Classic British Sports Cars

A Brief Overview Of Classic British Sports Cars!

Updated October 19, 2018

Although Italian motor companies have always made sports cars that stir the passion of the red blooded racing enthusiasts, like the Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati, the British have always been hot on their heels with the likes of MG, Triumph and Jaguar.

classic british sports cars

Whilst the Italians have continued to build sleeker and faster sporting cars and have maintained their sporting heritage, the British counterparts seem to have fallen by the wayside.  The only real sporting contender in this field, that has stood the test of time, is Jaguar.

Jaguar Cars were established back in 1922 by two Williams. William Walmsley and William Lyons ran the Swallow sidecar company up until that time in Blackpool. The company originally made motorcycle sidecars, as the name suggests, although the company branched out into a motorcar manufacturer later on. They changed their name just after the end of the second world war, as the initials SS of the Swallow Sidecar alluded to the German SS, and this was clearly not good name at that time.

Jaguar went from strength to strength and in the 1960’s built what was, and still is to many, considered one of the most elegant cars of all time. In fact Ferrari himself is reported to have said he thought it was the most beautiful car ever made. Other classic Jaguar cars were the XK models of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, which are still collector’s pieces. Later on the Jaguar XJS was considered a GT or grand tourer model and almost 15000 were produced in two versions between 1975 and 1996.

MG is another iconic British sports car company that started building cars in 1924. The company was known for their small two-seater open top cars, which were affordable compared to their counterparts. Cars like the MG TC and MG TD models sold really well and are now considered collectors classics, as they are simple to restore due to the simplicity of the construction.  The Midget and Magna models were sold in the mid 1930’s until the MGA model was introduced in 1955 and went on to sell over 100,000 units in the seven years of production, making it one of the most popular selling open top cars of the era.  Most people will relate, however, to the MG Midget, Roadster and BGT models of the 1970’s, which are still seen in small numbers today. These models epitomised British open-top motoring during that era until MG production stopped in 1980. The name, however, lived on with British Leyland applying the MG badge to some of its family models, while branding them as the sporty range of each series. In mid 2005 a Chinese company bought the MG brand and released an all-new model called the MG 6TT.

Triumph stopped building cars in 1984 with the Acclaim model, which wasn’t very popular with the British public. Even though the car business finished in 1984, the company has changed hands several times in its 99 year history and is now owned by BMW.

Over the years, the company has built some fabulous cars, although it’s the Triumph TR range that proved to be the most popular between 1950 and 1981. When motoring correspondents and critics in 1952 first saw the TR1, it did not receive very good views, and as such, it did not go into production. Instead, the chairman of Triumph was forced to ask Ken Richardson who was a test driver with the British Formula One Racing Team, to help with the development of the TR2. As a result, it became Britain’s cheapest car to break the one hundred miles an hour target and was launched in 1953 for just £900. There are still over 400 TR2’s still registered in the country out of the 8600 built.

Later in the TR range, the TR 6 probably made more impact than any of its predecessors. The car was similar in appearance to the outgoing TR5 but it was, by far, the most popular with almost 95,000 being built. One incredible fact however, is that over 90% of them were exported. Although the TR6 was extremely well received and clearly successful on a commercial basis, it was naturally accepted that a TR7 model would eventually supersede the 6. The car was originally launched in America but the UK launch was delayed for sixteen months due to the huge demand from the American market.

Initially the car was a success, but poor quality from a workforce that was continuously at loggerheads with the management, meant that the cars reliability was quite poor. An unconfirmed story tells of a designer constantly designing replacements for the outgoing TR6, yet having his designs rejected time after time. It is then said that the actual TR7 design was offered to the board of directors as a joke, but it backfired, as they liked it. Apparently, no thought had gone into what power plant would be installed in the car at the time, and as such delayed the release for years. Normally, newer TR models were seen every 2 or 3 years, yet it was 7 years before the car was seen on British roads.

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Calvin Escobar
About Calvin Escobar

The Car scene is so diverse Where I come from, most enthusiasts recognize the amazing engineering (particularly the engines). The bulk of the ridicule originates from the manner in which many of the vehicles are modded/maintained. Thus, the jokes and or hate tends to be aimed more at the owner rather than the machine. All of which makes seeing properly sorted old Toyota's and Hondas at car meets, auto shows, and track days all the more refreshing.

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