Very little is left of the once great British/English car industry. Too bad, because there were many surprising precursors. It is not easy to put together a top 10 from the countless special Britons. We make it a little easier for ourselves and leave out the most famous icons and the most expensive models.
The 21st century Mini has been around for so long that we have almost forgotten how special it was in 2001. Different from what the old owner, the Rover Group, wanted BMW do not make the new Mini an affordable car for the common man. That would not yield enough profit. No, it had to be premium, but with the classic styling features and the famous driving pleasure retained. That worked fine, and different from the Volkswagen New Beetle, the New Mini became a box office hit. The third generation is now on the market, including a few ridiculously bulky variants. Fortunately, a real little one is on the way again...
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One used to drive Morgan as it looked: old-fashioned and spartan. The one presented in 2020 Morgan Plus Four is a different kettle of fish. The design still builds on the original from more than 70 years ago, but the new aluminum chassis and BMW technology do wonders for the weight (1009 kg), consumption (1:14.3) and driving characteristics. It reaches 100 km/h within 5 seconds and sounds like a British football hooligan. All in all, the Plus Four offers a driving experience that nothing can beat. This one is among all the clinical, perfectionist mass products handmade Brit a relief.
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Multi-valve technology was once reserved for thoroughbred sports cars. But in 1973 the Triumph Dolomite Sprint became the first series-built car with four valves per cylinder. The 1.85-liter block of the standard Dolomite was bored out to 2000 cc and given a head with four valves per cylinder. These were operated by one central camshaft. The intake valves directly, the exhaust valves via rocker arms. With 127 hp, a top speed of 187 km/h was on the horizon and a hundred sprint in 8.8 seconds. The oil crisis and technical problems stood in the way of great success. After only 22,000 units it was over for this pioneer.
What an evening of drinking can't lead to... A bunch of rich Brits were so sad about the disappearance of the old one Land Rover Defenderthat they decided during a pub evening to build a successor in-house. Land Rover tried to stop them, but at the beginning of this year the product of the beer coaster plan finally saw the light of day: the Ineos Grenadier. It is named after the chemical company Ineos of the brand's founder, the extremely wealthy Sir Jim Ratcliffe. The Defender lookalike uses modern technology from BMW and ZF and can do everything: mud wrestling, mountain climbing, swimming and eating sand.
You can do a lot about it Jaguar claim, but not that it has been at the forefront of technical innovations in recent decades. Yet it was one of the first European manufacturers to create a modern electric car in 2018: the Jaguar I-Pace. Dutch lease drivers with fear of additional tax were quick to order the big EV. Unfortunately, their enthusiasm quickly cooled. Slow loading times and a disappointing range put a damper on the celebration. Well, that law of the braking lead again... The laughing third is the used car buyer, who now has one early I-Pace for 60,000 euros below the new price can buy.
Sometimes the specialness is in the details. Such as with the Wolseley 6/90. The Series I still had an old-fashioned separate chassis, but the rear suspension with coil springs was modern. In addition, the Formica dashboard provided 'shock & awe' among conservative customers. With the Series II (1956), the traditional wood returned, as did the rigid rear axle with leaf springs... Very unusual: the gear lever was located to the right of the driver's seat on the right-hand drive Series II. Great for right-handed people, but many drivers tripped over it when getting out. And did you think illuminated logos were modern? The Wolseley 6/90 already had it in the 50's!
In the early 1990s, a completely new design wind blew through TVR-factory. This culminated in 1996 with the Cerbera. The 2+2 was also quite extreme on the inside, with gauges integrated into the handlebars and impossible ergonomics. The Cerbera was also the first TVR with its own engine; a ferocious V8 with 360 hp. And while most competitors already had airbags, ABS and ESP, in the Cerbera you were at the mercy of the mechanical quirks of the chassis. If an inexperienced driver survived a fast ride in a Cerbera, it was more luck than wisdom. But if you didn't come back alive, you went like a real guy...
After the original Mini (1959), countless cars followed the example of its transverse engine and front-wheel drive. There are few models where this happened as consistently as with the Austin Maxi. Look how far the wheels are on the corners of the body! Not surprising when you consider that this 'big' Austin was also created by the mastermind of Mini designer Alec Issigonis. For its 4 meter length, the Maxi was unprecedentedly spacious. It was also the first British five-door hatchback and the first volume model with a five-speed gearbox as standard. Approximately 470,000 Maxis were built.
The Triumph Dolomite Sprint already showed that technical firsts are no guarantee of success. For example, only 320 of the Jensen FF were built. The large sports coupe with Chrysler V8 was slightly longer than its brother, the Jensen Interceptor. The FF also had extra air vents behind the front wheels. Much more important were the underlying differences. Not only was the FF the first production car with standard ABS (from Dunlop-Maxaret), it was also the first non-terrain vehicle with four-wheel drive (Ferguson Formula). Too many childhood diseases - ‘development by owner’ it was called - and skyrocketing consumption meant an early end.
For the Rover 75 (see above) the 3500 (SD1) was probably the most memorable Rovermodel, but every car enthusiast knows it. That's why we call here the Rover Streetwise in memory. Long before the Volkswagen CrossPolo and the Dacia Sandero Stepway were there, the moribund Rover already built a compact hatchback with SUV features. To appeal to a younger audience, the Rover 25 was positioned slightly higher on the wheels and was given sturdy roof rails, plastic fender flares and largely unpainted bumpers. But once again a British car failed to translate its vision of the future into resounding sales figures.
This post was last modified on November 19, 2023 6:03 am
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