Lord Brett Sinclair’s Bahama Yellow Aston Martin DBS in “The Persuaders!”
Ancient wisdom once held that in the vintage car market, red, white and black were the best colours for resale. However, as Bob Dylan once declared; The times they are a-changin’.
Early Porsche 911 collectors for example often seek out and pay a premium for the colours that made those cars unique to their time period: Signal Orange, Viper Green, Aubergine, Tangerine; even the more esoteric shades of Olive and Golden Green.
The Fiat 600, today mostly overshadowed by its smaller brother the 500, was the car that put post-war Italy on the road. Introduced in 1955, the 600 was one of the many miniscule masterpieces that emerged from the brilliant mind of Dante Giacosa.
Signore Giacosa, like many early automotive pioneers, was a true designer who not only oversaw engineering of the chassis and drive train, but also supervised body and interior design. This resulted in a unity of style, function and clarity of purpose that is all but impossible to find today, when car designs are the product of too many chefs.
1964 Porsche 904 Carrera GTS. A masterwork in the annals of badging: cursive lettering, gold-anodised finish, canted 45-degrees, and unique placement flowing over the curved transition from rear deck to rear quarter panel
Free-flowing cursive script is not often seen on automobiles today. It still survives at Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini, Maserati and Porsche. Outside this quartet it is rare indeed. In days past, cursive was common throughout the industry.
Such longhand script was often utilized to enable casting a complete badge out of a single piece of metal. The alternative was to either run block letters together, or connect individual block characters with a bar across the top (à la Ferrari,) a bar at the bottom (typified by BMW and Mercedes-Benz) or through the centre in the style of Alfa Romeo.
Pre-war cars used cursive scripting almost exclusively, although badging itself was generally minimal or nonexistent. In the 1900’s manufacturer nameplates were usually affixed only to the front of the radiator, and model designations were not displayed. In the thirties, even this practice declined, with most vehicles displaying the manufacturer’s name only via a stylized logo atop the radiator shell. After the war, marque and model badging began proliferating and begat its own art form.
The weapons of World War II gave the public their first-ever glimpse of the power and speed of jet and rocket engines. As hostilities drew to a close, engineers labored over their drawing boards to harness these new power sources for peacetime use.
The rocket-powered Bell X-1 aeroplane broke the sound barrier on 14 October 1947, achieving supersonic speed for the first time. BOAC commenced commercial jet travel in May of 1952. In 1958, commercial transatlantic jet service was inaugurated, and construction began on the Pan Am World Airways tower in New York City.
A number of auto manufactures found it desirable to infuse their products with a bit of this jet age glamour and space age allure.
1961 Porsche poster celebrating competition victories of the prior season
By 1961 the last vestiges of the fifties were ebbing and the currents of the sixties starting to more strongly assert themselves. The second year of the decade witnessed the first manned space flight, construction of the Berlin Wall and the first season of The Avengers.
It was a banner year for British sports car enthusiasts. Jaguar unleashed its dramatic new feline, the ‘E’ Type, dubbing it The Most Advanced Sports Car in the World.
Prototype Lamborghini V12, with chief designer Giotto Bizzarrini, Ferrucio Lamborghini and chassis designer Gian Paolo Dallara. Sant’Agata, Italy, 1963
Please join me in saluting ten automobile engines that conquered time and defied obsolescence. Engines with staying power. All have all been offered for sale in the world’s most competitive markets for over 40 years. They represent a full range, from inline and opposed twins to V12’s in sizes ranging from 0.4 litre to 6.8 litres. Some were conceived as cost-no-object exercises; others, humble workhorse engines of the people. Still others were robust mainstream powerplants that attained immortality in the crucible of competition. A few are still available.
Designer Dante Giacosa with Fiat 500 Prototype, Piedmont, Italy, October 1934. Antonio Fessia photo.
On 15 June 1936, Fiat began production of what was to be the first sophisticated, successful and universally admired mass-produced small car. There had been a number of small British and German cars available; most notably the Austin 7, originally introduced in 1922. However, none of these captured the imagination or garnered the accolades as did the new Fiat 500.
What set the 500 apart more than anything was what it was not. It was neither a bare-bones car like many of the cycle-cars of the day, nor was it simple a scaled-down large car. It was inexpensive to build; but not cheaply built.
Lord Charles Frinton buys a new Phantom II in the 1965 film “The Yellow Rolls-Royce”
It is often said that money cannot buy happiness. I assert that it indeed can buy happiness, if only one utilizes it properly. The best thing to do with it to save it and invest it wisely rather than spend it. This buys one of the greatest keys to happiness; freedom from financial worries.
Where most people go wrong is thinking that squandering funds on magnificent objects can buy happiness. I have discovered in life that the inverse is actually closer to the truth, in that I have usually derived maximum pleasure (certainly the highest pleasure/cost ratio) in the most humble (albeit well-designed and constructed) objects such as my chefs knives, my French copper cookware, my favourite chairs and some of my most inexpensive cars.