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20 Best British Muscle Cars Most People Overlook

Vukasin HerbezJuly 20, 2018

If you think muscle cars are purely American, think again. Although Detroit invented the muscle car segment, other manufacturers from around the globe have tried their luck at producing them, too. And that includes Great Britain. However, when somebody mentions British cars, you probably think of quirky Minis or luxurious Rolls-Royces.

But the British car industry is much more than that. Over the years, the United Kingdom has produced numerous influential, advanced cars. And once upon a time, it was the biggest car exporter in the world. Their unique approach to car manufacturing produced some special models and interesting brands that car enthusiasts respect. However, among the dozens of models produced in the UK, there is a substantial amount of muscle cars.

Those are models were built with performance in mind and often came with American-sourced V8 engines. In most cases, they were affordable to the average car enthusiast. The British car brands used the same ideas behind American muscle cars, but with much different results. So keep reading to see just how different and wonderful the world of British muscle cars was and still is today.

  1. Vauxhall Firenza HP

The Vauxhall car company is one of the oldest British manufacturers that is well-known only in the UK. In 1925, General Motors purchased Vauxhall Motors. Over the years, it became Opel`s subsidiary, producing cars they based on Opel products. However, in the ’70s, Vauxhall was still somewhat capable of introducing their own designs.

In 1973, Vauxhall presented a performance version of their mid-size two-door sedan they called the Firenza HP. It featured a radical front end redesign and a powerful 2.3-liter engine with 0 to 60 mph times of eight seconds. The car caused quite a stir among the British fans. Although it failed to produce any sales success, the Firenza HP was winning on the race tracks.

The Firenza HP was a good-looking two-door model that was much faster than anything in that price range. It was an affordable early ’70s muscle car. Even though it didn’t have a V8 engine, it was still fast, making it a desirable classic in the eyes of today’s car aficionados.

  1. MG X-Power SV Coupe

The story of this remarkable car is a sad one as this was one of the last true UK-U.S. hybrids. The MG X-Power was a modern-day muscle coupe with Italian styling, American engines and British exclusivity. MG constructed it in Modena, Italy and finished it in England. They designed the MG X-Power to deliver sports car-level performances with aggressive muscle styling and a soundtrack to match.

Under the hood was a Ford-sourced 4.6-liter V8 engine straight from the Mustang they tuned to produce 320 HP. MG even offered a supercharged version capable of 540 HP. They introduced the car in 2003 and it was one of the most interesting releases. But MG lacked the image and reputation to achieve success on the global market.

On sale for just three years, they discontinued the X-Power in 2005. Today, it is a forgotten piece of British muscle car history. That’s too bad since the X-Power was a highly capable V8 powered coupe with brutal looks and performance.

  1. Jensen Interceptor

The Jensen Interceptor was not exactly a muscle car, but more of a Gran Turismo. Vignale provided Italian styling for this massive, comfortable car. It came with the powerful Chrysler 383 or 440 V8 engine in the front. So this four-seater coupe was one of the fastest cars for crossing continents in the late ’60s and early ’70s. This cool-looking coupe had the style of a muscle car and Detroit power.

But unfortunately, it was over the reach of the average car enthusiast. All Interceptors featured Chrysler engines with the 383 and 440 V8 being the most common choices. The transmission was always the matching 727 Torqueflite in various Chrysler products of the era. There were few prototypes with the mighty 426 Hemi but no production models.

In 1966, Jensen introduced an advanced all-wheel-drive version they called the Interceptor FF, but they sold just 320 of them. However, the regular Interceptors in coupe and convertible form were much more successful. Jensen built over 6,400 of them until 1976, selling many of them in America. This is an interesting car because it combines Italian styling with British luxury and American muscle car provenance.

  1. Rover SD1 V8

Do you remember what your father drove in the mid-70s? It was probably a boxy sedan with an underpowered engine or a station wagon with wood inserts on the sides. Or maybe it was a small, front-wheel drive import car? Whatever he had in those days is pale and outdated compared to the interesting Rover SD1.

Rover imagined it as a family sedan of the future, presenting the SD1 in 1976. It was immensely modern with aerodynamic styling, a hatchback rear end and a futuristic interior. Base versions were powered with a 2.6 liter 136 HP engine, but a 3.5 liter V8 was also available. The V8 version turned the comfy family sedan into a proper four-door muscle car.

The Buick-based 3.5-liter V8 produced 190 HP, which is not much by today’s standards, but a lofty number for the mid-70’s. Unfortunately, due to strikes at the factory and the bad quality of the components, the SD1 wasn’t dependable. It lacked the rugged reputation German cars had to offer, so it was just mildly successful in America.

But it met praises in Europe and became the Car of The Year for 1977. Also, the SD1 was a favorite car of the British police force all the way to the early ’90s.

  1. MG B GT V8

One of the most popular, typical British roadsters from the 60’s is definitely the MG B. MG introduced the B in 1962 as the successor to the MG A. It was a car that helped establish the roadster class in the U.S. The MG B was a modern car with unibody construction, roomy interior and decent suspension and steering.

The coupe version they called GT came with the V8 engine, turning this small two-seater open top into a V8-powered muscle car. They introduced the MG B GT V8 in 1973. It came with a 3.5-liter engine producing 175 HP, which was a good figure by early 70’s standards. The car immediately became a strong seller because it combined the practicality of a bigger cabin and trunk with a V8 engine.

And it could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph time in just 7.7 seconds. American buyers loved the GT V8 since it offered compact dimensions and improved practicality. It delivered much more power and performance, which was a winning combination.

  1. Ford Capri RS 3100

The success of the Mustang was influential and inspired most American brands to offer a pony car of their own. However, even in Europe, the Mustang was popular and common. But Ford wanted to explore the market further with a smaller, European version. And this is how the Ford Capri came to be in 1969.

Ford designed the Capri in the UK, so it was a European Mustang in every way. Using “long hood-short deck” formula and semi-fastback styling, the Capri looked great and had a fantastic stance. Even though they based it on the standard Cortina floor plan using the same engines, the Capri looked like a thoroughbred sports or muscle car.

In fact, people often confused it with a U.S.-built Ford. However, most Capris came with diminutive four-cylinder engines. Even the six-cylinder versions were not that powerful or fast. So, in 1971, Ford UK introduced a limited edition Capri they called the RS 3100.

It had a 3.1-liter straight six engine with 145 HP. So this car could sprint up to 60 mph in just 7.6 seconds. Along with the rear spoiler, unique wheels and graphics, the RS 3100 was a real looker and a highly sought after British muscle car.

  1. Rover P5B V8 Coupe

Rover, like Jaguar, was always known for its formal sedans and premium four-door cars. In fact, they were the favorite transportation of the British upper middle class. In those days, Rovers were restrained cars for comfortable cruising with no performance pretensions. However, in 1967, Rover introduced the P5B with a 3.5-liter V8 engine.

In contrast to its stately appearance, the P5B Coupe was a luxury muscle car. Under the hood was a 3.5-liter V8 engine with 165 HP that could propel this heavy sedan to 60 mph in 9.6 seconds. Interestingly, they called the four-door version with a slightly lower roofline a coupe, as well.

The interior was an elegant mix of finest wood and leather, making the driver feel comfortable while speeding on Britain’s motorways. Performance car fans loved the Rover P5B. And it was so respected in the UK car community, even Queen Elizabeth owned one.

  1. Jaguar Mk 2

Jaguars were always powerful, fast machines, covered in beautiful bodies with luxury interiors. Car enthusiast dream cars, they combined the aesthetics with smooth six-cylinder engines and luxury trim. Over the years, Jaguar earned its performance credentials with numerous racing wins and beautiful sports cars.

But in the 60’s, they presented a proper muscle car they disguised as a performance sedan in the form of the Jaguar Mk 2. This car earned the nickname, the “Bank Robber’s Express,” because of its speed and handling, which helped bank robbers quickly escape the scene. That is why the British Police also started using them in the 60’s.

With a top of the line 3.8-liter engine from the E-Type and 220 HP, the Mk 2 was a capable, elegant sedan. It could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just nine seconds flat. Thanks to independent rear suspension and four-wheel disc brakes, the Mk 2 handled and stopped perfectly. This made it quite the capable machine in the right hands. Even today, the Mk 2 feels modern and potent.

  1. Triumph Stag

The Triumph Stag is one of a few British cars common in America because it was their main export market in the 70’s. The Triumph brand was famous for its range of compact roadsters like the TR4 or Spitfire. But in the late 60’s, this company wanted to present a more capable and bigger model. So they decided to enter the GT segment with the Stag. This was an interesting convertible model that came with a mandatory roll bar and hard top.

Triumph presented the Stag in 1970 and produced it until 1978. The market was impressed with this new model that featured cool styling and open-top driving. And it still had enough room for four adults and their luggage. The Stag came with a 3.0-liter V8 engine with 145 HP, which was enough for a decent performance.

With its muscular appearance and V8 rumble, the Stag looked like a luxury muscle car, attracting some buyers. Unfortunately, some owners experienced the Stag’s notorious unreliability. This sealed its chances on the American and global market along with higher prices. When they ended production in 1978, they only produced 25,000 cars.

  1. Ford Sierra Cosworth

Ford UK is a popular economy car manufacturer. But occasionally, the company produced machines with truly amazing performance and power at affordable prices. Some say those fast Fords were the perfect example of “blue collar” sports and muscle cars. This is because mid-class buyers bought them an expensive sports car drivers feared them.

One of the most legendary British muscle cars is the fantastic Sierra Cosworth, which they introduced in 1985. The Ford Sierra was an ordinary family sedan they produced in numerous versions. The car featured rear-wheel drive and independent rear suspensions. But, it was when Ford contracted the Cosworth tuning house for a performance model that the legend was born.

Cosworth took a three-door body and added a special body kit with spoilers, as well as unique wheels and colors. Under the hood was a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that produced 225 HP, propelling the car to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds. For 1985, those were fantastic numbers, so the Sierra Cosworth immediately became one of the hottest British cars on the road. Also, it was successful on the tracks, winning many races.

  1. MG ZT 260

American buyers will always remember MG for its line of affordable, cool-looking roadsters which were quite common in the 60’s and 70’s. And they are still great summer cruisers. But in Europe, MG tried to enter the performance market in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. So they used Rover-based models they equipped with more power and numerous go-fast add-ons.

The MG ZT 260 was the best model from this period and quite an interesting car from an engineering point of view. Rover, MG’s parent company in those days, was producing the elegant, somewhat popular 75 sedans. They modernly engineered it as front-wheel drive four-door. MG’s engineers realized they needed much more power, as well as a rear wheel drive layout to present a proper performance model.

So, they fully re-engineered the FWD Rover 75 into a rear-wheel drive MG ZT 260, fabricating different components and the suspension setup. The next piece of the puzzle was the engine, so MG sourced 4.6-liter V8 units from Ford. It delivered 260 HP and a fantastic soundtrack.

Despite its four-door form, the MG ZT 260 was a proper V8 powered muscle car with elegant design and capable performance. It’s too bad they only sold it in Europe. They discontinued it after a few years, as well as the Rover and MG brands.

  1. Ford Escort Cosworth

Ford built the Escort RS Cosworth from 1992 to 1996. It was one of the best British muscle cars of the ’90s. They used some Sierra RS Cosworth parts, but this Escort was smaller. However it featured the improved 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that produced 227 HP.

The exterior meant pure business with its flared wheel arches, hood with cooling vents and a massive easily adjustable rear wing. One of the main features was the rally proven all-wheel-drive system that proved necessary since the car developed over 230 lb-ft of torque. The Escort RS Cosworth could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds, so it could beat most sports cars of the day.

  1. Marcos TSO

Outside of Britain, Marcos was a little-known sports car manufacturer. But on the domestic market, it had a reputation for building fast and relatively affordable sports coupes. Always considered a kit car company, Marcos used engines and drivetrain components from other brands.

In 2004, Marcos presented the TSO. It was a cool looking coupe with Chevrolet’s LS1 V8 engine that delivered 400 HP to the rear wheels. Despite its great looks, brutal performance and aggressive marketing, the company managed to build and sell just a few of them before disappearing from the market in 2007.

  1. TVR Cerbera

The Cerbera was one of the best affordable sports/muscle cars on the British market in 1996. Designed as a two-seater coupe with a V8 engine up front, it was a cross between a classic coupe and a muscle car.

The design was retro-futuristic with a long hood and aggressive silhouette. Today, even at 22 years, this car still looks great. The best engine option was TVR’s own 4.7-liter V6 engine with the interesting “Red Rose” performance pack. It delivered 440 HP and an exhilarating performance.

  1. Morgan Plus 8

Everybody knows about Morgan, the legendary British company with models that didn’t change in appearance and technology since the 1930s. Despite the archaic style and looks, Morgan is quite popular with waiting lists several years long.

In 1968, Morgan introduced the Plus 8 model. It featured their signature design and thumping V8 engine that brought some real performance to Morgan’s range. The model proved popular and remained in production until 2004. Since then, they have introduced the new Morgan Plus 8 with unchanged looks, but with updated modern safety features and brakes.

  1. TVR Chimera

For those customers who wanted a classic British roadster but with a healthy dose of muscle car grunt, TVR introduced the Chimera. This was a smaller, more affordable model compared to the Cerbera they produced in higher numbers.

Under the hood was a Rover-derived V8 engine delivering 240 to 400 HP. And TVR offered several versions and displacement levels. They started production in 1992 and ended it in 2003 after making several thousand cars.

  1. Aston Martin DBS

It is hard to call Aston a muscle car, but the DBS model not only looks like one, it also feels like one. That is due to its V8 engine and rumbling sound from the twin exhaust pipes. Aston Martin introduced the DBS in the early ’70s.

At first, it featured a six-cylinder engine, but it was later upgraded to a 5.3-liter V8 with around 300 HP. The design was undoubtedly American-inspired since it featured a fastback roofline and big chrome grille with four headlights.

  1. Bristol 603

Bristol Cars is one of the craziest companies in the world. Not for their models, which are quite strange, but for their business policy. The company barely made any money for decades. They operated only one showroom and sold only one or two cars per year.

In fact, they refused to modernize their lineup for decades. In 1976, Bristol introduced the 603. It was a bespoke coupe with a Chrysler V8 engine that combined the luxury of a custom built car with the performance and torque of muscle cars.

  1. Bristol Fighter

In 2004, Bristol decided to introduce a new model with uncompromised performance and a fresh design. And that is how the Bristol Fighter was born. The chassis was custom made with a special body that featured gullwing doors and a long hood.

The design of the Fighter has no resemblance to other Bristol cars, but it carries the tradition of using Chrysler engines. This sports car has an 8.0-liter V10 from the Dodge Viper rated at 525 HP. With 0 to 60 mph acceleration times of around four seconds and top speeds of over 200 mph, it was one of the fastest cars in the world when they introduced it.

  1. Jaguar XKR

Jaguar was always known for its line of perfect GT coupes and convertibles with luxury appointments and power. But in the 1996 to 2006 XKR coupe is a proper muscle car. Under the sleek body and acres of finest leather lies a supercharged V8 engine delivering 370 HP and a brutal performance.

Also, the XKR is a bit different than regular XK coupes or convertibles due to some subtle design changes and a different grille and wheels.

These are the best British muscle cars in history. Some of them may still be on the road, so if you can get one, be sure to grab it fast. These cars will be harder to find as time goes on.

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