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Compact Coupés

Small, specialist manufacturers created many GT cars in Europe in the 1960s, which, owing to their ingenuity and inventiveness, rivaled those of the big car makers. Hardtop coupes became increasingly popular, and trends toward front-wheel drive or even mid-engine layouts were appearing Aerodynamic testing produced some very efficient shapes.

Ford Consul Capri, 1961


Engine1,498 cc, straight-four
Top speed83 mph (134 km/h)

Ford’s first attempt to make a sporty coupe for Europe just didn’t catch on-it was far too American in its styling. Only 18,000 were sold in three years.

TVR Grantura, 1958


Engine1,798 cc, straight-four
Top speed108 mph (174 km/h)

The TVR wasn’t styled, it grew. Its cheeky, chunky looks and lively performance due to its light weight brought small yet steady volume sales and competition success into the 1960s.

Porsche 356B, 1959


Engine1,582 cc, flat-four
Top speed111 mph (179 km/h)

By 1960 Porsche’s brilliant VW-based sports car of 1950 had moved a long way from its roots. This sophisticated 2+2 coupé was well built and reassuringly expensive.

Gilbern GT, 1959


Engine1,622 cc, straight-four
Top speed100 mph (161 km/h)

Wales’ only successful car maker used a spaceframe chassis, attractive fiberglass body, and high quality interiors to sell this handsome MGA/B/Midget-powered coupé.

Volvo P1800, 1961


Engine1,778 cc, straight-four
Top speed106 mph (171 km/h)

Initially assembled in Britain by Jensen but soon transferred to Sweden to improve quality, the P1800 was a stylish and incredibly durable two-seat Grand Tourer.

NSU Sport Prinz, 1959


Engine598 cc, straight-two
Top speed76 mph (122 km/h)

Italian styling house Bertone worked wonders to create this winsome little coupé for the bravely independent NSU. Over 20,000 were sold in the 1960s.

Matra Djet, 1962


Engine1,108 cc, straight-four
Top speed118 mph (190 km/h)

Designed by René Bonnet and built by Matra, the aerodynamic Djet pioneered the mid-engine layout for roadgoing sports cars, and was fast with Renault Gordini power.

Ogle SX1000, 1962


Engine1,275 cc, straight-four
Top speed110 mph (177 km/h)

Industrial designer David Ogle designed this bubble-like coupe, which successfully hid the Mini-Cooper running gear below. Sadly, few were made.

Marcos 1800, 1964


Engine1,778 cc, straight-four
Top speed115 mph (185 km/h)

Dennis Adams styled this ultra-low two-seater, with fixed lay-back seats and adjustable pedals. A wide range of engines found their way under the long, low hood.

Broadspeed GT, 1965


Engine1,275 cc, straight-four
Top speed113 mph (182 km/h)

Broadspeed founder Ralph Broad took the Mini Cooper 1275S and added a fiberglass fastback rear body that, with some engine tuning, made it a real flyer

Lancia Fulvia Coupe, 1965


Engine1,216 cc, V4
Top speed100 mph (161 km/h)

Lancia flouted convention with beautifully built, compact, twin-cam V4 engines and front-wheel drive in designer Pietro Castagnero’s 2+2 coupé-the last true Lancia.

Ford Capri, 1969


Engine2,994 cc, V6
Top speed122 mph (196 km/h)

Five years after the Mustang took the U.S. market by storm, Ford managed the same in Europe with the Capri, helped by engine options from 1,300 cc to 3,000 cc.

Saab Sonett, 1966


Engine1,498 cc, V4
Top speed100 mph (161 km/h)

Front-wheel drive, a freewheel, and a column gearchange were unusual features derived from the Sonett’s sedan parent, but the neat fiberglass body looked good.

Lotus Elan +2, 1967


Engine1,558 cc, straight-four
Top speed123 mph (198 km/h)

Not wanting to lose its loyal two-seater buyers when they started families, Lotus developed this upmarket 2+2 Elan, still on the superb-handling, backbone chassis.

Triumph GT6, 1966


Engine1,998 cc, straight-six
Top speed112 mph (180 km/h)

Triumph neatly combined the Spitfire chassis and 2000 engine in a pretty, Michelotti-styled body to make the GT6, soon dubbed a “mini E-type.” This is the 1970 restyle.

Unipower GT, 1966


Engine1,275 cc, straight-four
Top speed119 mph (192 km/h)

The best-looking Mini-based sports car of all, the Unipower had its Mini engine over the rear wheels in a lightweight spaceframe chassis bonded to its fiberglass body.

Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV, 1967


Engine1,779 cc, straight-four
Top speed116 mph (187 km/h)

Alfa Romeo’s Giulia series, launched in 1962-63, was hugely successful. This car was the perfect compact four-seater sporting coupe, with twin-cam power and great handling.

Sunbeam Rapier H120, 1969


Engine1,725 cc, straight-four
Top speed106 mph (171 km/h)

Sunbeam’s U.S. ownership was clear in the Plymouth Barracuda-derived styling, but the Rapier became an effective sports coupé with Holbay tuning.


It is a quote. The Definitive Visual History Of The Automobile 2011

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