I tried to make this even-handed so I didn’t end up with five Penskes, five F1 cars or five muscle cars. So while I can’t say with any certainty that next week I might not substitute one or two of these with a NASCAR Mercury Cyclone, a Lotus 79 or a Penske PC10 (TOP, LAT photo), at the time I was writing my list, these were my top six. Yes, that’s one too many but my self-restraint had already been stretched too far.
Aston Martin Project DP212
The Ferrari 250 GTO is sensational from almost every angle but Aston Martin Project cars – DP212, 214 and 215 – are, to my eye, a little better balanced in terms of hood length/htgreight compared with tail length and height. I prefer the 212 in 1961 form, before it acquired its effective but abrupt Kamm tail, but whatever: these cars are achingly beautiful but also aggressive-looking, and the 4-liter inline-six that produces 330hp sounds wonderful.
Here’s another thing: motoring journalists wax lyrical about Aston Martin’s DB4GT Zagato, and it is lovely, no question, but the DP212 looks a whole decade more advanced…and yet the two designs were separated by just a year.
When I first saw Steve McQueen’s Le Mans, I was 10 years old, and I was bummed by the script: how come the hero finishes second, how come the wrong Porsche 917 wins? But every time I see it now, I just wish the Ferrari 512S won. Thankfully it did so at Sebring 12 Hours in 1970, Mario Andretti’s defeating the McQueen/Peter Revson Porsche 908, in what Mario describes as the greatest race of his life.
I prefer the curvaceous form of the 512S over the more dramatic lines of Porsche’s 917…but those of course proved more effective, hence Ferrari (and Penske) emulating them with the 512M.
One of our readers “cheated” and picked the 2008 ALMS grid, and I so admired his gaucheness that I wanted to do the same with the Trans-Am field of 1970 – full of American machinery that belongs in my 100-car dream garage, and near inseparable in terms of appeal. And so my tin-top pick is slightly later and European. I believe the BMW CS/CSL is the most elegant coupe of the ’70s, while the racing version – with or without the huge vents beside the rear wheelarches, with or without a turbo – is like a rabid werewolf that brilliantly retains visual design cues of its less ferocious self.
When I had my list of favorite racecars whittled down to 32 (I kid you not), I still had seven Penskes on it (I kid you not) – PCs 6, 9, 10, 17, 21, 22, 23. Eventually what swung the decision ever so slightly in favor of 1988’s PC17 was the fact that it looked so low, curvaceous and uncluttered in both road and superspeedway trim. Its shape also worked in both the Pennzoil colors which Rick Mears drove to Victory Lane at Indy and in the Miller High Life livery that adorned Danny Sullivan’s championship winner. Nigel Bennett, like Geoff Ferris, designed gorgeous but also effective cars for Penske.
The last of the first-gen turbo F1 cars were beautiful as a breed, and Gustav Brunner’s Ferrari F187 and F187/88 of 1987 and ’88 are gorgeous in their simplicity. When Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto lucked into a 1-2 finish at Monza in ’88, breaking that year’s McLaren stranglehold – on home ground and just a month after Enzo Ferrari died – this 15-year-old jumped off the couch and did a carpet-burn knee-slide, arms aloft. But even without that slightly embarrassing memory, this would be my favorite F1 car of all time.
In the 1990s, CART indisputably contained the best-looking racecars in the world, and Reynard upped the beauty quotient on its arrival in 1994. I couldn’t honestly say that a ’95 car is more beautiful than the later models: I’m picking this because of Walker Racing’s sexy Valvoline livery that year. And by the way, aside from the low-ish cockpit sides, this car still looks modern to me.