1970s STYLE BACK IN FASHION
- New Straits Times
- SHAMSUL YUNOS
THESE days, if you suddenly find yourself burdened by billions in your bank accounts and needed quick relief through shopping therapy, and you want to find the most stylish coupe or grand tourers, then a quick skip and jump to the nearest Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Maserati, Ferrari or Aston Martin outlet should do the trick.
If you are afflicted by sensibility, then perhaps a German treat would suit you better and, don’t get me wrong, a Rolls-Royce Wraith is fine but a Camargue is far more elegant, a Maserati 350GT is excellent but a Kyalami would really make you feel special.
An Aston Martin DB whatever is completely stunning but a DBS V8 is the very personification of stiff upper lip, not even a wobble here when someone says something rude.
The Ferrari GTC4 Lusso will make you look like you just landed from Zeta Reticuli but a 400i is so low slung and generous, like a rich favourite but slightly mysterious Italian uncle who never says anything nasty about anyone, but conceal carries a small personal firearm.
I am not a fashionista; in fact, at times, I am what is known as a fashion repellent, for I will wear loose-fitting corduroy pants in public much to the chagrin of my better half. Luckily, she is highly tolerant of my silliness and will just grit her teeth and hand me a comb. “At least comb your hair before you go out,” she will sigh.
These are some of the most elegant grand tourers of the era and many of them actually lived into the 1980s when I began to notice them.
Of particular grace is the Ferrari 365 GTC/400i/412i, which is an unbelievably low slung four-seater that looked like someone took a sensible design and ran it through the pasta roller at No. 3. It almost looks like you have to scrape it off the ground.
This model started as the 365, the number simply indicates the displacement of a single piston, the way God intended Ferrari to be named. That was updated to 400 and later 400i, which still indicated a single piston’s sweep and the selfish letter was homage to the KJetronic squirting dead dino juice into the burn box.
The series culminated with the 412, which displaced 4.9 litres. Inside, there were four leather-lined seats and, most importantly, a nicely sized three-spoke steering wheel with a yellow centre boss with a horse on it.
Ferrari’s gated shift sat on the large central tunnel and the polished metal ball on a rod ran through the gate and straight into a five-cog box.
The build quality of the cabin was reminiscent of a child’s papier mâché project, with the centre console willingly wobbling if you just nudge it with your knee. Maybe it was to save weight, but who cares, it was a proper grand tourer with four seats, a boot large enough for luggage trunks and 12 cylinders under the bonnet.
I can tell you that having 12 cylinders will make a Ferrari fan forgive almost anything, even Lamborghini drivers, this is Colombo V12, so I will even forgive the papier mâché quality.
Power-wise, the 4.9-litre motor cranked about as much power as a
turbocharged two-litre four-cylinder engine today, rated at about 340hp at 6,000rpm but in those days, that was sufficient power for a large GT.
In fact, it was largely the same motor found in the more iconic Ferrari Daytona, which also donated its platform to the GTC4, a 2+2 GT that became the basis for the 356 GT4/400/412i.
Then there was the Maserati Kyalami, which was nothing like the svelte and suave Ferrari but more like a stocky Italian boxer dressed for fancy dinner. Not surprising since the basis of this vehicle was the Detomaso Longchamp, which looked like a stout mafia hitman in a rugby jersey.
The Kyalami was a child born into financial ruin — the family pile was dilapidated but the show must go on. Divorce papers with Citroen had just been finalised and Alejandro DeTomaso thought he wanted to have a go with the iconic brand.
Given that coffers were practically empty, he decided to call up Pietro Frua to dress up the Tom Tjaarda-designed Longchamp. The result was a car that rippled with muscularity underneath new, tight-fitting tinwork.
It is probably not to everyone’s taste but I am guessing this is the easiest car to like in terms of the design.
If you are feeling particularly brave then the Rolls Royce Camargue is the way to arrive. Necks would snap as everyone wondered who was making an entrance.
The Camargue did not possess the qualities of traditional beauty but it was a rather elegantly proportioned car that looked like it had a gentle disposition and good breeding, which in most cases meant somewhat inbred.
Pininfarina tried his best to interpret the ultimate British luxury coupe but he had very little experience with grey skies and boiled potatoes so it looked like an Italian Rolls Royce. And I mean that in the most generous sense possible.
So, you see, these slightly awkward automotive finds from the 1970s would go well with those ironic 1970s style that is so popular these days, don’t you think?
Let’s be stylish by not being stylish.