Top 10 1970s supercars

Most iconic supercars originate from the 1970s – an epoch that spawned poster machines such as the BMW M1 and Lamborghini Countach. Here are our favourites…

The 1970s was a golden era for supercars, with a broad range of exotica making its way onto teenagers’ bedroom walls. There may have been an oil crisis at the beginning of the decade, but those involved in extracting ‘black gold’ made plenty of profit to treat themselves to a new set of wheels.

More great top 10s…

Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Lotus and even BMW designed some remarkable machines. Here’s our top 10.

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Maserati Bora

The Maserati Bora comes from a time when Ferrari didn’t restrict the brand as to what it could produce. The Bora was a mid-engine V8 supercar with Hollywood looks. While its predecessors were distinctly ‘old school’, the Maserati brought with it innovations including adjustable pedals and a telescopic steering wheel – commonplace today, but rarely seen in supercars of the 1970s. It also made use of a steel monocoque, not unlike grand prix cars.

Despite housing a 4.7 or 4.9-litre V8, the Bora boasted a good levels of boot space – something its rivals couldn’t boast. At this time Citroën owned Maserati, and so transferred some of its hydraulic technology to this supercar. The driver’s seat, retractable headlights and brakes were all hydraulic.

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Ferrari 365 GT4 BB

The Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer marks a huge sea-change for the Italian brand, as Enzo Ferrari finally conceded that mid-engined supercars were the future. In 1971 the 356 GT BB was revealed as Ferrari’s first mid-engined 12-cylinder road car, and was positioned as a direct rival to the Miura.

It got its Boxer name from the motion the pistons in the 380bhp flat-12 engine made. This wedge-shaped Ferrari was capable of 0-62mph in just 5.4 seconds and a top speed of 188mph.

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De Tomaso Pantera

De Tomaso was known for making racing cars, and later the Mangusta supercar, but it is most famed for the Pantera. This beautiful design ticks all of the supercar boxes, with a provocative design, exotic badge and 5.8-litre V8 engine from Ford. Why the Blue Oval? The American company bought a large stake in De Tomaso during the early 1970s.

330bhp made the Pantera good for a 5.5-second 0-62mph sprint – not far off what Ferrari was achieving with the Berlinetta Boxer. Ford would soon part with its share in De Tomaso, but the Pantera itself continued into the 1980s. A later GT5 model would prove to be a high watermark.

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Lotus Esprit

Making its debut at the 1975 Paris Motor Show, the Lotus Esprit was another Giugiaro masterpiece. That said, Colin Chapman was originally disappointed with the car’s design, until he saw a full-scale mock-up. Something else the Lotus founder wasn’t keen on was Giugiaro’s naming of the model. The Italian design house wanted to call it ‘Kiwi’, but Chapman insisted that the car stick to Lotus’s traditional ‘E’ naming convention.

It succeeded the Elite and continued with the British marque’s lightweight ethos. The car received great praise from the world’s press, but the original 160bhp four-cylinder engine was said to be on the weak side. Nevertheless, James Bond found it to be perfectly adequate for the film The Spy Who Loved Me.

Production continued through multiple generations for an astonishing 28 years, with the first car rolling off the line in 1976 and the last in 2004.

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Porsche 928

Porsche’s first front-engined luxury GT came into being during 1978, and was originally intended to replace the 911. The thinking was that this high-performance yet supple grand tourer would have far greater appeal than the more niche 911 sports car. The 928 would also have the distinction of being Porsche’s first V8 production car.

Handling was a top priority for engineers of 928, and so a 50:50 weight distribution was mandatory. The doors, bonnet and wing were made from aluminium in a bid to reduce weight and boost agility through corners. Another innovation was the use of a Weissach axle that enabled rear-wheel steering for added stability at speed and under braking.

While the 911 proved too popular to kill off, the 928 was a success and even won European Car of the Year.

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Lacia Stratos HF

Lancia had strong ties with the Pininfarina design house, but when Mr Bertone arrived at the factory with a running show car sporting a distinctive wedge profile, allegiances changed. Legend has it that this Stratos Zero concept drove straight under the factory gates to huge applause from workers.

Lancia was looking to replace the Fulvia with a car that would have inherent befits once homologated for rallying. While the finished product was merely inspired by the Stratos Zero concept, it was just as striking.

Underneath this now-iconic design was a mid-mounted 188bhp V6 engine from the Dino. This car’s impressive power-to-weight ratio made it perfect for motor sport, enabling a total of 18 WRC victories throughout its career.

492 road-going Lancia Stratos models were produced between 1973 and 1978.

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BMW M1

This distinctive Giugiaro-designed shape was originally the responsibility of Lamborghini, as BMW tasked the Italian firm with creating a racing car for homologation. Lamborghini ended up in financial difficulties, so BMW decided to take the project back in-house. Legend has it that BMW had to steal back the original plans in order to continue.

We’ll never know what a Lamborghini-engineered BMW would have been like, but the M1 is a mighty special car either way. A 270bhp 3.5-litre six-cylinder engine gave the M1 strong performance to go with those striking looks, but the road car wasn’t BMW’s main aim.

The German brand wanted to enter the M1 into Group 4 racing, and so the road cars enabled homologation while a one-make series served to develop the racer further. These 850bhp cars had some famous drivers – including Niki Lauda, who famously won the championship in 1979.

Just 453 BMW M1s were built between 1978 and 1981.

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Lamborghini Miura P400 SV

The one that started it all… The Miura is not only one of the most beautiful supercars of all time, but it’s also widely regarded as the first. It began life as an after-hours project of the brand’s engineers. Ferruccio Lamborghini was more of a GT man, and wasn’t a fan of impractical cars.

The engineers persuaded Ferruccio to let them display the project at the 1965 Turin Motor Show as a rolling chassis. To Lamborghini’s surprise there was a lot of interest, with people willing to put hefty deposits down on a car they hadn’t seen in its finished guise.

The Miura was completed and launched to global fame, with successful production running until 1973. Before it was replaced by the Countach, the P400 SV was created. This final incarnation saw the mid-mounted V12 produce 380bhp thanks to new Weber carburettors and cam timing.

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Porsche 911 (930) Turbo

In 1975 Porsche introduced its first production turbocharged 911. This car is a cult classic, with its whale-tail spoiler, flared arches and 3.0-litre turbo engine. It was one of the ultimate air-cooled Porsches, which proved extremely popular.

In 1978 the Turbo was given a larger 3.3-litre engine that produced 300bhp. The larger displacement helped overcome some of the turbo lag in earlier models, and provided more torque. A new intercooler was integrated into the rear wing to form what is known as the ‘tea tray’ spoiler.

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Lamborghini Countach

Lamborghini arguably created the first supercar in the form of the Miura, so how do you follow that up? The Countach made its debut in 1974, and was a form of retaliation to the Ferrari 365 GT4 BB. It was another iconic Bertone-designed wedge that captured the imagination of enthusiasts. The Countach looked like nothing else.

This car’s original concept was badged LP500, denoting a 5.0-litre V12 engine. However, this became a 4.0-litre when it reached production, so the car was called the LP400. Another significant change over the original design was the addition of a large shoulder-mounted intake. This helped improve cooling for the 370bhp engine. These LP400 cars are now highly collectable, with one selling at the Bonham’s Goodwood Festival of Speed auction for £953,500 in 2014.

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