Ford Mustang Series 1 – A Brief History

In the early 1960’s, Ford decided that they were going to introduce a new breed of car to rival the large American muscle cars of the era. In 1964, the Ford Mustang was launched, and within its first 3 months sold over 300,000 cars. The ‘pony car’ was here, and here to stay.

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The Mustang’s popularity was for a number of reasons. Firstly people loved its looks, with its long hood and short trunk, but as well as this the car came with a number of options for easy customisation and 4 seats to reach more of the market. The Mustang also used many components from existing Ford’s, so development and manufacturing costs were low. Initially the Mustang only had a 170 cubic inch (cid) 6 cylinder engine, but it didn’t take long for this to be increased to a 289cid V8 producing 271bhp, giving some performance to match the looks. As if this wasn’t enough, Shelby got involved, producing the GT350 producing 306bhp, had no back seat and only available in white.

The next major upgrade came in 1967, when the Mustang received a full fastback roofline and more aggressive looks. The biggest change however was the engine, now armed with Ford big block 390. On top of this, a new Shelby was available, the GT500 powered by a 428 V8, as well as being more civilised and available with a number of luxury options. This was the last of the Shelby Mustangs actually produced by Shelby, later models were produced by Ford with very little input from Shelby.

The 1968 styling was similar to the previous model, and a limited number still used the 427 engines producing 390bhp. This year saw the Mustangs fame increase due to it’s appearance in the film Bullitt, where pssobily the most famous car chase in cinematic history took place on the streets of San Francisco, with the Mustang GT390 chasing a 1968 Dodge Charger. On the 1st April Ford unveiled its 428 Cobra Jet engine, and whilst listed at 335bhp, there were rumours of Mustangs receiving 410bhp from these engines.

The re styled 1969 Mustang gained over 140lb as well as some added length. The Mach 1 body style had the option of a Cobra Jet engine, but came standard with a 351 cid V8. 1969 also saw the release of the Boss Mustang, production cars being built in order to qualify for NASCAR. These Mustangs were race ready with a 429 cid V8 and nowadays demand premium price, particularly the Boss 302 and Boss 429.

The glory days of the Mustang faded a little from 1971 – 1973 (the end of the Series 1). Consumer demand turned from speed to larger luxury styling. The Mustangs became fat, growing in length, width and weight resulting in a drop in performance and leading the Mustang away from it’s roots. Eventually interest faded in the Mustang.

The late 60’s were the true glory days of the Mustang, and these are the models that remain in the history books. That said, the Mustang is still being produced to this day with great success, and is everything a modern American muscle car should be.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage (1977) – A Brief History

It is argued that the Aston Martin V8 Vantage was ‘Britain’s first supercar,’ owing to its 170mph top speed. There aren’t many people who would argue, as the performance of the Aston put it in league with the Ferrari Daytona and Lamborghini Miura, and would be Aston Martins flagship car for many years to come.

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In the days when most supercars weighed no more than 1500kg, the big Aston came in at over 1800kg. This made its performance all the more impressive, and the reason it had this performance was thanks to its 5.3L V8 that produced 375bhp. The engine itself had larger carburetters, bigger inlet valves and an improved exhaust system over the standard V8.

As well as the performance, the Aston had to be a genuine luxury 4 seater, something the earlier Aston Martins such as the DB5 and DB6 hadn’t really achieved. In 1963 the new aluminium V8 engine started its development, and the company switched to a new internal designer, William Towns. The car would also require a wider chassis, essentially taken from a widened DB6 and all new bodywork.

Aston Martin went though a number of changes and financial problems. Whilst they managed to develop the car, the engine progressed slower, so a predecessor to the V8 Vantage, the DBS was introduced. Whilst it was a hit due to its styling and comfort, it still only had a 6 cylinder 4L engine, and so was slower.

Eventually the V8 finally hit the market in 1977 and was everything it promised to be. The production of the Vantage went on for another 12 years with steady refinements and performance upgrades. By 1986 there was a 432bhp ‘X-pack’ version and a 6.3L 450bhp version available. The performance of the Vantage mixed with its looks, beautiful yet somewhat brutish means it has gone down as one of best supercars, and certainly one of the best large tourers of all time.

Pagani Zonda – A Brief History

In the late 90’s, there seemed to be a lack of truly fast, thorough bred Italian sports cars. Ferrari’s model at the time was the 360, and whilst this was a very good car, it was rather conservative on its looks and was not among the elite. Lamborghini did still have the Diablo, but this was beginning to show its age. Enter Pagani.

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The Pagani Zonda C12 seemed to come from nowhere. Debuting in 1999 it immediately caught the attention of the car world. It had everything a true Italian sportscar should have. It was mid-engined, powered by a 6.0L Mercedes V12 producing 380bhp. Whilst the signs were that Ferrari were starting to progress technologically to make their cars as mathematically quick as possible, the Zonda thankfully stuck to the old formula of rear wheel drive, a steering wheel and the driver. What made it truly great however was how it looked. The Zonda quite simply perfectly mixes beauty and Italian flare, with its ‘bubble’ cockpit, large spoiler and its circular arrangement of the 4 exhaust pipes.

There were only 5 of the original C12’s produced, but only to be replaced by an AMG tuned Zonda S. This version produced 540bhp, went from 0-100mph in 7.5s and a claimed top speed of 208mph. The Zonda S was then upgraded to a 7.3L engine and 555bhp. In 2003 the Zonda S’s top speed was tested by Evo Magazine, but surprisingly it maxed out at 198mph. While Pagani claimed that the car had been set up for maximum downforce, Evo said that many aerodynamic parts to increase downforce were removed, due to the pure reason of the test was to test top speed. Other tests also seem to suggest the Zonda could not reach 200mph due to its gear ratios. Despite this, the Zonda S had incredible performance, and still earnt its place amongst the hypercar elite.

Further models were developed, the next was the Zonda F, with yet more power, optional carbon fibre brakes and better aerodynamics. The roadster version lapped the Top Gear test track quicker than the Bugatti Veyron, a testament to just how impressive the Zonda truly was.

Bugatti Veyron – A Brief History

The Bugatti Veyron is a mid engined, all wheel drive hyper car, named after Pierre Veyron who won the 1939 Le Mans 24 hour race driving a Bugatti Type 57 ‘Tank.’ The Veyron Supersport version currently holds the world record for the fastest production car, with a top speed of 268mph.

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The decision to develop the car was made in 2001, but took until 2003 to produce a road worthy prototype. With a goal of breaking the top speed record, as well as creating a quality luxury sports car, there were huge technological challenges to overcome, and so it took another 2 years until the final car was unveiled and released. It was worth the wait.

The Veyron is powered by an 8L W16 Quad turbo charged engine, producing 1001bhp. The transmission is a computer controlled dual clutch, direct shift gear, resulting in a gear change in less than 150 milliseconds. The Veyron runs specially developed tyres specifically designed to cope with the incredible speeds the Veyron can achieve, and cost $25,000 per set. All of this results in a top speed of 253mph.

As mentioned above, a Supersport version of the Veyron was produced. This was due to the release of the American SSC Ultimate Aero, taking the top speed crown from the Veyron. The Supersport’s power was increased to 1183bhp, meaning it could reach 150mph in an incredible 10.2s and re-take the top speed record for the Veyron. The record has since been refuted by Hennessey, claiming their Venom GT should claim the top spot due the Veyrons’ rev limit being changed for its record setting run. The Veyrons’ record however has been retained; due to Guinness World Records stating a change to the rev limiter does not alter the fundamental design of the car or engine.

The Veyron is a feat of engineering unmatched in the car industry, and even if in the future it loses its crown, it will deservedly keep its place in history as one of the best cars ever made.

Porsche 911 Turbo – A Brief History

Perhaps the most iconic sports car of the century, the 911 is the flagship of Porsche’s current line up, and has been since 1963. It is a high performance rear wheel drive, rear engine grand tourer. While it has undergone many modifications and upgrades, the formula has remained the same, and as a result it is one of the most well developed performance cars available today.

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The 911 has had many versions, such as the 911 Carrera, Targa, RS and perhaps most famously the Turbo. The first 911 Turbo (Type 930) was introduced in 1974, featuring a 3.0L turbo charged engine producing 260bhp. The Turbo’s were easy to identify from the standard 911’s due to it larger wheel arches, wider tyres and large rear spoiler. The 930 turbo was upgraded in 1978 to a 3.3L engine and had an intercooler added. It was only in 1990 that the Type 930 turbo was replaced by the 911 (964) model. This however was produced rather late on in the standard 964’s production, so was only produced for 3 years. As a result the 964 turbos are rather rare.

The new 993 Turbo saw two major changes to the range. It was the first Porsche to use twin turbo chargers and permanent all wheel drive. The 3.3L engine produced almost 400bhp giving the Turbo some serious performance. This combined with the all wheel drive meant it was gaining a reputation as one of the fastest performance cars out there. As if this wasn’t enough, in 1997 Porsche introduced a limited edition Turbo S, adding 20bhp to the standard engine.

In 1998 the 911 996 was introduced, and this was a big leap forward in terms of the engine and design of the 911. The air cooled engine was replaced with a water cooled one, and it benefited from a completely newly designed body shell. All previous 911’s had been based on the original shell from 1963. Although a new bodyshell, it still retained the 911 look, but improved aero dynamics at the same time. The Turbo benefited from all of this, and with the engine producing 415bhp, it kept its reputation as a force to be reckoned with in the supercar market.

The 997 Turbo was released in 2005, and while it featured the same 3.6L twin turbo engine as the 996, further development to the turbo’s meant this model produced 470bhp, and delivered more power over more of the rev range. The 997 also had slightly better aero dynamics than the 996. These upgrades resulted in a 0-100 time of 8 seconds and a top speed of 198mph.

With Porsche’s continued belief in the 911 throughout the years, it has become one of the fastest sports cars out there. While there may be better handling Porsche’s than the Turbo such as the GT3-RS, which is developed with the track in mind, the Turbo certainly leads the way on sheer power and straight-line speed, as well as having an incredibly rich history.

Ferrari 288GTO – A Brief History

The Ferrari 288GTO is often over shadowed due to it being the predecessor of possibly the most iconic Ferrari of all, the F40. The 288GTO however was the start of the low volume, extreme supercar era. Unlike the Ferrari’s before it, and even the F40, this was a car designed as a racing car, and turned into a road car. It was developed to race in the Group B race series. In order to qualify 200 road cars had to be produced, and so Ferrari unveiled the road car in 1984 in Geneva. The car was a huge hit, and in the end Ferrari had to produce a further 72 cars to fulfil the orders taken. Unfortunately however, before the racing car was complete, the Group B series saw a number of deaths, was deemed too fast and too dangerous and cancelled. The 288GTO never got to race.

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As you would expect, being developed for the track meant the 288GTO had incredible performance. In terms of the engine it was the first of its kind for Ferrari. Firstly the 2.8L V8 was fitted longitudinally for better weight distribution, and it was the first to be twin turbo charged. This meant a power output of 400bhp, and this combined with incredible light weight (less than 1200kg) it would do 0-100mph in 11.0s and had a top speed of 189mph. This was convincingly faster than its competitors, taking a further 3 years to be knocked off the top spot by the Porsche 959.

The 288GTO had the looks to backup the punch it delivered. The 288GTO resembled a 308 on steroids, but looked all the better for it. Many would agree it is one of the best looking Ferraris of all time, not necessarily the most pretty, but a perfect blend of beauty and aggression. With its combination of speed and looks, the 288GTO is one of the greatest supercars of the 1980’s, and most would say of all time.

AC Cobra – A Brief History

The AC Cobra, also known as the Shelby Cobra is one of the most iconic sports cars of the 60’s. The Cobra is a British sports car powered by an American engine.

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In 1961, AC were approached by Carroll Shelby, who wanted them to build him a car based on the AC Ace, but one that could accommodate a V8 engine. An agreement was struck, and it fell to Shelby to find an engine. After failed attempts with Chevrolet, due to them not wanting increased competition to their Corvette, Ford provided the answer. AC developed a chassis that could accommodate the Ford 260cubic inch engine, a 4.2 Litre small block V8. Once the chassis had been sent to Shelby, his team had the engine and transmission fitted in less than 8 hours.

Just 125 Mk1 cobras were made, 50 of which had been upgraded to 4.7L engines. In late 1962, AC made some major changes to the cars front end, allowing for rack and pinion steering and leaf spring suspension. As a result it had a brief spell of superiority over General Motors Stingray. It also led to the Cobra dominating the US domestic race series. However when entered into the FIA GT class it could not maintain it’s form due to sustained high speeds being required, putting the roadster to a disadvantage.

Racing was a large influence on the development of the Cobra, always with the goal of beating the Corvette’s and Ferrari’s in the GT class. In 1964 a 6.4 Litre engine was tested in the Cobra, but had limited resources and poor development and so failed. This saw the development of a new Mk3. The new car used a new chassis, built to incorporate the infamous 427ci 7Litre engine, along with bodywork changes including wide fenders and larger radiator grille. Boasting 425bhp and a top speed of 164mph for the road version, and 485bhp with a 185mph top speed for the competition car, this is the iconic Cobra we all know and love. It may come as a surprise then that the Mk3 was a financial failure, and was never raced by a factory team. It did however compete with much success in the hands of privateers.

In the mid 1960’s, the government was becoming more and more aware of road safety and an increase in traffic accidents. It was in 1964 that an AC Cobra Coupe was calculated to have been doing 186mph on the M1 motorway. While not the direct cause of the new 70mph speed limit that followed like many believe, it went a long way to highlighting potential problems without the speed limit.

Jaguar E-Type – A Brief History

The late 50’s and early 60’s was a time of the most beautiful sports cars ever made. One of them stands out among all others however. In 1961, Jaguar unveiled the E-Type. Enzo Ferrari described the E-type as ‘the most beautiful car ever made’, and this was of a time of the Aston Martin DB4, and his own offering, the Ferrari 250, which some consider to be the most beautiful Ferrari of all time. It would be difficult to find many people that disagree with him, not just at the time, but 50 years on as well.

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It was not just the looks of the E-Type however that impressed. The performance was also there, with a top speed of 150mph (albeit exceeding the safe rev limit), a speed usually reserved for the more exotic Ferrari’s and Maserati’s. There was only one more thing that could make this car the perfect car, and that was it’s price, which astonishingly was up to a quarter of the price of the main rivals. In the end 70,000 E-Types were sold.

Due to its popularity, the E-Type had a number of upgrades, and so there was a Series 1, 2 and 3, in both coupe and convertible options. The Series 1 initially featured A 3.8Litre 6 cylinder engine previously used in the XK150’s. In 1964 this was then changed to a 4.2Litre, producing the same power of 265bhp and same top speed, but more torque and better throttle response.

The Series 2 stuck with a 4.2 Litre engine, but had better cooling, better breaks, and some aesthetic changes, such as open headlights without glass covers and a wrap around rear bumper.

The Series 3 saw the introduction of Jaguars famous 5.3Litre V12 engine. This model was easily identified by the cross-slatted front grille, flared wheel arches and the badge stating V12. The production of the E-Type came to an end in 1974, and will forever hold its place in history.

Lamborghini Miura – A Brief History

Lamborghini developed the Miura in order to rival Ferrari, and that is exactly what it did. The Lamborghini Miura has a special place in history, considered to be the first supercar, due to its combination of high performance, beautiful looks and innovative design.

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Although a mid engine configuration had been used before, it was mainly for racing cars, and considered unfeasible for road cars. The Miura was the first car to successfully use a mid-engined configuration in a high end performance car for the road, and so saw the birth of the modern day supercar. The Miura was also one of the first road cars to truly consider aero-dynamics. This however was on of the early Miura’s problems, as its ‘aeroplane wing’ style meant at high speed the car lifted, and so handling was poor. Later designs would rectify this problem.

In terms of the Miura’s performance, simply put it was the fastest performance car on the road. The Ferrari at the time was the 275GTB, and it could not compete. The Miura boasted a 3929cc V12 with 350bhp, and although Lamborghini claimed a rather exaggerated top speed of 186mph, the actually top speed of 172mph was enough to make it the fasted car of the time.

The purpose of the Miura was to provide Lamborghini with a car to rival Ferrari, and that it was it did. Not only this but it gave Lamborghini a foundation for latter and even more ambitious cars, including the Countach and Diablo, and as a result Lamborghini are established as one of the greatest sports car makers in the world today.