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Sports Cars

The 1960s were the heyday of the sports car. Never before had there been such a choice of fast roadsters, with Europe leading the way. Alfa Romeo, MG, and Austin-Healey were the biggest names, and the sports cars they offered blended ruggedness, torquey performance, and traditional rear-wheel-drive handling that made them successful in racing and rallying, and popular all over the world. The biggest market was the US, which Datsun targeted with its Fairlady followed by the Z-car coupes, while the US had a sports car of its own in the shape of the fibreglass Chevrolet Corvette.

Alfa Romeo Spider, 1968


Engine1,570 cc, straight-four
Top speed115 mph (185 km/h)

A gorgeous shape and accomplished handling made the Spider one of the best sports cars of its era. Launched in 1966 with a 1.6-liter engine, it was later upgraded to a 1.8-liter and joined by the 1.3-liter Spider Junior. With a five-speed gearbox and all-disc brakes, the Spider made British rivals look antiquated.

Nose for trouble

The steeply sloping bonnet meant that the spider was prone to accident damage, as drivers misjudged the length of the car. The slender chrome bumpers gave little protection.

Classy interior

The unfussy dashboard featured a painted metal finish, with many functions operated by fingertip. The windscreen wipers were controlled by a button on the floor, operated by foot

Italian Power

First introduced in 1954, and highly advanced for its time, Alfa Romeo’s twin-cam engine was the first such mass-produced, water-cooled, all-aluminum unit available. Adapted and enlarged over time, it continued in service until being replaced in 1997.

MGB, 1962


Engine1,798 cc, straight-four
Top speed103 mph (166 km/h)

Britain’s bestselling sports car sold more than half a million between 1962 and 1980. Rugged, reliable, and long-legged, it was a perfectly proportioned, truly practical enthusiast’s car. Roadsters and a useful three-door GT were available, and there was a rare V8—in GT form only.

Sunbeam Tiger, 1964


Engine4,261 cc, V8
Top speed117 mph (188 km/h)

Rootes commissioned Carroll Shelby, of Cobra fame, to develop its existing Sunbeam Alpine model into the Tiger. The car featured a Ford V8 engine, and uprated chassis and suspension, and was often referred to as “the poor man’s Cobra”.

Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray, 1965


Engine5,360 cc, V8
Top speed147 mph (237 km/h)

A stunning restyle in 1963 turned the Corvette into the Sting Ray. The lightweight, fibreglass body adopted ultramodern lines—a detachable hardtop was an optional extra. The Sting Ray oozed macho potential, which was fulfilled in the ultimate 375 bhp, fuel-injected L84 model. The Sting Ray sold well.

Datsun Fairlady, 1965


Engine1,595 cc, straight-four
Top speed100 mph (161 km/h)

Fairlady 1500 of 1961 was a three-seat sports car based on a Nissan Bluebird platform. A 1.6-liter engine was fitted in 1965, and a 2.0-liter became available from 1967. This MGB-beater from Japan was superbly built and tempted US drivers to consider buying Japanese cars.


It is a quote. The Classic Car Book – The Definitive Visual History 2016

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