It’s a good time to be in the market for an upgrade on your car. With more flexible and competitive financing options on the table than ever before, and the UK automotive industry churning them out at near-record levels, there are fantastic deals on new cars if you know where to look. But as British manufacturers set their sights on conquering the world once more, what are the best British cars ever produced? Everyone has their own opinion of course, but if you were to run down a list of the top 20, you can be reasonably certain that the following six would make an appearance…
Aston Martin DB5
Inevitable really, given how instantly recognisable the DB5 and the Aston Martin brand are in the UK, that it would rank highly. The reason lies with a certain suave spy, James Bond 007, who has, through decades on the big screen established a long and fruitful relationship with Aston Martin, having driven their motors in six films to date. The DB5 has featured in some of the best – Goldfinger, Thunderball, and Skyfall. How many of us have taken a spin in a friend’s Aston Martin and been deeply disappointed they couldn’t flip the top off the gearstick to reveal an ejector seat button?
The Mini was born in the 60s, yet it remains as much of a cultural touchstone today as it ever was. It will forever be associated with The Italian Job, although later generations may also remember its handy performance in an epic car chase during The Bourne Identity. But cinematic glory doesn’t necessarily translate to icon status, and it is the Mini’s accessibility and innovation in design – the amount of space available in such a small car, and its fun go-kart-like handling are big selling points – have made it legendary.
The E-Type, inspired by Jaguar’s success on the Le Mans circuit, has unquestionably one of the most attractive designs in the history of motoring, a unique, eye-catching appearance with clean curves, the extended hood giving it the shape of a bullet – even Enzo Ferrari declared it the most beautiful car ever made. There is even a roadster in the design section of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. It combined that spectacular design with plenty of performance under the hood as well of course, at the time one of the fastest sports cars around. The E-Type regularly tops charts of the best sports cars ever manufactured, whether the poll is asking specialists or the man on the streets.
Rolls Royce Phantom
Kim Kardashian, Shaquille O’Neal, Cee-Lo Green, and notorious petrolhead Brian Johnson from AC/DC – what do they have in common? They all own, or have owned in the past, Rolls Royce Phantoms. Quite possibly the ultimate in opulence, the Phantom puts other luxury cars in the shade. Even the leatherwork takes weeks to complete – nine hides are required for every interior, and if you want, you can have your headrests embroidered with your own initials. The veneers are sourced from a single tree, and of course the performance is off the charts – accelerating in a Phantom feels as effortless as tossing the keys to the valet parker, or so I’ve heard.
The F1 is regarded by most serious connoisseurs as perhaps the greatest sportscar ever built. It’s certainly one of, if not the fastest, production car to ever hit the streets. Autocar magazine famously bent the knee to McLaren, considering the launch to be one of the all-time great events to hit motoring. A carbon fibre reinforced plastic chassis, and incredibly powerful V12 engine designed by BMW, let it hit 0-60 in just over three seconds, mind-blowing.
Although now actually produced in China, Land Rovers are one of the all-time success stories of British motoring history. By 2007 four million of them had rolled off the production line, which is astonishing given how hardy and long-lasting they are – they were an iconic symbol of the Camel Trophy races, tackling some of the world’s toughest terrain with ease. Once inspired by American WWII jeeps, they are now a major status symbol in China.