Debuting in 1961, the Jaguar E-Type was a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Despite the Jaguar’s long-lasting tradition of building fine sports cars, the E-Type was years ahead of its time. It came with a superb design and four-wheel disc brakes.
But better yet, that added an independent rear suspension and a powerful straight-six engine. In fact, Jaguar derived the E-type from the Le Mans-winning C and D Type racers. As a result, the E-Type was as fast as any Ferrari or Maserati at the time. But the best thing was the price.
Although the E-Type had the looks, power, and performance of high-priced Italian exotics, it cost just a fraction of the price. The E-Type stayed in production for 15 years until 1976. During that time, they sold over 74,000, most of them in the USA.
When they presented the Lotus Elise in 1996, it caught the automotive world by storm. It was such a compact, yet beautiful roadster. It came with a lightweight body and precise handling that was unique on the market.
In fact, it influenced many big manufacturers to produce similar models. The Lotus perfectly captured the essence of sports car dynamics in a sleek, balanced package.
Ford Capri RS 3100
The success of the Mustang was influential. It inspired most American brands to offer a pony car model of their own. Even in Europe, the Mustang was popular and common. However, Ford wanted to explore the market further with a smaller, European version. And that is how the Ford Capri came to be in 1969.
Designed in the UK, the Capri was a European Mustang in every way. Using the “long hood-short deck” formula and semi-fastback styling, the Capri looked great and had a fantastic stance. Even though they based it on a standard Cortina floorpan with the same engines, the Capri looked like a thoroughbred sport/muscle car.
In fact, people often confused the Capri RS 3100 for a U.S.-built Ford. However, most Capris came with a diminutive five or six-cylinder engine. Sadly, 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 delivering 145 HP. And it could sprint up to 60 mph in just 7.6 seconds. Along with a rear spoiler, unique wheels and graphics, the RS 3100 was a real looker. And to this day, it is a highly sought after British muscle car.
Morgan Plus 8
Everybody knows about Morgan, the legendary British company. They have built models that haven’t changed in appearance and technology since the ’30s. Despite the archaic style and look, the Morgan is popular with waiting lists several years long.
In 1968, Morgan introduced the Plus 8 model featuring their signature design and thumping V8 engine. And 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, yet modern safety features and brakes.
The expansion of supercars in the 2000s brought many interesting, powerful machines. Most models in recent years are well known, selling in the U.S. However, a few models have flown under the radar. In fact, they never reached our shores, despite being fast. And one of those cars is the Noble M600.
Noble managed to produce 550 or 650 HP using a 4.4-liter V8 from Volvo and bolting two turbochargers to it. Also, it had a lightweight, sleek body that enhanced its performance. The idea behind the M600 was to produce a pure supercar without any unnecessary electronic aids.
Incredibly by producing 650 HP, the M600 is capable of getting to 60 mph in just 3.0 seconds, going over 220 mph. This made the M600 a little scary to drive, but also an immensely fun and unforgettable experience.
When TVR presented the Sagaris in the early 2000s, it had an exciting, innovative design. And better yet, it came from a company famous for brutally fast, sleek sports cars. Propelled by TVR’s own 4.0-liter high revving six-cylinder engine producing 406 HP, the Sagaris was lightning quick.
It could achieve a 3.7 second 0 to 60 mph acceleration time and a185 mph top speed. But the coolest thing about this crazy sports car was its design. They named it after a battle ax from Greek mythology, but the Sagaris was hard to describe. There are few cars that have such an aggressive design but still manage to look elegant and fast, even when standing still.
However, TVR’s management was under scrutiny for not equipping the car with standard safety features like ABS, stability control or even airbags. And that caused problems with buyers in several European markets.
After the War, the British car industry was in ruins and in desperate need of a good export product. Jaguar as a luxury car company was particularly affected and needed to sell in America. But what better way to do it than to make a fantastic sports car that would draw the attention of their U.S. customers?
They named it the XK 120, and it was one of Jaguar’s quintessential sports cars as well as one of the fastest models of the decade. They introduced it in 1948 with powerful straight-six engines, a sleek streamlined body and a top speed of 120 mph; hence, the name. The rest was history since not only did the Jaguar sell well, but it also inspired the production of the E Type.
Caterham/Lotus Super 7
Unbelievably, Lotus started as a kit car company operating from a shed. They used components from mass-produced cars and covered them in unique bodies. Lotus had the goal to create special cars that appealed to a wide audience. But everything started with the legendary Lotus 7.
When they first presented it in 1957, the Lotus 7 was a bare-bones sports car with a small four-cylinder engine in the front, two seats and nothing more. In fact, it was the purest form of driving legally possible. Over the years, technology advanced and cars got faster and more powerful. However, the basic idea still stayed the same.
As one of James Bond’s favorite cars, the Lotus Esprit has a special spot in most driving enthusiast’s hearts. They presented it in the early ’70s and sold it until the mid-90s. But although the Lotus Esprit was always a competent sports car, it had a smaller engine with less weight compared to the rest of the field.
With Giugiaro styling, a wedge shape, and compact dimensions, the Esprit was a fast and nimble car. And although the critics attacked it for build quality and a tiny interior, the buyers loved it for its handling and performance.
You have probably heard about the Shelby Cobra 289, but have you ever heard about the AC Ace? Well, if it wasn’t for this cool-looking British roadster, the Shelby Cobra would have never existed in the first place. They presented the AC Ace in 1953 and produced it right up until 1962.
The AC Ace was a modern power roadster with a sleek design and powerful 2.8-liter six-cylinder. But despite the fact MG and Triumph dominated the roadster market in the ’50s, the AC Ace was a better, more powerful car. But most of all, it helped establish the legend of the Shelby Cobra.
When they first released it, the XJ220 was the world’s fastest road-going model with an enormous price tag. Under the hood was new 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 unit delivering 542 HP. The design of the car was fantastic, too. Best of all, the flowing lines along with the wide stance visually emphasized its performance and speed.
Ford Escort RS Cosworth
From 1992 to 1996, the Ford Escort RS Cosworth was one of the best British muscle cars of the ’90s. Ford built it using Sierra RS Cosworth bits, but this Escort was smaller. And better still, it featured the improved 2.0-liter turbocharged engine producing 227 HP. The exterior meant pure business with flared wheel arches, a hood with cooling vents and a massive easily adjustable rear wing.
However, one of the main features was the rally proven all-wheel-drive system. In fact, it was necessary since the car developed over 230 lb-ft of torque. So, the Escort RS Cosworth was fast for the day. And with a 5.8 second 0 to 60 mph acceleration time, it could beat most sports cars of the day.
These are the Union Jack sports cars and the 20 most legendary British performance machines of today. Which was your favorite?