Britain’s got it all when it comes to automotive heritage. Whether it’s vehicles for motorsport, production cars or garage projects, Britain has become synonymous with motoring greatness and innovation. We’ve created a list of what we think are the greatest British cars every produced.
The Range Rover wasn’t the first ‘posh’ SUV, but it has certainly become the most famous in the field. In reality, the Range Rover has now become a luxury car first and a 4×4 second, however we don’t expect Land Rover to ever admit that. Despite the fact that it seems to be designed more for Footballer’s wives, rather than those who need it for more than a couple of leaves on the driveway, the Range Rover is still an off-road beast. It’s one of the most recognizable British cars and has turned the SUV world on its head.
While the new Mini’s are German and they are not actually that ‘mini’, the original Mini was the little car that changed the world. The Mini packed a whole bunch into a tiny body and it appealed to everyone from celebrities to your stay-at-home mum. It was also highly successful in the motorsport world, winning in rally events and circuit events all over the world. The Mini is about as iconic as the Spitfire and Winston Churchill.
Almost certainly the most beautiful car to ever come out of Britain, the Jaguar E-Type is considered by many to be British motoring’s finest achievement. If Enzo Ferrari called it “the most beautiful car ever made”, we are certainly not going to argue with the man behind the Ferrari marque. The E-Type was successful both on and off the track. When it launched it had a sub-7 second 0-60mph time, disc brakes and independent front and rear suspension. While that doesn’t sound impressive now, in 1961 that was unheard of. The E-Type stole the show at the 1961 Geneva Auto Salon show and we think it could do it all again even today.
Aston Martin DB5
If it’s good enough for James Bond, it’s definitely good enough for us. While the Aston Martin DB5 probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the same level of success if it hadn’t had the help of Mr Bond in Goldfinger, it’s still one of the greatest cars we’ve ever seen. The optional extras fitted to Bond’s car sadly didn’t came with production models, however the 4.0-litre 282 bhp engine and gorgeous looks certainly made up for it.
What is considered to many as the greatest supercar every built, the McLaren F1 was like nothing anybody had seen before. Conceived by Ron Dennis and F1 designer Gordon Murray, the car turned out to be one of the most legendary vehicles every built and is still the benchmark for many cars today.
A 6-litre BMW V12 engine encased in a gold heat shield powered the car to an unbelievable 240 mph, ushering in a new era of motoring. A central seating position meant for driver focused cockpit and you could even bring two other mates along for the glorious ride.
Morgan Plus 8
Morgan’s Plus 8 might be partially made of wood and based of an old roadster design, but its certainly one of the coolest cars we’ve ever seen. Never mind turning up in a Ferrari or Lamborghini, turn up in one of these and everyone will notice you. Built from 1968-2004, the Plus 8 was produced in small numbers and received very few visual changes over its 36 year lifespan. While the outside didn’t change much the inside was updated constantly to keep up with many contemporary sports cars. There were even propane-fueled cars from 1984-1989, which were a bundle of laughs apparently.
Land Rover Series
The most famous off-roader to be produced by a British company was actually conceived on a beach. Designer, Maurice Wilks sketched the design of the Series I in the sand at Red Wharf Bay and changed the motoring world forever. It’s been seventy years since then and we have seen a whole host of offspring from the original Land Rover Series, but the first is still the most iconic. It may have been based on a Jeep, but the Land Rover is as British as they come.
Lotus Elan Sprint
Weighing in at under 700kg and having near-perfect weight distribution meant the Lotus Elan Sprint was an ultimate drivers car. You know the Elan has a legacy when Mazda used it as inspiration to create the most popular roadster ever produced, the MX-5. It is also owned by the likes of Gordon Murray and Jay Leno.
What is seen as the successor to the F1, the hybrid P1 showed the world the electric power combined with petrol goodness didn’t need to be just for eco-warriors. The P1 combined a 737 hp 3.9-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine with a 178 hp electric motor, for a total of 916 hp. McLaren then encased all this power in a carbon composite body to develop one of the top supercars today. Its just a shame all 375 sold out instantly.
A car that encapsulates both the good and the bad about the British motoring industry. Over 500,000 were produced from 1962 until 1980 and was the world’s best selling sports car for a while. There were four, six and eight-cylinder models and the monocoque body structure was innovative at the time of launch. The MGB is a joy to drive if you find a good one, but you’ll wish you opted for the push bike if you drive a lemon.
Just like the Elan the Lotus Elise formula was simple, Simplify, then add lightness. Lotus stripped away all that was unnecessary with the Elise and then used lightweight materials to make it even lighter. In doing so, the British motoring company produced a car that was incredible fun to drive and is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest drivers cars. While it may not be the fastest sports car, there aren’t many things that can make you smile like an Elise on a tight, twisty road.
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
While it isn’t the best car Rolls-Royce have ever produced, the Silver Shadow brought the brand to the masses, becoming the marque’s most successful vehicle in the process. It may not have had all the bells-and-whistles of other Rolls-Royce automobiles, but it still retained that sense of luxury a Roller can only create. It also looked damn cool as well.
What some say is the British Model T, the Austin Seven was the motorcar for the everyday man. Herbert Austin said that his ultimate goal with the Seven was to create “a decent car for the man who, at present, can afford only a motorcycle and sidecar”. There were many different versions of the Seven for different tasks depending on what the user required. It also had its place in motorsport, where it provided a cheap platform for budding racers.