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10 Best Classic Cars of the 60s

The 60s saw major advancements in style and performance, making the classic cars of the 60s some of the most beautiful, interesting, and desirable models ever made.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Even today, most of the coolest vehicles are classic cars of the 60s. From James Bonds' Aston Martin to the Chevrolet Chevelle SS from The Fast and the Furious, and, of course, the completely different movie, Fast & Furious these cars are the things dreams are made of. Even for the cars that didn't make fame in Hollywood, 60s vehicles marked a revolution in consumer car technology, ushering in the age of American muscle cars and personal luxury cars by combining the speed, power, and torque of racing cars with mass production technology, in order to bring us some of the most beautiful and powerful cars around, even today.

1967 Ford Thunderbird

Photo by Greg Gjerdingen via Flickr

The Ford Thunderbird is largely regarded as the first 'personal luxury car'; cars that are designed for mass production, and therefore available to the public on a large scale, but emphasize attractive looks and appealing design. The Thunderbird, for its part, was made in various model editions for a full fifty years, with the first model debuting in 1955 and ending just recently in 2005 (okay, I guess that actually was a long time ago, but it feels like yesterday). This real classic car of the 60s though, like the others mentioned here, go back to the models' early days, when they first gained popularity through their combination of availability and affordability, comfort and amenities, and, of course, desirable design.

Ford GT40

Photo from Pixabay

With only a hundred of the original model produced, it's no wonder that the Ford GT40 is considered one of the most classic cars of the 60s, admired by car enthusiasts around the world. The GT40 was responsible for breaking Ferrari's 6-year winning streak at 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the most prestigious endurance races in history. After beating their streak, the GT40 went on to bring the American manufacturer five more victories. In a row. A resounding success for Henry Ford II, who produced the racing car more or less out of spite and resentment, in order to defeat Ferrari.

De Tomaso Pantera

Photo by nakhon100 via Flickr

First debuting at the end of the 60s and gaining popularity through the 70s, the De Tomaso Pantera made an effort to combine the power and speed of a racing car, with a high-torque Ford engine to make the car more easily driven on the street, especially in urban settings. The Pantera, as a result, is something like the lovechild of an American muscle car and an sleek Italian sports car. Though the first models of the Pantera had some issues with quality, especially rust-proofing, the classic car of the 60s grew in popularity in the United States as Ford made consistent improvements, ultimately leading to its status as a coveted collector car and celebrity favorite.

1964 Pontiac GTO

Photo by Greg Gjerdingen via Flickr

The 1964 Pontiac GTO is widely considered the first American muscle car available to the public, and remained the most powerful, and popular, for a long time. We owe the existence of the Pontiac GTO to its predecessor, the much less powerful Pontiac Tempest. The Tempest was a moderately popular, standard car of the time, but its real place in history lies in its function as a shell for a more powerful engine. By putting the 389 cubic inch V8 engine in the Pontiac Tempest, General Motors created one of the first cars with race-car-level power for the general public. In fact, 32,000 of these cars were ultimately made, despite GM's original misgivings about its creation.

Ferrari 250 GTO

Photo by Sierra Hotel Photography via Flickr

Just because a Ford racing car beat out Ferrari for a couple of years, doesn't mean Ferrari was out of the game in any way. In fact, the rare Ferrari 250 GTO, only 36 ever produced, has been named one of the top sports cars of all time. While it certainly could be on top in terms of function and aesthetics, there's no arguing its status as one of the most expensive vintage cars of the 60s as well. Although the Ferrari 250 GTO was made available to the public, it was really designed as a race car. I imagine it's quite a rush to be a race car driver without the track.

Shelby (AC) Cobra

Photo by Stahlkocher from Wikimedia Commons

The competitive attitude of Ford has brought us many of the most classic cars of the 60s, an era in which Ford undertook projects and revolutionized the way cars were built and sold, generally in order to get an edge on the competition (or in pure spite, as with the Ferrari feud). The Shelby Cobra came to exist through a similar attitude. 

Its eponymous inventor, Carroll Shelby, had the idea to just put a more powerful V8 engine in the body of an adapted British AC car. While that British manufacturing company, AC Cars, agreed, Shelby still had to find someone to provide a suitable engine. This proved difficult at first, but ultimately his pitch to Ford tickled the American manufacturer's competitive bone, and the Shelby Cobra was born.

1968 Plymouth Road Runner

Photo by sv1ambo via Flickr

The Plymouth Road Runner had a 12-year run as a stand-out car. In fact, in its inaugural year, more than twice as many were sold than originally expected or anticipated - they had planned for around 20,000, and sold a whopping 45,000. Despite being a popular car designed for the masses, with a focus on functionality, the Plymouth Road Runner packed a punch, demonstrating that quality and desirability are not exclusive to rarity. Although it didn't win any awards for its appearance, the 425hp muscle car brought buyers all the speed, power, and torque they could want, at a price many could afford.

Aston Martin DB5

Photo by Bernard Spragg via Flickr

James Bond's signature car has become a cultural icon as much as a vehicle, but it's not for no reason: the Aston Martin, which appears in every Bond film since the first, is just the mix of incredible style and function that a daring, roguish spy needs. Although the very first Bond film, Dr. No, actually had Bond driving a Sunbeam Alpine, we all know that the real Bond car is the Aston Martin DB5.

Given its significance as a pop culture fixture, the DB5 is certainly one of the most famous classic cars of the 60s. But its not just for looks; the DB5, though not the first of its line, took car technology to a whole new level. Between 1963 and 1965, just over a thousand of these cars were produced. It can get up to speeds as high as 145mph, with a 5-gear transmission, and could go 0-60mph in about 8 seconds.

1969 Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by Sicnag via Flickr

Many of the most classic cars of the 60s began as standard street cars, and were then altered for greater power, speed, torque, and, of course, appearance. But that's not the only way these popular cars came to be. In fact, many of the most popular or rare, but beloved, models of the 60s were originally designed as racing cars, or at least modeled after such cars. But toss on a shiny coat of paint instead of numbers and logos, and you have yourself a street car with all the features of a racing car. That kind of appeal really just sells itself.

The 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 falls into this latter category. Perhaps lower on safety, stability, and comfort, this model was highly coveted for its nearly instantaneous acceleration (0 to 60 in about 5 seconds), and its ability for speed. It should be no surprise that newer models still frequent the list of fastest muscle cars!

Chevrolet Chevelle SS

Photo by Sicnag via Flickr

The reason many classic cars of the 60s are still so well-regarded is, in part, the introduction of, now, classic muscle cars to the public. As muscle cars entered the public sphere in the 60s, car manufacturers began installing more powerful engines in their popular cars. This is how the Chevrolet Chevelle SS came to be. As with many similar cars, the SS (Super Short) was essentially an adaptation of the previous model, fitted with a 327 cubic inch V8 engine.

Another practice common to car manufacturers and dealers in the 60s was offering extra features for an extra fee, with varied options for engine power, transmission, and many cosmetic and comfort features.

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