Skip to content

The Best British Cars of All Time

Written by


Britain punches well above its weight when it comes to producing cars that are coveted by collectors. From the Mini to the Land Rover to the McLaren F1 – the country’s best have proven they can stand out among their international competitors.

It’s not just the size of these machines that has made them so popular, though. The idiosyncratic designs of many of these models also set them apart. For example, the Morgan sports car may be a tiny two-seater, but it has sweeping wings and long bonnets to rival any bigger sports cars of the 1930s.

Despite a global economic crisis, classic car auctions have been booming this year. It’s been fascinating following the results at Gooding & Company’s Passion of a Lifetime sale, where the Aston Martin DB3 scored top honors in its class.

In a world where Brexit and political turmoil are a daily reminder of just how fragile our economic situation is, these auctions have shown that there’s still a group of people insulated from the machinations around them who are willing to spend large sums on chunks of wheeled metal.

British cars have a history of being brash, daring and even downright crazy – just look at the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, which was so refined it could be driven across England, Scotland and Wales without needing to refuel. But they also have a reputation for beauty, and show-stopping power.

The original Mini, designed by Alec Issigonis, revolutionized the small car market when it launched in 1959 and dominated sales for decades. The car’s popularity was such that the rival Morris Minor and Ford Anglia struggled to catch up, resulting in a virtual monopoly on the domestic market for both marques.

However, BL’s attempts to modernise its range and bolster sales abroad were hindered by internal rivalries, unattractive new models (the Morris Marina and Austin Allegro), labour disputes and supplier problems. It was also hampered by an over-reliance on expensive foreign-sourced parts and the use of dated production equipment.

During the seventies, Triumph was able to expand into more upmarket territory with its Stag models. Its Italian styling, hard and soft-tops and an advanced V8 engine were meant to make it a credible alternative to more established German rivals like the Mercedes SL. Unfortunately, the complex car was plagued with engineering issues and shoddy production, and the Stag was ultimately put out of its misery in 1977.

During its heyday, the BMC/BLMG group churned out a series of mass-market models, including the Mini Metro, Maestro and Montego, and the Honda-sourced Rover 800. But the company’s fortunes turned again when it was renamed the Land Rover brand in 1978, and its off-roaders have since become iconic. They have also been used in both civilian and military roles, a testament to the quality of the vehicles.

Previous article

Top 10 Consumer Reports Cars of 2010

Next article

The Automotive Industry