100 cars Britain can be proud of

Keith Adams

100 Cars Britain can be Proud of
100 Cars Britain can be Proud of

A few months back the excellent Giles Chapman sent me a copy of his book 100 Cars Britain can be Proud of and, like a fool, I popped it on the pile and promptly forgot to read it. Yeah, I know – nearly as bad as my terrible habit of forgetting to answer emails once they drop off my front page… Sorry, Giles.

Anyway, I revisited the book last night and have to say that it’s interesting how it chimes with my own interests and ambitions for AROnline.

The cars covered really are the best of British and include everything from the AC Ace to the Wolseley 6/8o. All were built here and all have redeeming features – some more than others. Giles has stuck to his popular A5 book format, with an entry per car across a spread. There’s a number of interesting sidebars on each page and, in typical Giles Chapman style, he’s dug out some pictures that I’ve not seen before.

I like the car selection, including the Japanese UK imports, such as the Honda Civic and Nissan Qashqai (but I doubt they’ll make it onto this site just yet), as well as the Hindustan Ambassador and TX4 taxi – which, as we know, is now a Chinese vehicle. It’s an interesting, thought-provoking, read – of course, it’s slightly lightweight, but none the worse for that. Drop by the Amazon website, where it costs a very reasonable £6.99, if you want a copy,

Giles has, though, set me thinking about interesting additions to AROnline. The Jensen Interceptor, recently relaunched, would fit comfortably here as would the Bond Bug and Panther 6. What would be your suggestions? Oh, and yes, I know about the Morris Minor, BMC Farina saloons and MG Midget/Healey Sprite… but give me something interesting to work on, please.

Keith Adams
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  1. How about the Nissan Bluebird T12 and/or Primera? Both cars were built in Sunderland and proved that British car industry workers could produce well-made, reliable vehicles, at the height of the ARG era.

    Alternatively, on the flip-side, how about Vauxhall’s 1970s cars – HB/HC Viva, FE/VX Series Victor – their last wholly UK-developed cars and, in the case of the Victor, complete flops in comparison with the Ford Cortina and Morris Marina? Similarly, what about the Ford Zephyr/Zodiac Mk4 – Ford’s last wholly UK-developed car or the Ford Anglia 105A – the other important new car of 1959 after the Mini and Triumph Herald?

    Incidentally, in my humble opinion, AROnline is still the best cars site on the inter-web – keep it going!!

  2. There are two important British cars COMPLETELY missing here: the Jaguar XJ220 and the McLaren F1. We British should definitely be proud of those two supercars.

  3. Another vote for the Nissans and more Vauxhalls. Another to consider might possibly even be the first Mondeo, which moved the game on from the Sierra markedly and entered popular culture in the UK thanks to the term ‘Mondeo Man’…

    I also think that, given the interesting but sad parallels between what’s happening to the company now and what happened to MG Rover, some SAABs would be good – whilst they are still here…

    Aston Martins would be nice – especially the absolutely mental 1970s Lagonda with its Space 1999-style dashboard.

    Finally, there are two vehicles with links to British Leyland which are not covered on AROnline but would make interesting stories: the LDV Maxus (RIP Freight-Rover/Leyland-DAF) and the current LTI TX4 Taxi.

  4. @Scott Hutchings
    Sadly, the Mundano has never been built here (neither was the Sierra). Keith’s really referring to British-made cars to be honest.

    What about the Derby-assembled blandfest that was the Carina ‘E’ (tough as old boots and made a brilliant minicab) or the Honda Accord built in Swindon?

    Oh, and what about that pile of scaffolding with an engine and wheels bolted to the frame? Yup, the Ariel Atom…

  5. @Marty B
    The Sierra was built at Dagenham initially but, sometime during its run, production was moved out and Dagenham concentrated solely on Fiestas.

    Anyway, in terms of this site, I’d love to see more articles on the post-WW2, pre-BMC and early BMC cars, such as the various mid-range saloons culminating in the Farinas and the big saloons (such as the 6/80) etc.

  6. I think the Morris Marina featured in Mr. Chapman’s other excellent book, The worst cars ever sold in Britian. Quite rightly too…

    I will be asking for this new book for Fathers’ Day – thank you for bringing it to my attention.

  7. Incidentally, it’s nice to see the Vauxhall PA on the front cover. My Dad used to make those in Luton.

    I know they rusted like a horse shoe in a salt mine but just look at it, it’s beautiful.

  8. WarrenL :
    @Scott Hutchings

    Saabs are Swedish, but I’m sure you know that!

    Didn’t the early Saab 99 feature a Triumph engine and other bits and pieces from Britain? That could qualify it for a feature here…

    Saabs have been incredibly popular in the UK for ages.

  9. I’ll certainly add my weight to anything Vauxhall related – especially from the late Fifties through to the mid-Seventies (when Vauxhall became the UK arm of Opel).

    I’d also be very interested to learn more about my favourite cars as a schoolboy – Jensens – as well as any of the other vehicles I remember from when I was growing up, such as the iconic Commer van already mentioned.

    Incidentally, please do keep up the good work – AROnline is a fantastic resource and I do enjoy reading it!

  10. @Jeff
    The Saab 99 did feature a Triumph engine, namely the Slant Four engine, which Saab modified slightly and started building themselves in Trollhättan from, I believe, the early 1970s. The same engine design continued to be used by Saab up until the previous generation 9-5 ceased production in early 2009.

  11. Well, for me the site needs the post WW2, pre-Opel, Vauxhalls. The Commer PB van would be a nice addition.

    The Saab 99 and Volvo P1800 both have UK links and should be considered at a future date. The Ford Focus RS Mk1 is a UK-developed product, along with the Racing Puma and the Tickford Capri.

    Incidentally, as well as the car manufacturers, we have some great R&D companies – Cosworth Technology, Ricardo and Tickford have all helped the major OEMs get engines into production. How many know the original Daewoo Matiz engine was developed in Milton Keynes by Engineers trained at Aston Martin?

  12. The previous generation (2001-2005) Honda Civic has got to be one of the most successful British-built cars of all time.

  13. I agree with Kieran regarding the Peugeot 309, which was a cracking car to drive (even the diesel was a tidy handler) and is probably one of the most underrated cars ever.

    However, if you’re after something ‘interesting’, what about Rochdale? I believe that the Rochdale Olympic was favourably compared to the Porsche 912 by Road Testers in the 1960s.

  14. @Ajax Soixantedix
    The Peugeot 309 was a great car. The XUD diesel was bulletproof. The 309 retained the 205 doors and had a family resemblance to the rest of the Pug range, but it had its own character (perhaps due to the Talbot-origins can-of-worms)…

    Anyway, as for other great British cars, is the 405 eligible as that was built at Ryton? Were some 406s also built there?

  15. I’ve never heard of the Bluebird T12 which Simon Hodgetts mentions. I know the first Bluebird off the line at Sunderland was called T1 (for Trial One) – it was actually a white 1.8 Turbo ZX.

    I can vouch for Giles Chapman’s books – I have a copy of his BBC book called My Dad had One of Those. Great stuff!

  16. The Sierra was built at Dagenham until the model’s production run ended, but it was also built at other European plants. I spent a very interesting day at Dagenham when I was studying Engineering and we were all blown away by a large car factory in full swing. The plant was producing Sierras, Sapphires and Fiesta Mark 2s at the time, plus we saw a few test pressings for the Fiesta Mark 3 going through the Press Shop.

    I would welcome some articles on the pre-Opel Vauxhalls – my dad swore by them (and sometimes at them!). How about the “coke bottle” Victor FD? That was one of the first production cars to have a rubber cam timing belt instead of a chain and the engine block became the basis of the (albeit much-modified) Lotus Esprit straight four.

  17. Jeff :
    I think the Morris Marina featured in Mr. Chapman’s other excellent book, The worst cars ever sold in Britian. Quite rightly too…

    I will be asking for this new book for Fathers’ Day – thank you for bringing it to my attention.

    I had a Marina as my second ever car, replacing a Humber Sceptre. It was reliable enough and never let me down. It was an 1800cc model and so was pretty quick in a straight line – but woe betide you if you didn’t prepare for the corners properly. I’ve known it to squeal the front tyres when in a line of traffic travelling at perfectly reasonable speeds.

  18. Mind you, on the other hand, you want us to be proud of a Nissan Bluebird? Surely, we can do better than that?!

  19. My suggestion is the Slough-built Citroen Bijou – a perfect example of nonsense…

  20. @Simon Hodgetts
    @Hilton Davis
    I don’t wish to sound too pernickety but the T12 was, in fact, built in Japan prior to the Sunderland factory being built. The Bluebird built at Sunderland was the T72 – initially in Japanese-supplied kit form before the Sunderland factory could do everything itself.

    The way to tell the difference between the Japanese T12 and the British T72 is that the indicator and windscreen wiper stalks were swapped round in the T72 (for European tastes) and the Clarion stereo in the T12 was swapped for a Blaupunkt one in the T72!

    I owned a T12 for three delightful years in the mid-1990s and, ask any of my mates, it’s always described as ‘legendary’!!!!

  21. Wasn’t the Peugeot 206 built in Britain? The model seems to have had a long production run and so must be a contender.

  22. It’s a bit before my time but, recalling both my mum and dad (who worked at Ford), I’m sure that at least some of the Sierra development work was carried out in South Wales (along with the RS200).

    Oh, and yes, the Peugeot 206 was built at Ryton.

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