Best Cars of the 60s

by | Dec 26, 2018 | Lifestyle, Motoring

Reading time: 10 minutes

Our favorite cars during the times of the Beatles and of Norma Jean

It may come as a surprise to some but, after the 50s, which we covered here, came the 60s. Forgotten were the wars, and car brands needed less of statements and more of a reasoned progress. Plus, let’s not forget, the people that got busy creating the baby-boomers, now needed to save for colleges and got to work. Parents despised the flurry quartet from Liverpool with their Obladi oblada that took the world like a storm while fawning at some talented actress that fell victim to the betrayal of air-vents and short skirts. A bit later, a US President would famously promise space travel, manage a date with that same actress, and ended up the subject of more movies than Herbie the Beetle. It was a renaissance in Europe, and as such, the cream of our list belongs to the hosts of Armani and Saville Row. Hope you enjoy it. We sure did.

#1 Ferrari 250 GTO (1962-1964)

The 250 GTO was engineered to compete in the GT Championship Group 3. The “Grand Turismo Omologato” was produced in only 36 units, becoming today the highest ever paid car in history. In June 2018, a 1964 250 GTO set an all-time record selling price of $70 million. Its heart was a 12 Cylinder, 2,953 cc engine, capable of 296 bhp at 7,500 Rpm. The body design was made by Scaglietti and Bizzarrini. The old men say that one day Enzo Ferrari blasted into the design office of the factory with a front engine GT Architecture made by Mauro Forghieri and told the experts to draw a “Nice GT”. At the time, the initial shape was made by bending a metal wire on a blank piece of paper. The body design was informed by wind tunnel testing at Pisa University as well as road and track testing with several prototypes. The resulting all-aluminum bodywork had a long, low nose, small radiator inlet, and distinctive air intakes on the nose with removable covers. Early testing resulted in the addition of a rear spoiler. It is for us the sexiest Ferrari ever made. I literally cry real tears of joy over these pictures

Pictures Credit: Sotheby’s

#2 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato (1960-1963)

The “Zagato” was effectively a DB4 GT, lightened and improved by the Zagato factory in Italy by Ercole Spada. The fine designer transformed the DB4 GT into a smaller, more aerodynamic, super-lightweight car. Many steel components were replaced with aluminum ones. All non-essential elements disappeared, such as the bumpers. The first competitive outing of a DB4 GT Zagato was at Eastertime in 1961 at Goodwood. Driven by Stirling Moss, the car finished 3rd, behind an Aston Martin DB4GT and the winning Ferrari 250 GT. Two units also raced Le Mans 24 Hours in 1961. The car was light, only 1,250 Kg and was pushed by a 6,670 cc Engine, all alloy straight 6, capable of 314 Bhp. A top speed of 247 km/h was recorded. It had a 4-speed gearbox and a limited slip differential. In 2018, one of the 20 units ever made, was sold for a respectable 15 Million USD. The mix of British architecture and Italian design made one of the hottest cars ever made by humans.

Pictures Credit: Sotheby’s

#3 Lamborghini Miura P400 (1966-1973)

385 bhp, 3,929 cc DOHC transverse mid-mounted alloy V-12 engine with Weber twin-choke carburetors, five-speed manual transmission, independent front and rear suspension with A-arms, coil springs with tubular shocks, and anti-roll bars; and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. The first “supercar” from Lamborghini, and perhaps the first supercar the world had ever seen, was the P400 Miura. When it was first unveiled at the 1966 Geneva Salon, its impact was nothing short of extraordinary. Simply stated, the Miura looked like no other on the road, and it marked a paradigm shift in the design of high-performance cars. Its sensuous lines were undoubtedly indebted to the placement of its engine, which was mounted transversely, just behind the passenger compartment. As such, Miuras could often be found in the garages of many of the most fashionable celebrities of the day, including Miles Davis, Rod Stewart, and Frank Sinatra. Marcello Gandini penned the gorgeous design at the age of 27, and it encapsulated the youthful spirit of the age. The car was beautifully styled throughout and had intricate details that always brought a smile to the driver’s face when interacting with the car, such as the shape of the doors, which were supposedly modeled off of the horns of a raging bull. To many, it boasted the perfect automotive silhouette, as it was just as sensual as it was muscular. The Miura’s performance also matched its looks, and the car would go on to be the poster child for a petrol-fueled generation. It makes me drooling. Isn’t she gorgeous? Do you want one? You need at least 2,5 Million USD. (The car in the pictures is a late production of the Miura, the “SV”, which maintained the look of the original P400, but lost the headlights “Eye Lashes”)

Pictures Credit: Sotheby’s

#4 AC Cobra 427 (1962-1967)

Widely recognized as one the most significant performance cars ever produced, the muscular, fire-breathing Cobra succeeded in capturing the hearts of enthusiasts like few of its contemporaries. Texan Carroll Shelby had gone racing in Europe in the late 1950s and realized that a combination of a lightweight American V-8 engine and a proven European chassis was a winning combination. He had a Ford V-8 installed in the chassis of an AC Ace, named it the Cobra, and proved his point.  Shelby contracted with AC Cars to ship Cobras (with empty engine bays) from England to be completed at his shop in California. The 260-cu. in. the prototype first ran in January 1962, with production commencing later that year. In 1963 the more powerful 289-cu. in. Ford engine was standardized. Rack-and-pinion steering was the major Mk II update; then in 1965, a new, stronger, coil-suspended Mk III chassis was introduced to accommodate Ford’s 427 and later 428-cu. in. V-8s, which in race trim could produce well in excess of 400 bhp. Wider bodywork, extended wheel-arch flares, and a bigger radiator intake combined to create the legendarily aggressive and often mimicked Cobra Mk III persona.  With Shelby’s strong relationship with privateer racers, he was confident he could sell that many, and as a result, a competition-spec version of the new 427 was developed. Competition features included a wider body to accommodate wider wheels and tires, an oil cooler, side exhaust, external fuel filler, front jacking points, roll bar, and a special 42-gallon fuel tank. Regardless of the model – full competition, S/C semi-competition, or regular street specification – Shelby’s big block Cobra was a sports car unlike any that preceded it. The performance was mind-blowing, with the extraordinary power-to-weight ratio allowing for tire-shredding sprints to 60 mph in about four seconds. Our favorite American road car ever.

Pictures Credit: Sotheby’s

#5 Jaguar E-Type (1961-1975)

On its release in March 1961, Enzo Ferrari called it “the most beautiful car ever made”.   Its combination of beauty, high performance, and competitive pricing established the model as an icon of the motoring world. The E-Type’s 150  mph (241  km/h) top speed, sub-7-second 0-100 km/h acceleration, monocoque construction, disk brakes, rack&pinion steering, and independent front and rear suspensions distinguished the car and spurred industry-wide changes. The E-Type was based on Jaguar’s D-Type racing car, which had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans three consecutive years beginning 1955, and employed what was, for the early 1960s, a novel racing design principle, with a front subframe carrying the engine, front suspension and front bodywork bolted directly to the body tub. No ladder frame chassis, as was common at the time, was needed and as such the first cars weighed only 1315kg. It was offered with 2 engines, a 3,8 Ltr or a 4,2 Ltr, 6 Cylinders in Line.  The 4.2-liter engine produced the same power as the 3.8-liter (265 bhp) and same top speed (241 km/h), but increased torque approximately 10% from 325 to 384 Nn. Acceleration remained pretty much the same and 0 to 97  km/h times were around 6.4 seconds for both engines, but maximum power was now reached at 5,400 rpm instead of 5,500 rpm on the 3.8-liter. That all meant better throttle response for drivers that did not want to shift down gears. The 4.2-litre’s block was completely redesigned, made longer to accommodate 5  mm larger bores and the crankshaft modified to use newer bearings. Other engine upgrades included a new alternator/generator and an electric cooling fan for the radiator. To die for

Pictures Credit: Sotheby’s

#6 Ford GT40 (1964-1969)

This is the car that gave Enzo Ferrari the biggest headache of his life in the 60s. After the Prancing Horse won Le Mans 24hrs 6 times in a row (from 1960 to 1965), it seemed no-one could challenge the Italians in the endurance races. The GT40 was based upon the British Lola MK6. The range was powered by a series of  American-built engines modified for racing. This American legend immediately won 4 consecutive Le Mans 24hrs Races, from 1966 to 1969 and it also claimed a 1-2-3 finish in 1966, at its debut. It was the first American vehicle to win the race of the races. Using an American Ford V-8 engine, originally of 4.7-liter displacement capacity, it was later enlarged to the 4.9-liter engine. Only 105 units were produced from 1964 and 1969 and today a good car with a racing pedigree is worth it some 11 Million USD. At the beginning of its racing career, the GT40 has some poor results though; for this reason, it was decided to surrender the development in the hands of Shelby, directly after the last disastrous race in Nassau, still bearing the dirt and damage from the race. Carroll Shelby was noted for complaining that the cars were poorly maintained when he received them, but later information revealed the cars were packed up as soon as the race was over, and transported to Shelby. His first victory came on their maiden race with the Ford program, with Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby taking a Shelby American-entered Ford GT  to victory in the  Daytona 2000 in February 1965. That is when the true legend began and lasted till date. The best looking, track oriented muscle car even made.

Pictures Credit: Sotheby’s

#7 Lotus Seven (1957-1973)

In 1948, Colin Chapman built a stressed plywood body and put it on a rotten old Austin 7 chassis to produce his very first car. Colin was a genius and he liked lightweight better than power. He would take 10 kg off any car before even thinking of adding power to the engine. That resulted in better braking performance, lower fuel consumption, better acceleration, and higher corner speed. His cars were small, extremely  nimble and possibly the most fun to drive ever. His legacy continues to date. The Lotus Seven was launched in 1958 and the first series was called S1, then followed by the S2 in 1961. The budget was limited at that time but when in 1968 the S3 was launched, the lucky owners could count on larger Cosworth Engines, from 1,340cc to 1,599cc. It’s been the best of the “Cheap Thrills” in the world for decades and even today this legendary little brat will put a huge smile on your face.

“Driving the 1969 Lotus Seven is, without question, the single best moment of my life… it’s the same distilled, cask-strength delight I felt when my brother and I pushed a home-built cart down a too-steep hill, the same blend of thrill and mild terror. My left foot darts down from its perch atop two exposed screws to push in the clutch, the four-speed gearbox moves to third with a fractional wrist movement, and then on the throttle and the engine growling once more and its ‘Biggles Learns To Drive’ and I’m buzzing the aerodrome and shouting “yah boo sucks to you!” at the Zeppelin pilots. I must buy goggles. And a helmet. And one of those long white scarves. And one of these, I’ve got to get me a Seven. Seventh Heaven!” – Brendan McAleer, Drive.

#8 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 (1965)

Generation 1 of the iconic Ford Mustang was born in 1965 and lasted till 1973 but there was one model that scared the Europeans more than any other cars, especially in racing. It was the Shelby GT350. 443 bhp, 289 cu. in. supercharged V-8 engine, four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with unequal length A-arms, coil springs, and a stabilizer bar, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and hydraulic front disc and rear drum brakes.  When Ford executive Lee Iacocca asked Carroll Shelby, in Shelby’s words, to “turn a mule into a racehorse,” a real racehorse this Mustang would become! It was relatively straightforward, but spot-on modifications, upgrades, and component deletions made the 289 “Hi Po”-equipped Mustang 2+2 Fastback into Carroll’s own particular brand of “sports car.” Shelby American built just 562 of those rough and ready ’65s, which were universally considered the “best of the real Shelby Mustangs.” They were not only the first iteration, but they were also the clearest and committed example of Shelby’s original sporting vision for the car. The  Paxton-supercharged V-8, which could crank out nearly 450 horsepower, making this Shelby GT350 one of the rarest 1965 Shelby Mustangs. According to the Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC) Registry in which it is featured, the original base Mustang, underlying what would become 5S425, was delivered to Shelby American’s Los Angeles factory on June 4, 1965. A “standard” Mustang of those years can be found for around 30 thousand USD but the GT350 is on the market for a good Half Million USD. We understand why.

Pictures Credit: Sotheby’s

#9 Citroen DS (1955-1975)

Both the DS and its simpler sibling, the ID, used a punning name. “DS” is pronounced in French as “Déesse” (goddess); “ID” is pronounced as “Idée” (idea). An intermediate model was called the DW. After 18 years of secret development as the successor to the Traction Avant, the DS 19 was introduced on 5 October 1955 at the Paris Motor Show. In the first 15 minutes of the show, 743 orders were taken. Noted for its aerodynamic, futuristic body design and innovative technology, the DS set new standards in ride quality, handling, and braking (and was the first mass-production car equipped with disc brakes). The DS was successful in motorsport like rallying, where sustained speeds on poor surfaces are paramount, and won the MOnte Carlo Rally in 1959. In the 1000 Lakes Rally, Pauli Toivonen drove a DS19 to victory in 1962.In September 1962, the DS was restyled with a more aerodinamically efficient nose, better ventilation and other improvements. It retained the open two headlamp appearance, but was available with an optional set of driving lights mounted on the front fenders. All models in the range changed nose design at the same time, including the ID and station wagon models.The DS placed third in the 1999 Car of the Century poll recognizing the world’s most influential auto designs.

#10 The BMC Mini (1959-1968) 

On its introduction in August 1959, the Mini was marketed under the Austin and Morris names.  The Morris version was known to all as “the Mini” or the “Morris Mini-Minor”.  The production version of the Mini was demonstrated to the press in April 1959, and by August several thousand cars had been produced ready for the first sales.  Slow at the outset, the Mark I series sales strengthened across most of the model lines in the 1960s, and production totaled 1,190,000. Today it’s completely different, it belongs to BMW and it only shares the name of this legendary car that revolutionized the concept of transportation for more than 40 years.

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