Here’s a question: what’s the best British car ever put into production?
It must be one of the toughest questions the British car enthusiast can face, mainly because there are so many good answers. Contrary to the common view, the British automotive industry has always been – and remains – a hotbed of ground-breaking ideas and innovation, from which the world’s finest cars have sprung.
Yet we seek an answer. In a week or two we’ll be assembling what we believe is the greatest ever collection of contemporary British-made cars, and such an exercise again begs an answer to that ultimate question. We need your help to answer it.
Before you reply, may we suggest you ponder for a while on the implications of this word 'best'? If we’re talking performance, for instance, then surely the McLaren F1 should take the accolade. It set unapproachable standards for a whole decade – an amazingly long time in such a vital industry – while also introducing dozens of innovations around packaging, light weight, build standards and hi-tech construction.
There were plenty of other 'bests'. How about the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, the only car that ever fully justified the tag 'best car in the world'? Or WO Bentley’s extraordinary supercars of the 1920s? Some say the Jaguar E-type is the greatest, on the grounds of beauty, function and value. Some cite the original Range Rover, a wonderful machine that in 1970 invented a category whose relevance only increases today.
When this magazine had to decide on a Car of the Century, 12 years ago, the decision went to the original Mini for its combination of qualities: space efficiency, outrageous innovation, remarkable dynamics and showroom success. Yet even the most rabid lover of the Issigonis Mini would surely agree that the car was never truly well done, the way Volkswagen would have done it. For 41 years, through dozens of iterations, it was riddled with compromises.
All of which is why we pose the question again: what’s the greatest British car ever built? Please let us know what you think.