Although Canada’s most famous export, Bryan Adams, loves to sing about the Summer of ’69. What happened 50 years ago in 1963 really set the stage for sports car fans around the world.
In 2012, I had a chance to visit Zuffenhausen, Germany home of the 911 and at the time they were taking about the 50th anniversary celebrations they were planning for the 911 in 2013. So, I was prepared for all the fanfare that ensued to honor 50 years of the iconic 911. However, as 2013 progressed I was surprised to learn the other cars that were launched in 1963 and who were also celebrating their 50 years of existence.
Before we get to the other name plates let’s recap how the 911 came to be. At the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show, Porsche unveiled the 901 which was a successor to their first car the 356. Peugeot felt they had a lock on 3 digit car numbers with a zero in the middle. So instead of fighting the French car maker, Porsche changed the name from 901 to 911. The 911 is the only car available today that has the same basic design of the original car, a design that has transcended time.
Meanwhile in Italy, a tractor maker by the name of Ferruccio was unhappy with his Ferrari so he met with Enzo Ferrari and told him to source better parts for the Ferrari to make it a better sports car. Enzo supposedly told Ferruccio to stick to making tractors and that he would stick to making high performance race cars. Ferruccio, an entrepreneur, was not very happy with the response he got, in 1963 he decided to setup his own sports car company which was located about 35 kilometers from Ferrari’s headquarters. Ferruccio named the sports car company after his last name – Lamborghini.
With all this action happening in Europe, Detroit’s Motor City was not be left out. One of the most successful sports car franchises was about to launch it’s 2nd generation model in 1963. Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov released the Corvette Sting Ray which was designed by Larry Shinoda. The first generation sales were good, but with the release of the Sting Ray it paved the way for the Corvette sales to sky rocket.
I’m not sure what was in the water or more likely what they were smoking in the early 60’s, but it had a profound and lasting effect on the sports car industry.
Sidenote: Ferrari didn’t know it at the time but it was building the most expensive car ever sold. At an auction in October 2013, a Ferrari 250 GTO was sold for USD $52 million to a private collector – the model year was 1963.