Thursday November 21, 2019
We might be slightly biased, but we believe that British automotive engineering is the best in the world. So, trying to pick out just five great British-built classics is no mean feat.
But we’re more than happy to give it a good go – and for you to completely disagree with us because everyone has their own opinion on what makes a classic car ‘great’.
We’re proud to say we’ve insured a few of these cars, and hosted some more at our annual Classic Motor Show at the NEC. So, we like to think we’re well placed to pick out the British cars that are adored by classic car enthusiasts.
Rover P6 2000
Voted the first-ever Car of the Year, the P6 series Rover 2000, with its central body structure and bolt-on panels, raised the bar when it came to executive saloons.
Launched in 1963, it was well ahead of its time, offering the performance, refinement and quality of a traditional British luxury saloon, but with all the economy, size and affordability of a much smaller modern car.
As a result, the 2000 was utterly different to almost any British rival for the same price, prompting owners of Ford Zodiacs everywhere to trade in their vehicle for this revolutionary new Rover.
Today, the 2000 represents one of the most usable and practical classic cars for every day motoring.
Sure, they might not always be easy to work on with the inboard rear brake set-up a particular nightmare for mechanics not used to it, but it’s a small price to pay for owning one of the greatest achievements of the British motor industry.
Few cars prompt such gleeful reactions from drivers as the mighty Mini. Packed full of personality and incredibly entertaining to drive, the Austin version of the Mini – initially called the Se7en – is iconic in British automotive engineering, so there was no way we couldn’t include it.
However, its appeal wasn’t immediately apparent to the British public. Launched in 1959, it took a couple of years for the Mini to become the hit that we know it is today – it wasn’t until celebrities and racing drivers started to be seen in the car that it became fashionable.
It certainly made up for a slow start. The original Alec Issigonis-designed Mini is the most successful British car of all time, with an official figure of around 5.3 million being produced between 1959 and 2000.
The MkIs (built between 1959 and 1967) are the most sought after, but the MkII (made from 1967 to 1969 and offered with a 998cc engine option) is covetable, too.
The Jaguar E-type’s combination of beauty and high performance has established the model as an icon of the motoring world. Dubbed by Enzo Ferrari as “the most beautiful car ever made”, the E-Type stole headlines at its launch at the Geneva Auto Salon in 1961.
Packed inside the E-type’s elegant frame was 65bhp 3.8-litre engine and four-speed manual gearbox. To put that into perspective, most cars at the time would struggle to go faster than 60mph, whereas the E-Type had a top speed of 150mph.
What’s more, with a list price of £2,097 for the Roadster and £2,196 for the Coupe, it was half the price of its more exotic rivals. If you’re lucky enough to find one today, you’re probably looking at anywhere between £35,000 and £100,000 to become a proud E-type owner.
If you do manage to get your hands on one, you’re in for a lot of fun, as The Grand Tour’s Richard Hammond – who’s owned an E-type himself – testifies.
Writing for Top Gear Magazine, he said: “In my first drive in mine, I roared about Herefordshire, grinning as the six-pot crackled and banged through the twin tailpipes on the overrun. I almost fainted with pleasure as I strode back across the garage forecourt and admired its svelte, low-lying flanks amongst the suddenly flabby and ugly modern cars around it.”
Aston Martin DB5
We couldn’t complete our list without an Aston Martin making an appearance. It'd be hard to find a better example of the British sports car than the DB5 – although the Jaguar E-type comes close – which famously appeared in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger.
Regarded by many enthusiasts – us included – as the most beautiful Aston Martin produced, the DB5 never intended to be an out-and-out sports car. It combines luxury with performance and does so in an eminently stylish way. The cabin is spacious, luxurious and comfortable, and the engine smooth and responsive. This is truly a great grand touring car.
The Aston Martin DB5 used to promote the James Bond film Thunderball recently sold for $6.4m (£5.2m) at the world’s biggest classic car auction in California, so you might want to start saving.
We’ll conclude our list with the classic car which we insure the most here at Lancaster Insurance: the MGB. The archetypal classic car, in production between 1962 and 1980, was a massive showroom success both in the UK and overseas.
Over half a million examples of the iconic car and its derivatives were sold, with a large number heading to America.
The MGB was not especially modern even when it arrived in the early 1960s, but its accessible price point and 1800cc B-Series engine, which produced 95bhp ensured this two-seat roadster (or coupe) sold in its droves.
In terms of classic car appeal, it’s great looking, fun to drive and simple enough for a novice mechanic to maintain at home. It helps that parts are easy and cheap to find, too. Little wonder it’s the car we see the most of.
Protect your investment with classic car insurance
If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one of these incredible classics – or any classic for that matter – you’re going to need specialist classic car insurance.
Whatever model you end up buying, we can offer cover to match. Lancaster Insurance is the classic car insurance broker of choice for 96,000 vehicle owners.
Did you know that over 40% of all MGBs and over 30% of all Land Rover 88s and MG Midgets have their insurance arranged by us?
Like you, Lancaster is passionate about classic cars. Drawing on the recommendations from our panel of specialist underwriters, we will search for the best classic car insurance for your cherished auto.