10. Mazda 1100 Cosmo
Back in the ’60s, the biggest news amongst the car engineers was the Wankel rotary engine. The innovative concept of a single-piston engine, which was far lighter and smaller than conventional units but with more power and revving capacity, captivated several major manufacturers’ imagination. One of the first companies which were brave and confident enough to introduce such an engine in mass production was Mazda, with its little sports coupe called 110 S Cosmo, which debuted in 1967.
This was a sharp-looking two-seater with modern design and a tiny 982 cc engine with 110 or 130 HP in later versions. Since the car was extremely small and light, the performance was pretty vivid, especially for the day’s standards. Mazda 110 S Cosmo was imported to the USA, but the reception was nonexistent. Mazda was a new name to the American customers, and the Wankel-powered two-seater for Corvette price was a hard thing to sell. That is why they only made around 1300 cars, and left-hand examples are very rare today.
9. Mazda RX-3 Coupe
Despite the limited appeal of Mazda’s Wankel engine offerings, problematic durability, and unusual driving dynamics, the company continued to offer this type of engine in various models for USA buyers, even in compact pickup trucks. But in the early ’70s, the most interesting was a small but lively RX-3 Coupe.
This tiny car was a nicely styled fastback coupe with modern design cues, although on a much smaller scale than contemporary models from the USA or Europe. The most important was the engine, and under the hood was a two-rotor, 1.1-liter Wankel unit with 91 HP. We know it doesn’t sound as much, and foreign markets got the same engine with 115 HP, but domestic emissions regulations choked this little Rotary motor.
But, the 2300-pound weight, manual gearbox with short gearing and high revving engine made this tiny coupe pretty capable. The car even broke a few records on Bonneville in 1974.
8. Lancia Fulvia
Today, Lancia is a forgotten company, still active but with nothing interesting in their lineup and selling rebadged Chryslers. But, back in the ’60s, Lancia was an independent luxury manufacturer with very specific and highly respected cars that boasted unique designs and technical solutions. So, when the company presented the Fulvia Coupe in 1965, the car world took notice.
The Fulvia Coupe was a little 2+2 two-door car with a narrow-angle V4 in the front powering the front wheels. This unique layout handled fantastically, and with the small weight of the car itself, it presented vivid performance. Despite having from 85 to 115 HP, Lancia Fulvia Coupe was a rally champion and an extremely rewarding car to drive fast on winding roads.
7. Triumph GT6
The GT6 project was started in the mid-’60s when Triumph realized that they needed a coupe version of their popular roadster. However, just putting the roof on Spitfire wouldn’t do the trick. They needed to extensively re-engineer the car and add a more powerful engine for the chassis to cope with the coupe body style’s added weight. So, Triumph engineers installed a 2.0-liter six-cylinder engine with 106 HP and provided the GT6 with more power and performance than the similar Spitfire.
The GT6 was officially presented in 1966 and discontinued in 1973 after around 45,000 examples were produced. The GT6 was never as popular as the Spitfire, but it was arguably a better car and a pretty cool-looking alternative to all other sport coupes on the market.
6. Bradley GT
The Bradley GT was a typical ’70s kit car company that produced cars built on VW Beetle floor pans with flat-four air-cooled engines and suspension. Despite the fact it doesn’t count as sports car configuration, the Bradley GT was, in fact, pretty fast since the bodies were light, and owners often decided to tune the engines. Some of them even installed the Porsche flat-six units giving the Bradley GT pretty vivid performance.
The Bradley GT was an interesting looking sports coupe that sold as a kit or as a fully built car, customized to customer specifications. It was one of the typical ’70s, DIY models, with metallic paint, chrome wheels, and gullwing doors, all of which added to the appeal. For those who invested in a more powerful engine, better suspension, and drivetrain, the Bradley GT could be a proper sports coupe, but most owners only wanted a show car.
5. Cunningham C-3
Briggs Cunningham was a world-known entrepreneur, racer, and constructor who introduced American cars to Europe’s sports car scene in the 1950s. His dream was to build a racing car that would be dominant on both sides of the ocean and win Le Mans with an all-American machine, drivers and crew. From 1952 to 1955, Cunningham entered the Le Mans race with several cars of his own design. However, in the same period, he produced a road-going sports car in the form of the beautiful Cunningham C-3.
The C-3 was a two-door coupe or convertible produced in his West Palm Beach facility. It used the Cunningham C-2 R racing chassis but converted for street use, and the bodies came from Italy, designed and produced by Vignale. Under the hood was Chrysler’s 331 Hemi engine but tuned to produce 300 HP. The C-3 was a luxury sports car that could easily rival any Ferrari or Maserati, and it was also very expensive with the prices close to Rolls Royce of the day. That is why Briggs Cunningham produced only 25 cars (20 coupes and five convertibles), all of which still exist today.
4. Fiat Coupe
This interesting car was never imported in the USA but is now eligible for import since it is older than 25 years. The Fiat Coupe was introduced in 1993 and stayed in production until 2000, selling in Europe and selected markets around the globe. At one point, it was the fastest and most powerful Fiat product and definitely the one with the biggest potential to become a classic and sought-after model.
The Coupe was a front-wheel drive, four-seater, a two-door model with interesting design and elegant interior. It was based on the standard Fiat platform, but it had performance-tuned suspension and steering to make it more sporty and dynamic. The engine lineup started with rather anemic four-cylinder engines. Still, it ended up with a pretty potent 2.0-liter turbocharged five-cylinder unit with 220 HP, which was quite a power output for the early ’90s.
Fiat Coupe was a fast car in turbo guise, and with unique styling, it was a real head-turner wherever it appeared. With 0 to 60 mph time of 6.3 seconds, it is quick by today’s standards. The prices are not high, so you should jump to the opportunity to own a rare car in the States and a gorgeous Italian coupe with all modern features like air conditioning, ABS brakes, and airbags.
3. Isuzu 117
The gorgeous Isuzu 117 Coupe was never offered on the American market, which is a shame. Even with its limited production, it managed to become one of the early Japanese classic and very influential models. Back in the late ’60s, Isuzu was building and selling passenger cars, which were later abandoned in favor of trucks and pickups. The company needed a halo car, something that will turn the industry’s attention on Isuzu and present it in the best possible light.
So, they used the existing passenger car rear-wheel-drive platform with 1.6 and later 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and went to Italy to find a fashionable suit. There, Isuzu contacted famous designer Giorgetto Giugiaro who provided them with an elegant and cool-looking coupe design. This was the final piece of the puzzle, and in 1968, the beautiful Isuzu 117 Coupe debuted. The car stayed in production until 1981, and it was sold in reasonably large numbers. Despite the fact it wasn’t particularly fast or agile, the 117 Coupe was a comfortable and fast GT, which was perfect for relaxing cruising.
2. Nissan Sylvia CSP 311
You all probably know Nissan Silvia for its widely popular S14 and S15 versions produced in the ’90s, which became the definitive drift car. Still, Silvia’s story as one of Nissan’s most legendary sports cars dates back to the mid-’60s and cool looking Silvia CSP 311 coupe, which was one of the first modern and proper sports cars from this brand.
Introduced in 1964 on the Tokyo Motor Show, the Silvia CSP 311 was a big step forward for this still obscure manufacturer. The car had European looks and proportions, and it was a luxurious (for the Japanese standards of the times) sports coupe with rear-wheel drive. A 1.6-liter four-cylinder powered it with 96 HP, which gave it decent performance.
However, the first Silvia was a pretty expensive car for the Japanese domestic market, and it sold in just 554 examples, most of which stayed in Japan. Today, it is widely regarded as one of the most influential early Japanese sports cars.
1. Audi 100 Coupe
Virtually unknown to US car enthusiasts, Audi 100 Coupe was an elegant, front-wheel-drive GT model produced from 1969 and sold through 1976. It was based on then biggest Audi model and featured a totally different fastback coupe body. Since the mechanics were unchanged, the 100 Coupe didn’t have much performance credentials, and power came from a rather anemic 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine.
However, the main thing about this car was the looks, and it looked much upscale and expensive than it really was. With four headlights, a sporty silhouette, and chrome trim, the Audi 100 Coupe was considered an upscale proposition on the European market.