The Cars That Made Britain Great

Back in the good old days, somewhere between 1956 and 1967, Britain made the best cars in the world.  Here at Great Escape Cars as we battle daily with the grim reality of post-war Britain’s less than stellar commitment to manufacturing quality, it can sometimes seem otherwise. But one look at the swooping line of an E Type or the gleaming chrome of a Mk2 and you have to concede it’s a hard statement to fault.

So here, for your delectation and debate, are our favourite cars from Britain’s post-war era.  They may not have helped make Britain great – in fact some did quite the opposite – but all, in their own way, show why we are Great Britain.

1. Jaguar E Type

Any car that continues to top Most Beautiful and Most Desirable polls 55 years after it first hit the road has to be a work of genius.  The E Type may not be the last word in driving finesse, but when a car looks this good it really doesn’t matter. With the illustrious E Jaguar had the world at its feet.  And then came British Leyland…

2. MGB 

Lets be honest, there is nothing special or especially great about the MGB. And yet, in its humble and unassuming way, it is wonderful. Simple, pretty, practical and reliable, the venerable B made convertible motoring popular and few cars can claim to be loved by so many. The B’s longevity displays its brilliance – a car that remained relevant 20 years after it first went on sale. 

3. Lotus Elan

In the 1960s Lotus had it all: superb designs, brilliant engines and a charismatic leader driving the business forward.  But like the most of the rest of the British motor industry, it had an Achilles heel – reliability.  The Elan typifies the problem – a brilliant little sports car with performance, practicality and style.  And terrible reliability. 

4. Jaguar XJ

The Jaguar Mk2 might be the saloon car darling of the classic car world but it is the XJ that is the better car. With the cossetting ride of a Rolls Royce, the svelte looks of a sports car and a super smooth V12 under the bonnet, the XJ had all the ingredients of a world-beater.  Such was demand that there was a 12 month waiting list. As the car’s reputation for catastrophic reliability took hold, orders dwindled and Jaguar was pushed into endless rehashes and updates on the same basic design. Only with early 00’s XJ was the original 1960s architecture thrown away…

5. Aston Martin DB5

Aston Martin hasn’t made many cars but those it has produced have, generally, been brilliant. The DB5, even without James Bond, would have been brilliant. This is a car that typifies everything that was great about Britain in the 60s – achingly stylish, rakish even, quick and perfect for the sort of trans-continental assault that our chaps kicked off at Dunkirk. Lovely.

6. Mini

If you wonder where it all went wrong for the British motor industry, look no further than the original Mini. Here was a clever, original design that met a clear market need. The trouble is, Austin got so carried away with its own sheer genius that it forgot to work out whether the car made any money. It didn’t. Then, with a sizeable hit on its hands, the same team fumbled the ball trying to come up with a replacement.  It took them unti