the 10 most ‘appeeling’ female motorists of the 1960s

The 1960s are often considered a golden age in terms of automobile innovation, performance and design. That a decade so largely defined by its struggle for civil liberties and equality should put so much energy into its cars hardly comes as a surprise. Almost since its very conception, the automobile has endured as a powerful symbol of freedom, mobility and independence. The image of a woman, in particular, packing up and speeding away with her hair blowing in the wind was still rather provocative throughout most of the 20th century. With her car, a girl could simply drive away from it all – her toxic lover, her dead-end job, her stifling parents, her boring husband.

As our celebration of 1960s female badassery slowly comes to a finish, here are our ten favourite female motorists of the decade and their cooler-than-Kiddo pussy wagons. Please contact me if you feel I’ve missed anything!

10 Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians, 1961)

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Okay, she may not exactly be appealing in the traditional sense, but if you can turn a blind eye to the whole skinning-of-puppies-to-fashion-winter-wear thing, Cruella De Vil is actually a rather riveting sort of person. In addition to her talent for cruelty-based couture, the haughty, raspy-voiced aristocrat is perhaps best remembered for recklessly driving her luxury automobile through dangerous, icy terrains, often whist belting out a delightful stream of insults at her henchmen, Jasper and Horace.

The Car

Though Cruella’s car in the 1961 animated film is entirely fictional, Disney is believed to have been inspired by the 1936 Alvis Speed 20 SD Drophead Coupe, the 1931 Bugatti Type 41 Royale ‘Weinberger Cabriolet,’ and author Dodi Smith’s own Rolls-Royce 25/30, also known as the ‘Sedanca de Ville.’

9 Fiona Volpe (Thunderball, 1965)

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Spectre baddie, Fiona Volpe, played by foxy Italian bombshell, Luciana Paluzzi, wins extra badassery driving points for scaring the absolute crap out of 007 after picking him up on the side of the road in the Bahamas. ‘You look pale, Mr. Bond. I hope I didn’t frighten you,’ Volpe sneers, when she finally pulls up to the hotel. ‘Well you see, I’ve always been a nervous passenger,’ 007 responds. I suppose some men just don’t like to be driven.

The Car

Fiona Volpe drives a 1965 Ford Mustang convertible in bright blue.

8 Modesty Blaise (Modesty Blaise, comics launched 1963)

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Comic book demigoddess, Modesty Blaise, is perhaps one of the most underrated female action heroines of the 20th century. The criminal gang-leader turned super-spy works closely with British Intelligence, along with her sidekick Willie Garvin, but only in capers that suit her own unique moral code, and only with the full understanding that it’s the Princess who sits behind the wheel.

The Car

According to DriveTribe, ‘From the beginning Modesty and Willie Garvin drove the most exotic and contemporary sports cars, ranging from E-Types, the Daimler Dart and Astons, to the mighty Jensen FF that featured in quite a number of stories…Later there was a TR6 and even a Mercedes C111. All the cars were beautifully drawn and looked like the actual models.’ In the novels, Miss Blaise is also seen driving around London in ‘an open Rolls-Royce in two tones of blue,’ chauffeured by her houseman, Weng.

7 Aki (You Only Live Twice, 1967)

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One of the stronger, more dynamic female characters of the earlier Bond films, Aki, played by Japanese beauty, Akiko Wakabayashi, is considered by many as a sort of forerunner to Bond’s future wife, Tracy Draco, from the series’ next film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). A highly intelligent and capable Japanese secret service operative, whom Bond forms a comparatively significant attachment to, Aki comes to 007’s rescue twice in her cream-coloured Toyota. Much like the future Mrs. Bond, she is a skilled driver, taking the wheel throughout most of the film, including its one major car chase.

The Car

According to James Bond Wiki, only two topless versions of the 1967 Toyota 2000 GT were ever produced. Initially, a targa was considered to accommodate the large 6’2″ Sean Connery, but as Connery’s head stuck out the top, a topless version was designed especially for the film, with tonneau covers fitted in to give it the appearance of a fully functioning convertible.

6 Honey West (Honey West, 1965-66)

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Private detective, Honey West, was one of the first female sleuths to ever appear on American television. With her pet ocelot, fabulous animal print wardrobe and black catsuits, West was a wonderful Catwoman-meets-Avengers sort of hybrid. In fact, the role was initially intended for judo-chopping Avengers heroine, Honor Blackman. When Blackman turned the role down, Anne Francis was cast as the ‘private eyeful.’

The Car

Similar to Avengers lady spy, Emma Peel, Honey West drives a sporty 289 Shelby Cobra convertible.

5 Catwoman (Batman, 1966-68)

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Well, you didn’t think that I would finish off our last top ten article of our little 1960s series without Her Grandness, the Queen of Criminals and her famed Kitty Car, did you?

The Car

The website, SyFy reports that Eartha Kitt’s Kitty Car in the episode ‘The Joke’s on Catwoman,’ is actually a 1965 Reactor Mach II, built by Gene Winfield. First used in the television show, Bewitched, the poison green Reactor was ‘kitted up’ with eyes, ears and a tail, replacing Julie Newmar’s Catillac from seasons one and two.

4 Tracy Draco Bond (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969)

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The only daughter of Marc-Ange Draco, head of one of the world’s most powerful crime syndicates, Tracy Bond, née Draco, is played by none other than kung-fu fighting Avengers badass, Diana Rigg. Though the Countess is introduced as a bit of a melancholy, ‘poor little rich girl’ archetype, by the end of the film, she establishes herself as an intelligent, brave and multi-faceted character, with a wide range of talents, including swishing through the Alps on skis (and even surviving an avalanche) to whooping ass with a couple of her fierce, Emma Peel-inspired fighting moves. But surely Tracy is at her most impressive when she comes to Bond’s rescue in her red Mercury Cougar, displaying a variety of expert driving manoeuvres in one of the wildest car chases of the earlier Bond films.

The Car

Bond Lifestyle maintains that three 1969 Mercury Cougar XR7’s were used for Thunderball, with one purportedly destroyed during filming. The second is currently unaccounted for, whilst the third is on display at the Bond in Motion exhibition at the London Film Museum.

3 Varla (Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, 1965)

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The Woman

It’s three psycho pussycats for the price of one in this Russ Meyer cult classic starring Tura Satana, Lori Williams and Haji (yes, Haji). But in the end, it is Tura Satana’s Varla who takes the grand prix. The film begins with the three homicidal go-go dancers racing through the California desert, with Varla demonstrating some serious driving skills with her Porsche during a high-speed game of chicken.

The Car

In a Telegraph interview with Tura Satana, Satana revealed that Varla’s grey Porsche 356 was actually one of director Russ Meyer’s own cars. ‘Russ loved women and he wanted to show that women can be strong too,’ Satana said. ‘Therefore, I should drive his Porsche. He was quick, hip – and I was the unstoppable woman behind his wheel.’

2 Pat Moss

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Daughter of race car drivers, Alfred and Aileen Moss, and sister to Formula One Grand Prix star, Stirling Moss, English world rally champion, Pat Moss, remains one of the most renowned and successful female auto rally drivers of all time. Boasting three outright wins and seven podium finishes throughout her 21-year driving career, Moss was crowned European Ladies’ Rally Champion five times in 1958, 1960, ’62, ’64 and ’65.

The Car

According to Petrolicious, Moss piloted a variety of cars throughout her career; but it is the Big Healeys (namely, the Austin-Healey 100-6 and the Austin-Healey 3000), that are most strongly associated with the rally champion today. Not the most obvious choice for a rally car, the Big Healey rendered Moss’s earlier victories even more remarkable.

1 Emma Peel (The Avengers, 1965-68)

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With her slick kung fu moves and colourful PVC catsuits, Mrs. Peel, portrayed by the beautiful and willowy Diana Rigg, is one of the first and most memorable feminist icons to ever appear on television. The image of the cool, sophisticated British spy, zipping along in her two-seater Lotus Elan still remains one of the decade’s prime examples of female independence and vitality.

The Car

Mrs. Peel could be seen speeding through the English countryside in two different convertible Lotus Elans throughout seasons four and five of The Avengers.  The first was a white S2 DHC, and the second a blue-grey S3.

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