Best British Sports Cars

10 Best British Sports Cars: The Vehicles That Made Britain Great

With over a hundred years of constant innovation, legendary cars, and advanced technology, the Brits have left an enormous mark in the way we create, drive and perceive automobiles. One of the classes heavily influenced by British car manufacturers is sports cars. Here is a look at some of the best British sports cars created over the years. 

Our 10 Best British sports cars:

  1. MG TC Midget
  2. Austin-Healey 3000
  3. Triumph Spitfire
  4. Aston Martin DB5
  5. Lotus 7
  6. Mini Cooper S
  7. Jaguar E-Type
  8. Lotus Exige
  9. Aston Martin V12 Vantage
  10. McLaren F1

Here’s a closer look at our best British Sports Cars:

1. MG TC Midget (1945 – 1949)

The first post-war MG roadster to leave the assembly lines at Abingdon, being the MG TC Midget can be considered pivotal in fostering the American ‘craze’ for British sports cars.

MG TC Midget
Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

With 10,000 cars in total being produced from 1945 to 1949, approximately 2000 of these MG TC Midget vehicles were transported to the United States.

Despite only producing 54 horsepower with its 1,250 cc pushrod-OHV engine, it provided a lively performance. It was a cool-looking, open-top vehicle, defining the concept of the small and affordable roadsters. It opened people’s minds to the delights of sports car ownership and led to further models being imported into North America.

2. Austin-Healey 3000 (1959 – 1967)

Known as the Big Healey to differentiate it from the smaller Austin Healey Sprite, the Austin-Healey 3000 was introduced in the late ’50s as a power roadster with a mighty, 2912cc C-series straight-six engine, producing 124 horsepower and reaching a top speed of around 114 mph. Its slimline bodywork was built by Jensen Motors and then constructed by BMC at the Abingdon works.

best British Sports cars is the Austin-Healey 3000
1960 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk I BT7. David Sirotinsky ©2020 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

This model turned out to be very successful in various racing events, winning its class in rallies along with competing at Le Mans and Sebring. It was also equally as popular at club-level racing. In total, approximately 43,000 vehicles were produced with around 90% exported to the U.S. Market.

3. Triumph Spitfire (1962-1980)

If the MG TC defined the concept of light and affordable British sports car, the Triumph Spitfire elevated it to worldwide fame and presence. With British Leyland keen on an entry-level sports car, the Triumph Spitfire 4 only took 15 months to develop prior to being unveiled at the London Motor Show of 1962.

Triumph Spitfire
©2019 Courtesy of RM Auctions

With direct competition from the Austin Healey Sprite, the Triumph Spitfire was superior with a more powerful Herald 1.1L engine, wind-up windows, and locking doors.

Named after the legendary WWII fighter planes, the Spitfire was a tremendous export achievement for Triumph. During its 18-year production life, approximately 317,000 Spitfires were sold, with around 75% exported to the global market and 45% alone being sold to the US market.

4. Aston Martin DB5 (1963-1965)

Even though the gorgeous Aston Martin DB5 was in production for just two years (1963 to 1965), it left an enormous mark on the British car industry and sports car scene.

Aston Martin DB5 is one of the best British Sports cars
1965 Aston Martin DB5 “Bond Car”. Simon Clay ©2019 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

It was an evolution of the successful DB4 model but with improved mechanics and an elegant styling by Italian design house Carozzeria Superleggera. With a larger 4.0-liter, straight-six engine and generating 282 horsepower, it was the extraordinary powerful car for its day, obtaining a top speed of 145 mph and could accelerate from 0 – 60mph in 7.1 seconds

Of course, such qualities made it perfectly suitable for James Bond. Despite the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) equipping James Bond with a diverse range of automobiles over 24 films, the Aston Martin DB5 is the most distinguished James Bond vehicle. It first appeared in the 1964 Bond film Goldfinger and was seen in six further Bond films.

5. Lotus 7 (1957 -1972)

Colin Chapman is quoted saying “Simplify, then and add lightness” when asked what the philosophy behind the Lotus brand was. This was well before the minimalism movement was fashionable, with Chapman desiring to conceive precision sports cars with modest resources. 

Lotus 7
1962 Lotus Seven. © 2020 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

When the Lotus 7 was first released in 1957, his ingenious philosophy materialized into one of the most influential sports cars of all time, being one of the most copied designs.

The Lotus 7 was marketed as a kit for the British market. Rather than focus on passenger comfort, it concentrated on performance and reducing costs by readily available parts being used. The formula was a sales success and propelled Lotus as a serious brand to contend with.

6. Mini Cooper S

The Mini story illustrates just how influential the British car industry is. With a fuel shortage in Britain due to the 1956 Suez Crisis, Leonard Lord, the head of the British Motor Company, elected to design a humble, affordable, economic town car.

Mini Cooper S
 1967 Austin Mini Cooper S Mk II. Tom Wood ©2016 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

This little car was introduced with the revolutionary arrangement of having a transversally-mounted engine powering the front wheels. The powertrain took up minimal space within the engine bay as the transmission was engineered into the engine’s sump. 

When it was introduced in 1959, it was one of the first affordable performance cars and models, which proved that you don’t need high horsepower to have a lot of fun. The racing version, the Mini Cooper S, was a prominent force in rallying and on the race track, shaping the compact performance cars we know today. 

7. Jaguar E-Type (1961 – 1975)

Presented at the Geneve Motor Show precisely 60 years ago, the Jaguar E-Type remains a styling icon and one of the most respected sports cars of all time. It was enormously successful for the company, with over 76,000 vehicles produced in 15 years.

 Jaguar E-Type is on the list of best British Sports cars
1966 Jaguar E-Type Series 1 4.2-Litre Roadster. ©2017 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Combining gorgeous looks with a very competent 3.8-liter straight-six engine, the E-Type was a hit amongst the A-list celebrities, including George Harrison, Frank Sinatra, and Roy Orbison.

As a classic car, the vehicle obtained further endorsements from celebrities of the likes of Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno, Harry Styles. Even Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was seen in an electric E-Type on their wedding day.

8. Lotus Exige (2000 – 2021)

For those who thought the Lotus Elise was somewhat underpowered, Lotus released the Exige in 2000. This faster and much more aggressive model retained the ideals of lightness and precision.

Lotus Exige is one of the best British Sports Cars

Powered by a Toyota-derived 3.5-liter supercharged V6, the Lotus Exige delivers 350 horsepower with the Exige Cup 430 Final Edition producing 430 horsepower, the fastest street-legal Lotus to date.

9. Aston Martin V12 Vantage (2009 – 2013)

Aston Martin has always maintained an integral part of the British motor heritage and sports cars scene. In 2009, Aston Martin introduced the V12 Vantage at the Geneva Motor Show, with the concept of only 1000 examples being produced over 3 years. In all, 1199 were constructed, excluding the limited edition Roadster and later ‘S’ and ‘AMR’ cars.

Aston Martin V12 Vantage- best british sports cars of modern times
2010 Aston Martin V12 Vantage. Ahmed Qadri ©2020 Courtesy of RM Auctions

The result of the V12 Vantage was outstanding – not only did the Aston Martin V12 Vantage look superb, but it was also extraordinarily swift. The thoroughbred 510 horsepower V12 engine enabled it to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds with a top speed of 190mph. 

10. McLaren F1 (1992- 1998)

There are supercars, and there is McLaren F1. From the moment this extraordinary vehicle was released in May 1992, the car community was mesmerized by this incredible vehicle. Rightfully so, since everything on the F1 is distinctive, unique, and bespoke to this model. It was also the first production car to utilize a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis.

McLaren F1 Best British sports cars
1994 McLaren F1 ‘LM-Specification’. Andrei Diomidov ©2019 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

From an unusual, three-seat layout to its gold-plated engine bay over its Le Mans-winning, 6.0-liter V12 engine with 618 hp, the F1 represents the absolute pinnacle of automotive engineering and design and was the fastest production car to exist from 1992 to 2005.

With a price tag of $ $815,000 when released and only 108 example produced, it’s no wonder that prices on auctions are reaching insane levels. In 2019 a McLaren F1 LM specifications achieved an auction price of $19,805,000 USD.

Our Best British Sports Car list has only been limited to 10. Did we miss your favorite? Comment below.

Feature image courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.

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