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The Classic Driver Motor Show 1974

As the global recession deepened, 1974 saw belts as tight as ever. Remarkable, then, that amid an international energy crisis and spiralling inflation rates, some of the world’s most expensive cars were introduced. We’ve picked the best to imagine the Classic Driver Motor Show ’74…

Geneva saw the launch of the Lamborghini Countach, perhaps the most iconic supercar the world has ever seen. The young Marcello Gandini’s rule-bending design was a classic, its unusual wedge shape making schoolboys and grown men alike go wobbly at the knees. Fellow coachbuilder Frua also chose Geneva to exhibit its latest work: the German, yet unmistakeably Italian, Audi Coupé Speciale Mittelmotor Concept. After losing touch with BMW some years earlier, the elegant sports car was Frua’s attempt to reach out to the flourishing Audi brand.

An era of wedges and wings

Pininfarina aptly chose the early-summer Barcelona salon to display its latest design, the Alfa Romeo Spider Aerodinamica Concept, with its wraparound bumpers and low, protruding spoilers. As dainty as the Spider was, it was thought more of a publicity tool for Pininfarina and its fancy new wind tunnel, the fruits of which can be truly seen in the wild Ferrari Studio CR 25 Concept. This impossibly sleek supercar, shown at the Turin show in October, boasted a drag co-efficient of just 0.256.

Such was the popularity of the Countach prototype displayed at Geneva three years prior, that Lamborghini and Bertone joined forces once again to design a replacement for the baby Urraco. The result, unveiled at Turin, was the Bravo, a wedge-tastic, fully operational concept that was ultimately canned despite extensive testing. Its reception was warm, which was more than could be said for the second generation Maserati Quattroporte, also launched at Turin. Built on an extended Citroën SM chassis (Maserati was owned by Citroën at the time) and drably styled by Bertone, the purists loathed it. Combined with a lack of demand for luxury saloons in the midst of the oil crisis, just 13 were to be built before its replacement in 1979.

The most important new car at Paris that year was undoubtedly the Porsche 911 Turbo. A supercar for the jet set, the Turbo changed the game, combining then out-of-this-world performance (0-60mph in under 6 seconds and a top speed of 155mph) with high levels of luxury and comfort, not to mention a driving experience that could appropriately be described as ‘exciting’. Just 500 of the whale-tailed monsters were intended for production, but demand far outstripped supply and Porsche left the show with bursting order books.

Best of Britain, and beyond

The London show at Earls Court was an opportunity for the British manufacturers to take centre stage. Lotus presented its fastback-bodied Eclat, while Aston Martin lifted the lid on the Lagonda Series 1 Saloon, reviving the brand that had been dormant for the previous decade. Priced at £14,040, the Series 1 was one of the most expensive cars around. That didn’t detract from its beauty, though, as was recognised by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders who awarded it the gold medal for bodywork. Similarly to the Quattroporte, demand was virtually non-existent and just seven cars were built in period.

It’s heart-warming to know that in the face of global economic woe, car manufacturers were still able to produce exotic machines that truly stood the test of time. While perhaps not a golden year for new cars, we have a feeling that 1974 won’t be remembered for the recession, but for a car that adorns teenage bedroom walls to this day: the magnificent Lamborghini Countach.

Photos: Getty, Rex, Shanin Armin, Magic Cars Pics

Hundreds of cars from the 1970s can be found in the Classic Driver Market.