The Lamborghini Espada was designed by Bertone. Their styling standards were of the highest – both inside and out. Sitting pretty atop the tail lights, for example, was a clear glass panel. Not only was it a sweet visual flourish – it assisted with parking, too. An impressive blend, then, of form and function. The Espada’s interior was state of the art. Its focal point was a control console, between the front seats. The console – and ‘techie’ dashboard above it – housed an aircraft-type array of dials and switches. And – Sixties supercar though it was – the 4-seater Espada was far from cramped.
The top-spec Espada was good for 155mph. It was powered by a 4-litre V12. The motor sat beneath an alloy bonnet. Pierced NACA ducts adorned the front profile. Engineering-wise, a one-off 5-speed gearbox did shifting duty.
The Espada’s ride was smooth and pliant. That was aided by all round wishbone suspension – plus, a wide track and fat tyres. Overall, handling was excellent. Power-steering and auto transmission were options on later models. The Espada was based on the Marzal concept car. On its release – in ’68 – the Espada set a new speed benchmark for 4-seaters. So – in every automotive aspect – the Lamborghini Espada was a genuine Italian masterpiece!
The Ferrari Daytona was launched in ’68. Those in attendance were probably expecting a mid-engined equivalent of the Lamborghini Miura. If so, they were wrong. The Daytona on display that day was a front-engined GT car. Designed by Pininfarina, it was in the traditional sports car mould. A multi-tube frame, for example, supported a steel shell.
Despite its relative orthodoxy, the Daytona was still the fastest road car on the planet. Flat out, it was good for 174mph. Its V12 motor meted out 352bhp – via a manual 5-speed ‘box. Capacity was 4,390cc. Dampening down performance was weight. The Daytona had a lot of it to lug about. 3,530lb, in all. Saying that, the weight was at least evenly distributed. Rearward positioning of the gearbox/trans-axle unit helped counterbalance the frontal mass of the engine. Wishbone and coil suspension – on a firm anti-roll setting – provided plenty of traction. A tad difficult around town, the more the Daytona was given its head, the better-behaved it became. Steering lightened up nicely. Road-holding grew increasingly precise.
For a car of its class, the Daytona’s interior décor was far from lavish. Electric windows, contoured leather seats and air conditioning, though, did come as standard. Only 1,426 Daytonas were built. Overall, however, it was a success in the showrooms. Of course, the car was christened after the legendary American race-track. Ferrari had picked up many a win at The Daytona Raceway, over the years. So, it was a fitting name for what would become one of the most celebrated of Ferrari sports cars.
The 350 GT was Lamborghini’s first production car. It was launched in March, ’64. Touring – Italian coachbuilders extraordinaire – were tasked with styling it. Headquartered in Milan, Touring’s brief was based on the Lamborghini 350 GTV prototype. Bodywork comprised alloy panels. They were hung on a Superleggera steel frame. The 350 GT’s light body was key to its top speed of 152mph. The solid round-tube chassis was supported by coil spring and tubular wishbone suspension. Girling disc brakes stopped the plot.
Gian Paulo Dallara – alongside Giotto Bizzarini – engineered the GT. Power was supplied by the trusty Lamborghini V12. The crankshaft of the quad-cam 60° motor was machined from a single billet. 280bhp was duly produced. The V12 was fed by side-draught carburettors. That, in turn, led to a rakishly low bonnet line. Capacity was 3,464cc. The 5-speed transmission – and steering box – were by ZF. The rear diff was by Salisbury. Fast, smooth and tractable, the 350 GT handled superbly. So – with both the form and function of their first model sorted – it seemed Lamborghini was off to a flyer!
The 350 GT was eminently user-friendly. There was, for example, a synchro-mesh reverse gear. The cabin was a chic and comfortable place to be. Just 143 cars were built. Exclusivity, then, was part of the package. Of course – in terms of sheer glamour – the 350 GT falls short of Lamborghini’s supercars. But – as an opening sports car shot – it had all the allure and panache that would become so synonymous with the marque.
The Iso Grifo was exclusive. In ten years, a mere 504 were built. Styled by Bertone, the Grifo was rooted in the Rivolta GT. Giotto Bizzarrini – ex-Ferrari engineer – shortened the latter’s chassis. That added agility to the base model. It was then passed on to Bertone. With that sort of pedigree, Iso were ready to take on Ferrari!
Time, then, to add some speed to the mix. Enter the Chevrolet Corvette. Well, its engine, anyway. The American V8 imparted some serious grunt to the Grifo. It probably did not please European purists. But, for drivers content with beautiful bodywork – plus muscle car oomph – things were bubbling up nicely. The top-spec Grifo came with the 7-litre version of the Chevy V8. That made it good for 170mph. It hit 70 in first gear alone. 390bhp was duly unleashed. Bizzarrini’s reduced wheelbase helped transmit power to tarmac. Wisely, Iso had fitted a full set of disc brakes!
As it turned out, the Grifo did indeed go toe to toe with Ferrari – in the form of the Daytona. The Maserati Ghibli, too, was given a real run for its money. For a small outfit like Iso, that was some achievement. Sadly, financial woes would plague it, in years to come. The fuel crisis – in ’74 – finally sealed the firm’s fate. By then, though, the Iso Grifo had already established itself as a thoroughbred Italian sports car!
The Ferrari 275 GTB was not just beautiful to behold. It hit the technological sweet spot, too. Superlative suspension, for example, was brought to the Ferrari party – in a way not previously seen or felt. The result was a car which looked like $1m – and had handling to match. And, for once, the Ferrari engine – an alloy 60° V12 – was not the centre of attention. It was trumped by the transmission. For optimal weight distribution – and top traction – motor and gearbox were separate entities. The two were joined at the hip, on early models – by a slender prop shaft. Later, a stiffer torque tube did the job. Double-wishbone rear shock absorption had now been added to the mix. The 275 GTB was thus uniquely positioned to make the most of its 280bhp output. That came courtesy of a single-overhead-cam engine. 150mph was on tap.
Technical excellence was topped only by styling. Pininfarina did the design work. The steel body was coachbuilt by Scaglietti. They were based but a stone’s throw from Ferrari HQ. That was in Modena – a town with near-mythical status among the marque’s fans. Scaglietti fitted a multi-tubular frame – in familiar Ferrari fashion. The Borrani wire wheels sported a set of ‘knock off’ spinner centre hubs. A sporty 2-seater coupé, the GTB’s exterior was pure Berlinetta. The interior did not disappoint, either. Its finely-crafted focal point was the wooden Nardi steering-wheel.
Launched in ’64, there would be several versions of the GTB. ’65’s Series Two sported a longer nose and smaller air-intake. For ’66, the quad-cam GTB/4 came with six carburettors – as well as dry-sump lubrication. The wind-in-your-hair model – the GTS – was aimed squarely at America. Just 200 GTBs were made. The GTB marked the point at which Ferrari began transcending mere beauty – to deliver on every level. Of course, the perfect Sixties roadster does not exist. The Ferrari 275 GTB, though, probably came as close as any!
The Maserati Ghibli AM115 was styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro. At the time, he was on the Ghia payroll. The maestro considered the Ghibli among his finest designs. It is not hard to see why!
Flat out, the Ghibli delivered 165mph. Even at that speed, suspension and handling were solid. And not withstanding its steel bodywork – meaning the Ghibli was no lightweight. Equally impressive were its four potent disc brakes.
Highest-spec Ghibli was the V8-engined SS. As you would expect, its torque curve was out of the top drawer. And from way down low in the rev range, too. A ZF 5-speed gearbox did its best to stay with it. Suffice to say, acceleration was not an issue! Capacity was 4,930cc. Power maxed at 335bhp. Just 1,149 Ghiblis were built. In ’67, the AM115 was a 2-seater supercar. Maserati were on a charge. Ferrari and Lamborghini – take note!
The Ferrari 250 GTO was about as focused a car as has ever been built. Designed by Giotto Bizzarrini, everything about it was geared to speed. Its cabin, for instance, was conspicuously spartan. The GTO – Gran Turismo Omologato – was made to win races, not comfort contests! Specifically, races in the World Sportscar Championship. The Ferrari 250 GT had been struggling in said series – mainly on account of poor aerodynamics. Which is where Bizzarrini came in. His brief was to draft a more slippery shape. One that could deliver more than 150mph, at any rate … which was what the GT was currently mustering. Bizzarrini went to work. The grille was made smaller. The headlights were faired in. A foreshortened rear end now sported a spoiler. Ferrari were pleased. The GTO’s top speed was clocked at 173mph.
But, Bizzarrini’s bodywork was just for starters. The GTO had other weapons in its race armoury. Like a 3.0-litre Tipo 168/62 Colombo V12. The 300bhp it produced took the Ferrari from 0-60mph in 6.1s. That called for a stiff chassis. An alloy-tubed frame was duly installed. The aluminium V12 engine was suckled by six twin-barrel Webers. Because it was dry sump, the motor sat lower – as did the rest of the car. More grist to the aerodynamics mill. A 5-speed gearbox turned the rear wheels. Only suspension let the side down a tad – being somewhat outdated. Saying that, it clearly did not hamper the whole package too much. In ’62, the GTO won the World Sportscar Championship. And again, in ’63 and ’64. At Le Mans, in ’62, while it came second in the overall standings, it took the coveted Group 3 GT class.
Bizzarrini also took care that the GTO’s styling was suitably seductive. As well as being one of the all-time great racers, as a roadster its low-down looks were sublime. Ferrari played a bit fast and loose with the facts, however … in true motorsport tradition! They passed the GTO off as just a streamlined GT. That got them off the hook, homologation-wise. Otherwise, they would have had to build 100 GTOs, to go racing. As it was, only 39 were built. In truth, though, the new car was unique. While the GTO – and its GT forebear – did indeed share many components, there was enough that was fresh about the GTO to set it apart. It certainly was a streamlined GT – Bizzarrini’s wind-cheating wizardry had seen to that. But – should there be any doubt that the GTO was special – a price comparison is telling. When Ferrari produced the car – between ’62 and ’64 – it cost £6,000. In 2014 – at Bonhams Quail Lodge auction – one sold for £22,843,633. Which made it the most expensive car ever, at the time. The Ferrari 250 GTO was a one-off, all right!