What cars defined the sixties?
1960s cars were among the sleekest, most beautiful cars ever to cruise the asphalt jungles of cities and motorways. For motor enthusiasts, the ‘60s was the decade when automobiles became more than just a mode of transport. This golden age saw the birth of muscle cars, a surge of sports cars from Europe and the manufacture of the best looking cars ever to grace the Earth. The top cars produced during this motoring renaissance were stylish, powerful and, above all, achingly cool. The very best were exquisitely engineered, had a pedigree filled with motoring royalty and an appearance reeking of both speed and luxury. So what were the premier cars of the ‘60s?
#10 1962 Chevrolet Corvair
The Corvair was designed to rival the popular and economical VW Bug. Featuring a rear-mounted, air-cooled, horizontally opposed engine, it had a good first few years, but 1965 saw it trashed by Ralph Nader in his book Unsafe at Any Speed. This very public denouncement means that the innovative Chevy is often regarded as a black mark in General Motors’ book of classics, but this damnation is retrospective and short-sighted. It is worth noting that not only was the model incredibly popular, selling 1.8 million units over its 10-year production run, but it catalysed the development of safety advancements such as collapsible steering columns, recessed dashboards and safety glass.
#9 1968 Plymouth Road Runner
The creation of the Road Runner was manufacturer Mopar’s finest moment. Although Chrysler expected to sell only 2,000 units, the model exceeded even the most optimistic backer’s expectations, selling a whopping 45,000 in 1968 alone. Inspired by the Belvedere, the Road Runner featured a revolutionary 383-cubic-inch V8 engine which churned out 335-horsepower. For a little over $700, this could be upgraded to the legendary 426-cubic-inch 425-horsepower Hemi V8. Today, these rare Hemi-powered monsters are an elusive beast, and a find is the stuff enthusiast’s dreams are made of.
#8 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
The Camaro debuted in 1966, but its finest moment didn’t arrive until 1969, with the advent of the Z28. Unlike many of its contemporaries, the Camaro was designed to deliver ease of handling and power in equal measure, and it showed the world that Chevy was a manufacturer capable of offering performance and excitement. The 1969 body style, produced for just one year, combined a unique mix of brake, engine, exhaust and induction options. It has gone down in history as one of the most sought-after rides of the classic muscle-car era.
#7 1963 Mini Cooper S
The 1963 model showed that the cute little Mini could be so much more than a simple people-mover; properly equipped, it could be a fast and furious machine. The 1963 Cooper S model featured a large, 1,071cc powerplant with bulked up internals, a fortified drivetrain and power disc brakes. It took the racing world by storm in 1964, 1965 and 1967 when it achieved victory in the prestigious Monte Carlo Rally.
#6 1964 Pontiac GTO
The Pontiac GTO ignored every rule in the book. In 1964, General Motors’ policy imposed a 330-cubic-inch size limit on engines in their A-Body offerings. The rebellious, performance-minded Pontiac division ripped up the rule book, stamped on it and then set the pieces on fire. Then they created a GTO ‘option package’ for their Tempest Le Mans, which included a 389-cubic-inch 325-horsepower V8. As part of the all-encompassing package, the model also featured upgraded suspension and clutch, and numerous body and interior enhancements. The GTO was a roaring success. Doubling its expected sales for 1964, it threw open the floodgates and allowed a steady stream of muscle cars to roar out behind it.
#5 1963 Shelby Cobra
Caroll Shelby had an uncanny knack of creating stunningly speedy cars which excelled at the highest levels of motorsport as much as on the street. The Cobra was his original statement of intent, and it made a pretty big splash. Featuring a chassis by AC Cars and a 260-cubic-inch Ford HiPo V8 engine under its hood, it was envisioned as a rival for the best Europe had to offer, namely Ferrari, and its performance didn’t fall short. Perhaps its greatest victory was its sterling success in the 1964 GT-class 24 Hours of Le Mans.
#4 1964 Ford Mustang
If the GTO threw the floodgates wide for muscle cars, the Mustang smashed through them completely. The stylish, affordable, performance-oriented 2-door coupe, with its top-of-the-line engine and 271 horsepower beneath its bonnet, was an instant success. On the day of its release, Ford received 22,000 orders, and in less than two years they sold more than 1.5 million units.
#3 1964 Porsche 911
The Porsche 911 remains an enduring and iconic silhouette on today’s roads. The original model replaced the 356 in Porsche’s line-up. It was a big improvement on its predecessor, its 1,991 cc flat-6 engine delivering 130-horsepower up from 90-horsepower in the 356. Its accomplishments on the road and track became the stuff of legend, and the rest is history.
#2 1968 Ferrari 365 GTB/4
Leonardo Firovanti’s input meant that this front-engine Ferrari, with its sharp edges and dipping nose, had more in common with a Lamborghini than a typical Italian car. Unofficially known as the Daytona, the 365 GTB/4 is the most recognisable of all Ferraris. With its sleek Pininfarina-penned lines, thunderous 4.4-litre 352-horsepower V12 engine and a dash of Italian style and panache, it is easy to see why it remains one of the most coveted cars ever produced. 1,284 Daytona coupes and 122 special-order Daytona Sypder convertibles were produced between 1968 and 1973, and they now retail for between $300,000 and upwards of $1 million.
#1 1961 Jaguar E-Type
The Jaguar E-Type was as much art as automobile, with its long, flowing, masterful body lines. Enzo Ferrari himself proclaimed the Jaguar was the most beautiful car ever made. The Jaguar’s incredible curves were not merely pretty to look at; the E-Type also offered superior performance. Jaguar transposed the S-spec 3.8 litre inline 6-cylinder engine featured in their XK 150 into the E-Type, and moved the big mill further back on the car’s chassis to better distribute its weight. At the same time, the new model was made shorter and lighter than its predecessor. Finally, the architects of success added a vital component which even Le Mans winners lacked; independent rear suspension. And so it was that the Jaguar E-Type went down as one of the iconic symbols of the 60s.
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