The Greatest Supercars And Sports Cars Of The 1960s
The 1960s was a decade of great progress. The world was changing, and car design leapt forward, building upon the growth seen in the decade that went before. Gone were the traditional three-box silhouettes of the forties and fifties, replaced by swooping curves and lines inspired by the jet age and huge advances in aerodynamic design.
Power outputs jumped forward too. Following the baby-boomer optimism of the 1950s, the Sixties saw a confidence and bolshy determination to go faster than the other guy. Rivalries like the legendary tussle between Ford and Ferrari drove innovation in a similar way to the Space Race between Russia and the USA, but on a more Earthly plane.
Don’t forget to check out our other Greatest Ever Supercars and Sports Cars posts.
Built by tractor builder Ferrucio Lamborghini as a challenge his Italian rival, Enzo Ferrari, the Miura is often heralded as the original supercar pin-up – something Lamborghini excel at producing to this day.
Its transverse-mounted quad-cam V12 sat in the middle of the car, helping to dictate the flowing lines, and produced 350bhp, which launched the Miura from 0-62 in 6.5 seconds.
The Miura didn’t need all that power to give the impression of speed though – this is a car that looks like it’s going 100mph while it’s standing still. Our pick of the bunch is the P400, in striking rosso-with-oro-wheels form it’s the quintessential Miura, roaring into our top supercars of the Sixties.
There are cars that define an era – the Miura we’ve already mentioned and a few others on this list go some way to doing that for the sixties. But then there are cars that transcend their era and go on to become legends.
Ask virtually anyone to draw a Porsche 911 and they’ll straightaway define the trademark rear-engined silhouette. Later would come the Fuchs alloys, the ducktail spoilers and beefed-up, turbocharged AWD iterations. In 1963 there was only one, the true original.
The 911 was born out of Porsche’s desire to produce a bigger 6-cylinder car to go alongside the 356 which would cease production in 1965. The 2-litre, flat-6 boxer engine produced 128hp, with more powerful incarnations produced throughout the rest of the decade.
Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona
“Front-engined, rear-drive Ferrari you say? Don’t mind if I do. Just let me finish tying up my yacht here in Saint-Tropez and we’ll slouch along the Riviera, letting the V12 do the work for us. Cocktails at Monaco Casino? I’ll see you there.” – the Daytona is an evocative car. I’ll just leave you with that divine image in your mind, along with a picture of the Ferrari Daytona and say no more.
Ford GT-40 Mk1
It seems Enzo Ferrari had a lot of enemies in the 60s. Ford were in talks to buy his legendary Italian supercar stable, but when the deal fell through (following considerable investment from the US car giant), Henry Ford swore revenge.
The GT-40 was designed by Ford with the sole aim of giving Ferrari a damn good seeing to at Le Mans, and see to those red cars it did! GT-40s won the 24 hours du Sarthe every year from 1966-1969, and took all 3 spots on the podium in its first year competing.
Competition-spec GT-40s could reach outputs of up to 380bhp courtesy of a good ol’ American V8 breathed upon by Shelby – which endowed this sub-ton speed machine with a top speed approaching the 200mph mark.
While the Mini may have seared itself into our memories as the symbol of freedom in the 60s, nothing howls “free” more than an open-top sports car tearing up leafy country roads. The E-type represented a huge leap forward in car design at its launch in 1961, helping set the tone for the 1960s as a period of rapid progression.
Its space-age, swooping bonnet covered many power plants throughout its life, and enthusiasts are at pains to choose a standout from the bunch. For its pioneering spirit, the 3.8l inline-6 makes the cut, while convertible trumps coupe. In ’65 however, the 3.8’s capacity was upped to 4.2l, increasing torque and giving the E-Type a much purer throttle response.
265bhp in those days was nothing to be sniffed at in any guise however, and the motoring press at the time frequently reported the E-Type as one of the fastest cars they’d ever tested.
Aston Martin DB5
It wasn’t just Jaguar that were churning out era-defining shapes which had an impact that’s still felt on our culture today. Aston Martin were really beginning to hit their stride and the 5th car to bare the initials of David Brown, the company’s then-owner as part of its name was one of the most iconic.
Designed in tandem between the British automaker and Italian design house Carrozzeria Touring Super Leggera, the DB5 took the classic front-engined silhouette of the DB4 which preceded it and refined its sleek lines, taking each and every aspect of that already very pretty car and making it that little bit better.
This was a car that catapulted the Aston Martin brand into the public’s hearts, arguably commanding as big a role in 1964’s Goldfinger as Sean Connery’s Bond. Even stripped of its then-otherworldly gadgets, the DB5’s role in the film quickly cemented it as one of the most famous cars in the world, a moniker that still fits today.
Underneath that glorious skin sits a 4-litre straight-six putting out 282bhp, which makes the DB5 capable of 0-60 in 8 seconds and a top speed of 145mph, and proving that body isn’t writing cheques that the car couldn’t cash.
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
The C2 Corvette, based on Chevrolet’s Stingray concept car, featured much more angular, aggressive styling than its predecessor. Available in both convertible and, for the first time ever for a Corvette, coupe from 1963-1967, the Stingray featured muscular flanks which bulged over the rear wheels, and a split, fastback-style rear window which brought a truly menacing air to the coupe.
Quad-headlamps, which hid when not in use behind rotation sections of the front bumper, also contributed to this sinister edge, while the seething-burble-to-ear-splitting-roar of any of the V8s on offer certainly helped get the heart racing.
These engines came in small-block and big-block form, and Stingrays were sold with power ranging from 250bhp all the way up to 435bhp – making all versions formidable at covering ground. A Z06 package was also offered, with uprated brakes, stiffened chassis and a bigger fuel tank to feed the fires of the 5.4-litre V8, the only engine offered with this sportier model.
Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale
While America was all about hardened edges and angles, in Italy Alfa Romeo were taking their designs in a very different direction. The 33 Stradale took the company’s Tipo 33 racer and made it suitable for road use.
Uniquely for its time, the Stradale had butterfly doors, allowing the stylish elite of the 60s fortunate enough to own an example of the 33 Stradale entry to their super-chic sports car. 230bhp and 150lb-ft of torque got the 33 from 0-60 in just 5.5 seconds, courtesy of a 2-litre V8.
That luscious, deep-red body draped over gold rims – what a classic combination. The looks, the speed and the proportions make this Alfa one of the Italian stable’s most iconic cars, carving a path that’s carried on by its mid-engine successor, the 4C, today.
Its 150bhp 2-litre straight-six may seem paltry compared to the majority of the rest of this list, but the Toyota 2000GT has supercar aura in spades. Another Bond-film car, this featured in the film ‘You Only Live Twice’, albeit modified to be a convertible as Sean Connery at 6’2’’ couldn’t fit inside the coupe.
The 2000GT was originally designed by Yamaha for Nissan but picked up by Toyota when they decided against production. Despite the likelihood of profit being made on the car, Toyota sold 351 of them between 1967 and 1970.
Similar to the Lexus LFA then? In some ways the 2000GT can be seen as a predecessor to Toyota’s insanely high-revving halo car from 2010, and round the front end I see some distant similarities in their styling. Toyota made 150 less 2000GTs than they did LFAs though, making the Sixties’ supercar much more rare. Auction prices today for the original coupe-bodied 2000GTs reach 7 figures, with a striking red car taking over $1 million at Sothebys in 2014.
The Jaguar XJ13 (and I do mean the Jaguar XJ13 as only one was ever produced) was built in 1966. Designed as a mid-engined racing roadster around Jag’s 5-litre V12 engine, with a body designed by Malcom Sayer – he of C-, D-, and E-Type fame.
The incredibly aerodynamic lines never saw competitive racing, as the prototype was completed around the time Ford were sweeping up at Le Mans with a 7-litre GT40.
Sadly, the only XJ13 was crashed at a photo shoot alongside the Series-3 E-Type after being driven hard on a defective tyre. The chassis was eventually bought and restored by Edward Loade’s Abbey Panels. This was deemed not to be an exact replica by Jaguar, though several others have attemped to build replicas of the pre-crash 1966 car.
McLaren M6 GT
If Bruce McLaren tells you he’s going to build the fastest mid-engined car in the world, you bet it’s going to be a wonderful machine. That’s exactly where the McLaren M6 GT came from, born from this man’s lofty ambition and sewing the seeds that paved the way for the legendary McLaren F1 and more recently the 650S and sensational 675LT.
In 1969 his ambition became reality. The car began life as a project to enter the World Championship of Makes, before the FIA changed the rules for homologation so that 50 examples of a car had to be produced before it would be granted entry.
Bruce ploughed on though and produced an M6 GT for the road, which he used as his daily driver up until his death in 1970. His car – reg OBH 500H – ran a Chevrolet V8 delivering 370bhp through the rear wheels. The car was sparsely appointed inside, giving it an impressive curb weight of just 800kg and a 0-60 dash around the four-second mark.
De Tomaso Mangusta
Mangusta is Italian for mongoose, and mongooses kill cobras; this is the legend behind the name of the gorgeous De Tomaso Italian sports car built between 1967 and 1971, allegedly because De Tomaso had initially approached Carrol Shelby with the idea of an Italian-built mid-engine racer.
Power levels varied across the 401 cars produced; European versions came with a 306bhp Ford V8, while the American market had to make do with 220bhp.
The Giugiaro-designed lines hid the De Tomaso’s stunning party piece. A set of Gullwing doors ran the length of the rear third of the car, giving access to luggage compartments and the howling V8 motor.
Ultra-rare and exuding an almost alien beauty, the P4 makes even the cream of today’s supercars look slightly dated. Only one original example remains, meaning catching a glimpse of one is near impossible for us mortals.
The 210mph top speed comes courtesy of a 450bhp rear-mounted V12 – a fairly pedestrian output by today’s standards until you realise that the P4 weighs just 792kg!
In its day it blew the competition away in the American endurance series, while kit car enthusiasts and mega-millionaire film-director-turned-financial-geniuses alike have tried to emulate the P4’s swooping shape. Google Jim Glickenhaus’ PininFarina-designed P4/5 Competizione and you’ll see that designs like the P4’s have a way of transcending time.
Things are shaping up, with more modern curves entering the fray with our supercars of the 20th century. If you had to pick one, which decade would you go back to live in? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments!