Call me eccentric, but I have always liked things that no one else liked or knew much about. Possibly, this stems from my love for the underdog. When certain cars, events or points in automotive history are mentioned, you always have the stand-outs. I prefer to mention the stand-alones. Hopefully, I will enlighten some to these names and rekindle the spark for others.
I had never heard of this car until 2009. I saw this shape in an internet post and instantly fell in love. I had to know everything about it. Now that I do, I will probably do a spread about it in the near future. I cannot wait for you to read the story.
This was the modern interpretation of the Raymond Loewy designed original and was a toy for the snooty aficionado or Studebaker devotee.
Aston Martin Lagonda
I have mentioned it before and until I see one on the street, I will continue to mention it (if you are near Chicago and know of one, please me immediately).
I liked it because it WASN’T a 3-series or an Audi; it was capitalism with an Italian flair. It was a yuppie-mobile for individualists. With the tucked leather, the short deck lid, the pencil-nosed front end, the anemic engine, the spotty reliability, what was there not to like?
Isdera Imperator 108i
Only 30 were produced through a deal between Eberhard Schulz and Mercedes Benz. A big honking V-8, Gullwing Doors and a rear-view periscope made my first foray into ultra-exotics something from which I would never recover.
Aston Martin V-8 Vantage (1977-1989)
No, this car isn’t a secret, but it was a beast. It was the most powerful normally-aspirated V-8 engine of its time. This was when cars were cars and all was made of steel. It is beautiful and broad-shouldered. I could look at it for hours, but I’d rather drive it twice as long.
I had a 10 year love affair with this car. Based on an Opel Senator with a Ferrari 400i profile, Erich Bitter did a wonderful job of grabbing attention of the press and the affluent. I’ve only seen one and have yet to see another. Exclusivity insured by expiration, I’ll take mine in black, please.
De Tomaso Pantera
Was it Iacocca’s need to have a Corvette-fighter? Henry Ford’s need to recover after Ferrari spurned his advances? FoMoCo’s gaping sports car vacancy in its lineup? An Argentinian’s flee from dictatorship and his rise to build a dream car? No matter which interpretation of history you prefer, for a brief period from 1971 to 1974, an affordable exotic with a Cleveland V8 stuffed amidships, could be purchased from your local Lincoln-Mercury dealer.
Porsche 928 S4
The last version was the best farewell to Porsche’s GT car. Porsche’s only front-engine V8 car should have been reincarnated. All we got was the Panamera. Ernst Fuhrmann intended the 928 to replace the 911, but Porschephiles cried foul. I think they could have grown old together hand-in-hand.
I still think the Iso Grifo 90 Concept should come to the light. Until then, I will continue to drool over this big, mid-60’s, stylish, Grand Tourer. In every iteration including the 7-liter engine, going up against a Maserati Mistral with an even lower-volume underdog, never felt better.
Monteverdi High Speed 375L Fissore
If you wanted an expensive GT car in the early Seventies, the chances are you would head to a Ferrari, Maserati or Lamborghini dealer for a run-of-the-mill Daytona, Ghibli or Espada. If you wanted something a little more leftfield and even more exclusive, however, then you might seek out a Monteverdi. The big unstressed V8 offered a 150mph+ top speed, comfortable accommodations and was a guaranteed rarity.
I am all for sidekicks (Tonto, Bucky Barnes, Dr. Watson, the guy next to Johnny Carson, etc.). The Jalpa seemed to always play second- fiddle to the bigger, more popular Countach. While the poster child got by with its good looks, the Lamborghini Jalpa rolled up its sleeves and got the work done with brute force. The 3.5 liter V8 helped the not-so-pretty younger sister pave the way for the Gallardo.
Ferrari 288 GTO
This car was to the 308 what Superman was to Clark Kent. I liked the 308, but I LOVED the 288 with its broad shoulders, squat haunches and big-bully stature. It was just here to fill a homologation need, but ended up sticking around to fill a few chosen collectors’ garages. The 288 GTO is one of the most attractive and useful Ferraris since its predecessor.