We’ve done the ugliest cars old and new, so I figure it is time to turn this thing around and list the best of the best. These are the cars that I think are the cats meow, the bee’s knees; the cars that put the sizzle in sexy…well you get the idea. It is my opinion that for a couple of decades automotive design was on a roll. The sixties were the best; design had reached a pinnacle before the specter of automotive safety and emissions controls had reared it ugly head. Designers had a free hand and man did they execute on some stellar automobiles. Feast your eyes on these beauties!
Of course there will be a poll, there is always a poll…vote for your favorite. So without further ado….
Honorable mention: Porsche 928, Ferrari 275, Toyota 2000GT, Maserati Glibli
10. 1959-1967 Austin Healy 3000 (42,926 produced) – also known as the “big” Healy, this car along with the MGB and Triumph TR4 were the quintessential British sports cars of the sixties. But the Healy was just right - low slung; with a deep growl from its inline 6-cylinder engine, this car put everything that was great and British into one package. Of course it was frequently seen on the side of the road broken down…but hey it even looked good standing still. My family had a 1964 Mk III from 1967 to 1969. If you go back to the beginning of the blog you can read about it.
9. 1975-1989 Porsche 930 Turbo (21,589 produced) – The 911 is one of the most recognizable automotive shapes in the world and the Turbo takes that basic shape and adds enough curves, flares and spoilers to scare small children and animals. It scared adults too and enough of them went off the road backwards to justify their fear. I had a 1976 930 called Bad Boy (it was), but I tamed it by learning how to drive the damn thing on a track. So there….
8. 1963-1965 Aston Martin DB5 (983 produced)– Good enough for 007? Good enough for you too. Adequate editorial space given.... (translated as “Nuff said”).
7. 1967-1971 De Tomaso Mangusta(401 produced)– the incredible aching beauty; the pure crap that it was mechanically. I cry when I see one, knowing that the owner probably never drives it because they are fearful it will catch on fire or steer right off the road. Pity, because it is just a thing of pure automotive sexiness. You have to love the impractical way the engine is accessed, by covers that pivot from the middle of the rear deck. Cool looks, Italian style…Italian practicality, but Italian execution too.
6. 1968-1973 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona (1284 produced) – Ferrari’s answer to the Miura, it was the last of the classic front engined Ferrari (the 400i does not count). The car was designed in 7 days by the styling house of Pininfarina and was shown at the 1968 Paris Auto show. While the Miura ushered in the dawn of the supercar, the Daytona (looking almost dated when compared to the Miura) was the better car on the road…and faster too (until Lamborghini came out with the SV version). Still my heart skips a beat when I see one at a car show, because you never see them on the road anymore.
5. 1970-1975 Citroen SM (? Produced) – I love this car. It is so French but with so many advanced systems, it was almost Rube Goldberg’esque in its complexity. The SM floated down the road, had perfect seats, an advanced Maserati engine, uncanny self-centering steering and nitrogen filled self-leveling suspension as well as fantastic brakes. It was said that the SM could motor all day long at 140mph. Few other cars can duplicate that level of speed and refinement. And when you arrived at your destination, upon exiting the car, the world would come back at you with all its brute sensibilities, it was easy to turn around, get back in and motor away. I want one…really badly. There is a perfect one available for $85K. Will someone buy it for me please?
4. 1974-1990 Lamborghini Countach (2042 produced) – this car was the most outrageous thing I had ever seen. It adorned the wall in my bedroom; hell it still has a place in my heart. If Lamborghini needed a replacement to update the Miura, they certainly hit a home run with the Countach. Designed by the house of Bertone (and a new designer named Marcello Gandini), engineered by Paolo Stanzani and sorted out by Bob Wallace, it officially put Lambo on the radar for a lot of people. Ferrari took notice… I love the LP400 and its more simple design before all the wings, spoilers and flares were added. To me it looks very seductive without the bulgy bits.
3. 1978–1981 BMW M1 (455 produced) – Who says that the Germans can’t do exotic? They can….they did. The M1 was BMW’s first mid-engined car, designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, it was one of the first designs that heralded the wedge shape. Remember the Lotus Esprit (yes the car from the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only)? Giugiaro designed that one too. But what really made the M1 stand apart from a lot of the other cars on this list is that it was intended and built for racing. There was a series called Pro-Car that had a lot of the best drivers competing against each other in identically prepared cars. With power up to 850hp (in Turbo charged form), they were very potent! And fun to watch.
2. 1961-1968 Jaguar XKE Series I (38,419 produced) – Wow! This could be #1 on the list, but I dearly love the Miura. So the XKE will have to settle for second spot. The famous automotive journalist and writer L.J.K. Setright called the XKE the best crumpet collector known to man. Crumpet is a…err, slang for birds, “bit of alright”, chic, gal…you get the idea. The bonnet was soooo long, tapered in front with fared-in headlamps, a long greenhouse with a hatch and tapered rear; it is just about perfect. A huge 3.8 liter inline 6 made sure it could accelerate like a rocket and keep its pace. Needless to say it caused a sensation when it hit the Geneva Motor Show. The Jaguar reps stood in the booth with order books in hand and took order after order. It was an instant hit.
1. 1966-1972 Lamborghini Miura (764 produced) - When Ferruccio Lamborghini was turned away by Enzo Ferrari who told him to go back to his farm implements (which Lamborghini did manufacture), Ferruccio made sure he would show Enzo up. He did. The early GT350 and GT400 was a good start, but it was the Miura that stole hearts and minds away from cross-town rival Ferrari. The first Supercar, it had the first transversally mounted mid-engine V12 / transaxle in a production car. I love the way the engine hatch pivots over the rear bumper, just taunting you to take a look at the heart of the beast. The sparse interior had super thin seats, lots of gauges and switches, and a grab bar for the passenger, which was a good thing when the going got fast. The Miura and the Ferrari Daytona could both do over 170mph, fast stuff back then. Hell, that is fast stuff today too. But the Miura was unstable at high speeds and was prone to over heating. It was a temperamental Italian, but like Sophia Loren so lovely to look at. I could look all day long…at the car I mean.
Hope you enjoyed the list. Please feel free to make suggestions or additions to the list. I can possibly be persuaded. And on that note, I will end with a bit of a plug for my book. I figure if you read this far…you will not mind.
Print version - The Driver Book I - Decision 5" x 8"
Kindle version - The Driver Book I - Decision eBook delivered right to your Kindle enabled device!
See you next time.