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.
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:
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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?
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:
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)