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

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 built in the Midlands, England. Bodies were built by Jensen - based 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 paper, the DeLorean DMC-12 had everything going for it. Specifically, 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!

Ford Sierra Cosworth

Ford Sierra Cosworth 1980s European sports car

The Ford Sierra Cosworth was a performance car for the people. For a start, it was a snip at just £16,000. For that, you got supercar speed and stability - plus, practicality. Ford passed their Sierra shell to tuners Cosworth - based in Northampton, England. And the 'Cossie' was born! Cosworth installed a two-litre twin overhead-camshaft turbo engine. The production car was an 'homologation special' - a certain number needing to be built to allow it to compete in races and rallies. So, such cars are limited-edition by their very nature. Ford's Special Vehicle Engineering department was asked to come up with a competitive Group A car. There were several key components on the SVE's spec-list. Toward the top were a close-ratio 5-speed gearbox, a limited-slip diff and power steering. As well as ABS, anti-roll bars and firmed-up suspension. 4-piston disc brakes were attached to wide alloy wheels.

The Cosworth's body was modified Ford Sierra. Updates included widened wheel arches - and a 'whale-tail' rear spoiler. While the latter increased downforce, it compromised aerodynamics. And was not ideal in cross-winds! Still, if you bought a Cossie to make a statement - and you probably did - the rear aerofoil was spot-on. 'Spirited' drivers praised planted handling - along with fearsome acceleration. Top speed was 149mph.

Of course, the Cossie was a magnet for thieves and joy-riders. Insurance costs sky-rocketed. In time, the tearaways moved on to pastures new. Once rid of its hooligan 'rep', the Cosworth transitioned into performance car respectability. The Sierra Sapphire and 1990's 4x4 version duly followed. A further 16bhp would be coaxed out of the Cossie's 16-valve cylinder-head. In racing, rallying and roadster modes, then, the Ford Sierra Cosworth delivered the goods. Well, not literally!

TVR Griffith

TVR Griffith 1990s British sports car

The seaside town of Blackpool, England, is famous for its Illuminations. Similarly, TVR - the sports car manufacturer, based in the resort - lit up the motoring world. It did so, not with a dazzling display of neon lights - but with the gorgeous Griffith. The new TVR heralded a return to raw V8 power. The TVR brand itself did not need rejuvenating - but the Nineties sports car market did. The Griffith played a pivotal part in that. In five-litre form, the Griffith 500 produced 345bhp. That gave a top speed of 163mph. 0-60 arrived in a tad over 4s. Such fierce acceleration reflected plenty of mid-range poke - as well as gargantuan low-down grunt. The Griffith was inspired by the TVR Tuscan - a pure-bred, blood-and-guts racer. The latter had first appeared in the late Eighties. The iconic TVR Tuscans tore strips out of each other, in a one-make race series. Even TVR chairman Peter Wheeler dived headlong into the high-speed fray. He battled it out with the best of them, in his own racing Tuscan. A fresh take on the company car, as it were!

Design-wise, the Griffith came with a full complement of curves and subtle touches. Most notably, the air ducts - on the bonnet and doors - were cutting edge cute. The interior, too, was impeccably styled. Copious amounts of leather and wood were inlaid with aluminium. Not surprisingly - with all its technical and aesthetic assets - the Griffith sold well.

With its RWD system maxed-out, the Griffith's exhaust note was ear-splitting. With hood down - and revs up - British sports car drivers had never had it so good. The Griffith prototype debuted at 1990's Birmingham NEC Show. To say it wowed onlookers would be understatement. Automotive folklore has it that 350 deposits were stumped up that same day. Which translated to an order every eight minutes! The first production cars swanned into showrooms in '92. The Griffith was designed, developed and built almost exclusively by TVR. Given its relatively small operating scale, that was an astonishing feat. TVR went one step further, though. At £24,802 new, it even managed to keep the Griffith competitively priced!

Caterham 21

Caterham 21 1990s British sports car

The Caterham 21 debuted at the Birmingham Motor Show - in '94. It marked 21 years of Caterham Seven production. Design niggles delayed the launch of the new car for two years. The 21's enhanced equipment levels posed an engineering challenge to Caterham. Respected in the industry though it was, Caterham had not hitherto taken on a car of such complexity. The 21 prototype dazzled show-goers - clad, as it was, in silver-polished aluminium. The production car's finish would be a little more prosaic - standard paint on glass-fibre. The aluminium job, however, could still be had as an extra. The prototype was fitted with a Vauxhall JPE engine. Production models had Rover K-series 1.6-litre motors. There was also a 21 with a VHP - Very High Performance - version of the MGF 1.8-litre mill.

When the 21 did hit the road, it was to great acclaim. Aerodynamics were especially well-sorted. A top speed of 131mph spoke to that. Chassis-wise, the 21 was similar to the 7. The new car thus inherited the impressive handling characteristics of its predecessor. An important way, though, in which the two cars differed, was in terms of practicality. The 7 - while amongst the most exhilarating four-wheelers ever built - was not exactly user-friendly. It was geared pretty much entirely toward the 'pure driving experience'. The 21, though, came with much more in the 'all mod cons' column. So, as an all-round motoring package, it was streets ahead of the Seven.

Caterham passed the 21's styling brief to Iain Robertson. He doubled up as a journalist. Robertson was inspired by the race-bred lines of the Lotus Eleven. The 21's interior was equally well-crafted. Though the cockpit was narrow, wide sills kept it the right side of cramped. Visually, the vertical strip of switches was a deft touch. Caterham limited producton to 200 cars per year. That kept it from biting off more than it could chew. And, of course, there was always the Lotus legacy to consider. The Norfolk marque was the progenitor of the Caterham line. For sure, the 7 had done Lotus proud. The 21, then, upped the number of its talented offspring!

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!

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!

Lancia Fulvia

Lancia Fulvia 1970s Italian classic sports car

The Lancia Fulvia is a full-on automotive legend. An 'homologation special', only 1,180 Fulvias were built - just enough to qualify the car to compete in international rallying. As such, it went on to win two world championships. In standard form, the Fulvia was impressive. But the 1.6 HF model took it to another level. Revered as a roadster, it sported many of the features of a competition car.

The HF was powered by a narrow-angle V4 engine. It produced 115bhp - though a few factory-tuned units upped that number to 132. Even the less potent motors provided a top speed of 115mph. Fuel was supplied by twin Weber 42 carburettors. Power peaked at 6,200rpm. Transmission was by way of a 5-speed gearbox. Technically, a 4-speed 'box was used - and then a 'piggy-back' set of cogs was added. With all that hooked up to the front wheels, the HF handled well. Braking was via Dunlop discs. However, Lancia decided a servo was surplus to requirements.

The Fulvia's bodywork was designed to cleave cleanly through air - be it in a baking-hot desert or freezing forest! A clear pointer to the car's rally-bred roots could be found in its large 7″ headlamps. As far as wheels went, neatly flared arches topped off a set of suitably wide tyres. The rubber was fitted to deep-rimmed Campagnolo alloys. A touch of negative camber at the front - and a slightly raised rear - were hallmarks of a car for which road-holding was sacrosant. The HF's interior d├ęcor - or lack of it - indicated that weight loss was at a premium. At the front, high-backed bucket seats prioritised rigidity over comfort. Behind them was a padded bench ... something to sit on, and not much more! Standard Fulvias - and the 'luxury' 1600HF - gave slightly more by way of mollycoddling. Nevertheless, it is the unadorned HF which is the most sought-after Fulvia of all. Seriously iconic, it is arguably the most illustrious Lancia of all!

Spyker C8 Laviolette

Spyker C8 Laviolette 2000s Dutch supercar

In the past, the Netherlands was associated with tulips and windmills. These days, it is as likely to be supercars - like the Spyker C8 Laviolette. Spyker's roots stretch back to 1880. In '89, they built the Golden Carriage. It still transports the Dutch royal family, on state occasions. During World War 1, Spyker made fighter planes - including their engines. The firm also found time to build cars - for both road and track. Well, they did until '26 - when Spyker went bankrupt.

Thankfully, though, that was not the end of the Spyker story. In '99, Victor Muller - a Dutch business magnate - bought the Spyker brand-name. He duly set about resurrecting the marque. Supercars would be Spyker's new stock-in-trade. The Spyker Squadron team was formed. It specialised in endurance racing. Visits to Le Mans, Sebring et alia duly followed. In '06, Spyker entered F1. It bought the Midland équipe - or Jordan, as it had previously been. Two years on, the team would be sold to Force India.

Spyker's C8 Laviolette debuted at the 2001 Amsterdam Motor Show. Its aluminium bodywork took visitors' breath away. Beneath, the space-frame was made from the same lightweight material. The dramatic upsweep of the 'scissors doors' was spectacularly state of the art. When open, they revealed quilted-leather seats. The Laviolette's 4.2-litre V8 produced 400bhp. Suspension was via F1-style Koni inboard shocks. Ventilated disc brakes were suitably solid. The Laviolette's top speed was 187mph. 0-60 came up in 4.5s. Of course, the price tag was sky-high. £210,000, to be precise. For that kind of wedge, you got to watch your car being built. That came courtesy of a Spyker factory web cam. Among the options was a Chronoswiss Spyker wrist-watch - complete with your car's chassis number engraved on it. That was a snip - at just £24,000. An add-on set of bespoke luggage cost a mere £12,350. There was even a Louis Vuitton tool-kit available - a bargain at just £2,500. In financial terms, then, the Spyker C8 Laviolette was not for the faint-hearted - or, indeed, cash-strapped. Most of us could not afford the extras, never mind the car itself!

Bugatti EB110

Bugatti EB 110 1990s French supercar

The 'EB' in Bugatti EB 110 stood for Ettore Bugatti - the firm's founder. On the 110th anniversary of his birth, the new supercar was unveiled. Fittingly, the launch took place in Paris - since Bugatti was a French firm. When it went on sale - in '91 - the EB110 had a price tag of £285,000. But, if the standard EB 110 was not to your taste, you could always stump up another £50,000 - and drive off in the Supersport version. The latter's 611bhp output delivered 221mph! The stock EB 110's top speed was 212mph. If you had the money - do the math!

Superstar designer Marcello Gandini was recruited to style the EB 110. His mock-up, though, was deemed too radical by Bugatti's top brass. The brief was passed to Italian architect Giampaolo Benedini. Clearly, he was able to style cars, as well as buildings! The aluminium body he drafted was breathtaking. Even the car's engine was a work of art. Its V12 layout took in 4 turbochargers and 60 valves. There was a 6-speed gearbox - and 4-wheel drive. Handling was precise - to put it mildly!

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In '87, entrepreneur Romano Artioli had stepped in to rescue the struggling Bugatti brand-name. He built a state of the art supercar factory - in Campogalliano, Modena, Italy. Benedini - the EB 110's designer - had previously architected the factory in which it was built! The EB 110 thus became a sort of French/Italian hybrid - the only Bugatti model to have done so. To head up the engineering team, Artioli had hired acclaimed technical director Paulo Stanzani. The EB 110's four-year run stretched to '95 - when Bugatti was wound up. 139 EB 110s were built. Among their owners was a certain Michael Schumacher. The ultimate seal of automotive approval? Sorry - off hand, I cannot think of a better one!

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!

Lancia Delta HF Integrale

Lancia Delta HF Integrale 1980s Italian sports car

It would be difficult to overstate the impact made by the Lancia Delta HF Integrale. It swept aside all comers - on the road and in competition. In the year and a half following its '87 launch, the Delta Integrale won 14 World Championship rallies. Miki Biasion made the most of its dominance. He garnered two world drivers' titles in the car.

The Integrale's 8-valve engine made 185bhp. In '89, it was replaced by a 16-valve head. Power increased to 200bhp. The new model totted up 13 top-echelon rally wins. Juha Kankunnen duly took the '91 drivers' title. Over time, the fruits of such success trickled down to the showrooms. The road-going Integrale's finely-tuned 4-wheel-drive set-up gave good handling - in all conditions. Combine that with a 2-litre turbocharged motor - and you had a perfect blend of speed and precision. As a hatchback, practicality was a given. But, there were luxuries, too. Like Recaro seats, electric front windows and a cutting edge instrument panel.

Wide wheels and fat tyres helped give the Integrale a look of purposeful muscularity. Giorgetto Giugiaro - at the Italdesign agency - did the styling honours. The bodywork was minimalist, not boxy! The original Delta - built for rally homologation reasons - was first glimpsed at '79's Frankfurt Motor Show. It was followed by a Delta dynasty of progessively more sophisticated models. Lancia's HF acronym stood for High Fidelity. It was applied to several of the marque's cars over the years. Never more fittingly, though, than to the Delta Integrale!

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!

Lamborghini Espada

Lamborghini Espada 1960s Italian classic supercar

The Lamborghini Espada was designed by Bertone. Their styling standards were of the highest - both inside and out. Sitting pretty atop the tail lights, for example, was a clear glass panel. Not only was it a sweet visual flourish - it assisted with parking, too. An impressive blend, then, of form and function. The Espada's interior was state of the art. Its focal point was a control console, between the front seats. The console - and 'techie' dashboard above it - housed an aircraft-type array of dials and switches. And - Sixties supercar though it was - the 4-seater Espada was far from cramped.

The top-spec Espada was good for 155mph. It was powered by a 4-litre V12. The motor sat beneath an alloy bonnet. Pierced NACA ducts adorned the front profile. Engineering-wise, a one-off 5-speed gearbox did shifting duty.

The Espada's ride was pliant and smooth. That was aided by all round wishbone suspension - plus, a wide track and fat tyres. Overall, handling was excellent. Power-steering and auto transmission were options on later models. The Espada was based on the Marzal concept car. On its release - in '68 - the Espada set a new speed benchmark for 4-seaters. So - in every automotive aspect - the Lamborghini Espada was a genuine Italian masterpiece!

Ferrari California

Ferrari California 2000s Italian sports car

The Ferrari 250 California - released in '57 - was one of the most iconic cars ever created. A tad over half a century later, came another California. Designed by Pininfarina, seamless aerodynamics were key to the new car's styling. And the 2008 California was light. Both chassis and body were aluminium.

The F1-style steering-wheel featured Manettino dials. They modulated the gearbox, suspension and traction-control settings. The latter came in the form of the F1-Trac set-up. Should those systems' limits still be exceeded, an automatic roll bar was deployed. As well as front and side airbags. The California could be set to Comfort or Sport mode, too. At track-days, however - or, indeed, at any other time - the safety controls could be switched off. Apart from ABS braking, that is.

Ferrari's 4,300cc V8 engine made 460bhp. That catapulted the California to 193mph. Torque was on tap from way down low. The 7-speed semi-automatic transmission saw to that. Unlike some supercars, the California's cabin was roomy and comfortable. There was a retractable top. And plenty of luggage-space was provided. So, the Ferrari California was built for speed. To that extent, it echoed its fabled 250 predecessor. But - in common with that design classic - it was kitted out for cruising, too, if required.

BMW 3.0 CSL

BMW 3.0 CSL 1970s German classic sports car

The 'L' in BMW 3.0 CSL stood for Lightweight. It was a vital attribute. After all, the CSL was built to homologate BMW's 6-cylinder coupé - for European Touring Car Group 2 racing. To that end, the list of the CSL's super-light parts was a long one. There were skinny body panels, a fibreglass back bumper, and racing latches on the bonnet. In addition, the CSL had Plexiglas side-windows, and alloy-skinned opening panels. Interior trim, too, was grist to the weight-losing mill. In all, 400lb was shaved off the base model. Top speed for the super-svelte CSL was 135mph. Acceleration had sky-rocketed.

To accomodate the CSL's added 'grunt', BMW stiffened the suspension. Bilstein gas shock absorbers featured state-of-the-art progressive-rate springs. Alpina wheels were chunky 7″ alloys. Chrome wheel-arch extensions kept things street-legal. The first CSLs came with a 2,958cc engine. It was normally-aspirated - making 180bhp. In '72, BMW took the bore out to 3,003cc. That qualified the coupé to compete in the 3-litre Group 2 series. Output was upped to 200bhp. Bosch electronic injection was fitted - replacing twin Zenith carburettors.

Up until '72, CSLs were left-hand drive. But, that year saw a right-hand drive option released in the UK. Described as the 'RHD City package', the car had performance and comfort in abundance. For this model, BMW restored most of the weight-saving features they had so painstakingly removed. Some British buyers still managed to find fault. They found the Scheel bucket seats difficult to get into. And the light alloy panels - still part of the bodywork - were too prone to accident damage, they said. Nor was the CSL's price tag to every Brit's taste. Both an Aston Martin and Jensen set them back less. To be fair, only 1,095 cars were sold globally. Ultimately, though, the BMW 3.0 CSL was an 'homologation special'. Certainly, the CSL racing coupés went on to be a roaring success!