great british cars

There is no doubt that Great Britain has produced some impressive cars over the years, from the humble (but never to be forgotten) Mini to Luxury marques like Bentley and Rolls Royce.

There are even champions in the areas of utility vehicles (the Land Rover) and sports cars (McLaren).

The often hotly debated question is so ‘Which one was the best?’

The problem is how do you answer this, on the number of cars produced, performance or how groundbreaking the technology was at that time?

There is one inviolable rule though, they had to roll off the production lines in Great Britain.

For many, the winner has to be the original Mini. It had a 41 year production run, from 1959 to 2000, with around 5.3 Million being produced.

It became an icon of Great British innovation and brought affordable motoring to the public (it cost only £506 in 1959). It also became a fashion accessory to the rich and famous and won many a trophy on the racetracks and rallies, leading to its rightful place in the hall of motorsport heroes.

The Mini came about for two main reasons; one was the problem of fuel availability, another the arrival on the market of super-economical small cars from Germany, the ‘Bubble car’ being one notable example.

So, back in the mid-1950’s BMC bosses gave designer Alec Issigonis a problem to solve. 

He had to create a car that was less than 10ft long whilst also being able to carry a family of four.

Every inch of space was used, and the tiny 10 inch wheels were pushed out to the extreme corners of the car, thus maximising the room available for the engine and passengers.

Innovations abounded, springs being replaced by compact rubber cones, and the engine was mounted transversely to drive the front wheels of the car.

This and the fact that the gearbox was mounted in the sump of the engine meant there was no transmission tunnel, all of which saved space.

Surprisingly, the public was a bit taken aback by such a then unconventional design, and sales were lower than expected. However, the Mini’s incredible driving experience and ‘cuteness’ attracted celebrities and racing drivers, and the car become fashionable.

John Cooper

One racing star has left his mark in a very special way. John Cooper, a racing driver in the 1960’s saw the potential of the Mini and with a few changes to boost performance, the now famous Mini Cooper was born.

But what of the other British greats, which of these deserve a ‘top slot?’

The E-Type Jaguar

For many, the E-Type Jaguar has to be a contender. Built from 1961 to 1975 and with a top speed of 150mph, this is perhaps one of the most beautiful cars ever made and is, without doubt, a true classic.

Its design was highly pioneering for its time, with a sophisticated independent suspension system. Another one was the monocoque body (where the chassis is integral with the body) and having disc brakes on all 4 wheels. Topping off this masterpiece was a 3.8-litre engine, producing 265bhp.

It was cheap too, at least when compared with a Ferrari or Aston Martin.

It won many a motor racing competition, but it was with the public that it really scored a hit.

Such was the demand that a 2+2 model was developed so that families did not miss out on the fun.

Later on, performance was improved, a huge 5.3litre V12 engine guaranteeing an even speedier experience.

The Land Rover

Before the marque became known for the big SUV’s we see all around us today, Land Rover was renowned for its range of 4*4 models. It was born in 1948 when steel was in short supply being modelled on the Jeep that saw so much service in WW2.

It was developed so that it could be used both on and off road. Initially, it was only rated as ‘useable’ on tarmac, but was absolutely fantastic off road, something which made it a real hit with farmers.

It became the staple transport vehicle for the British Army and was also adopted by the Emergency Services, undoubtedly helping to save many lives in the process.

It had a production run of 67 years from 1948 to 2016, initially using a 1997cc 4 cylinder petrol engine producing 52bhp.

The Other Greats

There are so many other cars that demand a mention, one is the Aston Martin DB5, which starred in Goldfinger in 1964. It only had a production run of 2yrs (from 1963 – 1965) but is still nevertheless, a great,.

When it comes to racing greats, the McLaren F1 is a car you just have to admire. It had a top speed of 250mph and cost a staggering £540,000 when it was first produced, so it was not one for the average motorist.

Designed with one aim in mind, to make the ultimate supercar, it delivered devastating performance. Only 106 were ever made, which has now resulted in them changing hands for over £8Million today.

There are many more cars to consider but these, in the eyes of many, are the true winners of the ‘Greatest British Car Awards’.

If you would like to see some of those cars and even get to drive a few, then please see it really is a motor museum with a difference.