Top 10 1960s cars: The sexiest motors from the swinging sixties
Magnificent and mighty made way for seductive and salacious in this most revolutionary of car design eras
Shahzad Sheikh – AKA Brown Car Guy – is an automotive journalist with three decades of experience on various titles including the Middle East edition of CAR Magazine and Used Car Buyer.
The 1960s was all about radical revolution, whether it was in fashion, music and entertainment; sexual and political liberation; or technical achievement. We went to the moon because... well we just felt like it. Skirts went mini, the Beatles got trippy, our heroes were revolutionaries and TV boldly went where no man had gone before. Nothing seemed impossible.
And cars had firmly moved on from an era of grand motorised carriages for the bourgeois elite and dowdy but utilitarian boxes on wheels for the masses. People wanted excitement and character from their cars, they wanted them to be desirable and evocative of the personal expression and freedom of movement they represented. Designers duly went wild and created some of the sexiest cars ever conceived.
1960 – Mini
Little and Large! All images tagged 'Motoring Middle East' and 'Brown Car Guy' by me.
So having said all of the above, 1960 was actually a bit of a dud year as the automotive decade got off to a slow start, but don't worry, it gets better – a LOT better.
The Chevrolet Corvair might not have been 'unsafe at any speed' as some claimed, but rear-engined and air-cooled it was radical for an American automobile.
Talking of rear-engined and air-cooled, Mazda's first car was a cutey: the R360 Kei car is straight out of a Pixar movie. And a special mention must go to the aerobubble Saab 96.
But none are worthy winners, so I'll cheat a little bit – the Mini was technically introduced in August 1959, but it's really about as 60s as Twiggy doing the Twist. Yes it was born out of a pursuit of pure functionality, but it surprisingly proved not only a motorsports champion, but a pop-culture icon. From The Italian Job to Mr Bean it's probably second only to the Ford Mustang in terms of the screen time it's had across the generations.
1961 – Jaguar E-Type
Like Roger Moore, I do love the pretty Volvo P1800 (he chose it for his role as The Saint), then there's the petite but punchy Alpine A110, and the massive third gen Ford Thunderbird. But the Brits were on a roll: Triumph TR4, MG Midget and the imposing Jaguar Mark X.
Plus of course Jaguar's iconic E-Type, described by Enzo Ferrari, no less, as 'the most beautiful car ever made'. Potently sensual it was and remains the ultimate expression of hedonistic motoring pleasure.
1962 – Chevrolet Corvette C2
Across the Atlantic, Chevrolet came up with its own version of wantonness on wheels with the second generation Corvette Sting Ray. A real lothario of a car, so vulgar it was wonderful!
Back in Europe though there was no letting up - we got the MG MGB, a spiffing Triumph Spitfire as well as the lovely Lotus Elan.
1963 – Aston Martin DB5
Alfa Romeo 105/115 series coupes (evolving into the GTA in 1965), the sensational Iso Grifo, the Lamborghini 350 GT, the magnificent Maserati Quattroporte (the design was based on a 5000 GT especially coach built for the Aga Khan), the sweet Mercedes W113 SL Roadster and every dictator's dream ride: the Mercedes 600. Plus I do like the Ministerial Rover P6.
This year should have belonged to the achingly gorgeous Ferrari 250 GT Lusso, if it wasn't for a certain British bruiser that landed an iconic starring role in the movie, Goldfinger. The Aston Martin DB5, thanks in great part to James Bond, is the epitome of suave sophistication and brutal cool.
1964 – Ford Mustang
The Pontiac GTO was a cool muscle car before muscle cars really got cool – that will happen by the end of these two paragraphs. The foxy Ferrari 275 means business, but Enzo got a dose of his own medicine thanks to the epochal Ford GT40 – the story of these carmakers' bitter battle coming soon to a movie theatre near you.
But it's another Ford that takes the year, not before I play my second Joker and move the Porsche 911 to 1965 (production didn't start till late 64) and make way for the Mustang. It encapsulates heroism and exuberance; style and charisma; desirability and accessibility. It's had more movie and Instagram appearances than any other car, and it rules even today (the world's best selling sports car by far).
1965 – Porsche 911
The enduring Porsche 911 is for many the ultimate sports car, even today, and yet it started in the 1960s, evolving from the humble Beetle into a giant-slayer on road, rally or racetrack. A true automotive icon.
If I hadn't cheated with the 911, '65 would probably have gone to the Roll-Royce Silver Shadow – officially the 'best car in the world!'. Other cool offerings included the Mercedes-Benz W108/W109 luxury saloons and the Triumph TR4A.
1966 – Lamborghini Miura
Now this was a vintage year: Alfa Romeo Spider (seen in The Graduate), BMW 02 series that spawned the 2002, Ferrari 365, Fiat 124 Sport Spider, Fiat Dino, Honda S800, Jensen Interceptor, Lotus Europa, Maserati Ghibli, and the extraordinary front-wheel drive Oldsmobile Toronado.
That's a an incredible line up to choose from and yet there is a car that stood above all of them. It combined extreme beauty with sensational performance and is widely regarded as being responsible for the term 'supercar' being coined – it is the voluptuous Lamborghini Miura.
1967 – Chevrolet Camaro
I was so tempted to give '67 to Japan's E-Type and certainly Toyota's sexiest car ever, the 2000 GT. But then there's the elegant Mazda Cosmo to consider. And in Europe it would've seen competition from the De Tomaso Mangusta, Aston Martin DBS, TVR Tuscan and the quirky and technically fascinating Wankel-engined NSU Ro 80.
But the late '60s is when the short-lived musclecar era really came into its own and the Pony car wars got serious. So let's try very hard to ignore the outlandishly cool Corvette C3 – much loved even today – and big up the Pontiac Firebird, which in turn owes its existence to the Chevrolet Camaro, created solely to take on the mighty Mustang – a ferocious arch-rivalry that exists to today.
1968 – Ferrari Dino
The Ford Mustang Mach 1 was a strong riposte to the Camaro, but the most captivating car to come out of the States was the second gen Dodge Charger, as driven by the baddies in Bullitt. There's the BMW E9, the erotic Ferrari Daytona, the charming Jaguar XJ, the swoopy Lamborghini Espada, Triumph TR5 and TR6 sports cars and the adorable little Opel GT.
But the Dino 206 GT/246 GT, more commonly known as the Ferrari Dino, has style, accessibility and an evocative back story. It's irresistible and unsurprisingly became the best selling Ferrari to that point in time.
1969 – Ford Capri
And breath! Things got crazy there for a bit, but the slow-down had begun. Domestic oil production couldn't keep up with demand in the USA, prices started to increase and the international fuel crisis loomed. We still got the brilliant Dodge Challenger and fearsome Boss 429 Mustang, plus the Porsche 914 – a 1960s Boxster – and Nissan's first Skyline GT-R, the fabled Hakosuka.
The winner has to be the European version of the Mustang - the Ford Capri. A star on TV or the track, it was a winner from day one and now values are rising fast as it becomes highly collectible and sought after.
What was your favourite car from the 1960s?