Cars that made the 1960's swing
Let’s turn back the dashboard clock and take a monochromed look at what made 1960’s motoring so memorable. An era when you paid your road tax and your car insurance in old money, five pound notes were big white bits of paper and many of today’s older drivers had only just passed their tests.
The brainchild of Sir Alec Issigonis, the Mini was originally launched in 1959 but virtually no other car epitomises the 60’s quite so much as the Mini. How many newsreels have you seen featuring stars such as Twiggy, Mick Jagger and every member of the Beatles, dashing around Town in BMC’s super cool car? And as if being the car of the stars wasn’t enough, the Mini also achieved a great deal of rallying success too.
The Fiat 124 was another little car with huge popularity. And it was good enough to drive off with the European Car of the Year in 1967. It won much praise for its advanced coil suspension and all round disc brakes. The 124 also came in coupe and Spyder versions – and even provided the chassis for the Ferrari-engined Fiat Dino. But probably, it’s most famous for having all the design and tooling bought by the Russians, who turned it into the Lada. Mio Dio!
Alfa Romeo Duetto
First produced in 1966, the Alfa Romeo Spider was simply stunning. Yet its good looks were changed at various times throughout its lifetime. The biggest being when that soft, rounded boat tail was transform into a flatter Kamm tail. But perhaps most famous for its role in The Graduate, this pretty roadster was even sold by the same name in the States. “And here’s to you Mrs. Robinson…”
E-Type Jaguar Roadster
Born from Jaguar’s racing success in the 50s, the E-Type first appeared at the Geneva Motor Show in 1961, where it caused a sensation. It outshone other cars in its class and was priced at only a fraction of the cost. It was also capable of a genuine 150 mph – good job that the M1 had just been finished then. Another car that appealed to the stars, George Best and George Harrison (when he wasn’t driving his Mini) drove E-Types.
Why, oh why did Ford produce this lumbering beast when it had the Cortina? The Zephyr the last of the American influenced cars Ford made before Ford Europe started building cars that were more at home on UK and European roads – thankfully. It was slow, ugly and had notoriously bad handling. Why then, was it so often used as a getaway car by 1960’s crooks?
The Rover P6 2000 was revolutionary. And it made a stir when it was launched in 1963. Nobody had seen anything like it. An overhead cam engine, all round disc brakes and what a radical shape. The compact executive saloon had arrived. And British Middle Management loved it.
The Austin 1100 followed closely in the tyre tracks of the Mini and set new standards for family cars by doing so. It was more sophisticated than the Mini and the 1100 boasted wind-up windows, Hydrolastic fluid suspension and Pininfarina styling. It was an instant hit and here’s a little known fact: the Austin 1100 became Britain’s best selling car for nine consecutive years.
Mark 1 Cortina
The Cortina first appeared on our roads in September 1962. At the time, Ford advertised it as “The small car with a big difference.” Never before had a family saloon offered so much value for money. And Ford didn’t scrimp on design either. The car’s most stylish features being those sleek fins that led to the classically individual ‘jam tart’ rear lights. And the Mark 1 even made film star status in Carry On Cabbie, as a fleet of Glam Cabs, driven by equally glamorous women. Now, who remembers that?
Triumph GT6 Mark 1
Now here’s a car, that upon first impressions, should have been one of the 60’s most cracking little sports cars. Wrong. It looked good but that was about it. The GT6 borrowed under performing suspension from a 950 Herald, it had a rather powerful 2 litre straight six engine but was held together with a body shell that bore a scary resemblance to tissue paper. In fact, one American motoring magazine describes the car as dangerous. Shame.
An affordable British sports car that was launched in 1962 and stayed with us until production finally came to an end in 1980. The MGB was extremely well received by us Brits and was capable of exceeding 100mph without any fuss. Performance, handling and economy were all of a high standard for the time. The only question was, why did so much of their sales literature feature air hostesses as owners?