As we wave the checkered flag on an incredible year in the motoring calendar, 2019 presented no shortage of thrilling debuts, standout motorsport triumphs and the anniversary celebrations of some of the longest standing titans in the motoring industry – including Bentley, Bugatti, Abarth, Fiat, Renault and Citroën to name a select few.

But what interests us most are the innovative models and ground-breaking cars that have kept such brands in business over the decades. So we’re looking back at some standout motorcars that all celebrated rather significant anniversaries this year; cars that made history and others that are still writing it.

Austin-Healey 3000 60 Years

The ironically nicknamed ‘Big Healey’ celebrated 60 years of joyous open-top motoring this year. From its slender and compact frame, long nose and curvaceous coachwork, the Austin-Healey 3000 is arguably one of the most beautiful and quintessentially British sportscars of all time. Yet, being a British-built motoring icon, surprisingly over 91 per cent of all ‘Big Healey 3000s’ sold were exported, mainly to the North American market. The plucky little 2.9-litre roadster still enjoys a strong enthusiast following today, with many original cars still on the road, competing in concourse events and classic rallies.

Triumph Herald 60 Years

British-born brand Triumph celebrated its 60-year anniversary of the Herald in 2019. The Herald, designed by Italian Giovanni Michelotti, was marketed as an entirely new motoring experience. Prominent features included its modest frame and exceptionally tight turning radius. While the brand-new Herald certainly looked sleek and nimble, its performance was underwhelming at best, even by the standards of the late 1950s. The Herald was stated to achieve 100km/h in a sluggish 31 seconds. Luckily, it was and remains very pretty. The Herald was a roaring success for Triumph, selling over half a million units between 1959 and 1971, and was offered in all shapes and sizes, including coupé, saloon, convertible, estate and van variants.

Rolls-Royce Phantom V 60 Years

The Phantom V celebrated a rather exclusive birthday this year. After making a definitive statement in the luxury segment 60 years ago, the Phantom V was hailed following its debut in 1959. Featuring an enormous 6.2-litre V8 and slow, leisurely 4-speed automatic transmission, it quickly became popular with royals, dignitaries and rock stars alike. One of the most notable Phantom owners during its limited 9-year run of just 517 cars, was none other than John Lennon. But what made Lennon’s Phantom really unique was a completely bespoke paint job, styled after a traditional Romany gypsy wagon – an acquired taste, but undeniably distinct.

Jaguar Mk 2 60 Years

1959 also saw Jaguar redefining a benchmark of its own. 60 years ago, the Mk 2 established itself as a real contender in the executive saloon space, replacing Jag’s popular 2.4-litre and 3.4-litre models. While it will always exist in the shadow of the seminal and iconic E-Type, launched merely 2 years later, the Mk2 became a legend in its own right. In its most potent specification, the 3.8-litre V8 produced a healthy 220bhp and would see 100 km/h in as little as 8.5 seconds. This made it a popular choice with the criminal underworld when considering a getaway vehicle and was later employed by motorway cops across Britain. The Mk 2 is truly embodied by Jaguar’s 1950’s advertising mantra: Grace… Space… Pace.

Mini 60 Years

The tiny but mighty Mini, designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, recently turned 60 years young. It’s safe to say, there are few names or shapes in motoring as iconic or world-renowned as Mini. Seeing success as a small economy city car, as well as a motorsport legend in both road racing and rally, Mini most famously dominated the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967. Mini’s podium pedigree is certainly impressive, but what may be more so is the pop-culture icon’s ability to endure – being produced under BMC, British Leyland and Rover Group before being acquired by BMW in 2001. The Mini remains a giant in car culture even today, with no shortage of fans, admirers and enthusiasts keeping every generation of Mini on the road, worldwide.

Ferrari Dino 246 GT 50 Years

Launched at the Turin Motor Show 50 years ago in November 1969 as the successor to the hugely successful 206 GT, the Dino 246 GT featured a larger, more powerful V6 and a wheelbase some 60mm longer. Aside from this, the 246 kept true to the formula that had helped Ferrari win true commercial success with the 206. What really set the 246 apart, however, was its 2.4-litre V6 that generated an impressive 192bhp – not bad to say it only weighed 1,080 kilograms. The new motor gave all the punch that 206 owners had been yearning, yet left no compromises on the beautiful silhouette that would go on to make the 246 GT one of the most stunning and iconic cars of the 1970s. Today’s market has been very kind to the Dino, with cars of this hailed generation regularly selling for upwards of €400.000.

Ford Capri 50 Years

The Capri, now a much sought-after classic, was in production for 18 continuous years across 3 generations. Debuting it 1969, the Capri was due to Ford attempting to replicate sales of its hugely popular Mustang in the US, for the European market. There are a few distinct styling features that translated through, though the Capri was, on paper, far less impressive than its muscular cousin. It was billed as ‘The car you always promised yourself’ – a slogan that has become one of the most famous in motoring history. And the Capri’s original price tag? £890. The car was actually a very successful racer as well as a commercial victory for Ford. It’s estimated that 1.8 million Capri’s were built between 1969 and 1986 before production ended.

Lancia Delta 40 Years

A legend was born at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1979. In its earliest form, the Delta was a small Italian-built family hatchback. What it went on to do however, was dominate the Wold Rally Championship during the 1980s and early 90s. The first true performance-orientated rendition of the Delta came in the form of the HF in 1983. This nimble front-wheel drive hot-hatch was powered by a turbocharged version of the 1.6-litre motor found in the GT model. A few years later, the HF also received four-wheel drive, another homologation feature from its wildly successful rally bloodline. Second and third generations of the Delta made it into production too, but all subsequent efforts were forever to be left in the dust of the iconic Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione, with its glorious Martini racing livery and a combined 46 world championship wins in both Group A and Group B rally.

Aston Martin Virage 30 Years

Arriving in 1989 and seeing 11 years of continuous production, the Virage came about at an interesting time for Aston Martin – shortly after the luxury marque was acquired by Ford. At the time, the burbling V8-powered GT was praised by journalists for its engine and mechanical underpinnings but was ultimately let down by some cost-cutting measures and questionable, very 90’s, styling cues. This new-fangled Aston put out some fairly impressive numbers, given its overall size and weight. Output was rated at 330 horsepower and 364 pound-feet of torque, that would sling the Virage to 100 km/h in under 7 seconds – not ground-breaking, but respectable for a weighty grand tourer. If you fancy an iconic British GT ownership experience, a modest example can now fetch €80.000 – €140.000 – but expect more for V12 range-toppers or a special edition model.

Mazda MX-5 30 Years

Mazda’s lightweight roadster has enjoyed three decades at the peak of affordable performance. Every generation of the MX-5 has ushered in improvements over the previous version. It’s been praised for its superior chassis and nimble handling abilities for over 30 years, and rightly so. The ethos behind the car has always been to hone in on handling, rather than horsepower. An early example featuring the tremendous 1.6-litre 16 valve motor can be picked up from as little as €7.000. So, if you’re in pursuit of the perfect Sunday driver to take on Andalucía’s mountain roads, the MX-5 shouldn’t be overlooked as the perfect weapon of choice.