|The venerable MGB|
We are a nation of convertible car lovers. We don't let wind or rain or freezing temperatures deter us from buying cars without roofs. This dogged commitment in the face of the weather has one upside - it's made Britain the King, the undisputed Numero Uno, of classic convertible sports cars.
Our heyday, of course, was in the 60s and we haven't offered up much of any important since the MGF of 1995. But here, for dispute and rancour, are our our 5 hits and 5 misses of British sports cars. Enjoy.
|B's are good - simple, robust and fun|
It's not that easy to see why. Yes, the MGB looks good, but it's not as gorgeous as an Alfa Duetto, and it's powered by a Morris van engine. The boot is small, the handling ponderous and the steering heavy. But somehow none of this matters. Unlike any of its peers the MGB is simple to fix, reliable, cheap to run and few cars have such exemplary parts supply. And despite hardly changing throughout its life, there is a B for most people - 1.8 or V8, coupe or convertible, chrome or rubber bumper and that's before you begin to think about upgrades.
It may be ubiquitous and, for some, a classic car cliche, but the B is perennially popular for a good reason - it's easy, hassle-free fun.
2. Jaguar E Type
|The E Type - one of our best exports|
3. Triumph TR6
|Triumph TR6 - chest wig required|
Triumph's TR series began as delicate play things for American troops and ended up as hairy-chested speed weapons for Dick Dastardly types. The Karmann-tweaked TR6 brought together sharper styling with Triumph's innovative fuel injected straight six engine. That meant decent handling and 150 bhp, a compelling combination that helped eek out a few more years from the aging separate chassis design.
The TR6 is on this list because it managed to achieve what few drop top cars can - practical, sharp-handling and with proper grunt.
4. Austin Healey
|The Big Healey - brutal & demanding|
The Healey had a reputation as a 'proper' driver's car, one that needed skill and effort. At the time, it had precious little competition and yet Austin threw away the opportunity by failing to replace it.
5. Morris Minor Tourer
|Morris Minor - simple family open top motoring|
The Moggy is simple, slow and wobbly, none of which matters on a sunny day in the Cotswolds with a picnic warming in the boot.
THE MISSES1. Triumph TR7
|TR7 - driving customers to the wedge|
The result is a car that tries to be everything to everyone, but ends up not really pleasing anyone. Almost all TR7s, inexplicably, had 2 litre engines - without the Dolomite Sprint's 16v head - and that alienated the TR6 and MGB V8 buyers. It was quite big, which didn't suit the Spitfire and Midget customers, and it was fairly soft to drive, and that put off everyone else.
Beyond the flawed concept, the drop top Triumph was unreliable and poorly built. From the nation that popularised inexpensive sports cars, it could have been so different.
2. Triumph Stag
|Triumph Stag - Stag by name, snag by nature|
Another miss, another Triumph. Where the TR7 tried to please everyone, the Stag knew exactly what it was about - hitting the Mercedes SL where it hurt. And it should have done: the Stag was comfortable, spacious, powerful and luxurious. It did most of those things better than the German car whilst looking better too. But, of course, it was a flop once again due to build quality. We should have known because the compromises were obvious from the start - this was a car with a T-bar rather than a convertible roof because Triumph couldn't make it rigid enough. That wouldn't have happened at Mercedes.
3. Scimitar SS1
|Scimitar SS1 - it could have been so good|
The resulting SS1 got a lot of things right, but with one exception - it looked awful. Designed by Michelotti, presumably in his sleep, it combined awkward angles and shut lines to create a very unhappy whole. A shame because the SS1 was really very good - agile, quick (there was a turbocharged version) and fairly practical. Then the MX5 came along and it was game over.
4. Jensen Healey
|Jensen Healey - odd looks, great engine|
5. Daimler SP250
|Daimler SP250 - the guppy look, strangely, never caught on|
At the height of the British sports car craze, fuddy duddy old Daimler decided to pitch in with the SP250. While there is much that is good about the car, it certainly doesn't include its looks. Despite having fins and a wide mouth, like a startled fish, none of it works together. It's so awful in fact, that looking at it creates an unsettled feeling that can only be resolved with a hammer.
The SP250 did have the brilliant small-block Turner V8 engine and it was quick - the police bought a few until the crims started laughing at them. But it was made of glassfibre and twisted and shook itself apart, all of which meant Daimler was better off building posh saloons. So it did.
We know the MG, Morris, Triumph, Healey and E Type are your drop top hits because we have all five on our hire fleet. They've stuck around because they're so popular. You can hire them from just £39. To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit www.greatescapecars.co.uk.
Great Escape Cars Ltd