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The Jaguar XJ6 has been proclaimed by many to be one of 2018’s most important jubilees – but 1968 was all-round a spectacular year, which makes me want them all!

Various magazines have already begun writing about the XJ6, its fiftieth anniversary and not least its status as the Jaguar of the century. Needless to say, XJ6 owners are getting all excited as they look forward to celebrate the elegant saloon at the many planned events this coming season. All of which is of course thoroughly understandable – without exception, every time I encounter a XJ6, I simply must turn around for a second glance. It has that special allure, which is of course the explanation behind its enduring magic. And should anyone foolishly ask which allure, you could easily justify answering that it’s the same allure found in an E-type. ‘nuff said.

I struggle to stop myself from going on, and on, and on about all that is great about the Jaguar XJ6, but there really needs to be something left to tell you the day I finally buy one myself.

None the less, it occurred to me that it might be worthwhile having a look at which other goodies the ’68 vintage had on offer – and what a vintage indeed. Let the Champagne flow! This has got to be one of the best years in automotive history. Just look at this picture here:

Incredibly, both the BMW E3 and the Mercedes /8 are also from 1968.

Not too shabby, is it? I would imagine that both BMW and Mercedes-Benz considered these two cars true competitors for the XJ6 back in 1968. And so do I – especially today, as classics. Or as a bare minimum I see them as classics which are likely to end up living in my garage (in fact, I’ve already been lucky enough to own the coupé version of the Mercedes – such a lovely car), but they’re also valid considerations if you’re looking for a classic which offers you a whole lot of car for the money. And a classic which you can actually drive and use. Yet – at least to me – there’s still no doubt that it’s the Jaguar which edges ahead of the other two in the majority of disciplines. Most certainly if we’re talking style and attitude! Whether the Jaguar was actually the best car of the three is probably rather more debatable.

Style and attitude – perhaps the perfect keywords for the 1968 generation in general: the AMC AMX might very well be the one to express this the loudest. It’s also quite a special car in American history – a proper two-seater just like the famous Thunderbird and Corvette. 

The AMX was also introduced in 1968, and was part sports car and part muscle car. With a 6.4 liter engine, there’s no denying that it beat the XJ6 in that particular discipline.

And as if that wasn’t enough, one of history’s most well designed Audis also debuted in 1968: the Audi 100 Coupé. Oh, and so did the basis of its origin, but the 100 saloon just doesn’t quite have the same visual impact – despite obviously being a rather significant model for Audi. Perhaps it was even this exact lack of character which set the course for Audi’s future? As such, it was clearly much more important than the coupé version, which is none the less my preferred Audi.

The prettiest of all Audis?

But that’s the thing – it’s just one of those years which had everything to offer. How about a pick-up? Not just that, but possibly nothing less than the world’s best? Well, I don’t really know whether that applies to the 1968 model or whether that moniker only came later, but regardless, it was the first year where the world heard of the Toyota Hilux. But it certainly wasn’t the last! I’ve often proclaimed how I actually don’t really understand pick-ups. I genuinely don’t know what I would do with one. But an early Hilux is different and would always be welcome in my classic car garage. At least that way, I would always be sure to have one car that would work…

The Hilux design changed more and faster than that of the XJ6.

In case a Hilux is a little too rustic and utilitarian, the year of 1968 also gave us the one other car on the planet which can possibly match its reputation for sturdiness and reliability: Oui Monsieur, the Peugeot 504 was introduced in 1968 too. You could even have it as a pick-up, but I’ll take a perfectly ordinary saloon, thank you. One could also point out VW’s best attempt at such a car as “an ordinary saloon” in 1968 – the infamous 411. But I’ll be merciful and spare you the details.

Fabulously French.

Then much rather point out a Japanese classic, which I for quite some time have dreamt of… – someone building for historic motorsport here in Denmark. That is honestly how I know and think of the Datsun 510, but millions of people from all around the globe remember it as their introduction to a car that was well-built and just continued to work, and work, and work. Truth be told, that it was also a great little race car is really just a footnote. But naturally, the Datsun advertising team made sure to tell this story to anyone who could be bothered listening.

A kind of Japanese Alfa GTV/BMW 2002?

Which slowly brings us to the essence of what makes 1968 an utterly fabulous car year. Perhaps even the best car year of them all! The sports cars. Has there ever been a better vintage for the elite GT-cars?

One of my all-time, absolute and ultimate favourite cars dates back to 1968: the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 – also widely known as the “Daytona”. Further introduction is pointless and unnecessary. I choose it for the main picture for the article, and I will never tire from those stunning lines. Twelve cylinders, undoubtedly the most beautiful car from the 1968 vintage and the world’s fastest car for several years. I would like to think that now – fifty years after it left the whole automotive world thoroughly gob-smacked – I might someday get the pleasure of actually driving one too?

Maserati Indy. Perfect harmony.

The same year also saw Maserati introduce the Indy. Enjoy the picture above, and I’ll merely add a dreamy “Yes thank you very much Sir”. Another fantastic GT, and it’s even somewhat practical with rear seats and a reasonably large boot with access through a full-sized hatchback. But it was the only new Maserati that year.

A certain other Italian brand outperformed them significantly. Please sit down and brace yourself for Lamborghini’s 1968 party fireworks:

Espada, Islero and Jarama are all from 1968. What the Urraco is doing in this company is beyond me. It is of course a younger Lamborghini, but the three others certainly made 1968 a stellar year for Lamborghini and GT-cars in general.

Now these are the ingredients which make me boldly proclaim 1968 as the best car year the world has ever seen. And there are even a plethora of other great new models which I haven’t even mentioned yet – from the Alfa Romeo 1750 Berlina to Volvo 164. And Triumph TR6 or Morgan Plus 8? Ginetta G15 or Plymouth Road Runner?

1968 is quite frankly a massive year – not least because of the broad variety. If you are unable to find a car from 1968 which you fancy, I think it’s fair to presume that you probably aren’t a car enthusiast at all. Yet despite that, fifty years on and I still feel that it’s the Jaguar XJ6 which takes the title for best all-rounder. Which in turn of course only goes to prove that it’s quite in its place to celebrate this lovely classic car – or perhaps even buy one…

Which is your favourite from the 1968 vintage?

(Note: All introduction year data according to Wikipedia)

7 Responses

  1. Tony Wawryk
    What a year 1968 was! And as you point out, Claus, not just at supercar level, but across the industry, with so many of these cars becoming classics (no, not going back there!). There’s at least half a dozen that you feature that I would be happy to own and – the clincher – that I could theoretically afford if I replaced my 02. Love the photo of the Jag, Merc and BMW together, but my (affordable) choice would come down one of the Audi 100 Coupe (I agree, the prettiest of all Audis) or the Opel GT with the 1.9 engine (the 1.1 is far too anaemic for such a sporty looking car) – the latter still looks great and I’m sure that with a more “desirable” badge, would be fetching bigger money nowadays. But wait….the E9 2800CS was also launched in 1968…and they are still reasonable money…that itch won’t go away…
    My unaffordable choice – the Indy.
    Incidentally, I think I have a copy of the CSL brochure that you show – but that wasn’t introduced until 1972.
    Reply
  2. Claus Ebberfeld
    Absolutely agree on the Opel GT, Tony. Incidentally a GT was the first classic car I ever drove for real – many, many years ago I looked at one for sale and loved it. Yes, it was the 1,9 and surprisingly quick for my very, very new drivers license. Ended up not buying it.

    Ah yes, Wikipedia seems to have forgotten the E9 as an ’68 – and so did I, terribly sorry!

    I am not so sure about the “still reasonable money”, though – haven’t they climbed uncomfortably close to Maserati Indy-money?

    Reply
  3. Tony Wawryk
    Claus, the Opel GT 1.9 was on my short-list of cars to buy before I decided on my 02. Regarding the CS, there are a few around for below £40k – here’s one that looks pretty good (albeit it’s an automatic) with an auction estimate of £25-30k; a lot of 2002tii’s are selling for more than that. http://stock.morrisleslie.com/stock/details?reg=AES82L. If I didn’t have my tii I’d be seriously tempted.
    As for the Indy, the ones on carandclassic seem to be £70k and up…with a “barn find” at £40k…to be honest, less than I thought, and obviously way cheaper than a Daytona or indeed an Espada.
    Reply
  4. Anders Bilidt
    The little Opel GT’s are indeed great looking classics. Sensual curves everywhere and then those fabulous rotating headlights! I recall the father of my ex-girlfriend from my early to mid 20’s owned a cute little Midget mk. II, but was also rebuilding a GT1900 in a beautiful factory blue metallic colour. He was going for a perfectly stock look, but with a 2.2 liter engine breathing through side-draught Webers. We would regularly borrow hie Midget in the summertime, but I always longed for him to finish that GT. However, the relationship to said ex finished before the GT restoration did…

    Tony, I was actually looking at that precise E9 CSa just the other day, while I was considering it for the next Prime Find of the Week. Probably mostly because I’m such a sucker for Ceylon gold metallic – just such a cool and individual colour! However, I’m less of a sucker for slush-boxes. And bizarrely, they placed the “3.0 CS” badge on the wrong side of the bootlid? Makes me wonder which other details they got wrong…

    As for my own ’68 choice, well steering clear of fantasyland full of Daytona’s, Espada’s, Islero’s, Jarama’s and even Indy’s, I have no doubt that my choice would simply have to be a first-year-of-production fully handbuilt Isuzu 117. Such a good looking coupé and with Isuzu’s brilliant little twincam spinning away up front, what’s not to like? It’s always been very high on my list of cars that simply must make their way into my garage some day…

    Reply
  5. Tony Wawryk
    Seems we’re all fans of the little Opel :). Good spot on the badge of the (allegedly) fully restored CSa, Anders – hopefully the restorers didn’t get anything else wrong – still, it does look pretty damn good, auto or not.
    Somehow I knew you’d go for the Isuzu! Even I – an out-and-out Europhile – can see the appeal of that one. The same auctioneers selling the CSa also have this 1968 Toyota Corona Coupe that might pique your interest – http://stock.morrisleslie.com/stock/details?reg=NSC192F; surely a very rare beast in this country and only 33k kms. It’s too boxy for me, but with an estimate of only £7-9k, with a full history, a bit of a bargain?
    Reply
  6. Anders Bilidt
    Thomas, you are of course right, so a Mehari picture has accordingly been added to the photo gallery.

    Tony, I love those early ‘shovel nose’ Corona’s. Very cool and extremely well built. Some years ago, I was lucky enough to drive a top-of-the-range signature-yellow ’69 Toyota Corona 1600 GT5 Coupé with the the sweet 9-R twincam engine and a factory 5-speed on the floor. Such a charming and cool car. Somehow though, this white one falls a little short with its OHV engine and 3-on-the-tree gearbox. Looks cool though…

    Reply

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