I’m a guy who obviously loves cars and when I say cars, I’m talking about an almost endless number of models from every manufacturer in every era.
Now that being said, there’s no denying my personal preference for the 60’s and 70’s of the previous century. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder; fair enough, I can’t certainly say why I prefer, for instance, a ‘78 Aston Martin Lagonda – that for all intents and purposes it’s a horrible, horrible car – over the Ferrari 599, the Porsche 911 Turbo, the Maserati Gran Turismo or any other modern car. I just do.
This article marks my metaphorical return to the 70’s to celebrate this indefinable love for the era regarding automotive stuff . In the past I’ve talked about disco era luxury luxury, now we move on to performance. So, to proudly represent the very best in the 70’s going fast and looking good department, I’ve chosen 3 distinguished personalities that keep getting more and more desirable with age: the 1977 Aston Martin V8 Vantage, the 1972 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona and the Iso Grifo Can Am (also from ‘72). The more astute among you may be asking (quite correctly I might add, well done, I’m proud) “the the Daytona is from ’68, why talk about the ’72 model?” The answer is that there are a few design changes along the production run of every car and not always the first generation is the best looking one. This is the case of Daytona; the front of the hugely popular Ferrari suffered a few changes since its release date. The headlights were initially placed behind a see trough cover and were then changed to retractable ones that I personally find much more appealing. Questions answered let’s move on to what really matters.
Aston Martin. I could probably just the name and leave it at that because I can’t honestly think of a lot of manufacturers in the auto industry that are simultaneously a synonym for style, speed, status and of course, endless amounts of sex appeal, this last trait in no small way intimately linked to a time honored commitment to Mr. Bond. But in the middle of this vast, exciting world of vodka-martinis and dazzling glamour that surrounds Aston, there is a model that is somehow more…more special, deeper if you will. The V8 Vantage, or as I like to call it, Britain’s interpretation of the American muscle car. This particular Aston didn’t have an easy life because in the 70’s, it was incredibly difficult to step out of the shadow of that colossus named Countach. This absolute wonder of design had an unimaginable impact in the automotive world and the reason why is still very easy to observe today. Try this: the next time you take your car to a garage (that doesn’t belong to a particular manufacturer), take a look at the walls. I bet that in at least 8 out of 10 cases, somewhere up there you’re still gonna find a Countach poster. It was and still is that popular.
However, the V8 Vantage was so good looking in its classic design that it still became a benchmark as far as styling was concerned. It was certainly a hell of a feat by Aston to to make something noticeable when Lamborghini released a creation which looked like an alien ship that had just crashed on earth. And the Aston wasn’t all fireworks and no party either; the V8 Vantage had the right stuff to keep the competition worried. Acclaimed as the first British super car, the V8 Vantage could look down from the top of its 380 bhp to the “unimpressive” 353 bhp of the Countach. Top speed: 170 mph, extremely respectable for its time and especially impressive when taken into account the Aston’s heavy bottom (almost 2 tons) and the fact that its exotic Italian competitor was limited to 163.
0 to 60, 5.3 seconds, which is still impressive today, back in the 70’s it was absolutely astonishing. About the design, well, it wasn’t exactly what you could call modern, even when this model first came out, because after all, this was a normal production V8 “tweaked” to make it what it actually became. But the essential here is that it worked, no matter if you were in 1977 and I’m sure it won’t matter in 2077, the V8 Vantage looks respectable and dignified, it stands out of a crowd without being extravagant and over the top.
A while back, Top Gear’s James May also shared his appreciation for the V8 Vantage, having the chance to spend some time behind the wheel of a Countach as well and understanding that its place is in the posters I was referring to earlier; its legacy is one of imagination and form over function. The Aston is a different story. Besides being a creation of timeless beauty, it’s also comfortable, borderline practical its 4 seats.
You just can’t go wrong with a Vantage; it is without a doubt one of the greatest cars the world has ever seen. Of course, if money isn’t an issue I can’t end this sentence without recommending that you get an amazing Aston Martin V8 Vantage Oscar India like the one pictured here…those amazing BBS rims…mmm…or, of course, a later “X-Pack” with some serious Cosworth punch.
What I admire the most about this Aston it’s its longevity. It rolled of the assembly line with very little changes until 1990, that’s 13 years in production! The legacy of excellence and pure badassery that the V8 Vantage carries obviously reflects on its price, but I choose not to discuss that annoying and mundane question. *Pushes up sunglasses and takes a sip of a Martini*
On a completely different note, we find (as expected) the Italians and their highest and mightiest expression of automotive goodness: Ferrari, the manufacturer who’s creations were described by good ol’ grumpy Clarkson as a “scaled down version of God”. I won’t go nowhere near as far as that, but that´s only because I don’t believe a car should only be judged by the occasions on which in fact it actually works…Ferrari fans don’t send me e-mails, I joke because I love.
And to prove this love, I’m here to defend the Daytona as one of the greatest design creations in the history of mankind, not just only in the automotive world, but in general. I dare anyone, anyone at all to point out an angle from which the Daytona doesn’t look absolutely perfect! Damn, that’s a gorgeous car…
If we’re feeling formal enough, we can call the Daytona by its full name: 365 GTB/4; breaking it down, GT meaning “Gran Turismo” obviously, B meaning “Berlinetta” and 4 referring to 4 cams. The “Daytona” name was apparently created by the press and not by Ferrari itself, or so it claims Bill Vance in his article for the website of “Canadian Car and Driver”. However, different sources say that the car was indeed baptized by Ferrari in honor of the victory in the 1967 Daytona 24 Hours. Who’s right and who’s wrong I certainly can’t tell, but what’s important here is that the name stuck and very few people refer to the Daytona by its full family name. Introduced at the Paris Motor Show and produced from 1968 to 1974, this masterpiece of Enzo Ferrar’s company hosts an amazing V12 under its long slick bonnet which works with 6 double Webers to give the sexy Italian 325 bhp, allowing for a top speed of 173 mph and a 0 to 60 time of about 6 seconds.
An extremely worthy successor of the equally amazing 275 GTB/4, the Daytona was born in the mind of Pininfarina’s designer Leonardo Fioravanti. According to the “howstuffworks” website, while looking at the chassis of a 330 GTC, Fioravanti decided to create something completely new. The idea was well received by Sergio Pininfarina and the rest as they say, is history. Leonardo Fioravanti actually stated at in interview in 2008 that the Daytona was his finest work. I think everyone can agree.
The Daytona actually marks the end of an era because it was the final model to be produced by Ferrari before the company was sold to the giant Fiat. Popular for all the right reasons, the Daytona was even produced in a convertible version (by Sergio Scaglietti with Pininfarina’s approval) and of course, who could forget the iconic appearance of the convertible Daytona in Miami Vice with our 80’s buddies Crockett and Tubbs? What more can I say other than if it was already unsavory to discuss prices regarding the V8 Vantage, a Daytona would cost you at least twice as much…so we’re moving right along…
On a completely different note, let’s move far away from these two giants of the automotive world (Aston and Ferrari) and into something a little more obscure but equally brilliant. Cannot stress that “brilliant” part enough. Does the name Iso Rivolta ring a bell? If it doesn’t, don’t feel bad, after all the company was only active between 1953 and 1974. But along these short 19 years some real gems were produced, precious creations like the “Grifo” that appeared in several versions over its 10 year production run (1964-1974). The first Grifo was the A3 Lusso, followed by the Lusso GL 300 in ’66. These cars got their engines from Chevrolet, the same V8 327s from the Corvettes. However the “uniquecarsandparts” website tells us that these weren’t simply taken from a crate and mounted on the Grifo. The V8’s were – reportedly – meticulously reconstructed and adapted to their new home.
Renzo Rivolta died in 1966 , leaving his son Piero as the leader of the company. Piero decided to continue production of the Grifo, improving the car with the use of new Chevy engines now with 7 liters. These L71 big blocks really shined in the grifo as far as performance, but its the esthetic changes dictated by these engines that really make the 7L Grifos something truly special and oh so damn pretty…Because more space was needed to accommodate the big Chvey hearts, the look of the Grifos had to change, featuring stylish new hoods. This time honored business of engine size dictating design brings us to my favorite Grifo of all, the Can Am IR8, a beauty which began production in 1972.
The Can AM IR8 became the greatest expression of excellence of the Italian manufacturer before it turned into another name confined to the history books back in 1974. The engines for the Can Am IR8 were no longer provided by Chevy then, Ford Cleveland Boss 4BBLs had taken over. The reason why I love these last Ford equipped, Mk2 Grifos is because they simply cannot hide what they are; while the previous models suffered a few changes to the design, with the Boss engines the hood had to be cut and elevated, inadvertently creating what is one of the most brilliant shapes the auto industry has ever produced. Seriously, look at the thing! Astonishing!
The Iso Grifo Can Am IR8 (’72 to ‘74) is one of the most successful marriages between elaborate European design and raw American power: all the aerodynamic fluid shapes of the Italian school of auto design are present from hood to trunk, the front is even an eco of the Daytona, the epitome of design of the era, while the titanic Ford engine breaks violently through the European traits, demanding demanding recognition and visibility, a demand so familiar to the best of muscle car designs.
The Vantage has the presence and the Daytona has the style, but if I could hypothetically choose between these 3, I’d go for the Grifo. Hands down. I’m back to my original idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I believe that – in this situation – it’s more than that. The Aston has charm, but it also carries a bit of an elitist attitude about it. The Ferrari has the looks, but because it has the badge with the little horse, it will always have an ideal of purebred attached, a complex of superiority…I speak for myself here, but if I could own a Daytona I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t want to hang out with other Daytona owners…
The Grifo is different. Yes it’s fast, yes it’s beautiful and yes it’s certainly rare, but it speaks to my heart in a special way, maybe it’s the underdog quality that Richard Hammond likes to talk about (see, all Top Gear presenters accounted for in one article), I can’t say for sure. What I can say is this: with 130 grand to spend, I wouldn’t think twice about heading for Holland (where I recently saw one of these beauties for sale). One can dream.
Grifo (slightly edited)
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