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20 60s cars you have to see

March 16, 2023 by

Hankering for nostalgic motoring? We pick of 10 of the best cars from the 1960s to take you back

The swinging Sixties were an era of free love, social change and affordable electricity bills. It was also a revolutionary era for the car industry, with some of the most innovative and best-loved cars of all-time filling our roads. For very different reasons each, here are our top 10 cars of the 1960s.

We’ve aimed to cover a broad spectrum of prices and car types in our rundown, and while it’s inevitable that some models require pockets so deep they would breach the Earth’s mantle, others can be picked up for less than a second-hand supermini.

Here is a rundown of the best

  1. Lamborghini Miura
  2. Porsche 911
  3. Lotus Elan
  4. AC Cobra
  5. Datsun 240Z
  6. BMW 2002
  7. Ferrari 250 GTO
  8. Renault 4
  9. Mercedes 600
  10. Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
  11. BMC/Austin Mini
  12. Volkswagen Beetle
  13. Ford Mustang
  14. Jaguar E-Type
  15. Citroen DS
  16. Rover P6
  17. MGB
  18. Triumph TR4
  19. Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
  20. Ford Cortina

1. Lamborghini Miura

  • Built: 1966-73
  • Engine: 3.9-litre V12
  • Top speed: up to 171mph
  • Price new: $20,000
  • Value now: £1.5m+

A car that frequently crops up in lists of the best-looking cars of all time, the Lamborghini Miura almost never came about, as company founder Ferriccio Lamborghini was more a fan of powerful grand tourers than mid-engined supercars. Today, it’s almost impossible to think of Lamborghini without the Miura, a car that was designed predominantly by Lamborghini’s engineers, and had more than good looks to offer.

Arguably the world’s first supercar, prior to the Miura manufacturers of exotic cars had stuck with the front-engined, rear-wheel-drive format, and the mid-engined Miura ripped up that rule book, inventing the supercar in the process, and setting a precedent that is still followed by today’s high-performance machines. The Miura’s V12, meanwhile, was such a triumph that derivatives of it can be found powering modern Lambos.

Sure, the front-mounted fuel tank could make the Miura a little skittish as it emptied, while having the carburettors placed directly over the spark plugs meant it could be prone ‘thermal incidents’ (IE fire), but whoever said art came without caveats?

2. Porsche 911

  • Built: 1964-present
  • Engine: 2.0-3.3-litre boxer 6cyl
  • Top speed: 130 to 205mph
  • Price new: $6,490
  • Value now: £12,000 to +£1.5 million

A quick glance at the breadth of performance figures and values above should give some indication of how varied a life the Porsche 911 has led. The first car to bear that iconic number came along in 1964, when Peugeot told Porsche they couldn’t call their new sports car the 901, and Porsche upped the number.

That sense of inflation has stayed with the 911 ever since, with the first cars having a 2.0-litre six-cylinder horizontally opposed ‘boxer’ engine (so called because the pistons metaphorically ‘punch’ outwards, rather than up and down), while today’s 911s can have motors that are twice that size.

Speaking of size, the 911 that arrived in the 1960s was just 4.3 metres long and 1.7m wide, figures that have both grown by as much as 20cm since then.

Prices, too, can vary dramatically, from as little as new Dacia territory for an early 2000s ‘996’ model version (Porsche 911 generations are identified by an additional three-number moniker), rising to well over £1 million for the rarest and most sought after models.

3. Lotus Elan

  • Built: 1962-73
  • Engine: 1.6 four-cylinder
  • Top speed: up to 123mph
  • Price new: £1,499
  • Value now: £20,000+

The Elan could hardly be more different from the Miura, because while the archetypal Lamborghini was exotic, expensive and outrageously powerful, the Elan had a far more attainable price tag, while hailing from Norfolk gave it homegrown appeal.

But both were unquestionably enthusiasts’ cars, with the little Elan having more handling prowess than vehicles costing many times as much thanks to Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s dedication to lightness and fine handling.

A steel backbone chassis and fibreglass body kept the weight down, while power came from a Ford-derived and Lotus-engineered twin-cam four-cylinder engine. Customers could buy a kit from Lotus and build the car themselves to save around £220 on the Elan’s £1,300 price, at a time when a new Mini was around half that.

4. AC Cobra

  • Built: 1962-67
  • Engine: 4.3-7.0-litre V8
  • Top speed: up to 164mph
  • Price new: $7,500
  • Value now: £1m+

One of the most iconic cars of all time, and a vehicle with a rather convoluted history, the AC Cobra came about when ex racing driver Carol Shelby approved AC cars and asked if he could fit a hulking great American V8 to the outgoing AC Ace. With the Ace soon to go out of production AC said “sure, why not?” or words to that effect, and the Cobra was born.

Known as the Shelby Cobra in America, the AC Cobra is so rare and valuable that if you’re lucky enough to see one on the road, chances are you didn’t, and it’s a replica – but as automotive legends go, the Cobra is up there. Huge power (the ‘Super Snake’ reportedly made 800hp) relatively little weight and crash protection and a classic open-top, rear-drive layout, legend has it the Carol Shelby placed a hundred dollar bill at the base of the Cobra’s windscreen, telling passengers they could keep it if they could overcome the Cobra’s acceleration and reach it before the car hit 60mph.

5. Datsun 240Z

  • Built: 1969-1978
  • Engine: 2.4-litre straight 6l
  • Top speed: 115mph
  • Price new: $3,526
  • Value now: £25,000+

Datsun, as Nissan’s were known overseas at the time, caused a storm when it imported the 240Z into America in the late 1960s, beginning a line of sports cars that continues to this day with the Nissan Z (a car that is sadly not offered in the UK).

The 240Z was, for its time, quick, powerful and handled well, and offered excellent value compared to rival cars from the likes of MG. American buyers took the 204Z and later Z cars to its heart, contributing hugely to the perception of Japanese car makers as being to offer fun, fast and desirable cars, as well as more modest and economical runabouts.

Prices vary enormously for 240Zs today, with project cars available from £15,000 or so, while fully restored examples can fetch four times that amount. And if you’d like a car that is spiritually similar to the 240Z but has more modern conveniences, the 350Z and 370Z could be just the ticket.

6. BMW 2002

  • Built: 1968-1975
  • Engine: 2.4-litre straight 6l
  • Top speed: 125mph
  • Price new: c$3,500
  • Value now: £20,000

The gestation of the 2002 is arguably emblematic of BMW’s modern reputation, as it emerged when two senior BMW staff realised they had both, independently of each other, fitted a more powerful 2.0-litre engine to replace the 1.6-litre unit found in BMW’s entry-level car, the 1600. Having successfully convinced the company’s board of the merits of their modification, the 2002 entered official production.

The 2002, perhaps unsurprisingly, received rave reviews, described by the American journalist David E. Davis in Car And Driver as being both “one of modern civilization’s all-time best ways to get somewhere sitting down”, and perhaps “the first car in history to successfully bridge the gap between the diametrically-opposed automotive requirements of the wildly romantic car nut, on one hand, and the hyperpragmatic people at Consumer Reports.”

That sense of doing something new stuck with the 2002, moved the small sports saloon/coupe game on a great deal, doing much for BMW’s reputation in the process. The 2002 Turbo, meanwhile, was the first BMW to use turbocharging, upping power from to 118 to 170hp as it did so although you’ll need £75,000 plus if you want one of those.

7. Ferrari 250 GTO

  • Built: 1962-1964
  • Engine: 3.0-litre V12
  • Top speed: 174mph
  • Price new: £6,000
  • Value now: £50m

It would be churlish not to include the Ferrari 250 GTO in this rundown, given it is both a strong contender for being the most valuable car in the world, and emerged in the 1960s.

It is hardly surprising the 250 GTO fetches the prices it does, with just 36 produced, and rare Ferraris being among billionaire’s most desirable collector’s items. But exclusivity was in the GTO’s DNA from the start: as well as being built in tiny numbers, potential customers had to be vetted by Enzo Ferrari himself before they were allowed to purchase the car; a comparable practice reportedly exists to this day for people after the upper echelons of the maker’s line-up.

Designed predominantly for the race track, where it trounced the competition, the real question is whether today’s owners, however wealthy they are, dare drive the 250 GTO on the road; it is, after all, worth as much as a Monet or Van Gogh, and it would be hard to justify exposing one of those to the elements on the M25.

8. Renault 4

  • Built: 1961-1992
  • Engine: 600cc-1.1-litre 4cyl
  • Top speed: 65mph
  • Price new: 400 francs
  • Value now: £5,000

Coming back down to Earth if not with a bump (the Renault 4 was reportedly rather comfortable) then at least landing with humility, over eight million 4s were produced across production spanning three decades.

Behind that success was a small, affordable rival to the Citroen 2CV, a car that had been on sale for well over a decade by 1961, and was beginning to feel its age (though the 2CV would remain on sale until 1990).

With a water rather than air-cooled engine, greater refinement and better packaging, the Renault 4 was more in keeping with France of the 1960s, which had roads that were much improved over those the 2CV’s suspension was designed for.

9. Mercedes 600

  • Built: 1963-1981
  • Engine: 6.3-litre V8
  • Top speed: 127mph
  • Price new: $22,000
  • Value now: £120,000+

The Mercedes 600, also known as the Grosser (German for ‘grand’), may have been launched 60 years ago, but its standards of luxury set a benchmark only marques like Rolls-Royce could hope to reach.

With fewer than 3,000 examples being built over six decades, the Grosser was, clearly, exclusive, its astronomical price tag putting all but the wealthiest off.

Adjustable air suspension made the 600 one of the most comfortable cars in existence, while both short and long-wheelbase versions were offered, depending on whether customers wanted to drive or be driven. The list of 600 owners reads like a who’s who of the 1960s, with everyone from John Lennon and Jack Nicholson, to Coco Chanel and David Bowie reportedly keeping one.

10. Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

  • Built: 1962-1967
  • Engine: 5.4-7.0-litre V8
  • Top speed: 140mph
  • Price new: $4,000
  • Value now: £30,000+

We didn’t get the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray over here and, even if we did, it’s fair to say we probably wouldn’t have ‘got’ it – few cars embody the spirit of 1960s America so well, and while Stingray might look totally at home in the US, it would have cut a very different dash in the UK.

But regardless of how well the Stingray would have travelled across the Atlantic, it remains something of a legend all these years later. True ‘Coke bottle’ styling, a huge V8 and well over 300hp, the Stingray was both gorgeous and good to drive thanks to its independent suspension and lightweight fibreglass body. The fact it offered all this while also being comparably affordable only added to the appeal.

11. BMC/Austin Mini

  • Built: 1959-2000
  • Engine: 848cc 4-cyl
  • Top speed: 80mph
  • Price new: £592
  • Value now: £10,000

If ever there were a car that defined the Swinging Sixties, the Mini was it. Fashion icon or simply basic, functional transport, the front-wheel-drive Mini was a masterpiece of packaging, styling and driver entertainment.

It was also an iconic racing car and a giant-killing rally car, winning the Monte Carlo rally no less than three times.

12. Volkswagen Beetle

  • Built: 1937-2009
  • Engine: 1200cc 4-cyl
  • Top speed: 78mph
  • Price new: £603
  • Value now: £12,000

The Beetle was around well before the 1960s, and also well after. Over six million were sold between 1937 and 2009, when the last Mexican-made Beetle was built. But the Sixties saw the Beetle’s heyday as it became an icon of surfer culture, while today its iconic status is more universal. It remains one today.

Earlier “oval window” cars are the most desirable, but any traditionally-shaped Beetle has a strong collector following.

13. Ford Mustang

  • Built: 1964-1970
  • Engine: 5.0-litre V8
  • Top speed: 120mph
  • Price new: £1,100
  • Value now: £25,000

When it debuted in 1964, the Ford Mustang sent shockwaves through the British car industry, which had enjoyed years of sales success exporting sports cars to the States. The ‘Pony Car’ was America’s own performance icon and the precursor to an amazing muscle car era.

The original model was sold for six years but the model name has been in continuous use for over six decades, with today’s alternative being the new Mustang Mach-E.

14. Jaguar E-Type

  • Built: 1961-1975
  • Engine: 3.8-litre 6cyl
  • Top speed: 150mph
  • Price new: £1,692
  • Value now: £100,000

Introduced at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show, the Jaguar E-Type was like nothing else before it. A beautifully styled aerodynamic roadster or coupe, it had drop-dead gorgeous styling and 150mph performance. It instantly became the most desirable car of its era, and for a good reason.

The original roadster and coupé were followed up by a 2+2 and then a flagship V12, with the latter featuring a massive 5.3-litre engine.

15. Citroen DS

  • Built: 1955-1976
  • Engine: 1.9-litre 4-cyl
  • Top speed: 90mph
  • Price new: £748
  • Value now: £20,000

The Citroën DS was a French revolution – a car like no other. Front-wheel-drive, equipped with fluid-filled suspension and with headlights that turned around corners, it was a truly amazing thing and a technological tour-de-force.

It was also a successful rally car and, at one stage, the world’s biggest estate car in seven-seat ‘Familiale’ format.

16. Rover P6

  • Built: 1963-1976
  • Engine: 3.5-litre V8
  • Top speed: 124mph
  • Price new: £1,038
  • Value now: £11,000

The Rover P6 – or 2000/2200/3500 as it was officially known – was an incredibly advanced car for the British motor industry. Introduced in 1965, it featured bolt-on panels over a steel monocoque, with in-board disc brakes and complex multi-link suspension. It was amazing to drive, especially when equipped with a 3.5-litre V8.

The Rover 3500 was a great luxury cruiser, and also the preferred transport for Britain’s motorway police.

17. MGB

  • Built: 1962-1980
  • Engine: 1.8-litre 4-cyl
  • Top speed: 101mph
  • Price new: £859
  • Value now: £12,000

Launched in 1962, the MGB very quickly became the world’s best-selling sports car despite being based on the floorpan of a Morris J4 van. Today, it’s the most popular classic car in the UK with over 20,000 known to survive in the UK alone.

Early ones in particular are getting quite collectable, as are the rare V8-powered variants, while the later rubber-bumper models are an affordable way into classic car ownership.

18. Triumph TR4

  • Built: 1961-1966
  • Engine: 2.1-litre 4-cyl
  • Top speed: 115mph
  • Price new: £996
  • Value now: £26,000

Triumph had enjoyed massive export success with the traditional TR2 and TR3 models, but by 1964 they were long-in-the-tooth. A tie-in with Italian styling house Michelotti changed all that, and the resultant TR4 was a beautiful machine that reinvigorated Triumph’s export sales.

The TR4 was replaced by the near-identical-looking TR5 in 1964, which introduced a brand-new six-cylinder engine and was even more of a muscle car.

19. Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow

  • Built: 1966-1981
  • Engine: 6.75-litre V8
  • Top speed: 130mph
  • Price new: £4,334
  • Value now: £15,000

When it debuted in 1966, the original Silver Shadow was billed as the ‘Best Car in the World’ and in many ways it was. It had a magic carpet ride thanks to Citroën-derived suspension, was supremely comfortable and also pretty quick. The 6.75-litre V8 engine’s power output was never disclosed, simply described as “adequate” by Rolls-Royce.

It enjoyed a 16-year production run, eventually being replaced by the Silver Spirit, which was based on the same set of parts but had a squared-off look for the 1980s.

20. Ford Cortina

  • Built: 1962-1981
  • Engine: 1.5-litre 4-cyl
  • Top speed: 84mph
  • Price new: £692
  • Value now: £7,000

Ford’s best-seller made its debut in 1962 and practically invented the fleet car market overnight. But more than that, it also became an iconic competition car thanks to the input of Lotus. The Lotus Cortina is a huge collectors’ item today.

But every Cortina tells a story, and with a 20-year lifespan the Ford family favourite found a place in many people’s hearts – even the ordinary models.

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