x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Top 5: Feline-inspired sports cars

The feline form seems a perfect fit to express the litheness, power and agility of a sports car; think more jungle cat than house pet when it comes to these performance machines.

Mercury Cougar.
Mercury Cougar.

1. SS Jaguar

The Swallow Sidecar Company was founded in 1922 by Sir William Lyons and William Walmsley, and it quickly moved on to producing cars. The first one to adopt the Jaguar name was a 2.5L saloon in 1935. The entire company was renamed Jaguar in 1945, what with the rather ominous connotations of SS after the Second World War. The rest as they say is history. The Big Cat company went on to produce numerous sports cars and the vehicle Enzo Ferrari described as "the most beautiful car ever made", the E-Type.

2. Sunbeam Tiger

The English car maker Rootes had purchased the Sunbeam marque in 1935; a rival bidder was Sir William Lyons, who was going to replace the SS name with the Sunbeam moniker. In the Sixties, the West Coast sales manager of Rootes American Motors worked with famed US car builder Carroll Shelby to produce a prototype that was sent to England for evaluation, and then went into production. The name was derived from the pre-Rootes Sunbeam Tiger that broke the land-speed record in 1925.

3. Panther Lima

The Lima, a roadster style reminiscent of an Allard or Morgan, was arguably the most successful car to be manufactured by Panther Westwinds, a company founded in 1972 by the fashion designer turned automaker Robert Jankel. The retro-styled car company was sold in 1980 to Young Kim of South Korea, which turned to making sports cars with the Panther Solo. In the Nineties, Panther was purchased by the SsangYong Motor Company in China. The SsangYong concept car, the Solo 3, was name in honour of the Panther marque.

4. Mercury Cougar

In the 1960s, Ford found a hit with the Mustang, and decided to make a stablemate under the Mercury brand. The Cougar was meant to be a more luxurious version of the hit pony car. It started production in 1967; as with other Mercury vehicles, the Cougar shared basic platforms with Ford models. The eighth, and final, Cougar, built from 1999 to 2002, was based on the Ford Contour. In 2002 Ford restructured the company and dropped the Cougar model, along with the Ford Escort, Lincoln Continental and Mercury Villager.

5. Lamborghini Cheetah

The Cheetah was Lamborghini's first attempt at building an off-road vehicle. The car was built by a US defence contractor Mobility Technology International - which lifted the design of the FMC XR 311, which sued - and it was then sent to Sant'Agata for the Lamorghini engineers to improve it. The choice of a rear-engine set-up meant the weight balance was completely wrong and the US military passed on it. But during testing, the US army destroyed the only prototype, and the remains were never sent to Lamborghini or MTI.