15 Of The Greatest British Cars Ever Built

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With almost all of the British car manufacturing know-how now under foreign ownership, we thought we’d take a trip down memory lane and revisit those classic British motors that helped put the Great in Great Britain.

Have we missed your favourite? Let us know in the comments!

#15. Morgan Plus 8

morgan plus 8

Built by Morgan between 1968 and 2004, the Morgan Plus 8 was an instant classic whose popularity has been credited with keeping the company alive and famous during its 36 years of manufacture.

The original Plus 8 chassis was based on the Morgan Plus 4 with the addition of a powerful Rover V8 3.5L engine and upgraded wings to accommodate the larger tyres needed to handle the power.

All Morgan Plus 8′s share incredible levels of performance combined with “exciting” handling characteristics and the same old Morgan body/chassis construction methods.

#14. Austin-Healey Sprite

Austin Healey Sprite Mk I red vl1

Designed by Donald Healey and released in 1958 by the British Motor Corporation, the Austin-Healey Sprite was a small, low cost sports car designed to fill the gap left by the post-war Austin Seven sports cars.

The Sprite included a tuned version of the engine used in the Austin A-Series along with a number of parts and components from as many existing cars as possible in order to keep costs low.

The British Mark I Sprite was known as the Frogeye in the UK, and the Bugeye in the US due to its distinctive headlights mounted on top of the centre bonnet.

#13. Lotus Elise

lotus elise

First released in September 1996 by Lotus Cars, the Lotus Elise was a two-seat, mid-engined roadster. The Lotus Elise’s hand-finished fibreglass body, and aluminium chassis helped to provide a rigid platform for the suspension whilst also keeping the cars weight and production costs to a minimum.

Capable of reaching speeds of up to 150 mph, the Elise’s success marked the long-overdue return of a genuine, reasonably affordable British sports car.

#12. Jaguar XK120

Jaguar XK1201

The Jaguar XK120 was the companies first post-war sports car, built between 1948 and 1954 the XK120 succeeded the SS 100. At the time of its release, the Jaguar XK120 was the fastest standard production car available, capable of speeds of up to 120 mph (more with the windscreen removed), making the XK120 a successful racing vehicle.

The XK120 was available in two convertible options, the roadster, the drophead coupe, and as a closed or fixed head coupe. The drop head coupe featured a luxury wood interior comprising of dashboard, door interiors and other wood features.

#11. Bentley 4½ Litre (Blower Bentley)

bentley blower

With its 4.5 Litre engine and front mounted supercharger, the Blower Bentley quickly became the Walter Owen Bentley’s quintessential British sportscar.

Whilst the 4½ was designed on previous cars such as the 3-Litre, the 4½’s Roots supercharger offered an increase in power to 240 bhp, making the  Blower a stunning road car and a possible contender for endurance racing.

The Blower Bentley is one of the heaviest cars to compete in Grand Prix racing, proving to be a highly reliable track car and almost won the Le Mans 24 Hour race in 1928 and 1929.

#10. Jensen Interceptor

jensen interceptor III

Hand built in the UK by Jensen Motors between 1966 and 1976, the Jensen Interceptor was a sporty GT-class car that broke with the tradition of other Jensen cars by having a steel bodyshell instead of glass-reinforced plastic.

The Interceptor featured a Chrysler V8 6276cc engine which grew to 7212 cc in late 1971 models. The Interceptor saloon had a distinctive large, curving wrap-around rear window that doubled as a tailgate. The original specification included electric windows, reclining front seats, a wood rimmed steering wheel, radio with twin speakers, reversing lights and an electric clock.

#9. Triumph Spitfire

Triumph Spitfire Mk II

Released in October 1962, the British-made Triumph Spitfire was a two-seat sports car largely based on the Triumph Herald saloon, and throughout its life was built at the Standard-Triumph works at Canley, Coventry.

The Triumph Spitfire was originally designed to compete with the Austin-Healey Sprite in the new small sports car market, and saw fiver separate Spitfire models launch during the vehicles production run.

#8. Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II

Rolls Royce Silvercloud III

The Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II launched in 1959 and was the first production Rolls-Royce to include a V8 engine.

The 6230cc V8 engine gave the Silver Cloud an impressive top speed of 115mph along with an even more impressive acceleration times for such a large and heavy car (0-60mph in 10.8s).

The same V8 engine was also used in the new Bentley SII and Phantom V limousine.

#7. Sunbeam Tiger

sunbeam tiger

Manufactured by Jensen, the Sunbeam Tiger was a muscle car version of the Sunbeam Alpine roadster sporting a 4.2 L V8 ford engine.

Production of the Sunbeam Tiger ran from 1964-1967 and reached over 7,085 cars.

#6 – MG TC Midget

MG C1

A quintessential classic British sports car, the MG TC was the first postwar car to be released by MG and quickly became a favourite of WW2 fighter pilots.

Powered by a twin-carburettor 1250cc engine, the TC was only available in one body style – an open two-seater which made its appearance very similar to that of the TB.

Despite its somewhat dated mechanical specification and appearance, the TC took MG by surprise and became arguably one of the most popular post-war cars.

#5. MGB

MGB Roadster

Released by MG Cars in 1962 to replace the MGA the MGB featured a 4-cylinder engine, with the mater MGB GT V8 including an ex-Buick Rover V8 engine.

The two-seat open roadster was capable of 0-60 mph in a little over 11 seconds, with the MGB’s handling being one of its strong points.

The MGB was also one of the production cars to feature controlled crumple zones designed to help protect the driver and passenger in a 30 mph impact.

#4. Aston Martin DB5

aston martin db52

Named after the head of Aston Martin (David Brown 1947-1972) the Aston Martin DB5 was first released in 1963 and was made famous for being the first and most recognised James Bond car.

Designed to replace the DB4, the DB5 featured an enlarged 4.0L engine, new five-speed gearbox, and 3 SU carburettors capable of producing 282BHP giving the DB5 a top speed of 145 mph.

Standard features on the DB5 included reclining seats, pile carpets, electric windows and a fire extinguisher. All models had 4 seats and 2 doors.

#3. Jaguar E-Type

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Manufactured by Jaguar between 1961 and 1974, the Jaguar E-type quickly established itself as an icon of 60s motoring.

Thanks to its great looks, high performance and competitive pricing, the E-type proved a huge success for Jaguar with over 70,000 E-types sold during its lifespan.

#2. Mini

austin mini cooper sport red f lr1

Built by the British Motor Corporation from 1959, the original Mini has long been considered an icon on 1960s Britain. With its space saving front wheel drive design influencing a whole generation of car makers.

Designed for BMC Sir Alec Issigonis The Mini Mark I had three major UK updates: the Mark II, the Clubman and the Mark III. With the Mini Cooper and Cooper “S” sportier versions proving themselves as successful rally cars winning the Monte Carlo Rally four times from 1964 through to 1967.

A total of 1,581,887 Minis were sold in Britain after its launch in 1959. The last new one to be registered was sold in 2004, some four years after the end of production.

#1. Austin Healey 3000 MkIII

Austin Healey 3000 Mk3

Released in October 1963 the Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III was the most powerful and luxurious of the big Healey models, featuring a walnut-veneer dash, wind-up windows and a 150 hp engine.

Only 2+2 seat models were manufactured, with optional extras similar to those of the Mk II but with a standard interior trim comprising of Ambla vinyl and leather seats as an added extra.

The 3000 was a successful car which won its class in many European rallies in its heyday – and is still used in competition by enthusiasts today.

17,712 Mk III’s were built, with production grinding to a halt in 1967 when the production of Austin-Healeys finally came to an end.

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