The 1960s were years of great change not just in America, but around the world. The car industry was no different, new designers, pieces of technological advancement, and style changes, all meant that in the world of cars, the ’60s was a fast-moving time.
Although those cars may be well over half a century old now, there’s a certain timelessness that comes with some of the designs and the machines of the decade. It’s as if someone reached forward to the future and went “yep, they’ll still think this is cool” and based their work on that.
So while the world of cars and tech has advanced thoroughly since the 1960s, there’s a nostalgia factor that brings many of us enthusiasts back to the great cars of this time. In this article, 10 of the best classic cars from the 60s have been compiled into one place, giving you the perfect blend of nostalgia and great engineering.
10 The Mini
When looking at the best of the British 60s, next to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones sits the truly iconic Mini, which no matter which name it was under, is a legend of its time. For that reason, any Mini from the decade comfortably makes it onto this list. There are probably quite a few of you who owned a Mini, the original ones – not the bus-sized de-badged BMWs of the roads today.
Despite having great success in the rally world, the mini was never really about that, and even the most powerful model only had a little 1.3-liter engine. Rather, what made the Mini so special was its iconic styling, cheap price, and can-do attitude. With over 1,000,000 first generation Mini’s sold, there’s still a great amount of them still around today, so if looking for a cheap nostalgic ride, the Mini is your BFF.
9 Ford Cortina Mark 1
In the 1960s, it seemed if you didn’t own a mini, then you probably had one of these, as the Ford Cortina was the greatest threat to the Mini’s budget car reign. Although the Cortina didn’t quite end up having the same level of longevity as its rival, it still stands as a true classic of the era.
The Cortina from launch featured either a 1.2 or 1.5-liter straight four with a 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic, it wasn’t packed with luxury but capably got the British public from A to B without much hassle. The Cortina became the best-selling car in Britain in 1967 and would become a much-loved icon of the public for many years to come. The Mark 1 had a fantastic reputation for longevity, and is known for its rustproof nature, so much so that it even got a shoutout on Arctic Monkeys’ adaptation of John Cooper Clarke’s “I Wanna Be Yours”:
“I want to be your Ford Cortina, I will never rust.”
8 Alfa Romeo Spider
Taking things up a notch is the Alfa Romeo Spider, possibly one of the coolest Alfas of all time. With Alfa cars, you may not be guaranteed brilliant engineering craftsmanship, but you are always given a gorgeous-looking car, and the Spider was no different.
The small two-door convertible has become a nostalgic icon of the 60s sports car world. Featuring a 1.5-liter twin-cam engine producing 108 hp, the spider may not have seemed very powerful, but due to its lightweight nature, the car could easily still compete with the likes of the Lotus Elan. While the first generation Spider was only made for three years, but many great examples still exist today.
7 Ford Mustang
For the Mustang, the mid-’60s was Genesis, an exciting and fresh time for possibly the most well-known muscle car name ever. For some car brands, the first model can be a bit like the first pancake you make, not for Ford, and not for the Mustang.
Although many different engine variants were used on the early mustang models, the philosophy was the same: power. The Mustang was one of the first of its kind and an iconic classic ’60s car. There’s no true reason not to love the original Mustang, even if you’re not a big muscle car fan.
6 Alpine A110
Alpine may now be best known for their fairly successful Formula 1 team, but back in the 60s, the French-based performance manufacturer was big into their rallying, hence, the creation of the A110. The A110, like other Alpines of years prior, took many parts from the Renaults of the period, including engines.
The A110 used many parts from the Renault 8, including a 95-hp Gordini engine. What said the car apart, besides the obvious design differences, was the steel backbone chassis and fiberglass body of the A110. Alpine’s most famous car is certainly one of the best of the period, and the nostalgia was clearly great enough for the reboot to be made.
5 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Apart from being one of the coolest cars ever owned by a President of the United States, there’s a lot of fame that heads the way of the C2 Corvette, and with good reason too.
The C2 or ‘Stingray’ model is one of the best-designed and most easily identifiable in the series: a split rear window combined with curved arches and pop-up headlights made for a stunning-looking machine. The Stingray also featured a variety of very powerful engines, with the top model running a 435-hp Big-Block Tri-Power V8. The Stingray was both classy and powerful, making it a dream car for many enthusiasts.
4 Aston Martin DB5
“The names Martin, Aston Martin” is how the DB5 would probably introduce itself at a dinner party after its great success with the 007 franchise, and rightly so. Although Goldfinger may have turned the car into a Hollywood star, the DB5 was by no means “all for show.”
A 4.0-liter DOHC straight-6 was the choice of engine for the legendary sports car, capable of pushing out 282 hp and reaching speeds of 142 mph. Combined with a brilliant chassis, the DB5 wasn’t just a stylish icon, but a macho classic sports car.
3 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
Despite its boat-like appearance and high price tag, many consider the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow to be among the greatest cars of the ’60s ever built. The Shadow was originally meant to be called Rolls-Royce Silver Mist, but, due to mist translating to manure in German, the name was rightfully changed.
The British luxury car was one of the most premium rides available in the ’60s, and you’d hope so given its price tag of £6,557 or about $200,414 in today’s money. The Silver Shadow was another British car to be idolized by the Bond franchise, featuring in both The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974, and The World Is Not Enough in 1999.
2 Lamborghini Miura
It’s sometimes forgotten that Lamborghini pretty much defined the supercar as we know it today, as the Miura was the first supercar with a rear mid-engined two-seat layout. The team wanted to design something that not only felt great on the open Italian road, but that could also compete well on the track.
The original iconic 60s Miura featured a 365 hp V12, which, when combined with the lightweight nature of the car, made it perfect for road and track. The Miura was not only incredibly popular upon release but also inspired an entire rebrand of the Lamborghini company, bringing it closer to how it’s recognized today.
1 Jaguar E-Type
The E-Type may not just be the best car Jaguar has ever built, but could also hold the crown as the most gorgeous sports car in the world. While the model ran for many years, it all started in 1961, under the careful eye of the great Malcolm Sayer.
After a couple of prototype models in the 50s, the E-Type was finally out into production in 1961, and the 3.8-liter XK straight-6 helped propel the first of the models to sports car fame. The E-Type is not only a great all-around sports car, but an icon of a nation, an era, and, most of all, will make anyone feel that little bit nostalgic.