Fifty years ago: the first international European Car of the Year award
First presented in 1964, the European Car of the Year (COTY) prize was the premier attempt at an international automotive award for the best new car launched during the previous year. Nominees could be designed and manufactured anywhere in the world as long as they enjoyed at least limited distribution in Europe. The award is still in existence, the Peugeot 308 being the 2014 recipient.
Globalization in automotive markets was quite limited in the 1960s. Many European models were unavailable in America and little more than a handful of American cars were exported to Europe. Only a few select models of Japanese cars were exported and the models selected for sale in Europe were usually not the same models sold in the U.S. For these reasons, the COTY was the closest thing to a universal international automotive accolade.
The 1960s were a bifurcated decade that can be split into two quite distinct epochs. The first two-thirds of the decade was an optimistic forward-looking period of modernist international architecture, modal jazz, bossa nova and sharp Savile Row and Ivy League menswear. The era depicted in La Dolce Vita, Oceans Eleven, The 10th Victim, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade, and That Touch of Mink.
In contrast, the latter third of the decade was radically different; more of a prelude to the inward, casually attired, earth-toned 1970s. This was a time when a large swath of consumers lost their unbridled enthusiasm for futuristic élan and began developing a taste of nostalgia for the golden days of yesteryear. Continue reading →
Agent Shaun Campbell climbs the Alps in a VW 1300 shadowing James Bond in a clandestine visit to the headquarters of Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Although one of the most popular and iconic cars of the 1960s, the Volkswagen Beetle did not play a role in a James Bond film until the very end of the decade. In 1969, a VW 1300 is driven in Switzerland by agent Shaun Campbell, Bond’s MI6 backup, in the sixth movie of the series; On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The Volkswagen is used to trail Bond through the Bernese Oberland en route to Blofeld’s Allergy Clinic. The discreet VW was a wise choice as covert Alpine transport with its generous ground clearance, carefree air-cooling system and rear-engine traction. Although not provided for product placement by Volkswagenwerk AG, the Beetle used was nonetheless the very latest model.
While aerodynamic efficiency was occasionally a consideration in the design of road cars as early as the 1920s, it was only from a perspective of achieving reduced air resistance. Interest in generating aerodynamic downforce did not manifest itself until the 1960s. Not surprisingly, experimentation and development first occurred in the competition arena.
Koni adjustable damper at the front of a Porsche 356C
One of the disparities in the automotive lexicon is the term bestowed upon the damper/shock absorber. In Germany and the majority of the English speaking world, it’s a damper. In the U.S., France, Italy and Spain, it’s a shock absorber. Deciding which is the more correct designation depends to a large degree on the era under discussion.
CIA agents Felix and Johnny in pursuit of Goldfinger henchmen Oddjob and Solo
The 1964-1966 Thunderbird has the rare (though not unique) distinction of appearing in not one, but two James Bond films. Its first appearance was in Goldfinger, the Bond film more remembered among automotive aficionados for the debut of 007’s Aston Martin DB5. Goldfinger marked another milestone as well; it was the first of the series to feature automobiles officially provided for promotional consideration.