Seventies Classic Cars

Lotus Esprit

Lotus Esprit 1970s classic supercar

The word genius is probably not applied to the car world quite as assiduously as to the worlds of art and science. And yet, of course, the best of automotive design straddles both those disciplines. An excellent example is the enigmatic Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus. Hugely driven, he was controversial in the way only the truly single-minded can be. Chapman was even accused by some of endangering the lives of his racing drivers in what they would claim was his wilful pursuit of weight-saving - to the point of fragility! Whatever the merits or demerits of this point of view, there is no denying that Colin Chapman lived and loved Lotus to the nth degree.

A car which typifies the cult of creativity is the Lotus Esprit. The prototype had been drawn by Giorgetto Giugiaro - a futuristic fantasy in sculpted glass-fibre - emerging out of the sleepy hollows of rural Norfolk! The Esprit's two-litre, four-pot engine was well up to snuff performance-wise, and its central location spread the load to help the car handle impressively.

Colin Chapman's maxim was to create cars which he himself would like to own. In the case of the Esprit, he was far from alone! A supercar of its day, it came complete with an iconic cachet. Seizing the zeitgeist, the Esprit is a cultural curio which sums up its times. Oh so Seventies, its outrageous styling teeters on the brink of kitsch - but in the nick of time regains its balance with classy aplomb. Possessed of a glamour and allure few other cars can dream of, his Lotus Esprit will forever house the spirit of the mercurial Colin Chapman.

Lancia Stratos

Lancia Stratos 1970s classic supercar

When applied to classic cars, the word 'wedge' would usually refer to the large amounts of money required to buy, restore and maintain them. In the case of the Lancia Stratos, though, the word is used literally - for the car is a wedge on wheels. Short for stratosphere, that is exactly what its driver could end up pointing at when this blade of a shape sliced through the air at full chat! The car was only on the road as a means to an end - five hundred of them had to be built to allow Lancia to compete with a Group 4 rally version.

The car had not been conceived with such an outcome in mind. Lancia had had been slipping behind the competition, both on the road and at the races. When Cesare Fiorio - head of its autosport arm - caught sight of the Stratos concept-car at the 1970 Turin show, he straightaway saw the chance to get things back on track. Styled by Marcello Gandini at Bertone, the Stratos looked superb, but in practical terms, too, the car was perfect for what Fiorio had in mind. It was lovely and light, and its engine was in the middle! With a Ferrari Dino powerplant, it would have all the prerequisites of a top-flight competion car.

It would be a long trip from the cool confines of the Turin show to the blazing heat of some of the rally stages. But with beefed-up suspension and a more upright driving position, the car duly donned its 'Alitalia' sponsors' mantle and was good to go! As a rally car it was road mode, too, there has been none so 'sharp' as the Lancia Stratos.

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