They say that life begins at 40. So for these cars, the future’s bright. We’ve selected 15 cars born in 1976, each one celebrating their 40th anniversary in 2016. Say hello to the big Four-O.
The second generation 100 was a big deal for Audi. Not only did it represent the genesis of Audi’s assault on the territory occupied by Mercedes-Benz and BMW, it also featured the world’s first five-cylinder petrol engine. Close to a million were built between 1976 and 1982, making the C2 Audi 100 a huge success.
BMW 6 Series
Can it really be 40 years since the elegant and exquisitely engineered BMW 6 Series first appeared? A 7 Series coupe in all but name, the 6 Series shared its chassis with the chairman’s executive express and even beat it to market by a year. As it evolved, the 6 Series spawned some high performance gems, before it bowed out in 1989.
DeLorean DMC-12 prototype
Most people associate the DeLorean DMC-12 with the 1980s and a certain Hollywood movie. But the story begins back in the 1970s, with John DeLorean establishing the DeLorean Motor Company in 1975, before unveiling the DMC-12 prototype in October 1976. The rest, as they say, is history. Although DeLorean has expressed an interest in re launching the model, so watch this space.
The nation’s love affair with the Ford Fiesta began in 1976, with the launch of Ford’s first ever supermini. By the end of the decade it had already sold a million and – as history will recall – it would eventually become the UK’s best-selling car, for which it still is.
Ford Escort RS Mexico and RS2000
Two classic fast Fords were born in 1976, in the shape of the Escort RS Mexico and RS2000. The Mexico was a German-built performance gem to replace the British-built Mk1 Escort Mexico, but the real star was the RS2000. It featured a 110hp 2.0-litre engine and that famous ‘droop snoot’ nose.
Ferrari 400 GT
The Ferrari 400 GT was essentially a more powerful version of the 365 GT4 and featured a 4.8-litre V12 engine developing 340hp. Launched at the 1976 Paris Motor Show, the 400 was the first Ferrari to be offered with a three-speed automatic transmission. This helped win sales in the United States, but wasn’t a move welcomed by Ferrari purists.
Honda Accord Mk1
Today, the Honda Accord is more commonly associated with a saloon body, but it actually started life as a pretty three-door hatchback. The follow-up Mk2 Honda Accord will go down in history as the first Japanese car to be built in the United States. It wore the number plate ‘USA 001’.
The Silhouette is the forgotten and short-lived Lamborghini designed to win the hearts of American buyers. Its 3.0-litre V8 engine was good for 250hp, enough to propel this evolution of the Urraco to a 161mph top speed. A total of 55 Silhouettes were built, including two prototypes. The final car was used as the Jalpa prototype.
Surely one of Giorgetto Giugiaro’s finest pieces of work, the Lotus Esprit was born in 1976. With a familiar steel backbone frame and glassfibre body, the Esprit was a Lotus that could just about hold its own alongside the Italian thoroughbreds of the era. A year later, the Esprit would star in the James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me.
The first Mercedes-Benz W123 models went on sale in January 1976 and to some this is the German company’s finest hour. In developing what we now refer to as the E-Class, Mercedes-Benz left nothing to chance. In the case of the W123, ‘life begins at 40’ is perfectly apt. These things will run and run.
Renault 5 Gordini
Stand down, Mk1 Volkswagen Golf GTI, for your claim to be the world’s first hot hatch is unfounded. Indeed, the Golf GTI was beaten to market by the Renault 5 Gordini, known in the rest of Europe as the Renault 5 Alpine. It launched in France in 1976 and was later followed by a blistering turbocharged version in 1982.
With styling inspired by the Ferrari Daytona, the Rover SD1 (Specialist Division number 1) was a worthy European Car of the Year. Production started in Solihull, later moving to Cowley, but the SD1 was blighted by quality control issues and the usual British Leyland problems.
The TR7 had launched a year earlier in the United States, but in May 1976 it finally took a bow in the UK. The styling was a radical departure for Triumph and for many people it was too much to take. The V8-engined TR8 arrived in 1980, but it was too little, too late for the much-maligned wedge.
In 1976, TVR launched a stylish hatchback version of its 300M, known as the Taimar. The added practicality helped the Taimar to become one of TVR’s most successful models. All were powered by a Ford V6 engine.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
It needs no introduction, does it? Although there had been other hot hatches before the Golf GTI, this was the car that took the concept of a performance hatchback to the masses. Early cars were all left-hand drive, with the first right-hookers arriving in the UK in 1979. An instant classic, prices are continuing to rise. The GTI is still a popular model in the 2016 line up.
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