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Stylish Coupes

The flamboyance of the 1950s and curvaceousness of the 1960s had gone: With the 1970s came wedge profiles, straight lines, and angular shapes. Some cars looked better than others; as so often, it was the Italian stylists who seemed to have the best eye for producing a stunning car—though for the first time, Japanese stylists showed they could do it just as well.

Ford Capri RS 3100, 1973


Engine3,093 cc, V6
Top speed123 mph (198 km/h)

With its image kept exciting by wild racing cars like this one, the roadgoing Ford Capris continued to notch up healthy sales-around 750,000 in the 1970s.

Opel Manta GT/E, 1970


Engine1,897 cc, straight-four
Top speed116 mph (187 km/h)

Despite attractive styling and almost a half-million made, most Mantas have rusted away-a shame, as they were civilized touring cars with engines from 1.2 to 1.9 liters.

Ford Mustang III, 1978


Engine4,942 cc, V8
Top speed140 mph (225 km/h)

The third-generation Mustang was a full four-seater for the first time, as a larger car based on Ford’s “Fox” platform. It continued, with revisions, until 1994.

Jaguar XJ12C, 1975


Engine5,343 cc, V12
Top speed148 mph (238 km/h)

To draw sporting kudos for its XJ6/12-derived coupe, British Leyland campaigned this car-the first factory-backed racing activity since 1956. Prepared by Broadspeed, it took pole at Silverstone in 1975.

Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 1970


Engine5,735 cc, V8
Top speed115 mph (185 km/h)

Chevrolet launched a new coupé for the 1970s, bigger than a Chevelle and more luxurious, but still with a useful turn of speed for stock-car racing.

Rolls-Royce Corniche, 1971


Engine6,750 cc, V8
Top speed120 mph (193 km/h)

The Silver Shadow was a monocoque but this did not stop Rolls-Royce from adapting the structure into this two-door coupe. The Corniche looked very elegant, too.

Datsun 260Z, 1973


Engine2,565 cc, straight-six
Top speed125 mph (201 km/h)

The 240-280Z series was the world’s best-selling sports car in the 1970s, from what, at the time, seemed a most unlikely source. Japanese cars were about to conquer the globe.

Volkswagen Scirocco GTI, 1974


Engine1,588 cc, straight-four
Top speed115 mph (185 km/h)

This car was styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro and built by Karmann on the VW Golf floorpan. The Scirocco was a hit, selling 504,200 in seven years, with three engine specs: from 1.4- to 1.6-liter GTI.

Buick Riviera, 1971


Engine7,458 cc, V8
Top speed125 mph (201 km/h)

Buick’s status symbol coupé had a stunning new look for the 1970s, with a centrally divided wraparound rear window and accentuated rear “hips.”

Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato, 1970


Engine1,290 cc, straight-four
Top speed105 mph (169 km/h)

Ercole Spada at Zagato achieved the impossible: He took an Alfa Romeo GT Junior and turned it into something even more arresting to look at. Only the cost held back sales.

Maserati Kyalami 4.9, 1976


Engine4,930 cc, V8
Top speed160 mph (257 km/h)

When Alejandro De Tomaso took over Maserati, he developed his 1972 Ghia-designed Longchamp model into the Kyalami, with a choice of potent Maserati V8 engines.

Lancia Gamma Coupé, 1976


Engine2,484 cc, flat-four
Top speed125 mph (201 km/h)

A striking two-door body by Pininfarina transformed Lancia’s big Gamma sedan. Mechanically sophisticated too, it soon became a desirable machine.

Porsche 911S 2.2, 1970


Engine2,195 cc, flat-six
Top speed144 mph (232 km/h)

The 911 gained improved handling for the 1970s by moving the rear wheels back by 2.2 in (5.5 cm) and the fuel-injected S took full advantage, becoming a junior supercar.

Mazda RX-7, 1978


Engine2,292 cc, two-rotor Wankel
Top speed117 mph (188 km/h)

Mazda succeeded where German manufacturer NSU had failed: in persuading the world to accept the rotary engine as a serious option. 570,500 were sold in seven years

Porsche 924, 1976


Engine1,984 cc, straight-four
Top speed125 mph (201 km/h)

Purists disapprove of the VW van engine, but the front-engined 924 was a best-seller for Porsche and expanded its market beyond the dedicated sporting driver.

Porsche 911T 2.4 Targa, 1972


Engine2,341 cc, flat-six
Top speed128 mph (206 km/h)

Porsche introduced the Targa to offer fresh-air driving with rollover protection; it was heavier and less sporting than the 911 Coupé, but found a ready market.

Suzuki SC100 Coupé, 1978


Engine970 cc, straight-four
Top speed76 mph (122 km/h)

Suzuki sold 894,000 rear-engined “Whizzkids,” mainly on looks-they were cramped for four and had poor performance. The Mini was roomier and more nimble.


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

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