It's come to my attention that a tall, rather peculiar fellow from Georgia (who apparently owns a highly convincing Fiero kit car and is obsessed with potato farmers) recently decided to educate car enthusiasts on Jalopnik about hybrid cars. You know, those boring egg-shaped things that run on a billion d-cell batteries and few gallons of 87 octane.
While that's fair and honorable, I suspect few conscious individuals outside of mommy bloggers and Greenpeace activists actually care all that much about hybrids. Nor should they really; we Americans still have relatively affordable fuel, and Europeans have the VW GTD and the Scirocco TDi (you filthy bastards).
And while it is true Ferrari and Porsche are building hybrids these days too, I also suspect that they didn't choose that method of propulsion solely because they were concerned about the environment or resources. Besides, a Porsche 918 Spider compares to a Toyota Prius in the same way a firecracker compares to a bundle of dynamite smeared with gasoline; they're only related by an inconvenient technicality.
With that said, I thought I would take the time today to share some knowledge with you about hybrid cars.
Hey now! Wait! Put your damn torches, rifles and pitchforks down. I'm not talking about Priuses and Honda Insights, I'm talking about hybrids: vintage cars that were designed in Europe but had All-American power. So forget about tiny engines, batteries and Greenpeace, here are ten hybrids you must know about.
Everyone, meet the Gordon-Keeble GK1. Looking like an angry Aston Martin, this 2+2 Grand Touring car was penned by the renowned Giorgetto Giugiaro and featured — and I'm not making this up — what's known as a "Chinese eye" headlamp arrangement.
Although the pre-production model featured handcrafted bodywork made by Bertone in Italy (bless their souls), the Gordon-Keeble was rendered in fiberglass for production by British firm Williams & Pritchard Ltd. Production models were also initially built in Slough, Britian before production moved to Eastleigh, Britain. Why the move? Who knows. Maybe some hooligans knocked over the company's old shed in Slough or something.
Good news! No batteries or diminutive wheeze-bang four-pots here. The Gordon-Keeble GT was powered by an authoritative 327 cubic-inch Chevrolet small-block V8 borrowed from the C2 Corvette Sting Ray.
You're looking at one of Carroll Shelby's lesser known conversions, the Sunbeam Tiger. The Tiger was based on Sunbeam's lowly and aging Alpine roadster and first introduced in 1964, two years after Shelby's first AC Cobra started terrorizing intercontinental race tracks and freeways.
Because Sunbeam was part of the old Rootes Group, that means it was also built in Britain, this time West Bromwich. (Question: what does a West Bromwich taste like and would it go on strike about being eaten?) If Carroll Shelby could've had his way however, it would've been built at his facility on the West Coast of the US in sunny California.
A 260 cubic-inch Ford V8 was fitted as standard for most of the Tiger's lifespan. A small number of later-model cars received an upgrade to the 289 cubic-inch V8 made famous by the original Ford Mustang before production ended with Chrysler's purchase of the Rootes Group.
This is the Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada. Designed by an Italian by the name of Giotto Bizzarrini, the bizarrely beautiful and low-slung 5300 GT Strada was a road-going version of the 5300 GT Corsa race car meant to compete with the likes of Bizzarrini's former employers, Ferrari and Lamborghini.
Designed to replace a car you'll see later on in this list, the Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada (try saying that twenty times fast while gargling water) was built somewhere in Italy, if you didn't deduce that already. Like the pre-production Gordon-Keeble, the Bizzarrini's voluptuous lines were fashioned by Bertone. Sources state an optimistic 149 examples were produced by Mr. Giotto Bizzarrini and few survive today.
Mounted underneath that arrest-me-red hood yet again was the 327 cubic-inch small-block V8 borrowed from the second-gen Vette. Good for up to 325 rampaging horsepower, the Corvette's V8 helped the Bizzarrini achieve a top speed of 145 mph.
What happens when you take one AC Cobra, redesign the suspension for better cornering and let an Italian stylist loose on the bodywork? The result is the AC Frua, named after its designer, Pietro Frua, who also penned the lovely Maserati Mistral of the '60s.
Literally everywhere. The AC Frua's chassis was first assembled in Britain (big surprise there) and subsequently shipped to Pietro Frua's facilities in Italy where the body would be crafted. After the bodywork and frame came together, the completed shell was sent back to AC where it was fitted with a complete powertrain from Ford. Because this method of assembly was so ludicrous and so expensive, cash-strapped AC could only afford to make 81 total examples, making this the rarest car on the list.
As with any AC Cobra, the venom wielded by this spicy sexy snake was Ford's monstrously terrifying 427 cubic-inch V8. Bite me, baby.
What happens when an Argentinean racing driver winds up in Italy and decides he wants to build cars? You should probably ask Alejandro de Tomaso... well, if he were alive anyway. His first model was the stunning DeTomaso Mangusta, which in Italian means "mongoose." (Bonus points for you if you spotted the irony in the photo above.) And although the Mangusta's styling left onlookers ruffled and lusting and suggested it was a supercar of a godly magnitude, it was dicier to drive and ride than a fighting bull on cocaine.
Yet again designed by Giorgetto Giugario, this time during his stint at design firm Ghia, the Mangusta originated from Italy. Tell me if you've heard a similar story to that one already.
The Mangusta technically had not only one but two hoods. Instead of a panel of stamped metal, DeTomaso gave you two amazing rear gullwing doors that lifted up to reveal a mid-mounted Ford 302 cubic-inch V8.
Sources: Hagerty, HowStuffWorks, Automobile Magazine
It's big, it's beautiful and the last bit of its name sounded like a high-powered rifle. The Facel Vega HK500 was by far one of the most distinct classic hybrids ever produced. And unlike everything else on this list it seems, Giugario or some other Italian designer wasn't involved in styling it.
Want to take a guess on this one? Go ahead. Of all the European countries out there, the Facel didn't come from Italy, the UK, or even Spain. Instead, it originated from the one that gave us moldy runny cheese and Cajuns: France. And that's also what makes the Facel so distinct and strange; looking at that massive wraparound front windshield and those stacked quad headlamps, you'd probably think it came from Detroit.
Concealed under that scooped hood on early examples was a Chrysler-sourced 354 cubic-inch 5.8 liter Hemi V8 good for 335 horsepower. Shortly after that, the engine was upgrade to Chrysler's 6.3 liter 383 cubic-inch "wedge head" V8 good for 360 horsepower and a 0 to 60 run of 8.5 seconds.
Sources: HowStuffWorks, Wikipedia
This is the car that an earlier car on this list — the Bizzarrini 5300 Mouthfull — was designed to replace. The Iso Grifo was the brainchild of two Italians, a one Mr. Renzo Revolta famous for the Isetta bubblemobile, and the previously mentioned Gitto Bizzarrini. And, yeah, Giugario was invited along to style it because who in the hell else were they going to hire? Oh well. At least I'll never tire of staring at it.
I'm going to say it because I have to say it: Italy. Why? Because where else? And, no, I don't care I followed that question up with another question.
Again, stop me if you've heard this one. The Iso Grifo was powered by the second-generation Corvette's small-block V8 good for many horsepower.
Sources: Wikipedia, Automobile Magazine
This is the car that put DeTomaso on the map and Elvis Presley once shot like a rabid horse: the Pantera. Introduced in 1970, the Pantera was styled not by an Italian, but an Detroit-born Dutchman working for Ghia who went by the name of Tom Tjaarda. And although Ford stopped selling the Pantera through it's Lincoln-Mercury division in 1975, DeTomaso's supercar remained in production for 20 years.
That one country. You know. The one that makes pasta, beautiful women and wine. The one that builds a lot of red cars ...
... Sigh, okay. It's Italy.
Mounted mid-ship in the bowels of this bad Italian-American kitty-cat was a brash 351 cubic-inch Ford V8 that produced a goddamn electric 330 horsepower. If that's not a vulgar display of power, I don't know what is. (Okay, I'll stop with the puns.)
Sources: Wikipedia, HowStuffWorks
If you don't instantly recognize that giant gaping maw, those taut bulging lines and that low purposeful stance, then you've clearly never seen or heard of one of the most famous hybrid cars of all time — the AC Cobra. The Cobra was based on the tepid AC Ace roadster and is Carroll Shelby's most legendary creation, with his excellent barbeque sauce being next. It's also the sole inspiration for the original Dodge Viper.
It's also worth mentioning that, in 2004, Ford precisely re-rendered the original AC Shelby Cobra on a modified Ford GT chassis and rolled it out as a concept car at that year's Detroit Auto Show.
Here and there, but not quite everywhere. Early production seems to have been carried out at AC's facilities in Britain, with later work being done at Mr. Shelby's workshop in California. Short answer: the Cobra was made in both the good ol' US of A and in Britain.
Early Cobras had Ford's potent 260 cubic-inch V8, but later models had the outright lethal 427 cubic-inch big-block V8 that, when combined with the roadster's low curb weight, was powerful enough to force your testes up through your eye sockets. Doctors were never able to develop an anti-venom suitable enough to cure this Cobra's bite.
Favored by Jason Clarkson, Roger St. Hammond, and James Steed in the little known British action-detective series The Interceptors, the Jensen Interceptor was the car for anyone who wore a mustache and desired to snuff out crime in something that wasn't boring like a Jaguar. It just oozed cool. Carozzeria Touring of Italy styled the Interceptor, and the chassis was borrowed from the previous Jensen CV8.
The Interceptor was built in the British Midlands which, from what I understand, is a questionable place on a good day and generally terrible by default. (I mean, even their own website is broken.) So I guess as a result, Jensen Interceptors weren't exactly built as they were sort of pieced together by which ever line worker the foreman had decided was the least hung over, provided he even bothered to show up in the first place. At least the Interceptor's positive attributes outweigh the bad ones.
At the Interceptor's launch, buyers had the choice of two Chrysler V8s: one that displaced 273 cubic-inches or another that displaced 383 cubic-inches. Sometime later in 1971, that was upgraded to a choice of two 440 cubic-inch V8s, and if you opted for the one with three two-barrel carburetors, you could put 330 honest horsepower to the ground. Criminals were guaranteed to be captured.
Today, a small company out of the UK will take any classic Interceptor and upgrade the suspension and brakes and swap in a LS3 borrowed from a late-model Corvette. They also try to fix whatever Jensen didn't make right when the car rolled off the assembly line some moons ago.
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