Home Cars Luxury & Speed: 35 Classic GT Cars

Luxury & Speed: 35 Classic GT Cars

Vukasin Herbez July 19, 2018

If you are a car enthusiast, you have probably heard about GT cars. If you understand the concept, you have most likely lusted over one of those glorious machines. Born in the 1950’s, Gran Turismo coupes presented the pinnacle of engineering, design and performance. Soon, they became a highly-sought after classic. The GT car concept combines everything from car aficionados like driver-oriented machines that are as fast as sports cars.

Yet they are as comfortable as limousines. They made these beautiful as works of art for driving at high speeds for long distances. During the 60’s and 70’s, Europe’s car industry produced dozens of luxury GT cars. They captured the imagination of an entire generation of car lovers. Most major European cities and tourist destinations were connected via newly-constructed highways, most without speed limits.

So wealthy GT coupe owners could easily cruise from one hot spot to another in a matter of hours. Just imagine having breakfast on the French Riviera and then jumping into your luxury GT car for a high-speed blast to a ski resort in the Alps. In those days, America had big, heavy personal luxury cars like the Lincoln Mark IV and Cadillac Eldorado. But even with the hideous 55 mph speed limit, those European GTs became popular stateside as the ultimate transportation for rich car lovers.

This list of the 14 best classic GT models spans from high priced exotics to surprisingly affordable, capable models you can still buy today. With one of these beasts, you can re-live that cool 70’s dream of getting from Aspen to Malibu in one day behind the wheel of your luxury two-door coupe.

  1. Maserati Ghibli

This is not the BMW 5 Series competitor Maserati revealed in 2013, but rather the original Ghibli. It was a gorgeous two-door coupe they introduced in 1966. Maserati didn’t discontinue it until 1973 after they built 1,300 in coupe and convertible form.

After its racing success in the 1950’s, Maserati turned to luxury road cars in the 60’s. They focused on producing a string of high-performance comfortable machines for cruising down the highways. Always more restrained in appearance than the Ferrari or Lamborghini, Maserati was the favorite of Europe’s high class. They praised its style, elegance and comfortable leather interior.

Maserati introduced the Ghibli as an all-around model because it offered space for four occupants. It also came with a big trunk and extra comfort for long trips. Under the hood was a 4.7 or 4.9-liter V8 with 300 to 330 HP. Consumers could get a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. With 0 to 60 mph times of 6.8 seconds and top speeds of 174 mph the Ghibli was one of the fastest cruisers of the era.

  1. Iso Grifo

Iso sports cars were brainchildren of the Italian industrialist, Renzo Rivolta. After many successful ventures in vehicle production, Rivolta decided to produce a sports car with a powerful U.S.-built engine and Italian body. The first car was the elegant Iso Rivolta in 1962, which featured Chevrolet’s 350 V8.

However, the best Iso model was the sublime Grifo, an elegant and dramatically-styled coupe they introduced in 1964. It immediately became one of the most advanced, fastest and desirable sports coupes on the market. This was a bold claim since in the middle of the 60’s in Italy, there was some serious competition from heavy hitters like Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini.

But the Iso Grifo was more beautiful and faster than anything else. The base engine was 350 V8 but you could have it tuned to produce more than 350 HP. After a couple of years, Iso switched to a 427 V8 with 400 HP. They also produced one series of the Grifo with Ford V8 engines. Unfortunately, in the mid-70’s, the company went out of business.

  1. Porsche 928

The 928 is one of the best Porsche road cars ever, despite the fact it still is a controversial model. Back in the mid-70’s, Porsche decided that the 911 was outdated and wasn’t profitable enough to keep the company afloat. The board approved the development of a new model with a water-cooled V8 engine in the front. It had a different design, technology and appearance. So in 1977, Porsche introduced the 928 but kept the 911 in production.

The 928 was a Gran Turismo coupe with a powerful V8 engine in the front and a transaxle gearbox. It also had an ideal weight distribution, intelligent suspension and a space-age design. In contrast to 911, which still had some VW Beetle cues, the 928 looked like it came from another planet. Even though the early 928s delivered below 300 HP, the car was fast. Porsche made it for effortless cruising in comfort, speed and luxury.

Porsche kept improving the 928 and in 1987 introduced the S4 version. It featured a 5.0-liter V8 engine with 320 HP and a host of other modifications that improved the performance. The 928 S4 could reach 60 mph in just 5.6 seconds, topping 160 mph. The result was fast for the day, so the 928 was one of the fastest cars of the era. Today, the 928 is still a fast, capable GT car and the prices are still affordable, at least for now.

  1. Lamborghini Espada

Although the Espada wasn’t the first Lamborghini GT, it was the most successful and controversial. They introduced it in 1968 and the Espada succeeded the 400 GT. It served for 10 years as the biggest, most luxurious Lamborghini you could buy.

When they first showed it, the Espada drew a lot of attention and criticism for its unusual styling. The car had an almost flat roofline and a wagonesque profile. However, these features allowed for substantial room, so four adults with their luggage could easily travel long distances. And that is exactly what Ferruccio Lamborghini wanted.

The legendary Lamborghini 4.0-liter V12 engine powered the Espada. It is still is a piece of mechanical art with four camshafts, eight Weber carburetors and up to 350 HP. Lamborghini made over 1,200 of those four-seater coupes. And the prices are still somewhat affordable considering the heritage, exotic nature and rarity of the Espada.

  1. Citroen SM

One of the coolest looking, most exclusive Citroen cars they ever produced was the gorgeous SM. Citroen introduced it in 1970 and this elegant coupe had some interesting features. When they presented it to the public, it made the competition look and feel outdated and old.

In the late 60’s, Citroen was flushed with cash and through various stock market transactions, the company became the owner of the famous Italian sports car manufacturer, Maserati. Citroen management thought it would be great if they could use Maserati’s powerful engines and sports car know-how to produce a luxurious, fast coupe.

Using Citroen’s signature design and style is how the Citroen SM was born. The aesthetics were clearly French with a hydro-pneumatic self-leveling suspension and front-wheel drive. But instead of an underpowered four-cylinder engine, there was a 2.7-liter V6 Maserati developed with enough power for a lively performance.

They marketed the Citroen SM in the U.S., selling more in the states than in Europe. In America, the SM competed against the Mercedes SLC and Cadillac Eldorado in the personal luxury segment. Buyers praised its ride quality, smooth engine and style. Unfortunately, the oil crisis and economic recession killed the model so production stopped in 1974 after they made more than 12,000 of them.

  1. Jaguar XJS

You may think it’s strange to include the Jaguar E-Type on this list or the XJS, which succeeded it in 1975. However, it made the cut for several important reasons. First, the E Type was more of a sports car than a GT despite becoming one in later iterations. Secondly, E Types were always cramped with small trunks and not that comfortable to drive.

However, the XJS was a better Gran Touring machine. It was more usable for everyday life and more pleasant to drive long distances. The XJS was also more modern and had better equipment. Jaguar introduced it in the mid-70’s and the XJS was a big step for the company. Under the long hood, there were the famous 3.6-liter six cylinders or a 5.3-liter V12 engine, if you wanted full GT experience.

The XJS was a popular choice, especially in America where Jaguar sold the majority of 115,000 cars. Due to its elegance, power and speed, the XJS remained in production for an incredible 21 years. It is still a respectable car in every way. The prices are not high for perfectly preserved examples but look for later models with the V12 engine.

  1. Mercedes 450 SLC

Mercedes introduced its R107 SL roadster in 1971, stunning the car industry. It started the domination of the luxury convertible scene that lasts to this day. But in the early 70’s, Mercedes didn’t have a luxury GT coupe, leaving marketing segment to their competitors. The company lacked the time to design and build a whole new model for the GT niche. The answer was to use the SL platform, but stretch it a bit and give it a hardtop, creating the SLC.

The company introduced it a year after the SL roadster. The SLC was a proper GT car that shared most of the engines, design and interior with the SL. However, it provided much more comfort, a better ride quality and driving refinement. They offered the SLC with smaller engines, but the best choice was the 450 SLC with a 4.5-liter V8 delivering 225 HP. Drivers could also get the 500 SLC with the 5.0-liter V8 with 245 HP for a solid performance.

Mercedes produced the SLC coupe for 10 years, from 1971 to 1981 in over 62,000 cars. The current SL roadster prices are on the rise, but SLC prices are affordable and steady. This means you can find perfectly preserved examples for the price of some of today’s economy subcompact cars.

  1. Aston Martin DBS/V8

After the success of the classic DB5 and DB6 models of the mid 60’s, Aston Martin wanted to present something new and thoroughly modern. So in 1967, they introduced a new model they called the DBS. It was years ahead in terms of design. It looked like a muscle car with a chrome grille, bulgy rear fenders and fastback roofline.

The first versions had a 4.0-liter straight six with 282 HP, but soon Aston introduced its first V8 engine. It was 5.3-liters with fuel injection and a respectable 315 HP. Interestingly, they only offered an automatic transmission, making this Aston a true luxury GT. In the early 70’s, they renamed the model the Aston Martin V8. It was slightly modified with the later introduction of a convertible version.

The demand was high for this elegant British GT, so the Aston V8 was in production for over 20 years. It’s run ended in 1989 after they build over 4,000 of them. The prices are not as high as for earlier Aston Martin models, so having one of those cool-looking coupes is a tempting proposal. Also, James Bond drove this generation Aston Martin in several movies, which adds to its cool factor.

  1. Jensen Interceptor

One of the best British Gran Turismo cars was the Jensen Interceptor. Vignale provided the Italian design. It was massive in size, offering a comfortable drive. It came with a powerful Chrysler 383 or 440 V8 engine in the front, making this four-seater coupe one of the fastest cars in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

All Interceptors featured a Chrysler engine, but the most influential version was the Interceptor FF. The latter part of the name comes from Ferguson Formula, which meant that this model came with all-wheel drive and an early form of ABS brakes. In 1966, this was space age technology. The motor was a 383 V8, although there were coupe prototypes with 426 Hemi.

The Interceptor FF was expensive, so Jensen only managed to sell 320 of them. However, regular Interceptors in coupe and convertible form were much more successful. They built over 6,400 of them until 1976. Jensen was popular in America back in 70’s, so you can find relatively inexpensive Interceptors, but be beware of rust issues with early cars.

  1. BMW E9

After the success of the New Class models in the 60’s, BMW decided to return to the luxury coupe market with their newly designed E9 model. They based it on their big E3 sedan. The E9 was a beautiful coupe with a six-cylinder engine. It featured all classic BMW styling cues and a hardtop body style emphasizing its elegant lines.

BMW introduced the E9 in 1968, starting with 2.8 and 3.0-liter engines with 170 and 180 HP. That may not sound like much, but in a lightweight body, it resulted in a satisfying performance. However, with the introduction of the CS model featuring a 3.0-liter engine with fuel injection, the E9 had over 200 HP. Those were respectable performance numbers by the standards of the day. Due to its lightness, powerful engine and good balance, the E9 was a competent race car.

Homologation versions like the 3.0 CSL proved to be real performers in the GT class. In those days, GT cars were becoming heavy and comfy cruisers. But the E9 retained its sports car sharpness while still being comfortable enough for longer runs. Production ended in 1975 and they succeeded this car with another Munich legend, the 6-Series. Over the course of seven years, BMW made over 40,000 beautiful E9 coupes.

  1. Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona

The famous Italian sports car brand, Ferrari had numerous GT cars in its lineup, ever since they assembled the first Ferrari in 1947. There wasn’t a time in Ferrari’s history when the factory didn’t offer a 2+2 model. They were comfortable enough for long distance cruising and still fast enough to beat anything else on the road.

That is why it is hard to choose one classic Ferrari GT model to feature. However, the 365 GTB/4 Daytona is the best driver’s car among the 60’s and 70’s road-going Ferraris. It was an advanced car for its age featuring a race-bred 4.4-liter V12 engine with four camshafts, multiple carburetors set up and 352 HP. The GTB/4 came with an independent rear suspension, too. This was a big deal in the late 60’s and significantly improved the comfort of the car.

Also, the GTB/4 Daytona had a transaxle gearbox on the rear axle that improved the weight distribution and balance. This also affected the handling, making it stable and neutral at high speeds. Yet, the GTB/4 was comfortable thanks to air conditioning and a big trunk for luggage.

Interestingly, the world recognized the qualities of this gorgeous GT. Soon became the first Ferrari they produced in over 1,000 cars. This was a big achievement for a small company like Ferrari was in those days. They introduced the GTB/4 in 1968 and discontinued it in 1972. They built 1,400 Daytonas and they are quite expensive today.

  1. Monteverdi 375/L High Speed

Monteverdi was a Swiss luxury car brand active from 1967 until 1984. Over the years, Monteverdi produced many premium models they marketed as cars with German quality, Italian design and American power. This was a winning combination. Monteverdi cars featured a Chrysler engine with the effortless performance, speed and raw power many European manufacturers lacked.

Despite being obscure today, in the early 70’s, Monteverdi was commonly known as a producer of high speed, luxury GT models. Their bestselling car was the elegant, fast 375 model which they introduced in 1969. It featured a longer wheelbase for added comfort of all four passengers, a new body and exceptional equipment.

Suede-leather upholstery, automatic transmission, power steering and air conditioning were rare in those days, making the Monteverdi 375 highly desirable. The power came from Chrysler 440 engine with 375 HP power rating; hence the name. Since Monteverdi was a boutique manufacturer, the production numbers were small, so today those 375 coupes are rare and valuable pieces of GT history.

  1. Momo Mirage

The Momo Mirage was a brainchild of New York’s Peter Kalikow and his friend, Albert Momo. Kalikow was a wealthy car enthusiast and Momo was a Jaguar dealer. The two developed a close friendship around cars. In the late ’60s, they decided to build their own car company. It would produce exclusive coupes with Italian styling and bodies, but with Chevrolet V8 engines.

They contacted the famous Italian designer, Pietro Frua, who agreed to design and build the Momo Mirage. Unfortunately, the Momo car company started in the early ’70s just before the economic recession that affected the car market. So, they never completed their plan to build 25 Mirages per year. In fact, Frua only completed five cars, three of which are still in the possession of Peter Kalikow.

  1. Mercedes W111 Coupe 3.5

When you think of a Mercedes coupe, the fantastic 300 SL Gullwing is probably the first thing that pops into your mind. However, if you are looking for something more comfortable and usable but still lust for that everlasting Mercedes style, look for the W111 Coupe they produced in the ’60s.

The lineup started with a 220 six-cylinder engine. But for most collectors, the top of the line 3.5-liter V8 version is the most interesting one. The car has all classic Mercedes design cues, unbelievable attention to details and uncompromised quality. It drives as well as it looks, which is like a luxurious yacht.

  1. Facel Vega HK 500

The legend of French super luxury cars, they established Facel Vega in the ’50s with one goal: to build the best cruisers and luxury coupes money can buy. And for 10 years, they did just that using Chrysler engines and custom-built chassis and bodies. But, the car that represents the philosophy behind the brand was the beautiful HK 500. They introduced it in 1959 and discontinued it in 1962.

The HK 500 was an upgraded version of older Facel models with a bigger engine, revised suspension, sleeker design and more luxury features. The power came from a Chrysler 383 V8 engine. When you compare it to other luxury coupes from Europe, it delivered a brutal performance in an extremely smooth package. Also, the HK500 was the favorite transportation of movie stars of the period.

  1. Rolls Royce Corniche

Rolls Royce was always known for its limousines, so nobody thought they could introduce a proper Gran Turismo coupe. But in 1967 just after the presentation of their Silver Shadow model, Rolls revealed the Corniche. They built it on the Silver Shadow platform and used all its key features like the hydro-pneumatic suspension.

However, they gave it the new, improved V8 engine. Even though the Corniche had a 6.75-liter V8 and more than enough power, the company concentrated on comfort and effortless cruising. The combination proved popular among wealthy buyers, so the Corniche stayed in production until 1995.

  1. Aston Martin DB5

They presented the DB5 in 1963 and the famed Italian Carozzerria Touring company designed the car. The heart of the car was a 4.0-liter straight six engine with 282 to 315 HP, depending on the trim and model. They produced the DB5 as a coupe or gorgeous convertible. Despite being powerful by the standards of the day, the DB5 was more of a luxury cruiser than a sports car. However, the acceleration figures were around eight seconds from 0 to 60 mph.

It proved to be quite popular, so Aston Martin made over 1,000 examples until 1965. This was considered a big success for the boutique manufacturer. But this car is the most famous for being James Bond’s car of choice, appearing in quite a few Bond movies. Some say this is an early case of product placement, but most car fans say it is a match made in heaven.

  1. Lamborghini 350 GT

This is the first car Lamborghini ever made and one of the best GT sports cars of the ’60s. Despite being the first attempt in car making, Lamborghini managed to present an extremely competent coupe with a 3.5-liter V12 engine, independent suspension and sharp handling.

The 350 GT evolved through the years into the 400 GT and even 400 GT 2+2 with more interior room. But it always retained its characteristic styling, perfect balance and undeniable performance. Many classic car experts agree that the 350 GT is a far better car than anything from Maranello/Ferrari.

  1. Ferrari 500 Superfast

Even though the 250 and 275 series is commonly recognized as one of the best GT sports cars Italy has ever built, Enzo Ferrari wanted more. That is why Ferrari introduced a model he called the 500 Superfast in 1964. The 500 Superfast was the ultimate GT coupe because it was more powerful and faster than any road-going Ferrari up to date.

Under the hood was a 5.0-liter V12 engine that delivered 400 HP. Pininfarina styled the body and it could accommodate four adults in the utmost comfort and luxury. The performance was amazing and the 500 Superfast could top 170 mph, which was unbelievable in 1964.

  1. De Tomaso Longchamp

In the ’70s, De Tomaso was a well-respected sports car brand that needed a luxury GT coupe to expand its portfolio. So, in 1972, De Tomaso introduced a sleek and fast coupe he called the Longchamp. The engine for this model, as for all other De Tomaso cars, came from Ford in form of 351 V8 producing 330 HP.

That was more than enough for an exhilarating performance and true to the Gran Turismo nature of this car. But they stopped production in 1989 after building more than 400.

21. Iso Rivolta

The first model from the iconic Iso brand was the beautiful Rivolta. Named after the company`s founder Renzo Rivolta, this was an elegant Gran Turismo coupe designed by Bertone and powered by Chevrolet`s 350 V8 engine. In the Rivolta, this engine delivered 300 HP, enough for exciting performance and effortless cruising down the Italian highways.

22. Ferrari 250 GTE

Ferrari introduced the 250 Series in mid-50s and it spawned various models, from racing cars to luxury cruisers. On that other end of the 250 specter, there was the newly introduced 250 GTE which was constructed as a four-seater GT car or 2+2. The car was designed for people looking for a comfortable cruiser and proved very popular with well to do buyers of the early `60s. The power came from 3.0-liter V12 with around 250 HP.

23. Volvo 780 Coupe

One of the most elegant Volvos ever produced is definitely the 780 Coupe from 1986. It was built on Volvo 760 basis and featured same mechanics and a bespoke body crafted by Bertone styling house. Equipped with four cylinder turbo engines or 2.8-liter V6, the 780 Coupe could be considered a bit underpowered but its performance was a par with the competitors.

24. Jaguar E Type Series III V12

The iconic E-Type started its life as a true sports car with high revving six cylinder engine but by 1971 it turned into a very sleek and comfortable Gran Turismo. Jaguar installed the new 5.3-liter V12, gave it more features and roomier interior, and transformed this sports car into a highway cruiser of the highest order. Some enthusiasts don’t like those later models but the general market loved added power and smoothness.

25. Apollo 3500

Apollo 3500 was the brainchild of Californian engineer Milt Brown who wanted to build a proper sports car to rival European exotics. With the help of Italian company Intermeccanica, the Apollo project started to take shape in form of a handsome coupe powered by a 3.5-liter Buick V8. The production started in 1962 and lasted until 1965 but there are some reports that say that the last examples were completed in the early `70s. At the end, 90 cars were made

26. Ferrari 250 GT Lusso

For the end of the production of the fantastic 250 Series in 1964, Ferrari prepared the Lusso, the luxury version with a new body, a few improvements and beautiful design. It sold well and marked the end of an era for the factory and fans worldwide. The engine was 3.0-liter V12 with around 250 HP and Ferrari installed several luxury features and more interior space to make the ride more enjoyable in true GT fashion.

27. Cunningham C-3 Vignale

Briggs Cunningham was a world known entrepreneur, racer and constructor who created a unique American Gran Turismo car called C3 Vignale. 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 tuned to produce 300 HP. The C-3 was a luxury sports car which could easily rival any Ferrari or Maserati and it was also very expensive with the prices close to Rolls-Royces of the day.

28. Ferrari 365 GT/400 GT/ 412i

Introduced in 1972 and sold until the early `90s, the 365 GT4, later 400 and 412i were Ferrari’s four-seater models with comfortable interior, modern design and big V12 in the front. Also, it was the first Ferrari to be offered with automatic transmission which suited the nature of the car. For decades it was under the radar of Ferrari collector`s market but in the last few years buyers are getting more and more interested in this model.

29. Opel Diplomat V8

Opel is not a company you would usually connect with luxury GT coupes but in 1965 this economy manufacturer produced such car. The Diplomat was Opel`s luxury model and while the base versions got 2.8-liter six cylinder, the top of the line Diplomat Coupe got Chevrolet`s 327 V8 engine. Its overall design was totally reminiscent of Chevrolet`s mid-size and full-size models of the moment and with standard Powerglide automatic transmission, the Diplomat V8 Coupe could easily be mistaken for a US model. This was a pretty exclusive car with only 347 examples made.

30. Bristol 410

Strange and obscure British company Bristol produced some of the most exclusive and elegant Gran Turismo cars such as this 410. Produced for just one year and in 82 examples, the Bristol 410 was as rare as it gets. It was powered by Chrysler`s 318 V8 with 260 HP and covered in hand made, bespoke body with comfortable interior and big trunk, perfect for long cruises down the coast.

31. Bentley Continental Type R

One of the first true Gran Turismo coupes ever made was Bentley`s legendary Continental Type R. Introduced in the early `50s, it was a coupe version of a saloon car but fitted with sleek body and powerful engine. In one moment, it was the fastest four-seater car in the world. However, the high price limited the production to just 207 examples, making it extremely sought after by collectors.

32. BMW Series 6 E24

Introduced in 1976, the new 6 Series was BMW`s offering in the Gran Turismo market and one of the most elegant coupes of the period. With recognizable design, four headlights and a big BMW grille, the 6 Series was built on 5 Series basis but featured nothing but powerful six cylinder engines. The 6 Series proved to be very popular and spent over 13 years on the market. BMW managed to produce over 100,000 copies which are still sought-after models on the classic car market. Interestingly, more than a half of the examples produced were sold in USA.

33. Prince Skyline Sport

During the heyday of Gran Turismo segment, Japanese car industry was concentrated on small, economy cars and nobody thought of exclusive GT coupes. However, there was one car which is perfect for this list and comes from Japan. It is Prince Skyline Sport, a beautiful coupe designed in Italy and fitted with standard Prince (later Nissan) mechanics. Only a few hundred were built and the car was literary unknown outside of Japan for years.

34. Maserati 5000 GT

The mythical Maserati 5000 GT was one of the best and fastest cars of its time. The model was conceived in late `50s, when a racing engine was fitted onto road going chassis and covered by bodyshells designed by famous Italian styling houses. The 5000 GT was imagined as ultra fast, ultra comfortable cruiser for newly designed highways of Europe. Also, it was extremely expensive and only 33 were made, almost all with different body styles.

35. Isuzu 117 Coupe

Introduced in 1968 and sold until 1981, Isuzu 117 was one of the rare Japanese Gran Turismo cars. Although built on modest economy car chassis, it was designed in Italy and famous GiorgettoGiugiaro gave it timeless elegance and appeal. The power came from 1.6 to 2.2-liter four cylinder which meant that the 117 wasn’t particularly fast. However, the car looked cool and sold in decent numbers, although only in right hand drive specification.

So, what was your favorite from this list of the 35 most beautiful classic GT cars? If you found one you want, you’d better grab it fast, because these cars are become harder to find.

Please wait 5 sec.