The swinging ’60s, a decade where everything was better. Concorde first took to the skies, a man walked on the moon, and cars were faster, sleeker, and way cooler than anything that had gone before and possibly since.
At the beginning of the ’60s, Ferrari gave us the stunning and stupidly expensive 250 GTO, and as the decade progressed, Jaguar wowed fans with the gorgeous E-Type, both cool in their way. However, coolness isn’t just how a car looks, but how it feels to slide behind the wheel, how it drives, the noise it makes, and sometimes just because of the badge on the nose. For example, pick any Ford Mustang, and you’re going to get noticed, pick one with Shelby stripes, badges, and you become the coolest gearhead on the street, signaling that you’re a connoisseur with exquisite taste when it comes to classic cars.
10 Jaguar XK150 FHC
The ultimate Jaguar XK, despite outwardly appearing to be near-identical to the earlier offerings, the XK150 was significantly different to the point most, if not all, body panels were not interchangeable. Evolutionary updates kept the XK at the forefront of sports car design until its demise in 1961, the XK-E picking up the following year.
Simple body on frame chassis set-ups featuring live rear-axles and leaf springs fly in the face of the XK150s modern all-disc brake configuration. Towards the end of production, Jaguar boosted performance from the XK-series straight-six, 3.8-liter engined cars, boasting 265 hp.
9 AC Cobra 427 SC
As motoring icons go, you won’t find a much purer driving experience than the original AC Cobra, Carroll Shelby’s genius use of a little-known UK sports car fitted with immensely powerful American V8s.
Race-style inspired tubular frames, early production Cobras using a dated leaf-spring set-up, with a more sophisticated coil design appearing later in production. Designed from the outset for straight-six engines, AC Cars adapting the ACE’s engine bay for V8 power units gave rise to the Cobra. Throughout its production life, bigger, more powerful engines made their way into the Cobra’s chassis, Ford’s FE 7-liter V8 featuring Holley four-barrel carburetors punching out 425 hp in the Cobra 427s from 1965.
8th Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato
Donning a Zagato re-worked body atop an already impressive GT could have gone either of two ways, fortunately, the Ercole Spada envisioned DB4 GT became an instant hit. As was common in the ’60s, custom coach builds were not just about appearances, the Zagato bodied DB4 received a minor power bump to 314 hp.
Despite all the hype surrounding the DB4 GT Zagato, production never reached its planned 25 units. Production numbers were scaled back to 20 cars during 1960-63, the remaining chassis emerging as Sanction II’s in 1988.
7 Pontiac GTO Judge
Pontiac’s mid-sized muscle car, the legendary GTO, still ticks all the required muscle car boxes even today, from its ever-so-cool fastback coupe body to the thumping great V8 engine under the hood. And then we come to the Judge add-ons, 366 hp Ram Air Engines, Hurst Shifter, and Rally II wheels setting it apart from stock GTOs.
Originally conceived as a stripped-down low-weight competitor to Plymouth’s Road Runner, the Judge’s name is about the popular comedy routine “Here Come De Judge”. Despite the more aggressive stance and bump in performance, the judge was relatively short-lived, lasting between 1969-71 with 292 examples completed.
6 De Tomaso Mangusta
De Tomaso Automobili’s contribution to sports cars runs a lot deeper than many gearheads think. While the Pantera is the most commonly recognized model in the small manufacturer’s line-up, its predecessor, the Mangusta is way cooler.
Italian style, American dollars, and Ford V8 power, what could go wrong? A lot, squabbles over the design led to delays in production, De Tomaso failing to deliver four race-prepared cars resulted in Carroll Shelby’s departure, leaving Alejandro de Tomaso to go it alone. Original plans for 7-liter race-derived engines made way for smaller 4.7-liter engines producing 306 hp.
5 Ford Mustang GT500
Ford’s everyday performance car for the average gearhead gave birth to the pony car, affordable sporty machinery that anyone could own and drive. A mere three years later, the Mustang came with a 7-liter V8 packing a conservative sounding 355 hp, promising 60 mph in 6.5-seconds.
Every first-generation Mustang is cool, but when you can have this much power in what at the time was an otherwise ordinary daily driver, who wouldn’t opt for the biggest engine option. Ford’s cool fastback styling and range of torquey, simple V8 engines might have started the pony car niche, but more importantly, it made performance Ford’s cool again.
4 Dodge Charger R/T
Owning a Dodge Charger is the dream for many gearheads, a simple two-door fastback style coupe with a sinister-looking front end courtesy of those trademark hidden headlights. In 1969, Dodge produced close to 100,000 Chargers, today less than a quarter survive with an estimated 22,500 still in existence.
Younger gearheads will most likely remember the Charger from small screen appearances as the star of The Dukes Of Hazard, weekly installations of gasoline-powered jumped, carnage, and mayhem responsible for thinning the numbers further. Under the hood, R/Ts benefit from uprated four-barrel 400 V8 motors rated at 375 hp.
3 Mercedes 280SL
Top down roofless motoring or ensconced under the pagoda style hardtop, finding another two-door two-seater ’60s era sports car with the same level of serenity and coolness where everything works will be tricky. Other European carmakers designed stunning cars, Mercedes out-engineered them.
Mercedes W113 platform adopted the latest in safety practices. Rigid passenger safety cells combined with front and rear crumple zones made this among the safest cars money could buy. Performance, too, ranked highly, in the range-topping 280SL, straight-six 2.8-liter engines pumped out 168 hp with Mercedes advertising a top speed of 124 mph. However, the real test of coolness comes down to who owned the SL; Fangio, Charlton Heston, and Sophia Loren all drove Mercedes SL’s
2 Chevy Corvette
Arguably the best-looking and coolest Corvette generation to date, the C2 also manages to pull off a clever illusion. More muscular from every angle, the C2 is actually marginally smaller than its predecessor. The second generation also marks the beginning of the famed Stingray name, hinting at the Corvette’s predatory intentions.
Produced between 1963-67 with a dizzying array of engine options from the lowly 5.4-liter small blocks all the way up to big-block 7-liter L89 units pumping out 425 hp, the Corvette falling just short of a maximum speed of 150 mph .
1 Ferrari 365 GTB/4
Our favorite 1960s Ferrari, the 365 GTB/4 isn’t the fastest in a straight line or even the quickest around a track, but that’s not the point of the Daytona. An epic grand tourer with bags of style, comfort, and character that draw admiring glances wherever you go, no one does visual drama quite like Ferrari.
Here’s the thing, while every other sports carmaker went into overdrive designing mid-engined exotics, Ferrari stuck with a tried and tested front-engined rear-wheel-drive coupe. Up front, Colombo V12 engines lazily produced 347 hp, which, despite GT ambitions, powered the 365 GTB/4 to a world-beating top speed of 174 mph.