The chances are you won’t remember the coolest car from the year you were born. After all, you were concentrating on other things, such as growing up and keeping your parents awake at night. But just in case you’re wondering what was the king of cool in the year of your birth, here are some suggestions. It’s a highly subjective opinion…
More nostalgia on MR:
1957: Jaguar XKSS
You weren’t the only star born in 1957, because Jaguar unveiled something rather special. In the modern era the XKSS would be referred to as a supercar; a road-going version of the Le Mans-winning D-Type racing car. Developed for export to the United States, nine were lost in a fire at Jaguar’s Browns Lane factory, meaning just 16 were ever built. In 2016, Jaguar announced that it would be building nine ‘new original’ units for the UK market, each one with a price tag of £1 million.
1958: Armstrong Siddeley Star Sapphire
The Star Sapphire was billed as “the managing director’s car,” and it was, for Armstrong Siddeley, the last hurrah for this famous old marque. As opulent as a Rolls-Royce and with the styling to match, the Star Sapphire was powered by a 4.0-litre engine offering “sparkling performance” while delivering “club chair comfort”.
1959: Jaguar Mk2
On stand number 134 at the 1959 Earls Court Motor Show, Jaguar unveiled the Mk2, claiming it to be the most advanced and lavishly equipped high performance luxury car it had ever produced. It became an icon of the 1960s, with the 3.8-litre version proving to be a performance legend.
1960: Panhard PL17
A total of 606 Panhards were officially sold in the UK between 1958 and 1966, with sales hampered by the nation’s conservative tastes and high prices. The PL17 was billed as offering the comfort of a large car (five seats), the economy of a small car (50mpg) and the performance of a sports car (80mph). But in 1960 it cost around £1,000, or £21,400 in today’s money.
1961: Mercedes-Benz 300SE
What a majestic thing. In 1961, the Mercedes-Benz 300SE represented opulence on four wheels: the flagship W112. Air suspension, disc brakes, automatic transmission and power steering were a few of the luxuries, with power sourced from a fuel-injected 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine. Class.
1962: Renault 4
Both arrived in 1961, but the 300SE and Renault 4 occupied very different ends of the motoring world. This was Renault’s ‘Citroen 2CV’, majoring on practicality and utilitarian appeal, with a low price to match. “Enter the most remarkable car of the year,” proclaimed Renault in 1962. With sales totalling more than eight million, it was remarkably successful.
1963: Maserati Sebring
In 1963, a Maserati Sebring would have set you back around £5,200 including purchase tax. In contrast, a Citroen DS19, one of the world’s most advanced cars, cost £1,600. In today’s money, then, a Sebring would cost in excess of £100,000: a reminder of a time when Maserati stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the motoring elite.
1964: Ford Lotus Cortina
The original Ford Lotus Cortina was unveiled in Monte Carlo in January 1963, with the twin-cam engine of the Elan and Europa inserted into the two-door body. Early examples were fitted with aluminium doors, boot lid and bonnet to stay true to Colin Chapman’s ‘simplify, then add lightness’ philosophy. The Lotus Cortina could sprint to 100mph in 30 seconds, before reaching a top speed of 108mph.
1965: Porsche 912
It might look like a Porsche 911, but the 912 was powered by the four-cylinder engine from the 356, the car it replaced in 1965. Porsche’s lower-cost entry-level model bridged the gap between the 356 and the arrival of the VW-Porsche 914 in 1968.
1966: Jensen Interceptor
The Jensen Interceptor might have been built in the thoroughly British surroundings of the West Midlands, but it owed much to the Italians and the Americans. The delightful body was penned by Superleggera Touring in Milan, while the 6.3-litre V8 was supplied by Chrysler of Detroit.
1967: Aston Martin DBS
Touring of Milan was also asked to design the Aston Martin DBS, but when the Italian coachbuilder was wound-up in 1966, William Towns was drafted in to pen the replacement for the DB6. These were good times for the British car industry, with the Interceptor and DBS arguably two of the coolest GT cars ever built.
1968: Isuzu 117 Coupe
That the Isuzu 117 Coupe is so beautiful should come as no surprise, as the styling was the work of the genius that is Giorgetto Giugiaro. Sadly, the 117 is all too often overlooked and Isuzu has been left to concentrate on commercial vehicles. The 117 and Piazza would grace the back catalogue of any major car manufacturer.
1969: Ford Capri
Ford’s promotion of the Capri was a marketing masterclass, a case of knowing your audience and how to appeal to their needs and wants. Nobody needed a 2+2 coupe based on the more humble Cortina, but Ford spoke directly to the working class man, gracing press shots with elegant and pretty ladies. “The car you always promised yourself,” said Ford. For many men, it was.
1970: Alfa Romeo Montreal
To those who claim that the 1970s was the decade that style forgot, here’s the Alfa Romeo Montreal. Oh, sure, it was unveiled at Montreal’s Expo ‘67 – hence the name – but production didn’t start until 1970. Sadly, problems with the Italian workforce meant that UK deliveries began in 1972, a full year behind schedule.
1971: Alpine A310
If you were born in 1971, ask yourself this: have you aged as well as the Alpine A310? Or, to put it another way, would you look this good with a set of six headlights? Power was sourced from a 1.6-litre engine lifted from the Renault 17 TS, until the V6 arrived in 1976. Top speed: 140mph.
1972: Renault 5
Renault went on the offensive when it launched the 5, taking a swipe at the Volkswagen Beetle and Mini. A car “designed for the seventies,” it said in 1972. It was certainly forward-thinking, ushering in the dawn of the supermini. “A car for its time,” said Renault, before landing the ultimate blow: “As the beetle and mini were in their own good times.” Ouch, and in lower case, too.
1973: Matra Bagheera
When reviewing the Matra Bagheera in 1976, Car magazine made a heartfelt plea to British Leyland. “Good sirs, if a mixture of Chrysler bits, some glassfibre and a certain amount of developmental skill and understanding can produce a delightful modern car as this, why did you not long ago give us a similar machine with a 1275 Mini power plant or a Maxi engine or even a Princess unit resting there behind our backs?” Quite.
1974: Volkswagen Scirocco
The Scirocco was based on the Mk1 Golf platform, but arrived earlier than the hatchback, with VW bosses keen to iron-out any issues prior to the launch of its key model. Built by Karmann in Osnabrück and styled by Giugiaro, it’s questionable whether or not Volkswagen has created anything prettier.
1975: Lancia Montecarlo
Something flawed but super-desirable was born in 1975. No, not you, but the Lancia Montecarlo. It was destined to wear a Fiat badge, sitting above the X1/9, but was always sold as a Lancia. It wasn’t particularly quick and there were a number of quality issues – most notably the brakes – but it remains an object of desire. Much like you, then.
1976: Aston Martin Lagonda
The Lagonda was so forward-thinking and complex, even Aston Martin couldn’t figure out how to build it. So, while the car was unveiled in 1976, production was delayed until 1978. Solid state digital instruments, finger-touch switches and self-locking doors were fine on Tomorrow’s World, but not in the real world. There were many warranty claims.
1977: Matra-Simca Rancho
“Perfectly at home in both town and country. Rancho seats seven in comfort, and with the rear seats folded there really is an astonishing amount of carrying space.” The Matra-Simca (later Talbot) Rancho was so far ahead of its time: a soft-roader and an early pioneer of the crossover. Land Rover must have approved, because the Discovery of 1989 looked remarkably similar.
1978: Saab 900
The Saab 900 was unveiled in 1978 and released for sale in 1979. Although based on the 99, it was entirely new from the A-pillars forward and was quite unlike anything else on the road. You always got the sense that Saab put its owners first, as demonstrated by the industry-first pollen filter.
1979: Lancia Delta
While the Integrale receives all the attention, it’s easy to overlook the elegance of the ‘basic’ Lancia Delta. Once again, we have Giorgetto Giugiaro to thank for this masterpiece.
1980: Audi Quattro
For 1980, there can be only one. The Audi Quattro was a landmark car in so many ways, most notably in world rallying, where it rewrote the rule book. It also demonstrated that four-wheel drive could work for volume production cars and laid the foundations for the future of Audi.
1981: Honda Quintet
Remember the Honda Quintet? This was essentially a four-door hatchback version of the Accord, styled to give it a more family-friendly feel. “The quintessential car for the 80s,” proclaimed Honda, with the adman scouring the Scrabble dictionary in search of words beginning with ‘Qui’. Is the Quintet cool? Absolutely, but we’re not entire sure why.
1982: Citroen BX
The BX was Citroen’s landmark car, certainly in the UK, as it thrust the brand into the mainstream, becoming a fleet favourite and a consistent top-seller. “Loves Driving, Hates Garages,” proclaimed the press ads, as the BX cemented its position as one of Citroen’s best-selling vehicles.
1983: Fiat Uno
This was a big year for motoring launches, with the VW Golf Mk2, Peugeot 205, Fiesta Mk2 and Austin Maestro appearing for the first time. Choosing the coolest of 1983 is tough, but we’re opting for the Fiat Uno. Why? Because Giorgetto Giugiaro, of course.
1984: Ferrari 288 GTO
You can thank the madness of Group B rallying for the creation of the 288 GTO, but when the race series was cancelled, Ferrari faced a dilemma: cancel the project or press on regardless. Fortunately, it chose the latter, not least because the demand was so high. In total, 272 were built and it remains one of Maranello’s greatest hits.
1985: Autobianchi Y10
The Autobianchi Y10 – sold in the UK as a Lancia – was designed to be a chic small car for drivers with premium aspirations. And while it’s fair to say it looked better on the streets of Milan and Turin than it did in Macclesfield and Tamworth, we miss the Y10, especially in Turbo guise.
1986: Porsche 959
Even by today’s standards, the Porsche 959 is a devastatingly quick supercar. Top speed was just shy of 200mph, while the 0-60mph sprint was polished off in less than four seconds. It was a technological masterpiece, offering a tantalising hint of the supercar of tomorrow.
1987: Alfa Romeo 164
The Type Four platform was a joint-venture between Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Saab, with the aim of creating four executive saloons. The 164 was by far the best looking of the four, with attractive Pininfarina styling. In 3.0-litre V6 form, it’s also one of the most alluring cars of the 80s.
1988: Volkswagen Corrado
The Corrado was designed to sit somewhere between the Volkswagen Scirocco and Porsche 944, but history will recall that it failed to hit the mark. It’s a prime example of a car that was critically acclaimed and loved by owners, but hampered by a high price and buyer apathy.
1989: Citroen XM
Often referred to as the last true Citroen, the XM faced the difficult challenge of replacing the CX. Contemporary reviews aren’t too favourable, with the engines coming in for criticism and the Hydractive suspension, for all its cleverness, failing to reach the heights of the CX and DS before it.
1990: Range Rover CSK
The Range Rover CSK was unveiled in 1990 and named after Charles Spencer King, the genius behind the original two-door Range Rover of 1970. Its primary role was to promote the development of Land Rover’s new anti-roll suspension, but it was, at the time, the fastest production Range Rover ever built.
1991: Bugatti EB110
In 1991, exactly 110 years after the birth of its founder, Ettore Bugatti, the company unveiled the EB110. It was powered by a quad-turbocharged V12 engine and featured permanent four-wheel drive and the world’s first carbon-fibre chassis.
1992: Autozam AZ-1
Search online for the ‘coolest kei car’ and the chances are this will be near the top of the list. The Autozam AZ-1 might be small, but it boasts a pair of gullwing doors. And gullwing doors are cool, right?
1993: Lister Storm
The Lister Storm is unquestionably the greatest supercar to emerge from Leatherhead. Its 7.0-litre V12 engine was the largest V12 engine fitted to a production car since World War II and developed around 550hp and 538lb ft of torque. The top speed of 208mph and 0-60mph of 4.1 seconds meant that the Storm was a favourite Top Trumps card.
1994: Fiat Cinquecento Sporting
In 1994, the Fiat Cinquecento Sporting was Italy’s answer to the Mini Cooper. Power was sourced from a 1.1-litre Punto engine, while further upgrades included stiffer springs, four-spoke alloys and a front anti-roll bar. Pound for pound, the Sporting was the most fun you could have for £6k.
1995: Fiat Barchetta
Fiat did a great job of extending the use of the Punto, with the Barchetta borrowing its front-wheel drive platform. Don’t let the fact that the sports car is left-hand drive only put you off, because this is a credible alternative to the Mazda MX-5.
1996: Lotus Elise
Can it really be 21 years since the launch of the Lotus Elise? It redefined what we expected from a sports car, utilising an aluminium tub to great effect. It was, quite simply, one of the best drivers’ cars of the 20th century.
1997: Ford Puma
Speaking of great drivers’ cars: the Ford Puma is proof that a front-wheel drive coupe can deliver the same thrills as a rear-wheel drive sports car. If you were born in 1997, celebrate by buying something else that’s celebrating its 20th birthday. Yours for as little as a few hundred quid.
1998: Audi TT
The original Audi TT remains the epitome of cool: the concept car made a reality. Few cars have offered a such compelling blend of styling, interior quality and image. A modern classic.
1999: Honda Insight
We’re getting to the stage now when some of the original eco-pioneers are becoming classics in their own right. The Honda Insight was a technologically advanced hybrid hamstrung by poor practicality and space-age looks. Clever thing.
2000: Spyker C8
We’re stopping at the year 2000, because this is the final year in which somebody could be born and hold a valid driving licence in 2017. Some cool cars arrived this year – Lotus Exige, Vauxhall VX220, BMW Z8, to name but three – but we’re settling on something Dutch: the Spyker C8.