50th Anniversary of Classic Cars

We're sorry to have to break it to you, but if you go back half a century, you'll find yourself in the decade when taste vanished. Looking at cars from the 1970s suggests that what we drove was far more appealing than what we wore, something you can't help but notice when looking at cars from 51 years ago.

We had it pretty good, with a mix of the ordinary and the extraordinary, ranging from Italian supercars to British luxury, all rubbing shoulders with some of the best-selling people's automobiles from the UK and Italy. There's also Japanese technical excitement, the British sports car sector delivering on its lightweight promise, and a pair of French fancies that exemplify the decade's adoration of the coupé.

50th Anniversary of Classic Cars
51th Anniversary of Classic Cars


In 2022, five cars will celebrate their 51st birthday

The list below is by no means complete, but it serves as a snapshot of the year that was 1971 – and several of the items below will undoubtedly pique your interest as the year progresses.

365 GTC/4 Ferrari

The "Daytona" is the more well-known of Ferrari's 365 models, but experts rank the rarer GTC/4 just as highly – and to many eyes, it's also the prettier of the two. The GTC/4 was essentially a 2+2 version of the Daytona, with styling by Filippo Sapino rather than Leonardo Fioravanti at the Pininfarina studio.

The GTC/4 was created to transport a couple and their luggage from one end of Italy to the other, so it lacks the Daytona's racing background and an expressive name earned through track performance.

 However, because of its low profile, a Concours GTC/4 is now around half the price of a Daytona. In contrast to the Daytona's transaxle configuration, its 4.4-liter V12 is also directly attached to the transmission. Power steering was standard, which was a pleasant respite for anyone who had grown accustomed to muscling their way around a Daytona.

Bora Maserati

Bora was infamously put on the rear of a Volkswagen saloon in the 1990s, but most aficionados associate the name with Maserati, one of the most beautiful sports cars to come from Italy at the time.

It's also a work of astounding technological genius. By 1971, mid-engined layouts were commonplace in the industry, but Maserati's longitudinally-mounted V8 engine – initially 4.7 liters, with a 4.9-liter variant following later – was housed in a steel, Giugiaro-designed body with independent suspension at all four corners. 

The Bora even had a Citroën feel to it, with high-pressure hydraulics controlling the brakes, pop-up headlights, driver's seat height adjustment, and even the pedal box adjustment. Boras currently sell between £50,000 to £150,000, depending on their condition.

15/17 Renault

Given the dryness of the coupé class over the last five decades, it's hard to believe that Renault introduced not one, but two new coupés in 1971. The 15 and 17 were based on the front-wheel-drive basis of the eccentric but well-liked Renault 12 family car and were virtually the same under the skin, except their streamlined design.

There was a hint of the Transatlantic style Morris explored with the Marina in the 15 and 17, but it's fair to say Renault came closest. 

The 15 had a more exotic design, with pillarless doors, a wide and slatted back pillar, and a racy cabin with a quartet of hooded dials, while the 17 had a more exotic look, with pillarless doors, a wide and slatted back pillar, and a racy cabin with a quartet of hooded dials. They're becoming more and more scarce, but those that do exist are worth preserving.

Corniche Rolls-Royce

While most other manufacturers are gradually abandoning coupés and even convertibles in several niches, you can still acquire the Wraith coupé or the Dawn drophead through your local Rolls-Royce concessionary.

Each may be considered a spiritual successor to the Corniche, which will mark its 51st anniversary in 2021. The Corniche was, and perhaps still is, the ultimate boulevard cruiser, powered by the famous six-and-three-quarter liter V8 and gliding along on self-leveling suspension. 

It was launched as both a hardtop coupé and a convertible, shared with Bentley and derived from the Mulliner Park Ward variants of the 1960s Silver Shadow. A workable condition 4 automobiles is currently valued at £21,200, with a Concours specimen fetching £77,600.

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