All four models featured in this supplement have one thing in common, but whether it is the reason for their being regarded as ‘classic’ cars is open to debate, for as with some of the cars of the Seventies and Eighties and indeed from any period of time, it is these associated with a racing heritage which tend to achieves classic status on merit rather than on age alone.
The Aston Martin DB4 and DB5, the E-type Jaguar, the Porsche 911 and the Ferrari Dino 246GT can all claim a competitive background, even if not earnt themselves, but they are also cars of the Sixties and they all have 6 cylinder engines as well.
The golden age of the two British manufacturers in question was in the Fifties when both were competing in the World Sports Car Championship achieving results that both are now again striving for 30 years later. Although neither the E-type Jaguar nor the DB4 Aston Martin were specifically designed for the race track, they are in part the product of lessons learnt from the heat of competition. The E-type, for instance, was the first production Jaguar to have independent rear suspension, a system first tested by the company at Le Mans, while the DB4’s new all-alloy engine was first tested under race conditions in a DBR2. Both Porsche and Ferrari have always capitalised on their racing successes in order to promote their models and yet, ironically enough, neither the 911 nor the Dino 246GT could claim at the time such a racing heritage as their British rivals.
The German car was designed to replace the 356 model of the Fifties. The expertise that went into the 911’s design drew little either from the limited competition successes of the model it was replacing or from its designers. That the 911 is now regarded as one of the greatest sports cars with a racing pedigree second to none is purely the result of its own successes which the original design has been capable of delivering.
It is the use of the 6 cylinder engine that gives the Dino 246GT and 246GTS a sporting pedigree due to its use of the light, alloy engine which had been evolved specifically for Formula 2. Since the regulations of the day had insisted on the use of production engines in the formula, Ferrari was obliged to produce a model in which to accommodate them.
Six cylinder engines, a racing background, a twenty to thirty year time span and the product of some of the most respected car manufacturers are not enough, however, to become a true ‘classic’. There is also the purely subjective area of looks. All four models highlighted are completely different in looks, but in every case they are regarded as either handsome, beautiful or striking. Not one is generally regarded as an ugly duckling. If it were, it would most unlikely be included in this top flight of cars.
It is not surprising to see three of the cars in this selection for two are the products of Italian designers while the English one is from the pen of a man who understood good clean lines. The most surprising is the German design for while the Porsche 356 was a worthy car of its era, it was hardly a beauty, its repressed Volkswagen lines too close to the surface. Missing altogether is a Gallic example, but rather sadly none seems to have been overlooked from this select group.
Of all the designs, though, the Porsch, 911’s is the most commonly seen since it it still a current shape, and yet it retains a vitality which is still vibrant today causing heads to turn in admiration. Who would have thought that Ferry Porsches’s brief to his son, Butzi, for a suitable successor to the 356 would still live on today? In the intervening 25 years, there is not one panel which is interchangeable between early models and those of today, and yet the overall shape lives on.
Even if not the most exotic, the four models in our feature represent the most desirable cars from their era, machines with a towering presence, from manufacturers with impeccable sporting reputations, so that their selection in our supplement was almost a foregone conclusion. William Kimberley, Assistant Editor
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