The United Kingdom has produced many wonderful things in its long and illustrious history. The steam locomotive, the SS Great Britain, Concorde (yes I know it was joint with French) and of course, the legendary Spitfire. These are all wonderful things to come out of an amazing country, and are all inventions the UK can be proud of.
But unfortunately, this does lead to some rather....terrible things creeping out as well. Even if we don't like to admit that this happened. And when it comes to cars, this is no exception either. Of course, you have to endure some failure to get the success. The early steam engines weren't great, but they lead to the fastest of their kind in the world. You have to have a slow start sometimes.
Well, with some of these cars, in fact all of them, slow start doesn't apply. There are some phenomenal machines in this list below. But there are also some utterly dreadful beasts lurking in the woodwork. Some deceivingly so. You know the phrase, don't judge a book by its cover? Well this applies to several of these cars.
So we hope you enjoy this list of some of the greatest automotive machines to come out of Britain. But we also apologize for the awful ones lower down the list. We aren't exactly happy about them you know!
20 Legend: Jaguar E-Type
Perhaps one of the most well-loved cars of all time, Enzo Ferrari called it “the most beautiful car ever made.” And it is hard to argue with that statement. The E-Type’s sleek, aerodynamic looks have given it legendary status throughout the world.
Coupled with its roaring straight-six engine, and suspension derived from the racing D-Type, the E-Type is probably the most amazing car that Great Britain has ever made.
It still looks exceptionally modern, whilst also being an undeniable classic. This is perhaps Sir William Lyon’s greatest ever product. If you want one these days, prepare to pay an absolute fortune.
19 Legend: Aston Martin DB5
The Aston Martin DB5 is another gorgeous and exquisite machine. It’s 280 bhp six-cylinder engine gave it enormous grunt, and its poise was rivaled only by that of the E-Type. But of course, it is the James Bond Films where the DB5 earned its ultimate fame. It has been immortalized, equipped with ejector seats and revolving number plates, a fantasy for any DB5 owner. Out of every grand tourer ever made, the DB5 is perhaps the epitome of what one should be. Fast, stylish, comfortable, and a proper drivers car. And has any other car ever looked so good on the big screen?
18 Legend: Aston Martin DB9
Aston Martin has continued to set car standards in Britain ever since the DB5, and the DB9 is one of the ultimate modern classics.
The successor to the very good, but aging DB7, the DB9 set new standards for the brand, and with a production run of twelve years it became one of the company's most successful models.
It used a glued aluminum and composite body structure, making it incredibly strong but also incredibly light. A 444 bhp 12 cylinder engine gave it a top speed of just under 185 mph, and it is still very much loved in 2018.
17 Legend: Morris Minor
Elegant, small, simple, and very rugged. All these words can be used to describe the wonderful Morris Minor. Designed by Alec Issigonis, who designed the Morris Mini, the Minor was a car for the average British citizen post World War 2. Despite its outwardly small size, it was spacious inside and became an instant hit. Fun fact, it is the first British car top one million sales. In the 21st century, it’s is a classic. In two door, four door and even van form, the Minor is a wonderful little gem that will continue to endure for years to come.
16 Legend: Land Rover Series 1
Designed with the military expertise Rover had gained from the Second World War, the original Land Rover Series, or Defender, is one of Britain’s most well-loved cars. When the final production model rolled out of the factory in 2017, it made national news headlines throughout the UK.
Designed for on and off-road, and used by the army as well, it helped launch the Land Rover brand that we all know and love today.
If anything, it is one of the most important vehicles of its time, if not all time. Worldwide, the iconic Series 1 shape is instantly recognizable.
15 Legend: Morris Mini
We all know of the modern Mini Cooper, but that is just a remake of one of the greatest little cars of them all. It is, of course, the sadly often forgotten, Alec Issigonis designed Morris Mini, perhaps one of the most loved cars ever made. The Morris Mini truly brought motoring to the masses, cheap to run, affordable to buy and offering ruggedness and also, perhaps a little bit of flair. It also became a Motorsport giant killer, winning the Monte Carlo rally and becoming a touring car legend. It could be argued that the Mini challenges the E-Type as the greatest car ever made in Britain.
14 Legend: Austin Healey 3000
Designed to be an affordable yet very racy sports car, the Austin Healey 3000 was designed by acclaimed racer and engineer Donald Healey, and it became an instant success, and was exported in huge numbers to the United States.
Barbie’s first ever car was a 3000!
Debuted in 1959, it evolved into the MKIII in 1963 and, like the Mini, became a legend in Motorsport, and managed to steal a few production car records along the way. In its heyday, the 3000 won its class in many European rallies, and is still raced today in historic racing across the UK.
13 Legend: McLaren F1
It was once the fastest production car in the world. Its seat was in the middle, to make you feel like an F1 driver. And it was designed by a man who had brought much championship success to the McLaren Formula 1 team. Low weight. A 627 bhp BMW engine. 240 mph top speed. The ultimate supercar. Gordon Murray’s McLaren F1 is in the same league as the DB5 and E-Type, no question about that. It was a dream car. "Who cares how much it cost? Just build the best supercar ever" was the Ron Dennis and McLaren ethos. And they did. Even now, people still regard the F1 as the ultimate supercar. A Bugatti may be faster. But in terms of status, It doesn’t even come close.
12 Legend: Morgan 3-Wheeler
Practically, this car is almost pointless. But, there’s no fun sometimes in being useful is there? The Morgan 3-Wheeler is Morgan’s attempt at making three-wheeled travel cool again. It may only have an 80 bhp, V-Twin motorcycle engine.
But it can go from 0-60 in 4.5 seconds. That’s knocking on supercar territory!
It can blow your hair around at 115mph, all while being enormous fun and giving a great big two-fingered salute to the establishment. It isn’t any good for family days out, shopping trips, or even much else really. But it’s fun, quirky, and a wonderful looking thing. We love it.
11 Legend: Ford Escort MK1
Designed as the successor to the Anglia, the Ford Escort MK1 was a shrunken Cortina, that had modern, American styling that appealed hugely to the British public when it launched in 1967. It was sensible, and stylish family transport, but also it was affordable family transport and that’s how it sold so well. Not only that, but it got to made a name for itself in Motorsport. It was a fantastic rally car, and a brilliant touring car on race circuits. Across all six generations, over 4.1 million Escorts were sold. But the MK1 is where it all started, and it was the most iconic of them all.
10 Embarrassing: Morris Marina
The Morris Marina didn’t look all bad, but the fact Top Gear used to drop piano’s on it constantly should give you some indication as to how bad it was. The car was based on the Minor, but this came out in 1948.
The Marina was built in 1971. As such, it flopped compared to the Ford Anglia and was a dismal failure.
Thanks to the unrest in the factories it was built in, the quality of the car was also god awful. Out of the 807,000 build, only around 120 are still on Britain’s roads. Not the worst car here, but my god it was awful.
9 Embarrassing: Reliant Robin
Now, I will admit that I have a bit of a soft spot for the Reliant Robin because, like the Morgan three-wheeler, it’s quirky. But unfortunately, unlike the Morgan, it was terrible. Being as stable as a Jenga tower in the wind, it was perfect for miners in the 1970s who could drive in motorbike licenses and cut costs. But it’s terrible plastic body and shoddy workmanship really killed it. The center mounted front wheel, which controlled the steering, as a poor idea at best. Like I say, I have a soft spot for the Robin. But as a practical machine…well, it just isn’t one.
8 Embarrassing: Austin Princess
The Princess isn’t an ugly car. Far from it. It really doesn’t look that bad. But again, it was built at the time that British Leyland and all its associated companies were undergoing awful political unrest, and as such, it was another badly built product, like the Marina.
It. Was. Rubbish!
They even tried to fancy the thing up, add a stupid grill and some ambassador badges but that just made things worse. The Princess could so easily have been a good car. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. So here it is, on the bad car list. Sorry, Austin.
7 Embarrassing: Rover 800
The Rover 800 should have been brilliant. It was produced in conjunction with Honda, who would use their Japanese brilliance to design a rugged, reliable and very good car, whilst Rover would take of the styling to produce a good looking machine that everyone would want. But they completely messed up. The doors didn’t fit properly. The dashboard faded in the hot weather. And what’s more, the Honda variant of the car, the Legend, was brilliant. It was everything that the 800 should have been. I’m sorry Rover, but you can never be forgiven for this pile of…yeah.
6 Embarrassing: MG B Rubber Bumper
If you want to buy one of these, then STOP. DON’T DO IT. Whatever you do, do not buy a rubber bumper MG B. Not only will it rust faster than a tissue crumbles in water, but it is hideous. Just look at the thing.
Its lights were raised to comply with US regulations and a rubber bumper was added to what was, originally, a fairly attractive car.
I’m not saying the Americans ruined it, that isn’t true, but the rubber bumper and those stupid lights make it look like a house fly. And it would rust, oh boy would it rust. Avoid. Avoid at all costs.
5 Embarrassing: City Rover
Honestly. I don’t think I can find many words for this car, and how bad it is. Other than "oh my god this is the ugliest thing I have ever seen throw it away, burn it, melt it, get rid of it!" Overpriced, badly built, under-equipped, and not allowed to be tested by Top Gear by the company, presumably because it would have died in two minutes, it was the final nail in the Rover coffin. After just two years, not only was the car gone, but so was Rover itself. For a company that did produce good cars once upon a time, it’s sad it had to end this way.
4 Embarrassing: Triumph TR7
Legendary Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro apparently said of this car, when he first saw it, “My God! They’ve done the same on this side as well.” Had it been built as intended, longer, sleeker, and streamlined, the TR7 would have been excellent.
But unfortunately, it came out looking like a nasty slab of cheese.
Compare it to the TR6, the cars predecessor, and you will see what I mean by that. It also only had a four-cylinder engine, and not a six as originally proposed. The TR7 was a car that Triumph would no doubt love to forget. And I honestly don’t blame them.
3 Embarrassing: Vauxhall Vectra
This car has the most aerodynamic mirrors you’ve seen outside of Formula 1. And that’s where the interesting features stop. Bulky, heavy, drab and just depressing to look at, the Vectra is not a car that many people have fond memories of. If you do, I worry for your taste in cars. Perhaps not totally bad though, but just boring? I guess if you don’t really like cars then that’s fine, but it wasn’t like a Honda Jazz. Great little car that isn’t that interesting. The Vectra was just poor all around. Still, they redeemed themselves with the VXR a few years later.
2 Embarrassing: Austin Allegro
The Allegro was an interesting car. And that’s it. No one wants to drive a car that is interesting because it was known for its wheels to fall off, or for its rear windscreen to drop out but that’s exactly what happened with the Allegro.
It also looks much better from the back than it does at the front. Again, terrible build quality and a car that probably should never have left the British Leyland factory.
It’s bad enough having a car that rusts fast but one that will probably kill you with zero warning? No thanks, I think I’ll pass.
1 Embarrassing: Morris Ital
The Morris Ital was the last car produced by Morris as they were under the ownership of British Leyland. And they signed off in style! That is, appalling style. Introduce this thing to wet weather and it rust up like nothing else on this planet, and it wasn’t exactly what you’d call either. The car was also based on an outdated design, so naturally, it would be terrible. Morris then focused on vans before finally selling the name off to China, ending the saga for good. It is a shame, as Morris did once produce some fantastic cars.
Sources: askaprice.com, wikipedia, autoexpress, autocar, the telegraph