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1960s Cars: The 25 Most Iconic Classic Cars

1960s Cars

Jaguar E-Type

If you’re like us, you probably miss those times when cars were a lot more curvy than today’s angular and aggressive bodies that most auto manufacturers produce. Those times are best described by the iconic classic cars of the 1960s, the golden age of gorgeous designs, roaring V8s and hair rising performance.

From fabulous pony to beastly muscle cars and from sports to timeless luxury icons, the 1960s have brought impressive innovations from the racetrack to the road, resulting in some of the most exotic cars the automobile industry has ever created, cars that even those who aren’t passionate about can easily recognize.

The Golden Era is what we miss today. Driven by that, we’ve rounded up the 25 most iconic classic cars from the 1960s, curated by our deep nostalgia for the automobile of times past.

25. Alpine A110

Alpine A110 1300G

Alpine A110 1300G / Photo by Lothar Spurzem / wikipedia.org

They say French cars aren’t good. But they’ve forgotten about the gorgeous little Alpine A110, a rear-engined beast which sent all its 140 horsepower to the rear wheels only, making it swing its tail around corners like crazy.

The body was fiberglass, so weight was reduced to only 1,600 pounds, and a backbone chassis prevented body roll. The stunning Alpine A110 was so good it managed to win no less than six WRC events in a single year, in 1973.

Even more so, the Alpine has been revived back in 2017, but beyond the better performance, we’re still very much in love with the original version and its classic charm.

24. MG MGB

MGB roadster

MGB roadster / Photo by DeFacto / wikipedia.org

With what’s probably the shortest name ever given to a car, the MGB was tremendous fun back in the day. It was a very popular car in the United States, and that was mainly due to its affordability and simplicity, allowing every owner with basic skill to work on it with ease.

It came out in 1962, manufactured by the British Motor Corporation (BMC), and immediately captured the attention of everybody with its lovely aesthetic.

23. Chevrolet Chevelle

Chevrolet Chevelle

Chevrolet Chevelle / americanmusclecarz.com

During those crazy years, the Chevrolet Chevelle was in the shadow of its popular brothers, the Corvette and the Camaro, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a hell of a car.

Produced between 1964 and 1978, the Chevelle was a very sought after vehicle. It was still a muscle car that deserves its spot in the top along the other names there.

While its first year saw only a 220 horsepower V8, in 1966,Chevelle came with 350 horsies to play. Its chassis had delightful smooth lines and curved side windows, making this car a true beauty.

22. Plymouth Barracuda

Plymouth Barracuda

Plymouth Barracuda / whichcar.com.au

The Plymouth Barracuda was Ford Mustang’s rival back in the day, and now one of the most expensive muscle cars that can be found on auction.

The car went through several redesigns during the ’60s and ’70s, each making it better and more gorgeous than the previous iteration, adding fastback, hardtop coupe, and convertible variants toward the end of the decade. Engines saw upgrades as well, in various power ranges.

21. Dodge Charger

1968 Dodge Charger RT

Dodge Charger RT / hemmings.com

Another legend of the muscle car world, the Dodge Charger came with superb design lines, especially that unbroken front grille of the second generation, from 1968, that hides the headlights when they’re not used.

The modern version of the Dodge Charger is still very popular and looks as menacing as this one, but if we had to pick just one we would surely go for the classic version. 

20. Ford Thunderbird

Ford Thunderbird

Ford Thunderbird / orlandoclassiccars.net

One of the first luxury cars that appeared in the United States, the Ford Thunderbird was produced between 1955 and 2005. It was this car that started a trend that would become known as the “personal luxury car”. The Thunderbird was never surpassed by its competitors.

The design of the Thunderbird screamed it was all American, an upscale vehicle that became larger and larger in size during the ’60s, as was the fashion with most cars of that period.

19. Chevrolet Camaro

Chevrolet Camaro SS

Chevrolet Camaro SS / soulauto.com

The Chevrolet Camaro was one of the most popular American muscle cars of the Golden Era, though it didn’t surpass the iconic Mustang in fame, despite the fact that the Camaro had everything it needed to do that.

It was a stunning rear wheel drive beast, 3,000 pounds heavy, built on a GM F-body platform as a two door coupe or convertible, and powered by a V8, the most capable of which was a 6.5 liter.

The first generation of the Chevrolet Camaro came out in 1967, and was sold up until the end of the decade. The car would be redesigned several times, reaching its most modern iteration in the sixth generation that’s currently in production since 2016.

18. Alfa Romeo Giulia

Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint 1600

Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint 1600 / nweuro.com

Probably one of the best cars that Alfa Romeo ever created was the legendary Giulia, a platform so good that it took to racing. The first iteration was the Giulia TI – “Turismo Internazionale”, unveiled in 1962 at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza in Italy.

The lightweight sporty car was powered by a 1.3 liter Alfa Romeo twin cam engine, with an output of 91 horsepower. The TI continued to receive many upgrades during the rest of the decade, among which was an overhaul of its chassis.

The year 1967 saw a replacement of the TI with the better looking and more powerful Giulia 1600 S.

17. Volkswagen Type 2

Volkswagen Type 2

Volkswagen Type 2 / RM Sotheby’s

Volkswagen Type 2 is among the most cherished vehicles today by hippie nostalgics all over the world. Though produced earlier, it wasn’t until the 1960s when its popularity soared, becoming the archetypal hippie van.

The van had a rear mounted air cooled engine which delivered power to rear vehicles only. Modern variants are still in production, but the 1960s Type 2 is still a common sight today, continuing to be popular with those who love the counterculture of times past.

16. Volkswagen Beetle Type 1

Volkswagen Beetle Type 1 Herbie

Volkswagen Beetle Type 1 “Herbie” / mecum.com

Speaking of VW, the Volkswagen Beetle is the car with the longest lifespan of any vehicle ever manufactured. Introduced back in 1938, it stayed in production up until 2003.

Though underpowered, with only 25 horsepower that came out from its tiny engine, increased to 40 during the 1960s, Volkswagen Beetle Type 1, the most famous of them all, had a charm that no other car matched.

Very much like the Type 2 van we mentioned above, the Beetle Type 1 is still one of the most cherished classic cars ever created.

15. Lotus Elan

Lotus Elan 1600 S1

Lotus Elan 1600 S1 / wikipedia.org

The 1960s Lotus Elan is the car that propelled Lotus to fame, raising their reputation as a car maker all over the world. The Elan was a two seater sports car ahead of its time.

It was fun to drive, lightweight, had excellent road manners, and with 108 horsepower available, it became one of the most popular car with driving enthusiasts.

While the American muscle cars of the period came as lavish and over the top, the Lotus Elan was small, simple, minimalist, and curvy, with a lovely European charm.

14. BMW 2002

BMW 2002

BMW 2002 / silodrome.com

Now one the most sought after vintage cars in the entire world, the BMW 2002 sparked a revolution when it came out, setting the standards for luxury sport vehicles for decades to come.

The gorgeous looking 02 series came with impressive handling, which made it a perfect platform for racing.

The 02 Series was produced between 1966 and 1977, and it came fitted with a type M10 four cylinder engine.

13. Toyota 2000GT

Toyota 2000GT

Toyota 2000GT / RM Sotheby’s

The Toyota 2000GT was first built as a show car in 1965, but after immense success it was put into mass production in 1967. It came with a 150 hp 2.0 liter inline six engine that put it on par with other sports cars of that period.

The great attention to details of the Japanese manufacturer, a front mid engine and rear wheel drive, and the stunning silhouette – which was inspired by the Jaguar E-Type, made it an instant hit, eventually becoming the first Japanese car prized by collectors worldwide.

12. Ford GT40

Ford GT40

Ford GT40 / topgear.com

Before Ford moved on to producing the beastly trucks we see on today’s roads, they spent some time in the racing world. One of their best examples of a racing car is the 1960s era Ford GT40, a high performance marvel that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for four consecutive years, between 1966 and 1969.

Developed in 1964 as a direct competitor to Ferrari’s race cars that dominated the Le Mans race, the GT40 gained immediate attention from the world’s automotive community for its incredible beauty and impressive performance on the racetrack.

The GT40 was first powered by a 4.2 liter V8 engine, but after failing to achieve success, Carroll Shelby took over, and the new 427 V8 made the GT40 a dominant force not only in the Le Mans race, but also the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 12 Hours of Sebring.

11. Shelby Cobra

Shelby Cobra

Shelby Cobra / mecum.com

Shelby Cobra wasn’t only one of the most beautiful cars ever invented, it was a powerful competitor to everything that was on the road at the time. Produced between 1962 and 1967, the Shelby Cobra was an illustrious combination of a powerful Ford sourced V8 engine and a small AC Ace body, a British lightweight sports car.

The result was one of the most outstanding cars of all time. During the period, it received numerous upgrades, and at its peak, it was capable of reaching a top speed of 185 mph and do the 0 to 60 mph run in only 4.5 seconds, all thanks to the 485 horsepower of the 7.0 liter Ford 427 engine.

The success of this car pushed Shelby America to produce a limited edition of the original 427 Cobra in 2014 for the car’s 50th anniversary.

10. Porsche 911

PORSCHE 911L

Porsche 911L / pcarmarket.com

The Porsche 911 is one of the most iconic vehicles produced by a European manufacturer, debuting at the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show.

It sported one of the first air cooled engines of the era, which brought much attention to the model, and started the company’s successful boxer configuration that Porsche fans from all over the world have come to love.

The 911 had impressive handling and a beauty that was hard not to fall in love with.

9. BMC Mini Cooper

BMC Mini Cooper

BMC Mini Cooper S / motortrend.com

Unless you’ve lived in a cave for your entire life, you can’t not know the Mini. It’s that lovely tiny car that became iconic during the 1960s. Produced by BMC, short for the British Motor Corporation, it became the focus of British pop culture during that period.

It became the second most influential car of the 20th century, as voted by the Global Automotive Elections Foundation in 1999.

8. Datsun 240Z

Datsun 240Z

Datsun 240Z / coilovers.com

The Datsun 240Z or the Nissan S30 was the original car behind Nissan’s Z series. With a 2.4 liter inline six engine and 150 horsepower tamed through a 5 speed stick-shift, the Datsun wasn’t the most powerful or the fastest car around, but it was among the respectable ones.

The Japanese car quickly became an icon on the western market, partly due to its affordable price, but also due to the fact that buyers wanted something that strayed away from the bigger and bigger chassis with similar lines that characterized the most important western cars of the period.

7. Lamborghini Miura

Lamborghini Miura

Lamborghini Miura / lamborghini.com

On par with the Ferrari 250 GTO, or the Jaguar E-Type, the Lamborghini Miura is without doubt one of the most beautiful creations of the automobile world, leaving a rich heritage behind that’s cherished today by countless people all over the world.

The Miura came in 1966 and quickly raised to fame for both its incredible beauty and its jaw dropping performance. Powered by a 3.9 liter V12, the Miura was one of the fastest production cars, the progenitor of the supercars of today.

6. Aston Martin DB5

Aston Martin DB5

Aston Martin DB5 / astonmartin.com

One of the most classic and stylish cars to ever roam the Earth’s roads is none other than the Aston Martin DB5, a luxury grand tourer made famous around the world by James Bond in the 1964 film Goldfinger.

What the DB5 started with its superb contours of the chassis is continued today on the more modern Aston Martins.

The DB5 was also ahead of its time when it came to power, sporting a 5 speed transmission that was uncommon at the time, and equipped with a 4.0 liter 282 horsepower inline six.

5. Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray

Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray

Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray / corvsport.com

Another defining moment for the American car scene of the 1960s was the introduction in 1963 of the second generation of Chevrolet Corvette, the C2 Sting Ray.

Powered by a roaring American V8, it could give not only to American, but also to the best European cars a run for their money. A few years later, in 1968, the C3 Stingray was unveiled. 

4. Pontiac GTO

Pontiac GTO

Pontiac GTO / bringatrailer.com

Produced between 1964 and 1974, the Pontiac GTO is known to be the one that started the trend and all that muscle car competition between American car manufacturers.

It wasn’t the first muscle car, but it was the one that set everyone else on fire.

3. Ferrari 250 GTO

Ferrari 250 GTO

Ferrari 250 GTO / RM Sotheby’s

The Ferrari 250 GTO is, at least for some, the most iconic car that came out from that golden decade, and one of the most gorgeous cars that was ever produced.

After its launch in 1962, it became a legend on the circuit, but more than its performance, people loved it for its astonishing 2 door Berlinetta body style, with insanely beautiful and curvy lines that spoke of dreams come true.

It stayed in production for a short time, between 1962 and 1964, but it was enough to become a true legend of automotive history.

2. Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang Boss 429 Fastback

Ford Mustang Boss 429 Fastback / mecum.com

The Ford Mustang is undoubtedly the American muscle car everybody thinks about when they hear the term. It was the car that everybody wanted during the 1960s, and for good reason. It took the world by storm with its allure and raw power back in 1964.

While the first iterations had unremarkable engines, the following variants came with the iconic V8 that would propel the Mustang to the legendary status it holds today. The car received several redesigns during the 1960s and the next decade but kept the intimidating look of the original.

1. Jaguar E-Type

Jaguar E-Type Fixed Head Coupe

Jaguar E-Type Fixed Head Coupe / RM Sotheby’s

The Jaguar E-Type was the most beautiful car in the eyes of Enzo Ferrari, one of the world’s most renowned sports car manufacturers, and we couldn’t agree more.

Revealed in 1961, the E-Type had a grace that few other vehicle are even close to reproducing. Though its excessive beauty was only a result of the aerodynamic shape created by Jaguar’s aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer, the E-Type won many automotive connoisseurs’ hearts.

But that wasn’t all, as the Jaguar E-Type was also incredibly powerful, built on a race-oriented platform that was ahead of its time, garnering even more attention and proving to the automotive industry that it was possible to bring such a car to the masses.

The car was also extremely affordable, sold for only a fraction of the cost of other exotic cars of the era.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that these 25 cars are the most iconic vehicles of the 1960s. Unbelievably beautiful, with seducing lines and never before seen chassis designs, and incredibly powerful engines for those times, these are some of the automotive industry’s best creations. Period.

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1 Comment

  1. Brian Serbin December 8, 2022

    Studebaker Avanti was years ahead of its time. Should be on this list.

    Reply

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