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

AMC AMX

AMC AMX 1960s American classic muscle car

To all intents and purposes, the AMX was a stripped-down AMC Javelin. It was a foot shorter - and weighed a lot less. On its release - in February '68 - it was the sole US 2-seater sports car. It stayed in production until '74. If AMC stood for American Motors Corporation, AMX did the same for American Motors eXperimental.

When a car sets 106 speed records, you know you are onto something. When it does so in a month, you know you have hit pay dirt! So it was when Craig Breedlove got behind the wheel of an AMX, shortly after its launch. Unsurprisingly, AMC saw fit to mark his success - with 50 red, white and blue AMX Breedlove specials. Rewind to the real world, and top speed for the AMX roadster was 120mph. The SS version - complete with a 390ci V8 - made at least 340bhp, and probably a whole lot more. Muscle car stats at the time tended to be understated. Built with one eye on the drag strip, just 50 SSs were sold. Partly, that was because its price was supercharged, as well as its power! If you needed more muscle from a standard AMX, way to go was a Go Pack. It included a bigger 401ci V8 motor. Output duly climbed to 330bhp. The Go Pack also provided uprated brakes, suspension and wheels/tyres.

By '71, though, the AMX's hot shot days were numbered. At that point, the top-of-the-range Javelin ruled AMC's roost. Come '74 - and the end of its run - its superstar status was substantially reduced. In its day, though, the AMX was more muscular than most. And certainly more modish. Saying that, the Mustang gave it a run for its money in the stylishness stakes!

Fiat 508S Balilla Sport

Fiat 508S Balilla Sport 1930s Italian classic sports car

In commercial terms, at least, the Fiat 508S Balilla Sport had much in common with the VW Beetle. As with the Volkswagen - or, people's car - the Balilla was designed to be transport for the masses. Saying that, it was coachbuilt in Turin, Italy - at Fiat HQ. So, it went without saying that it was pleasing on the eye.

Gianni Agnelli was head of Fiat. Unsurprisingly, his core objective for the Balilla range was that it sell well. Agnelli was, after all, one of the wealthiest Italians who has ever lived. In line with his strategy, the Balilla was competitively-priced. 10,800 lire, to be precise. The first model's unique selling point was that it had three gears. And - with hydraulic braking also part of the package - it did indeed fly out of the showrooms. In its five-year run, 114,000 Balillas were sold. That smashed Italian automotive sales records. And it was not just Italy that caught the Balilla bug. Other parts of Europe also succumbed. Production lines started in the UK, France and Poland. Indeed, the French firm Simca was founded to flog the new Fiat.

The style-laden Balilla 508 was released in '34. And the 508S Sport had speed, too, on its side. Its four-cylinder engine made 36bhp - at 4,400rpm. Top speed from the 995cc side-valve set-up was 110km/h. More than enough to sweep a young lady off her feet! So long as you did not forget your petrol money. The Balilla Sport drank around 9.5 litres/100km. For Fiat, then - and Gianni Agnelli - it was mission accomplished. The 508 series did more than make its mark - it became the stuff of legend. In the Thirties, the 508S Balilla Sport was mass marketing big business. Like the team behind the VW Beetle, Fiat got its sales sums spot-on!

Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta SWB

Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta SWB 1960s Italian classic sports car

The Ferrari 250 GT was the base model for the most expensive car ever made. That was the Ferrari 250 GTO which sold at a Sotheby's auction for silly money. Actually, $48.4m - in California, in 2018. It is easy to see where the GTO got its chops from. In the case of the Berlinetta, bodywork was by Scaglietti. He styled the 250 GT-based competition cars - and their sports siblings. The 'short wheelbase' SWB, for instance, fell within his remit. Pininfarina helped sort less race-oriented versions of the 250 GT - like the 'long wheelbase' LWB. Felice Boano - celebrated Italian coachbuilder - likewise contributed to the GT's design.

The Berlinetta was launched in '61. It was not just its looks that came out of thè top drawer. Its 3.0-litre V12 motor was also hand-crafted. The man responsible for it - Gioacchino Colombo - was an industrial designer at 14. When most young men his age were gluing pictures of cars to bedroom walls, Colombo was engineering them. Suffice it to say, then, he was a child prodigy. At one point, he drafted a supercharger for homework - as you do. Subsequently, it was shown to Alfa Romeo. Alfa must have graded it A+, since he was offered a job on the strength of it. Several engines later, Colombo was approached by one Enzo Ferrari. The maestro was managing Alfa's race department, at the time. By then, Colombo was aged 34.

When Enzo set up his own car company, Colombo was one of his first hires. The motor man arrived in Modena in '45. Whereupon, he set about adding his own input to the 250 GT project. With such a wealth of design talent dedicated to it, it is little wonder the GT soared to the heights it did. In short, Ferrari's 250 GT Berlinetta SWB was as iconic as a sports car gets. Apart from the Ferrari 250 GTO, of course. Sorry, Sotheby's!

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!

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!

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!

Daimler SP250 Dart

Daimler SP250 Dart 1950s British classic sports car

When first seen - at the '59 NY Motor Show - the Daimler Dart was derided as an ugly duckling. The consensus was that the fins looked dated, the headlamps bug-eyed - and the grille a bit ... well, fishy! Over time, though, qualms over the SP250's styling subsided. Daimler was on a downswing in the late Fifties. New management sought to remedy that - by emulating Jaguar, Triumph and MG. Daimler, too, would produce a sports car for the American market. The potential problem was that Daimler lacked experience with sports cars. Indeed, the Dart was the only one the marque made. To get the ball rolling, it used the chassis and suspension set-up from the Triumph TR3. After that, Daimler turned to the bodywork. Which is when things started to go awry. The glassfibre shell Daimler designed seemed fine. Until the going got a bit rough - at which point the doors were liable to fly open! The writing was on the wall for the Dart as early as 1960. Jaguar then took over the SP250 project. Sir William Lyons was the new CEO. As well as being a top-flight manager, he was a stylist of high repute. Sadly, Lyons and the Dart did not see eye to eye. Its 'unwieldy' form upset his sensibilities. One of the two had to go. It would not be Lyons.

Prior to the Jaguar takeover, Edward Turner was managing director at Daimler. Before that, he had worked at Triumph - in its motorcycle division. His engine design work there had achieved widespread acclaim. Indeed, in the bike world, he was legendary. Some of that had rubbed off on the Dart. Indeed - courtesy of Turner - its motor was pretty much flawless. Torquey but smooth, it catapulted the lightweight Dart to a top speed of 125mph. 0-60 took 9.5s. The engine's hemispherical combustion chambers - and twin SU carburettors - were key to its performance. Plus, the SP250 returned a respectable 25mpg. Best of both worlds, basically. Brakes-wise, a full set of Dunlop discs were fitted.

In a bid to drive up US sales, attempts were made to upgrade the Dart. It was given a stiffer chassis and bumpers - as well as a few more creature comforts than it had previously provided. From a marketing perspective, the SP250 was pitched between the cheaper Triumph TR and MGs - and the more expensive Jaguar XK150. 2,644 SP250s were built. Production ceased in '64. The ugly duckling never did morph into a graceful swan. But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder - and Daimler Dart fans loved it all the same!

Austin-Healey 3000 MkIII

Austin-Healey 3000 MkIII 1960s British classic sports car

The Austin-Healey 3000 MkIII is a seriously iconic British sports car. One of the legendary 'big Healeys', it was made in the Midlands, England. Bodies were built by Jensen - in West Bromwich. Final assembly took place in MG's Abingdon factory. First of the breed was the Healey 100. It recycled the 4-cylinder engine from the Austin Atlantic. But it was when a 6-pot motor was lowered into the 3000 model, that the Healey range really sprang into life.

The 3000 MkI arrived in '59. In design terms, it was not too different from what had gone before. It was a sizeable, stylish 2-seater. The game-changer was beneath the bonnet. The six-cylinder engine kicked out 124bhp. Top speed was 114mph. To cope with the extra horsepower, robust front disc brakes had been fitted. Come the 3000 MkII version, and output had been upped to 132bhp. That was largely courtesy of triple SU carburettors. '64's MkIII racheted up power still further - to 148bhp. The speed-needle now flickered at over 120mph. At that point, the motorsport world sat up and took notice. Before long, the Healey roadster had morphed into a works rally car ... and a highly competitive one, at that.

Visually, the 3000 was notably low-slung. Whilst that certainly looked cool, it did not help the car's rallying cause. On the stages, ground clearance could be suspect. As automotive design, though, the MkIII was a triumph ... as it were! Its dramatic grille - and subtly sloping lines - were a joy to behold. Its wire wheels were web-like works of art. The curved windscreen - and neatly-folding hood - were stylish embellishments. The 3000's rear-end was as shapely as it gets. Distinctly British though it was, the MkIII was built primarily for the American market. Ironically, it was strict Stateside safety regulations that brought about its demise. Production stopped in '67. By then, though, the Austin-Healey 3000 MkIII was woven into the fabric of moody, muscular sports cars. Wonder if Marlon Brando ever drove one!

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!

DeLorean DMC-12

DeLorean DMC-12 1980s British sports car

On the design board at least, the DeLorean DMC-12 ticked all the right boxes. Namely, a V6 motor by Peugeot/Renault, a chassis by Lotus and bodywork design by Giugiaro. For a roadster, it does not get much better than that. To say the least, it was a highly desirable blend of styling and functionality. But, of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And - in the case of the DMC-12 - the automotive ingredients simply did not mix. In terms of weight distribution, it did not help that the DMC was rear-engined. For all of its expertise, Lotus struggled to optimise handling. And, if they could not do it, no one could. In a straight line, however, things were spot-on. A top speed of 130mph testified to that. Another suspect part of the DMC package was its 'gull-wing' doors. Sure, they looked great. But, for $25,000, you expected them to be watertight ... whatever the weather! Deficiencies, though, in DMC's door department meant that was not always the way. Plus - from an emergency services point of view - prising gull-wing doors apart could be a problem. It was not long, then, before the first cracks in the DeLorean plans appeared.

It had all started so swimmingly. John Z DeLorean was something of a whizz-kid, during his time at GM. He conceived the DMC-12 as a player in the realm of upmarket supercars. To make that happen, he would need to source serious funding. The UK looked like his best bet. He was strongly encouraged to start up in Northern Ireland - by the British government, no less. The region badly needed a boost. DeLorean seemed like the ideal man. There was no stinting on incentives. Grants and loans totalled £80m - in early '80s money.

DeLorean's dream lasted just two years. In 1980, the sky was the limit. By '82, things had crashed back to earth. Improprieties were alleged. Indeed, DeLorean was arrested - on drug trafficking charges. Though he was subsequently cleared, it was not the best by way of PR! The whole sorry episode was the stuff of history - political, as well as automotive. Nine O'Clock News sagas did not get any more gripping! John DeLorean had certainly made his mark on the world. As for his car, it had fallen short of expectations - dismally short. In different circumstances, though, the DeLorean DMC-12 could now be considered a classic supercar ... of the sort its creator so desperately craved!

BMW 507

BMW 507 1950s German classic sports car

The BMW 507 was styled by Albrecht von Goertz. He was a German aristocrat - who owned an American industrial design agency. Goertz took the big box-section chassis of the BMW saloon car - and shortened it. The result was a more than tidy 2-seater. The 507 was an unabashed attempt to crack the American glamour market. Post-war, BMW had watched their brand-image slide into mediocrity. It was high time the great German manufacturer raised its profile again. The 507 was supposed to do just that. It was not to be. Only 253 BMW 507s were sold. To all intents and purposes, the 507 was automotive haute couture. But - as in the fashion industry - it costs gargantuan amounts to produce. The Second World War was not long gone. For most motorists, the 507 simply was not affordable.

The 507 got its well-heeled occupants from A to B with a minimum of fuss. Not that it could not push on, if required. Should you have been a tad late for the opera, for instance, a firm brogue on the go pedal would definitely get you there for curtain up. The 3-litre V8 engine gave 160bhp. That translated to 140mph, flat out. 0-60 came up in 9s. The sounds emitted from the 507's twin rear pipes were music to the ears. Even at speed, its ride was unflustered. Front and rear torsion-bar suspension saw to that.

The 507's detailing was exquisite. And not just the beautiful BMW badge. The cross-hatched heat-vents were a notable touch. They were matched by the car's kidney-shaped grille - a trademark BMW feature. The 507's front-end was almost shark-like - courtesy of its stylishly protruding nose. The long, flowing bonnet-line was complemented by a cute stub-tail. The 507 stayed in production for just four years. Consummately-crafted, it mated motoring and fine art. Ultimately, the 507 cost BMW more than it recouped. But then, what price do you put on perfection?

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!

Maserati Bora

Maserati Bora 1970s Italian classic supercar

The Bora was Maserati's response to the Lamborghini Miura. It matched the latter's mid-engined layout. Ferrari's Berlinetta Boxer also joined the mid-engined party. But, it arrived late. The Bora beat the Boxer to it by a couple of years. The Bora was launched in '71 - and the Boxer in '73. The name of the game for the mid-engined cars was handling. In Maserati's case, the Bora was an improvement on the Ghibli's front-mounted motor. Now they had a car which could 'handle' however much horsepower was thrown at it. And the Bora produced plenty of it. Its 4.7-litre Maserati V8 was a motor of a certain age, by that point. Indeed, it now had twelve years on the clock. But - with 310bhp on tap - drivers were not much fussed about its timeline. The Bora was good for 175mph. That left many a motor half its age trailing in its wake!

The Bora was styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Previously employed by Ghia, he was now in his own studio. It went by the name of Italdesign. The full creative force of the firm was brought to bear on the Bora. Elegantly space-age, the car radiated Seventies chic. In other words - finesse and excess, in equal measure.

In engineering terms, too, the Bora exuded class. Even with its V8 heart beating for all it was worth, cockpit noise levels were almost eerily low. That had a lot to do with Citroën - who now controlled Maserati. They brought a host of hydraulic parts to the Bora table. Its brakes, pedals, seats and steering-column were precision-fitted by the French firm. The Bora was Maserati's flagship model - so, equipment levels were high. In the whole of its nine-year run, the sole modification Maserati made was a slight engine enlargement, in '76. Throughout that time - in true Italian style - the Bora delivered a bravura blend of power and panache!

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!

Toyota 2000GT

Toyota 2000GT 1960s Japanese classic sports car

The Toyota 2000GT was designed by Graf Goertz - an industrial design firm, based in New York. The GT's styling was clearly influenced by the Jaguar E-Type. The lines of its bodywork were off-the-dial subtle. That was a mixed blessing. While immensely pleasing on the eye, manufacturing costs soared. Just 337 GTs would be built. As a result, the car is now highly sought-after. To be fair, the GT was intended to be a loss leader. That said, Toyota did not intend the losses to be as large as they became. For all that, when the 2000GT prototype appeared - at the '65 Tokyo Show - Toyota's brand-image sky-rocketed!

The 2000GT's speed matched its staggering good looks. A twin-cam straight-six engine developed 150bhp. Top whack was 135mph. The motor's hemi-head set-up featured straight-through ports - and large valves. Suffice to say, it took deep breaths! On the inlet side were two double-throated Mikuni/Solex carbs. The engine was connected to a five-speed gearbox. Mercifully, high-grade disc brakes were fitted all round. The backbone chassis came with a full set of wishbones. Options for the final drive ratio were duly provided.

Crucially, the 2000GT failed to crack the States. A mere 63 American drivers saw fit to buy one. That was due, in large part, to its relatively high price tag. It far exceeded that of both the Porsche 911 and, indeed, E-Type Jag. In a desperate bid to placate the American market, Toyota went on to produce no less than nine more versions of the GT. To a car, they were more conservatively turned out than the original. As a bonus, they came complete with air conditioning and optional auto transmission. To no avail - as US sales continued to stagnate. Nonetheless, the Toyota 2000GT - along with the Datsun 240Z - were the strongest of signals to the sports car world that the Japanese were coming!

Porsche 356

Porsche 356 1940s German classic sports car

The Porsche 356 was the start of a design dynasty. Ferdinand Porsche opened his studio in '31. It would be a further fifteen years before the first Porsche production car. When it arrived, it was no coincidence that the 356 was similar to the VW Beetle. Dr Porsche had penned that car, too. The 356's compact and rounded lines oozed understated charm. In the Fifties, it was the small - but perfectly-formed - 356 which cemented Porsche in the public eye. Right up until '65, in fact - when the Porsche 911 hit centre stage.

For the first four years, the 956 was manufactured in Austria. It was fitted with a flat-four push-rod engine. Rear-mounted - and topped off with a cute grille - the air-cooled motor kept time in pleasingly pulsating fashion. With a capacity of just 1,100cc, it made a mere 40bhp. Top speed was 87mph - pretty good, considering. Suspension was via trailing-link up front - and high-pivot swing axle at the rear. The gearbox was a 4-speed affair. The 356's split windscreen was the most notable design flourish.

The Porsche 356A model was released in '55 - in Germany. Bodywork-wise, it was less rotund than the first version. The new car came with a curved, one-piece screen. Front suspension and steering were revised. A bigger engine had been installed. 1,600cc was a half-litre up on the original. 356 B and C models duly followed. Roadsters, a Karmann coupé, and the Super 75 and Super 90 continued to uprate the technical spec. There was also a 356 Carrera. Indeed, even after the 911 series took over the Porsche reins, the 912 still had a foot in both camps. It was powered by a 356 engine - in a 911 shell. In terms of its legacy, then, the Porsche 356 was pretty pivotal to the Stuttgart marque!

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!

Lotus Elite

Lotus Elite 1950s British classic sports car

The Lotus Elite is widely regarded as one of the most stylish cars the firm made. Primarily, that was down to Peter Kirwan Taylor. Though not a leading light in the automotive design field at the time, Lotus put their faith in him - and it was rewarded. Launched in '59 - along with the Mini and Jaguar MKII - the Elite was produced for four years. In the course of that time, it became one of the iconic British sports cars. As always - with Colin Chapman at the helm - light weight was key. With that in mind, the Elite was the first car to be built on a glass-fibre monocoque chassis. That helped it reach a top speed of 130mph. Aerodynamic lines assisted. The Elite was agile, too. Few sports cars could hold a candle to it through corners!

Power was provided by an overhead-cam Coventry Climax motor. When kitted out with a single carburettor, it delivered 71bhp. A twin-carb set-up increased that to 83bhp. A 4-speed gearbox came courtesy of BMC. The SE version would be fitted with a close-ratio, 5-speed ZF 'box. Power increased to 105bhp. The Elite was economical, though - as a result of its light weight. As impressive as the Elite's straight-line speed, was its handling. The car was suspended by coil-spring dampers at the front - and Chapman struts (modified MacPherson struts) at the rear. Steering was by rack-and-pinion. The full complement of high-grade disc brakes came as standard. Of more questionable quality were the windows. While pleasing on the eye, their unique profile meant they were difficult to wind down fully. Not what you wanted, on a hot summer's day!

Generally speaking, though, the Elite did its name justice. In styling terms, it was from the top drawer. The Elite's dashboard, for example, echoed its chic low profile. Nevertheless, there were faults - other than the wind-down windows issue. The car's monocoque - cutting edge, though it was - was prone to noisy vibration. Also, interior décor was somewhat sparse. All things considered, however, the Lotus Elite was a fine example of a top-flight British sports car!