Facing the difficult choice of picking ten British cars that are often overlooked is not as easy as it seems at first. Are you just looking for low-profile sports cars and neglecting comfort or practicality? There are dozens of reasons to go for speed over comfort and refinement, but doing so misses out on some of the great cars that overshadowed them in the first place. And we didn’t even think about old cars that at launch had flaws and defects that had been fixed long ago.
In fact, the list of underrated British cars could be limitless if there was enough room, and choosing just ten cars is a real challenge, and no doubt we would be choosing ten different cars any other day.
10 Rover P5B (1967-73)
Think of any British luxury sedan and the chances of a Rover in the top ten are slim, however, for decades all VIPs and heads of state in a P5B have owned or been chauffeured. Unconvinced? Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used one during the 1970s, and to this day, Queen Elizabeth has one folded away.
Admittedly, the old Rover wouldn’t get the racing buzz, with just 184 horsepower from its Buick’s 3.5-liter V8, but take one on a long road trip and the plush interior and fluid delivery will have you wondering why Rover didn’t make it.
9 Stag Triumph (1970-77)
Underrated or known to be unreliable? The Triumph Stag suffered a slew of failures, largely due to the higher water pump position of the Triumph-designed V8s. A simple coolant and tank addressed most reliability issues.
Bypass the nagging worries of unplanned roadside stops, and you’ll find the Stag a surprisingly comfortable long-distance cruiser. Although the Triumph 3 liter V8 is so bad it’s not particularly powerful at 145 horsepower, it can still keep up with modern traffic, hitting sixty times in 9.3 seconds.
8 Lotus Elan M100 (1989-95)
Launched in 1989, the Elan faced an uphill struggle to justify its name and place in the Lotus model lineup, as well as high sales prices that drove gear heads to look elsewhere for an affordable two-seater sports car. Reviving the Elan name was a bold move, exacerbated by the budget-driven front-wheel drive design.
Under any other name, it would have been a massive success, and the same issues holding back the faithful from Lotus are also Elan’s best features. The clever independent front suspension made the car one of the best sports cars money could buy, plus, in the look of the SE with Isuzu-sourced 1.6-liter turbocharged engines, the Elan was quick too, taking it to sixty in just 6.6 seconds.
7 TVR Tamura (2002-06)
This TVRs idea was for an entry-level car with an emphasis on being more practical and easy to use, the Tamora was introduced in 2002, and although it was a bit softer, it was only a recipe for big engines and the weight remained low.
Think of the Tamora as a compact T350, and you pretty much get the money. Using a towed body and packing a smaller 3.6-liter six-cylinder with just 350 horsepower. A combination of poor reliability and the lack of interest paid to the Tamora, production hit 350 cars before TVR pulled the plug.
6 Light Vehicle Company Rocket
Launched by Gordon Murray of McLaren F1 fame, the LCC Rocket was the first attempt at the road-legal lightweight sports car, which, despite receiving enthusiastic press comments, ultimately failed. High construction costs and a lack of potential buyers killed this F1-style racer from the 1950s.
The comfortable two-seater tipping the scales at 850 pounds, powered by a 165-hp four-cylinder Yamaha motorcycle engine, means the Rocket has a power-to-weight ratio on par with the Ferrari F40. While its 143 mph top speed was a far cry from the F40’s record-breaking 200+ mph, the Rocket was even faster in short sprints, hitting sixty in under four seconds.
5 Jaguar S-Type R
The big cat no one wanted to associate with, a poorly designed retro look meant to mimic classic 1960s-era Jaguars, fell like a lead balloon with buyers. A pity really, because under the skin the S-Type was a formidable luxury coupe with a serious bite, especially in the “R” model.
Filling a supercharged 4.2-liter V8 under the hood turns the good car into a premium M5 sedan, boasting 400 horsepower and 408 pound-feet of torque. The big numbers are only part of the story. The throttle clamped, and I pushed into the seat with an instant dash of lag-free acceleration that propels you to sixty in 5.3 seconds.
4 Lotus Evora 400 (2010-21)
Updated with a second Lotus, the Evora is one of the best mid-engine sports cars money can buy and a serious alternative to Porsche ownership. Although widely praised by the press, sales of the Evora were just a small fraction of its competitors.
The Lotus name itself may have something to do with this, as it was once synonymous with cheap, fiberglass sports cars with poor reliability. Launched in 2010, the Evora changes all that, it uses a lightweight aluminum and steel clad composite body, powered by a Toyota supercharged 3.5-liter V6. The Evora is by no means perfect, but it is a strong contender for the best Lotus to date.
3 Ginetta G60 (2012-15)
Introduced in 2012, the Ginetta G60 only ran for three years before production ended, with high construction costs and poor sales being the reason behind the little-known sports car’s disappearance. Not many gear heads had heard of Ginneta before the upcoming Akula supercar was revealed, but in the club racing scene, Ginetta is one of the best known names.
The G60 consists of a race-style carbon tub, tubular steel chassis, and a composite body. Powered by Ford Cyclone’s 310-hp 3.7L V6 engines that promise a competitive 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 165 mph, the biggest problem with this underrated sports car is the lack of brand recognition. .
2 Zinus E10S (2012-17)
Small, agile, and affordable, sadly newcomers Zino Cars hit the scene in 2012 with the much-acclaimed E10S range that promises to be inexpensive to buy and maintain. Like many other promising startups, cash is king, in 2017, in the face of a raft of canceled orders, Zenos briefly discontinued E10.
The brainchild of former Lotus and Caterham engineers, the Zenos E10S uses lightweight composites paired with Ford’s 250-hp four-cylinder turbo unit. The E10S will break sixty in four seconds, and reach a maximum of 145 mph before the puff runs out.
1 Bristol Fighter (2004-11)
Out of pure curiosity, the Bristol Fighter plane deserves to be included here, so so little is known from first-hand experience that it might be an injustice to be taken lightly, we don’t know. However, the lure of a quirky British muscle car packing V10 engines sourced from Viper is hard to resist.
Production details are a bit fuzzy as well, sources range from 12-20 fighters in total before production was halted in 2011. Listed for $650,000 when the new deep-pocketed gearheads might have had at least some big performance numbers, the fighter’s engine capacity is a bit fuzzy as well. 8-liter engine with 525 horsepower and the promise of a top speed of more than 200 mph.
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