1963: A Golden Year For Motoring
Following on from Tuesday’s post about the Porsche 911 turning 60 years old, being first shown to the public on 12th September 1963 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, we thought we’d look at what else was launched in the same year. Whilst the 911 may have received the most press coverage about reaching the milestone, 1963 was actually a peak time for notable cars being introduced and as it turns out quite a lot of iconic cars share the 60th anniversary celebrations with the legendary Porsche model. If you were looking to purchase a new car all those years ago, how difficult it must have been to choose what to buy. Here are just some of the cars released during 1963 that are highly sought after today:
Obviously the most iconic of them all is the Porsche 911. The model goes from strength to strength and is one of the most popular and sought after cars in both classic and modern forms. Porsche executives must shudder at the thought that in the mid 1970’s, a decline in sales for the 911 meant that the 928 was going to be its replacement. A near miss for what has become one of the most revered model badges of them all. Read more about the 911 history in our previous blog post ‘Happy 60th Birthday Porsche 911’.
Aston Martin DB5
At the same motor show and at the same time, a car still considered to be one of the best-looking models of all time was also being shown to the public, the Aston Martin DB5. The DB5 was an evolution of the final iteration of DB4 and featured an all-aluminium 4.0-litre engine to give the car the power to match its stunning Superleggera coachwork. Within a year it had been featured as James Bond’s company car in Goldfinger and the most iconic product placement of all time began its story. The desirability of the model has soared in recent years and the price of a DB5 has soared 10-fold in just the time that Daniel Craig has been Bond, an immaculate early model now commanding prices in excess of £1million.
The stylish French sports coupe started production in 1963 and pioneered weight saving thanks mostly to its fibre glass body, meaning it weighed a little over 600kg. This made it the perfect car for racing and despite being launched with just 51bhp initially, by the end of production this had grown to 180bhp. Its racing success is stuff of legend, especially in the world of rallying, becoming the car to beat in the early 1970’s. Using many Renault parts including the engine, before eventually being bought by the company in 1971, the racing success played a big part in convincing Renault to enter Formula 1, and the rest is history. There may now be a modern A110 using a similar ethos of lightweight and excellent handling, but the original A110 remains one of the most sought after French cars of all time.
Chevrolet Corvette C2
The Chevrolet Corvette is one of the most famous American sports cars of all time, with the C2 being arguably the most iconic of the bunch. Effortlessly stylish, its sleek lines were a much more modern appearance than those see on the outgoing C1, and in 1963 looked thoroughly futuristic. Whilst the look to future is reminiscent of a time when the space race was the hottest thing around, when your clientele includes the majority of the astronauts who were considered national heroes, the Corvette C2 was the coolest American car money could buy. At a time when American sports cars were thoroughly in their golden years, with so many legendary cars from some of the biggest names in the business to choose from, the Corvette managed to out style them all. As a result, the C2 saw a 50% rise in sales over the C1 in its first year alone, split almost exactly 50:50 between the Coupe and Cabriolet body styles.
Much closer to home, 1963 saw British saloon car royalty being introduced to the public in the form of the Jaguar S-Type. Following the launch of the E-Type and the Mark X, Jaguar thought their current Mark 2 would need a thoroughly modern overhaul and introduced the S-Type, despite selling both models at the same time. It may have shared many components including the engines with the Mark 2, yet by including technological advances such as independent rear suspension, improved steering, and heating and ventilation system, the car was quicker cross country and a more comfortable car to be in. Taking styling cues from the newly launched Mark X also meant there was much more luggage space and represented a more luxurious offering all round.
Lamborghini 350 GTV
Previewed to the world at the 1963 Turin Motor Show, the Lamborghini 350 GTV was the prototype to what would eventually become the 350 GT, the very first production Lamborghini. Ferruccio Lamborghini requested the car to be styled with a tapered rear like an Aston Martin DB4 and sleek lines like the Jaguar E-Type, the car also included unusual details such as hidden headlamps and six exhaust tailpipes. The Bizzarrini designed V12 engine would be used for many iconic models over the years and the design remained in its basic form right up to the end of Murcielago production in 2010. Although heavily reworked and reengineered to create the 350 GT production model, the 350 GTV was merely intended to gauge interest for what would become the eventual series car, and gave an early hint as to the uniqueness of the Lamborghini brand since.
The 1963 Lotus Cortina came about when Lotus boss Colin Chapman enlisted the help of engine tuning gurus Cosworth to create his own version of the Ford 1.5 engine to be used for his racing programme. Enlarged to get closer to the 1600cc regulations, Ford asked Colin if they could fit his tuned engine into their Cortina for Group 2 homologation rules and the rest is history. Ford supplied the body shells and took care of the marketing and sales, whilst Lotus did the engine, mechanical and cosmetic changes. The cars were a step up from the usual Mini Coopers or Cortina GT’s and represented a real competition car for the road, which incidentally was also extremely successful as a racing car, especially in the hands of drivers such as Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart and with Alan Mann racing in Europe.
Mercedes Benz 600
The launch of the Mercedes Benz 600 or ‘Grosser’ in 1963 proved that the brand did nothing by halves. Designed to be the ultimate in Mercedes Benz luxury, everything about it was above and beyond most cars of its day, and many since. Ranging from a 4-door short wheelbase to a 4 door long wheel base, 6 door limousine and even a long wheel base landaulet with convertible roof section over the rear passenger compartment, the 600 redefined luxury travel and size, even the iconic three-pointed star was scaled up by 20% so it looked in proportion. A sophisticated 150-bar (2,176psi) hydraulic system powered everything from the windows, seats and sunroof to the boot lid, automatically closing doors and much more. The complex air suspension set up was so advanced that Mercedes still use a variation of it in their passenger cars today. All this meant the car was very heavy, so Mercedes more than doubled the size of their current largest engine to produce the first of their iconic 6.3-litre V8 engines. Such was the reputation for luxury of the 600 ‘Grosser’ that it has been owned by celebrities such as Elvis, Coco Chanel, 3 of the 4 Beatles and important figures such as world leaders, Presidents, Dictators and even the Pope.
Mercedes Benz SL (W113)
If Mercedes Benz proved to the world that they could do the upmost in luxury with the introduction of the 600, they also showed that they could produce cars that oozed style with the W113 ‘SL’. Introduced at the Geneva Motor Show of 1963, the W113 was designed to offer a ‘safe and fast sports car with high performance, which despite its sports characteristics, provides a very high degree of travelling comfort’. Its effortlessly stylish body hid the fact that it was the first sports car extensively with safety in mind with crumple zones front and rear with a rigid passenger cell to protect occupants. Its distinctive slightly concave removable hard top was designed to promote easy access to the car for driver and passenger by raising the profile at the edges, and in turn gave the car its iconic ‘Pagoda’ nickname. Almost 50,000 W113 SL’s were built over its lifetime and despite original high production numbers, the desirability of the model ensures that prices continue to rise for this popular sports car.
The Quattroporte (or ‘4-door’) was the first large saloon and first with a V8 for a series production car for the famous trident brand. Unveiled at the 1963 Turin Motor Show, the car took inspiration from a one-off design built for Prince Karim Aga Khan the previous year and was released at the same time as the Mistral Coupe. It was designed with a powerful 4.1-litre V8 to cope with the introduction of new motorways across Europe to allow effortless and luxurious travel over long distances and at speeds in excess of 120mph. This engine would remain part of the Quattroporte right up to 1990, such was the dependability and success of its design. Just 230 first generation Quattroporte’s were built between 1963 and 1966 yet the car has remained an integral part of the Maserati line-up and is now in its sixth generation, with early cars values creeping up towards the £100,000 mark for one in fantastic condition.
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