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Sports Cars

Despite a wide choice of attractive, often extremely potent models, the open sports car was in decline in the 1960s as the popularity of civilized, closed-top Grand Touring cars grew: Most of these sports cars were launched in the first half of the decade; many were conceived in the 1950s. Japan now joined the United States and Europe on the world market.

MG Midget, 1961


Engine948 cc, straight-four
Top speed86 mph (138 km/h)

Tiny, cute, and enormous fun to drive at speeds much lower than it feels, the Midget was a true fun car and was built—with engines up to 1,500 cc-into the 1980s.

Ferrari 250 California Spider, 1959


Engine2,953 cc, V12
Top speed145 mph (233 km/h)

One of the most beautiful and desirable Ferraris ever made, now worth millions, the California Spider was a car of movie stars, and became something of a star itself.

Jaguar E-type, 1961


Engine3,781 cc, straight-six
Top speed149 mph (240 km/h)

With double-overhead-camshaft engine, all-disc brakes, and all-independent suspension, the E-type was a bargain compared with other 1960s’ supercars.

Maserati Mistral Spider, 1963


Engine3,692 cc, straight-six
Top speed145 mph (233 km/h)

Maserati fuel-injected its twin-cam six to get Jaguar-level performance, and commissioned Frua to design this understated and sophisticated two-seat body.

Lotus Super Seven, 1961


Engine1,498 cc, straight-four
Top speed103 mph (166 km/h)

The Seven was a 1950s design that refused to die, thanks to uncompromising, timeless styling and fabulous, seat-of-the-pants handling. Versions are still made today.

Lotus Elan, 1962


Engine1,558 cc, straight-four
Top speed122 mph (196 km/h)

Lotus cars were engineered for lightness, giving terrific performance. The fiberglass Elan sat on a steel backbone chassis and it went-and handled-superbly.

Austin-Healey 3000 Mk lll, 1963


Engine2,912 cc, straight-six
Top speed121 mph (195 km/h)

Introduced in 1953 with a four-cylinder engine, the “Big Healey” grew up into a comfortable 2+2 touring sports car. Its low build and swooping

Innocenti Spider, 1961


Engine948 cc, straight-four
Top speed86 mph (138 km/h)

Innocenti of Milan commissioned Ghia to style a more upmarket body for British Austin-Healey Sprite running gear, with a trunklid, roll-up windows, and a heater.

Mercedes-Benz 230SL, 1963


Engine2,306 cc, straight-six
Top speed120 mph (193 km/h)

The 230SL may seem like a sophisticated touring car, with its pagoda roof and automatic option, but a win at 1963’s grueling LiegeSofia-Liege proved its toughness.

MGB, 1962


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

Britain’s best-selling sports car sold over half a million in 1962-80. Rugged, reliable, and long-legged, it was a perfectly proportioned, truly practical enthusiast’s car.

Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray, 1965


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

A stunning restyle in 1963 turned Corvette into Sting Ray, with ultra-modern lines oozing macho potential, fulfilled in the ultimate 375 bhp fuel-injected “L84” model.

Triumph TR4A, 1964


Engine2,138 cc, straight-four
Top speed109 mph (175 km/h)

Designer Giovanni Michelotti restyled the separate-chassis TR sports car for 1961, and Triumph added independent rear suspension in 1964.

Sunbeam Tiger, 1964


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

Carroll Shelby helped Rootes develop the Tiger from the excellent Sunbeam Alpine. The new engine gave it all the power it needed to fly, winning races and rallies.

Datsun Fairlady, 1965


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

Derived from the 1,500 cc predecessor of 1961, this MGB-beater from Japan was superbly built and tempted U.S. drivers to consider buying Japanese cars.

AC Cobra 427, 1965


Engine6,997 cc, V8
Top speed164 mph (264 km/h)

Designer Carroll Shelby had the idea to put the Ford V8 in the pretty British AC Ace-and topped it with this big block version, a road-legal race car with monstrous acceleration.

Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider, 1966


Engine1,570 cc, straight-four
Top speed111 mph (179 km/h)

Battista Pininfarina styled this exceptionally lovely roadster, which is also a joy to drive with a lively double-overhead-camshaft engine and all-disc brakes. It continued into the 1990s.

Fiat Dino Spider, 1967


Engine1,987 cc, V6
Top speed127 mph (204 km/h)

Pininfarina styled this gorgeous Spider, which boasted a Ferrari V6 engine and five-speed gearbox; had it been called Ferrari, not Fiat, sales would have doubled.

Vignale Gamine, 1967


Engine499 cc, straight-two
Top speed60 mph (97 km/h)

Recognizable to millions of UK children as Noddy’s car, Vignale’s Gamine fun car was based on Fiat 500 running gear. But it was too expensive to sell well.


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

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