The six best '70s supercars that aren’t the Lamborghini Countach

29th April 2020
Henry Biggs

The 1960s saw the birth of the supercar, as the success of mid-engined design in racing began to see it being applied to road cars. It was the 1970s however when the idea of an out and out driving machine as opposed to a grand tourer came of age as engineers and designers began to confidently explore the possibilities. The most extreme was undoubtedly the Lamborghini Countach but that didn’t necessarily make it the best. Here are our thoughts on the rest.


1971 Maserati Bora

The fact that Maserati, like many storied marques, has had a turbulent history fortunately didn’t stop it from creating some of the most beautiful cars ever seen. The Maserati Bora is a case in point, appearing while the Italian company was under Citroën’s ownership but before the De Tomaso takeover. Neither of which you will note could be regarded as a steady, cash-rich parent.

Nevertheless, the Bora was perhaps the most civilised supercar of the era, thanks in part to Citroën’s influence. The French company’s hydraulics expertise was used to operate the ventilated disc brakes, the adjustable pedal box, driver’s seat and the de-riguer pop-up headlights although the car was conventionally sprung with independent suspension all-round. Further refinement was found in large front luggage compartment and a double-pane of glass separating the cabin from the 4.7-litre mid-mounted V8.

This engine was all-Italian however and derived from the engine in the legendary Maserati 450S endurance racer. All-alloy, quad-cam and fed by four carburettors in later 4.9-litre form this produced 320bhp and 454Nm (335lb ft) and drove the rear wheels through a ZF five-speed transaxle. All of this was wrapped in a sensational Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed body which took accents from his Alfa Romeo Iguana concept car such as the brushed aluminium roof, glazed rear panels and taillight shape.

Engine and transmission

4.7-litre V8, five-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive


310PS (306bhp)/462Nm (341lb ft)


6.7 seconds

Top speed



1971 De Tomaso Pantera

Another merging of two worlds but this time of a more tried and tested formula; American V8-power mated to European design and engineering. Presented at the New York Motor Show in 1970, the De Tomaso Pantera must qualify as the longest-lived and highest-volume supercar, soldiering on for 21 years with over 7,000 built. Founded by Argentinean Alejandro De Tomaso in Modena, Italy, initially to produce prototypes and racing cars – including an F1 car for Frank Williams – the Pantera was the company’s third production model.

Based around a 335PS Ford Cleveland V8 with a body designed by Tom Tjaarda at Ghia, the Pantera was aimed at the American market, Ford agreeing to sell it in Lincoln and Mercury dealerships, and included more creature comforts than its typical supercar peers. The oil crisis forced Ford to pull out of the distribution deal in 1975 but the car soldiered on, even going as far as using Australian-sourced Cleveland V8s after American production eased. De Tomaso was back at the 2019 Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard with the stunning P72.

Engine and transmission

5.7-litre V8, five-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive


350PS (345bhp)/491Nm (362lb ft)


6.3 seconds

Top speed



1973 Lancia Stratos

Nuccio Bertone was keen to have his Carrozzeria added to Lancia’s roster of design houses and so, hearing that the company was looking for a replacement for its Fulvia rally car, used the running gear of a friend’s example to create a concept car showcasing the company’s skills. The story has it that the resulting Lancia Zero was so low, when Bertone arrived to present the car he simply drove it under the barrier at Lancia’s headquarters.

The showmanship worked and Bertone was appointed to create a rally car penned by their designer Marcello Gandini, who was responsible for the Lamborghini Miura and was then working on the Countach. The prototype presented at the 1971 Turin Motor Show now had a mid-mounted Dino Ferrari V6, which Enzo Ferrari allowed once his own mid-engined sports car ceased production. The final 500 engines went to Lancia, allowing it to homologate the Stratos for the World Rally Championship. The first purpose-designed rally car, it duly secured the world championship title in 1974, 1975 and 1976. 

Engine and transmission

2.4-litre V6, five-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive


190PS (187bhp)/226Nm (167lb ft)


6.8 seconds

Top speed



1973 Ferrari 365 GT/4 BB

Ferrari was caught on the hop by the Lamborghini Miura, which became the world’s fastest production car upon its launch but more importantly made its front-engined Ferrari Daytona rival look like yesterday’s engineering. Its replacement, the Pininfarina-designed 365GT/4 BB redressed the balance becoming the first mid-engined road car to officially wear the Ferrari name with a 180-degree 4.4-litre V12 mounted longitudinally amidships. 

Not a true boxer engine, the car’s ‘BB’ designation actually stands for Berlinetta Bialbero, referencing its dual camshafts. Updated in 1976 with an enlarged engine, the car became the 512BB, referencing its 5.0-litre, V12 engine, a break from Ferrari’s previous system of naming cars according to its single-cylinder volume.

Engine and transmission

4.4-litre V12, five-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive


352PS (347bhp)/432Nm (319lb ft)


6.8 seconds

Top speed



1975 Porsche 911 930 Turbo

Porsche had originally experimented with turbocharging for its racing cars in the 1960s and in the early 1970s Technical Director (and later chairman) Dr Ernst Fuhrmann decided to adapt the system in the 917/30 Can-Am car for road use. Applied to the 3.0-litre flat-six from the 911 Carrera RS, the single turbocharger technology produced 260PS at a low 6.5:1 compression ratio. Intended as a homologation special, the resulting car, known internally as the 930, became popular with the public badged simply as the ‘Turbo’.

Flared wheelarches covered the much wider rubber it required and a whale tail spoiler helped to both vent air and keep it planted. The Turbo used a four-speed manual gearbox as the existing 911 Carrera’s five-speed unit was unable to handle the engine’s torque output. The engine was enlarged to 3.3-litres in 1978 and an intercooler added, boosting power to 300PS. The ‘whale tail’ spoiler now became a flatter ‘tea tray’. Despite a reputation for ‘widowmaker’ handling the 930 continued in production until 1989 when it finally got an extra gear ratio for its final year.

Engine and transmission

3.0-litre flat-six, four-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive


260PS (256bhp)/344Nm (254lb ft)


5.5 seconds

Top speed



1978 BMW M1

The 1970s seemed to be the decade for convoluted supercar construction partnerships although the BMW M1’s complicated build process was the result of a failed agreement with Lamborghini to build a mid-engined car for BMW to homologate to take on Porsche in Group 5 racing. The BMW M1 was, as its name suggests, the first car designed in its entirety by BMW’s Motorsport division which lacked the capacity to build it and contracted Lamborghini for final development and production. The Italian firm was on the verge of bankruptcy however and BMW resumed control.

As a result the body and chassis were constructed by separate Modenese firms and sent to Italdesign in Turin which mated the two elements and added the interior. The semi-completed shells were then sent to Baur in Stuttgart where they were mated with a 277PS 3.5-litre development of the M49 engine from the wildly successful CSL racing programme. Finally the cars were delivered to BMW in Munich for final prepping and delivery. By which time the Group 5 rules had changed and BMW decided to create a one-make Procar championship using the M1 instead; Niki Lauda won the 1979 season and Nelson Piquet the 1980 championship. Still, 399 lucky people were able to take ownership of BMW’s first, arguably only, supercar and the rarest M model.

Engine and transmission

3.5-litre straight-six, five-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive


277PS (273bhp)/330Nm (243lb ft)


5.6 seconds

Top speed


Main image courtesy of Bonhams. 

  • BMW

  • M1

  • List

  • Lancia

  • Stratos

  • Porsche

  • 911

  • 930

  • 911 Turbo

  • Ferrari

  • 365

  • De Tomaso

  • Pantera

  • Maserati

  • Bora

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