Classic Britain

The British motor industry is a sad story. We still make cars. Plenty of them. But not as many as Russia or Thailand. Nor Iran or Canada. Add Spain, France, Italy, India, Brazil and South Korea to that list. Germany is a given. Even Mexico makes more cars now than the UK. Japan and the US sit 2nd and 3rd in the global list. But China makes more than those two put together.

This is a slight aside to this post, but I can’t help feel the real symptom behind the economic woes of the West is that they’ve forgotten they actually need to make things. Service economies are often a sign of a power on the down. Or is it just a coincidence that the Germans, who do still manufacture on a grand scale, are the one major economy of the traditional West than is really on the up?

Britain’s car industry does still have one thing going for it. Heritage. Past and present. Rolls Royce, Bentley, Jaguar, Land Rover, Range Rover and the Mini are all still designed and made in Britain. Aston Martin is actually British owned again. Partly, anyway. Rolls and Bentley might now have Germanic blood in them. But that’s not a problem, nor nothing new. They are the kings of the road, and our kings (and queens) have long had German blood flowing through them.

Heritage past is still very evident on British roads. MGs, Austins, Morris’, Triumphs, Healeys, Wolseleys and Lotus’ adorn our roads along with the marques I’ve already mentioned. And it’s not a rareity for gatherings to occur, with enthusiasts to suddenly descend with their prized motors to show off the gleaming paintwork, restorations and pristine engines. One such gathering took place on the cliff top overlooking Bournemouth’s golden beaches on Sunday afternoon. Although owners of Cortinas, Escorts and Capris really should be taught the difference between ‘classic‘ and ‘old‘. And stay at home. Click here for the photos.

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5 Comments

  • I love British cars of the 60’s. In my view, they were the height of elegance, though their mechanicals rather lagged.

    I’ve owned or operated many of them. I used to have a ’68 Rover TC 2000, which was fun for a sedan. It also had a number of engineering advances, like bolt-on body panels, a de-Dion rear suspension, and an ice sensor, the latter of which was rather useless in Northern California. It was also decently solid mechanically. Sadly, I wrecked it in one of those famous “youthful indiscretions.”

    I later owned a Triumph TR7, which was a lot of fun to drive, very cool looking, and a complete piece of shit mechanically. On that car, the transmission was bolted to the engine with about fifteen bolts, all of which were different sizes. A later car I owned managed the same job with four sturdy and identical bolts. The TR also leaked oil, had a very cheap interior, and any number of curious mechanical things under the hood which led to its very early demise. Oh, and it also had other ridiculously complicated bits and pieces which were, due to their ridiculous complexity, completely prone to incessant failure.

    I’ve also driven an early 70’s E-Type, which was incredibly powerful, fast, and fun, a 60’s MG-B, which was also fun, though not as powerful as the Jag.

    And I’ve long lusted after a late 60’s Jaguar Mk II, which, along with the Rolls Silver Clouds, was one of the most elegant cars ever made.

    I could go on, but I totally agree with you. The British car industry is a true tragedy in that it had the potential for greatness, but foundered on the rocks of incredibly poor quality engineering and control.

    Pity, that.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we have a nice, and quite reliable SLK 230.

    • That’s quite some list of motors Kim. Enough to make many enthusiasts green with envy. And it is a true tragedy. These gems are still around, but it takes an awful lot of time, passion and patience to indulge in such a hobby. Along with either a decent car, or no need to actually drive anywhere. These people do exist though, as the show demonstrated.

      An SLK 230? Very nice. I would be hard to persuade to buy something other than a Japanese or German make. Although, despite having slandered US motors in the past, I do have an awful lot of respect for Ford.

      Ever since the introduction of the Mondeo, they’ve been producing highly rated cars built to last. They’ve built a reputation in the UK thatb leaves them only a little behind their more illustrious German counterparts. They lose on prestige but win on value. The opposite can be said for GM. But more to the point, or my point anyway, Ford were superb caretakers of marques such as Jaguar, Land Rover, Range Rover and Aston Martin. The opposite, again, can be said of GM. Lotus and Saab spring quickly to mind. The latter being a Swedish rather than British breed, of course.

      • American cars have come a long way. I rent a lot of cars when I travel for work, and in the 80’s and 90’s whenever I’d get a GM car, I’d sigh because invariably something on it would be broken or would break while I was renting it. Those cars, to be fair, never left me in the lurch, but they often had little bits and pieces that would end up broken, say a turn signal or something.

        Now, even the GM cars are very well made, solid, and I’ve not recently encountered one with something wrong. And Fords are even tougher. But both brands are good solid transportation, but rather uninspiring in the fantasy department. OK, I’ll except the Mustang from that, which is a very cool car.

        Saludos,

        Kim G
        Boston, MA
        Where what we really want is for our motorcycle to come back from the shop.

  • Had a look at the photo’s – LOVE the hood ornament! Disappointed that MY favorite car’s of all time (’52 MG-TD and ’37 boat-tail Lagonda) did not appear to be at the show.. Ah well, there’s always Pebble or Palm Beach show’s on telly…. very nice shots by the way.. Cheers!
    Dan in NC

    • I’d have no trouble recognising an MG. A pre-Chinese MG anyway. But my affection for the cars doesn’t extend to being able to identify models by year, I’m afraid! There were a few MG’s there, but I didn’t get to photograph them all. And to be honest, MGs are still pretty common, so I was probably pointing my lens at cars that I see less frequently.

      I was going to mention the Lagonda. In my lifetime they’ve been Aston Martins though.

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