂ´le in Goldfinger. Indeed, it was unthinkable that '007' would have driven anything else! And, when Bond was in the countryside - recuperating from the rigours of defending the Western world - he would have been seen in a 'shooting-brake' DB5. Just 12 of these rarefied estate cars were built. Now, that is exclusivity, Miss Moneypenny!

At the heart of the Aston's allure was its beautiful bodywork. Alloy panels came courtesy of Touring - the illustrious Italian design house. A network of minimalist tubing made up a skeletal frame. On that was laid the car's finely-chiselled outer skin. Flared-in headlights were a fashionable feature. They also helped the DB5's aerodynamics. A top speed of 140mph said it all. If you needed an extra 10mph on top of that, a tuned Vantage engine was always an option. The 4/5-speed ZF transmission was eminently tractable. Solid disc brakes were fitted all round.

So, the DB5 mixed cutting edge technology with sought-after styling. It added its own take to decades of impeccably-wrought Aston craftsmanship. It was as suave and sophisticated as cars get. It had 'licensed to kill' looks. And its 4-litre straight-6 engine had performance to match. 282bhp was on free-flowing tap … shaken, but not stirred, of course! 'DB' stood for David Brown. And his firm's reputation now soared to new heights. After all, the Aston Martin DB5 was James Bond's personal transport. And it does not come much classier than that!