Definitive Supercars of the ’60s

Horsepower and top speeds climbed, designs became more radical, and the supercar started to bloom.


Editor’s Note: Are we at “peak supercar?” Leading industry voices think so. If the current Holy Trinity — Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1, and Porsche 918 — are indeed the peak, it’s time to look back down at base camp, and see how far we’ve come. This limited series will take a brief look at the supercars that defined each era, one decade at a time, beginning with the birth of the supercar in the ’50s.

For most car makers in the ’60s, new production supercars were still the direct result of racing regulations that demanded road-legal versions of race cars. Not a bad way to get high-performance cars on the road. Horsepower ratings swelled, top speeds climbed, and the ’60s quickly became the era of what are now the most famous (and now most expensive) exotica of all time.

1966 Lamborghini Miura

Ferruccio Lamborghini’s legendary discourse with Enzo Ferrari was the spark that led to the marques’ famous rivalry. Ferrari was a race car builder first and road car manufacturer second; Lamborghini set out to become the maker of the ultimate road cars — and road cars only. The Miura was Lambo’s first foray into mid-engined cars, and made use of the manufacturer’s tried-and-true 3.9–liter V12. The now iconic design penned by the venerable Bertone company pioneered mid-engine two-seat architecture, which is now undeniably the supercar standard.

Engine: 3.9–liter V12
Horsepower: 345
Top Speed: 174 mph
Original MSRP: $20,000
Current Estimated Value: $1,039,000
Notable Owners: Jay Kay, Nicolas Cage, Elton John, Frank Sinatra

1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

The Ferrari 250 GTO’s name says it all. When translated, “GTO” stands for Grand Touring Homologation, meaning that according to racing regulations, 100 GTO road cars had to be built so Ferrari could take it racing. Only 39 were built, but Ferrari still went racing with them anyway. The GTO was built on the same race-winning foundation as the 250 Testa Rossa race car and was one of the first Ferraris that required buyers to be approved by Enzo Ferrari himself before purchase. Today it holds the record for most expensive car to ever be sold privately or at auction — at $52 million and $38 million respectively.

Engine: 3.0–liter V12
Horsepower: 302
Top Speed: 174 mph
Original MSRP: $18,500
Current Estimated Value: $52,000,000
Notable Owners: Lawrence Stroll, Nick Mason, Ralph Lauren

1962 289 Shelby Cobra MkI

While Ferrari and Lamborghini butted heads over in Italy, Ford and GM were doing the same here in the US. Carol Shelby originally approached GM for an engine to fit in the AC Cobra chassis, but fearing competition for the Corvette, GM declined. But Ford happily supplied Shelby with a new small block and 4.7–liter V8, and, as per racing regulations, no fewer than 100 examples were made. The Cobra cleaned up in domestic race series, losing only one race over three years.

Engine: 4.7–liter V8
Horsepower: 300
Top Speed: 134 mph
Original MSRP: $5,995
Current Estimated Value: $1,400,000+
Notable Owners: Carol Shelby, Bill Cosby, Michael Schmacher

1965 Ford GT40 MkI

If there is an overarching theme to the ’60s, it would be the on-track war between Italy and America, and the Ford GT40 is its direct result. After Enzo Ferrari famously pissed off Henry Ford II, Ford went to work to take down Ferrari on the world stage at Le Mans. Ford took top honors at the legendary 24–hour race from 1966–1969 with the iconic Ford GT40, but not before the regulation number of production cars were built.

Engine: 4.7–liter V8
Horsepower: 335
Top Speed: 200 mph
Original MSRP: $16,250
Current Estimated Value: $3,520,000
Notable Owners: Steve McQueen
Photos Courtesy of Mecum

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