Home Cars Lost In Time: Revisiting Rare Automotive Legends of the 1960s

Lost In Time: Revisiting Rare Automotive Legends of the 1960s

Cameron Eittreim February 7, 2024

The 1960s were a time of peace, love, and above all else, some seriously cool rides that still turn heads. But it wasn’t only about the Mustangs and Camaros of the car world. There are several gems from the ’60s that didn’t find the limelight but are still worth remembering. These unsung heroes of the road had the looks and the quirks but somehow slipped through the cracks of mainstream fame. In this trip down memory lane, we dug into the back catalog of the ’60s to spotlight some cars that you might not remember but definitely shouldn’t forget.

There’s the AMC Marlin, the underdog with a back end you can’t forget and charm that deserved more applause. And let’s not skip over the Dodge Charger 500, a beast built for speed that somehow didn’t zoom into the mainstream consciousness as much as it should have. So buckle up and let’s hit the road with these forgotten but unforgettable rides of the ’60s. It’s going to be a casual ride with plenty of pit stops to admire the cool, quirky, and downright awesome cars that time forgot but we’re bringing back into the spotlight.

Photo Credit: Mecum

Alfa Romeo TZ2: The Italian Enigma

The TZ2 was developed with a clear focus on racing, specifically for the FIA’s Group 4 category. When you take one look at this car, you’ll instantly recognize its racing pedigree. It’s no surprise as Alfa Romeo is a brand known for excellent handling and performance. The TZ2 had a specific suspension and lowered ride height that was custom-tailored for the race track. This car won numerous racing awards and trophies around the world thanks to its championship design and speed (via Forza).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The TZ2 wasn’t just made for racing as it was also a production vehicle. In typical Alfa Romeo fashion, the car was very high-end and appealing to a completely different clientele of drivers. People who drove these early Alfa models were auto fans who enjoyed the pleasure of driving. This wasn’t your average day-to-day car. If you were lucky enough to get one that was painted the beautiful red color, you had a showpiece that everyone would have noticed.

1967 Amc Marlin Fastback At Amo 2015 Meet In Brown 2of7 Scaled
Photo Credit: Edmunds

AMC Marlin: The Unexpected Maverick

The Marlin was first introduced in 1965 and continued production through 1967. AMC was one of the most well-known automakers in the world, but by the ’60s, the brand was on a decline. The company just didn’t have enough cash to compete with the innovation of the big three automakers. The Marlin was a fast car but it had a lot of shortcomings and the main issues were related to the quality. The build quality of AMC cars just wasn’t there and consumers were starting to complain (via Power Nation).

AMC Marlin
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The Marlin’s most distinctive feature is its fastback roofline which was designed to give it a sporty profile. The similarities between other muscle cars from the era were not lost on the consumers and the Marlin just didn’t sell very well. While most casual drivers have forgotten all about the Marlin and AMC, the real enthusiasts who love these cars have not. You’ll very often see a tricked-out Marlin or two at local car shows around the country.

Dream Giveaway 1969 Dodge Charger 500
Photo Credit: Mecum

Dodge Charger 500: The Speedway Phantom

The Dodge Charger was a popular muscle car but there was one model in particular that was very rare. The Charger 500 is the quintessential muscle car and has just about everything enthusiasts want under the hood. So why was this car so popular? It was because it had the same engine and drivetrain as the NASCAR model, which was quite successful in its own right. The old saying goes, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” and that’s what happened with this car (via American Muscle Museum).

1969 Dodge Charger 500 Front Three Quarter Alt 4
Photo Credit: Hagerty

Despite its design improvements, the Charger 500’s performance in NASCAR was overshadowed by its more aerodynamically advanced competitors. The addition of the 426 Hemi V8 further enhanced its performance credentials though. This isn’t the most common Charger model by any stretch but it was one of the most popular for sure.

Iso Grifo Gl 117491
Photo Credit: Mecum

Iso Grifo GL: Italy’s Forgotten Muscle

The Iso Grifo GL wasn’t your run-of-the-mill sports car, it was a Gran Turismo car developed specifically for racing. The Grifo GL was a car that utilized a sleek design and groundbreaking performance. Although the Iso Grifo was primarily designed as a grand tourer, it did have a brief foray into racing. The Iso Grifo is a rare gem with only around 412 units produced between 1965 and 1974, which makes it a lot rarer than a lot of other performance cars from the era.

Photo Credit: Mecum

The oil crisis of the early 1970s, along with financial difficulties faced by Iso Autoveicoli, led to the cessation of Grifo production in 1974. The company eventually closed its doors in 1978. The car was a rather unique piece of automotive history nonetheless. It is also a car that you seldom see on the roadways.

Studebaker Avanti 10
Photo Credit: Mecum

Studebaker Avanti: An Ahead-of-its-Time Icon

Studebaker was an American car company that built unique performance cars for a short period. The Avanti was one of the last new models introduced by Studebaker before the company left the car business. The car was a sort of cult phenomenon because of the unique styling and the drivers who had one were intrigued by the performance. In terms of size and weight, the car was very similar to a Camaro or a Mustang yet much more luxurious (via Sildrome).

Olympus Digital Camera
Photo Credit: Hagerty

Only about 4,600 units were produced before Studebaker ceased operations in the United States in December 1963, making the Avanti a rare collector’s item. The examples that you do run into at car shows are generally in mint condition, further making it a sought-after collector’s vehicle. The way that the nose of the car looked is the most distinguished feature of the Avanti. But the rest of the car was unique as well and people still talk about it to this day if they know anything about classic cars.

Photo Credit: Mecum

Maserati Mistral: The Breezy Beauty

The Mistral is a Maserati model that you don’t hear too much about today. But there was a time when it was the talk of the town. What made the Mistral so unique? One of the main reasons was the fact that it was compact-sized and had a lot of power under the hood. The Mistral was the last model to feature the famed Maserati inline-six engine, which was one of the brand’s highest-regarded power plants. The Mistral was available both as a coupe and a convertible, or spyder (via RM Sotheby’s).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The Mistral was based on the Maserati Formula 1 car and it also had a lot of luxury appointments in the interior. Back then, cars weren’t very luxurious unless they were highly expensive, but this one combined luxury with a fun-to-drive demeanor. Sadly there was never a modern version of the Mistral that went into production. The car was very rare, to say the least, and these days you’ll seldom see one at the car shows. That means that when you do, it’s a real treat for real fans of classic automobiles.

1965sunbeamtigermarki 5713eb255f9b588cc227f970
Photo Credit: Mecum

Sunbeam Tiger: The British-American Hybrid

Sunbeam is a company that we usually associate with kitchen appliances these days. But back in the 1960s, it was a British car company. The Sunbeam Tiger was a unique little sports car that had an iconic blend of style and performance under the hood. The car is mostly remembered for appearing as Maxwell Smart’s car in the 1960s television comedy series ‘Get Smart’. But besides the sporadic media appearances, the car was also very popular thanks to its great performance and agility (via Hagerty).

Photo Credit: Hagerty

The Sunbeam Tiger was produced from 1964 to 1967, with just over 7,000 units built. They’re a rare ride but every once in a while you’ll find one out in the wild. The unique driving characteristics and the one-of-a-kind performance make this car worth seeking out. Also, these tiny convertibles are simply a blast to drive, so if you’re looking for some classic car fun, this may be the ride for you.

Nsu Ro 80
Photo Credit: Mecum

NSU Ro 80: The Rotary Pioneer

People often credit the Mazda RX-7 with being the most influential rotary car but that isn’t necessarily the case. It was the NSU Ro 80 that broke the mold for being a rotary-powered beast and the first car to ever feature a Wankel rotary motor. The design of the Ro 80 was instrumental and ahead of its time in automotive design. You have to remember that this car was released back when cars were still boxy, and yet the design is refreshingly crisp (via Dyler).

Nsu Ro80 Car 3
Photo Credit: Mecum

The car was often referred to as one of the best-looking cars of all time. Its production numbers were relatively low, with just over 37,000 units built during its 10-year production run. The car wasn’t very reliable and that affected the reputation and sales dramatically. The NSU Ro 80 is still an important car today but this is one that you’ll very seldom ever see rolling around anymore.

Photo Credit: RM Sotheby’s

Renault Caravelle: The French Riviera Cruiser

The Renault Caravelle was a world car that was popular in the United States and abroad. The compact convertible was sporty and well-appointed for the period and was also heavily featured in various movies and films. The French styling of the car stood out very heavily and most people fell in love with the car when they first saw it. Initially, the Caravelle was equipped with a rear-mounted 845cc engine similar to the one used in the Renault Dauphine (via RM Sotheby’s).

1027146 Renault Caravelle Convertible 1959
Photo Credit: RM Sotheby’s

Production of the Caravelle ended in 1968 as Renault began to focus on more practical and family-oriented models. When you look back at the heritage of Renault, this was by far one of their most popular models. But as time went on the love of convertibles went away and most consumers wanted to drive something else. Nevertheless, this is quite the unique classic that you’ll run across when you go to auto shows that feature German or Euro rides.

Abb3 1
Photo Credit: Mecum

Bristol 410: The Gentleman’s Express

Very few cars in history hold the distinction of being hand-built and being dubbed the “Gentleman’s Express”. The 410 was meticulously hand-built at the company’s workshops in Filton, Bristol, as were previous models from the company. The interior of the car was beyond luxurious with a lot of features that were new at the time. The performance of the car glided down the road like butter according to the automotive press and everything about the car was classy (via Bright Wells).

Photo Credit: Car Blog

The 410 was designed with the driving enthusiast in mind, offering a balanced chassis, precise steering, and a comfortable ride. Sadly the car and the company didn’t make it into the modern era, but as far as a classic goes this was one of the most interesting models on the road. The 410 was a direct evolution of its predecessors, retaining the best elements of the Bristol 407, 408, and 409 while introducing improvements in performance, comfort, and driving dynamics.

Please wait 5 sec.