Facts and History

Iconic Cars of the 60s

Iconic Cars of the 60s

The 1960s is the era filled with monumental, social, political and cultural changes and upheavals. It is also the decade where some of the greatest and most influential music, movies, art, and fashion came together. Of course, you cannot recall the 1960s without remembering some of the world’s best-looking and most iconic automobiles, some of which we’ll explore below:

1. Mini Cooper

Five minis parked together in a parking lot

The Mini Cooper is one of the most quintessential cars of the decade, just like many other cars on this list. It is also one of the world’s most beloved cars, most especially in the United Kingdom where it became an intrinsic part of the 1960’s British pop culture. It was most famously featured in the caper film, The Italian Job (1969), where this little car even managed to steal the Lamborghini Miura’s spotlight.

Despite its small size, the Mini Cooper was also used as a race and rally car — in fact; it upset other race cars in the Monte Carlo Rally where it won three times during that decade.

2. BMC Mini by British Motor Corporation

 A 1963 Mini 850 mk1 at Governor House, Sindh, Pakistan

The Mini was also considered an icon of 1960’s British pop culture – it was greatly admired throughout the 60s as it was one of the first tiny cars ever. The specialty of this car was that it had a space-saving transverse engine and front wheel drive layout that provided almost 80% interior space for passengers and luggage. This concept went immensely popular among a generation of carmakers.

3. Aston Martin DB5

A grey Aston Martin DB5, in Greenwich, CT

The Aston Martin DB5 is another iconic British car of the 1960s. It made its legendary appearances as the spy James Bond’s first car in the films Dr. No and Goldfinger. It might look like a fancy car it is quite a speedy car – thanks to its engine that produces 282 horsepower as well as its robust ZF five-speed transmission and three carburetors.

4. Lamborghini Miura

A yellow 1967 Miura P400

Also featured in the 1969 movie, The Italian Job, this sports car boasts a 3.9-liter V12 which produces an amazing 350 horsepower. Its aerodynamic body has made the Miura one of the most popular and most attractively-designed automobiles yet. One of Lamborghini’s top engineers, Gian Paolo Dallara, was responsible for designing the chassis. He eventually went on to establish his own company, Dallara Motorsports, that makes chassis for various motor racing series.

5. Porsche 911

 A blue 1964 Porsche 911 2.0 Coupe in Porsche Museum

The late American actor Steve McQueen is probably the most famous owner of the Porsche 911. This high-speed car (1964 model) boasts a 2L V6 engine that produces about 130hp, which is a significant improvement from the earlier model (1963) 110hp. Its other prominent feature is the fog lights, which were seen as quite high-tech during the 1960s.

6. Toyota 2000GT

A white Toyota 2000GT

When the Toyota 2000GT was first unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1965, it changed the automotive world’s perception of Toyota’s cars — or Japanese cars in general — in a 360-degree way. It was Toyota’s first true supercar, as well as the first collectible Japanese car, that could compete with the elite European and American automobiles. The model reaped critical raves, and its manufacturing started in 1967.

The rear-wheel drive, two-seater coupe has a Yamaha-built 2.0 liter inline six engine and is equipped with a five-speed manual transmission. Only 351 units of Toyota 2000GT were rolled out for the worldwide market. This car looks familiar to you? It was featured in the 1967 James Bond film “You Only Live Twice,” starring Sean Connery.

8. Shelby Cobra

A blue 1962 Shelby AC Cobra CSX2000 in Shelby American Museum

One of the coolest inventions in motoring history was Shelby Cobra. This car, undoubtedly, has a striking appearance. First coming out in 1963, the Shelby Cobra is a British-American sports car. It has a sleek, lightweight body designed by AC Cars and is equipped with a Ford 427 V8 engine, providing a top speed of 0-60 mph in only 4.5 seconds. Production of the car continued until 1967.

It was a dream car for automotive lovers that instantly ingrained in car culture forever by the idea of fixing a big American V8 engine into a small British sports car.

8. Pontiac GTO

A 1966 Pontiac GTO convertible

The 1960s (as well as the 1970s) is considered as the golden age for the “muscle cars.” Although there had been some muscle cars before, the 1964 Pontiac GTO is generally considered as the pioneer of this trend. Since this is a homologation car (the “GTO” means Gran Turismo omologato in Italian), the Pontiac GTO was also suitable for the “grand tourer” racing. It was capable of reaching a speed of up to 170 mph.

9. Dodge Charger

 A 1966 Dodge Charger

Another legendary muscle car is the Dodge Charger, which was first released in the mid-1960s. This model has stood the test of time, and several generations of the Charger have been featured in many films including Fast and the Furious series and on television, “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

10. Jaguar E-Type

 A 1961 Jaguar E-Type Series 1 3.8-liter at the British Motor Museum

Jaguar E-Type was one of the fastest cars on the road back then in the 60s at that time which made it a highly demandable car. What made it even more desirable was its elegant and sharp looks. It was basically a British sports car, based on a proper racing frame. The series 1 was equipped with two different engines and was most valuable of the cars.

11. Ferrari 250 GTO

A Red 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

The Ferrari 250 GTO shares some resemblance with the Jaguar E-Type. When it was first launched, it was twice the price of a Corvette. At an RM Sotheby’s Auction in Monterey, California, A 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO was sold for a record price of whopping $48.4 million USD. This was the highest price tag a classic car has even sold for at an auction.

The Ferrari GTO was the most iconic car of the era, and as per Popular Mechanics (magazine), it was declared to be the “Hottest Car of All Time.”

12. Ford GT40

A 1968 Ford GT40 Mk I

Ford GT40 was a high-performance race car that was manufactured in the late 1960s. Though only 105 of these cars were ever manufactured, still it is regarded as one of the iconic cars in history, particularly in the racing world. The GT40 instantly cemented its legendary title in the automotive history by winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans for consecutive four years.

It was truly the supreme automotive machine of that era having the top speed of around 210 mph.

13. Volkswagen Beetle

A 1960 VW 1200 Cabriolet

The Volkswagen Beetle has amazingly one of the longest life spans of any car throughout history. Type 1 is the most famous of the Beetle series; also it is very popular as almost 21 million cars have been sold so far. It was a cheap, tiny, reliable air-cooled car that paved the way for much more expensive German fair, like Mercedes and BMW.

The original Beetle’s engine was only 25 hp and was designed for a top speed of 62 mph maximum, so it wasn’t suitable for racing, and also it looked just like an average car, but it surely gained a lot of popularity back then.

The 1960s was indeed the era of sizzling cars, and those cars are still loved by vintage car enthusiasts. If you are also one of them and want to have a look at more than 1,600 photos of the most popular American makes and trend-setting imports of the 60s, check out this book Cars of The Sizzling ’60s.

Read Next: Iconic Cars of the 90s

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