Sunday 11 July 2021

Cars that hit the target in 1966

England is about to play in its first major football final since lifting the World Cup trophy in 1966. Some may even remember those who took to the field for the legendary match, but who can remember the automotive stars of that year? 

Our Sunday Motoring Blog content provider, Newspress, has provided a run down of the perfect starting 11 that cornered the market 55 years ago.

Goalkeeper -  Ford Cortina Mk2
Did defending jobs get any bigger? Tasked with protecting the fastest-selling legacy of the original Mk1 Cortina, the Mk2 debuted in 1966 with a sharper, wider exterior and an all-new 1,300cc engine. It did indeed prove to be a perfect match for car buyers, becoming Britain’s most popular car in 1967 and offering everything from a spartan four-door version right up to the later 1600E and Lotus-powered version.

Left back - Renault 16
Strictly speaking, the Renault 16 first hit the roads in 1965, but it made its biggest impact in 1966 when it lifted the European Car of the Year trophy. It outgunned its competition with its forward-thinking design that, most notably, included the addition of a practicality-enhancing hatchback. Under its new-fangled sheet-metal there was a 1,500cc engine and a front-wheel drive layout, the latter also contributing to its spacious interior. Stirling Moss was said to be a fan and almost 16 million were made during its 15-year production run.

Centre back - Jaguar 420
Okay, it didn’t have the girth of the full-fat 420G, but Jaguar’s 1966-launched 420 would not have been a bad shout as an automotive goalie. Being based on the S-Type, it was still a decent size and, perhaps more importantly, was a pretty nimble mover thanks to the 4.2-litre straight-six, twin-carburettor XK motor under its new forward-hinged bonnet. Road tests at the time reported it to be good for 0-60mph in under 10 seconds and a top speed in the region of 125mph. Production ceased in 1968 so owning a survivor means you’re certainly winning in the rarity stakes.

Centre back - Volvo 140
The 140 series gave birth to the concept of the boxy Volvo. Although mechanically it borrowed much from its predecessor, the Amazon, its styling was a radical departure. Named Car of the Year in Sweden, it was available in both two- and four-door saloon variants (named 142 and 144 respectively), while the incredibly practical 5-door estate, the 145, arrived soon after. Not surprisingly, it won many fans, and by the time it was replaced by the 240 series in 1974, Volvo had found homes for more than a million of them.

Right back - Toyota Corolla
Launched in 1966, the Corolla would go on to become the world’s best-selling car, even eclipsing the venerable Volkswagen Beetle. It had distinctly humble beginnings, having been influenced by the company’s experience with the Toyota Publica, an air-cooled, two-cylinder car itself inspired by the 2CV. But with rising competition from the Datsun 1000, Toyota upped the stakes with an 1,100c engine. Exciting it might not have been, but it was dependable, a winning formula the company continues today.

Left half - Alfa Romeo ‘Duetto’ Spider
The last project founder Battista Pininfarina was involved with, the Spider was based on the mechanicals from the Giulia, including its suspension and twin-cam four-cylinder engines. From the moment it launched at the Geneva Motor Show, the Spider looked like a film star, and only a year later it found itself a starring role in The Graduate alongside Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. Its appeal was considerable and, with a few styling tweaks and the occasional new engine, the Spider remained in production until 1993.

Holding midfield - Audi 80
Based on the DKW F102, the Audi 80 took the Auto Union-derived underpinnings and updated the concept with a range of four-stroke, four-cylinder engines developed in conjunction with Daimler-Benz. With the thirsty and troublesome two-strokes abandoned, the 80 began to prove not just itself, but also the idea of front-wheel-drive to a previously sceptical Volkswagen.

Right half - BMW 02
When originally wheeled out at Geneva, this entry-level BMW wore a 1600-2 badge depicting, in typically Germanic logical fashion, a 1,600cc car with two doors. A souped-up version, the 1600 TI, followed a year later, but the model is perhaps most recognisable when wearing a 2002 badge and sporting a 2.0-litre powerplant.

Left wing - Jensen Interceptor
Italian styling, a torque-laden 6.3-litre V8 engine, and a name to die for meant this Birmingham-built grand tourer is forever etched into this country’s conscience. The Interceptor’s FF stablemate can arguably claim the crown as the first production car equipped with both all-wheel-drive and anti-lock braking. As a testament to the impact the Jensen had on car buyers in the Sixties, it also inspired one parent to name their famous son after it.

Striker - Lamborghini Miura
Variously described as the prettiest car ever designed or, more simply, ‘the one with the eyelashes’, the Miura could also be branded the original skunkworks car. Largely the product of Lamborghini’s engineering team working in their spare time, legend has it that company founder Ferruccio Lamborghini was against the idea of a rear mid-engined, two-seat sports car. All doubts would have quickly faded away, however, when the first concepts were shown to a breathless public in 1965. One year later, the car made its debut wearing the name of a Spanish fighting bull, a new badge to match, and a 3.9-litre transverse V12 and transaxle. Football fans might be more likely to remember it as the car that sets the scene for The Italian Job.

Right wing - Lotus Europa
A cutting-edge slice of high-tech engineering, when the Lotus Europa arrived in 1966 it combined Grand Prix engineering principles with sports car sensibilities. Taking the mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive concept that Colin Chapman and his team had championed through F1, it was designed to bring racing tech to production cars, but had the Lotus mantra of ‘added lightness’ written all over it. 

Strictly a two-seater, despite its size, the Europa used a boxed-steel backbone chassis with a fibreglass moulded body, à la the Lotus Elan, but was powered by a choice of Renault engines as well as Hethel’s famous Twin Cam unit. These were not that powerful but, with kerbweights from just 660kg, every little helped. Like many Lotus models of that era, it enjoyed a long life in production, yet was never a big seller. It finally disappeared in 1975 with just over 9,200 examples built. 

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