Light Car Company Rocket
Reliant Scimitar SS1
Buying British is a sensible choice if you're searching for something outside of the normal. These eccentric machines can make good used bargains.
1 - Light Car Company Rocket (1991-1998)
Forget the McLaren F1 - the Rocket was Gordon Murray’s finest hour. Masterminded and built by former racer Chris Craft and designed by Murray, the LCC Rocket was a blisteringly quick open funster that looked and went like a 1960s F1 car.
With a mid-mounted 143bhp 1.0-litre Yamaha motorcycle engine and a five-speed sequential gearbox, it hit 60mph in less than four seconds. It weighed just 370kg, so it went like stink and held the road like glue. Despite appearances, it’s a two-seater, with the passenger seated behind the driver.
Fewer than 50 were made, so, if you can find one, prices will be high. But you’ll have a great investment and a staggeringly good car.
2 - Reliant Scimitar SS1 (1984-1990)
Fancy a diminutive drop-top that’s guaranteed to stand out from the crowd? A Scimitar SS1 could be for you.
Saddled at launch with some rather weedy Ford engines, it soon acquired a more powerful 135bhp 1.8-litre turbo unit from Nissan. Top speed was 126mph and, according to our sister mag What Car?, 0-60mph took just 6.6sec. It had a glassfibre body with easily removable panels, and, thanks to independent suspension all round and a 50/50 weight distribution, it handled pretty well.
In the end it proved a little too fragile, though, and its Michelotti styling a little too divisive, so only 1500 were made. You can buy a wreck for a few hundred pounds and good ones from around £2k.
3 - AC Ace (1993-2000)
This handsome and well-proportioned roadster was conceived during one of the many rebirths in AC’s chequered history.
After a long gestation, the first versions emerged using a 260bhp 4.9-litre V8 from the Ford Mustang. Top speed was 140mph and it could see off 0-60mph in 5.9sec. The Ace was low and wide, too, with a stiff chassis and double wishbones all round. As a result, cornering was unexpectedly good, with superb brakes and an excellent ride.
However, despite updates and some new engine options, strong opposition trumped the Ace and only 58 were made before they called it a day. Take a gamble on one now for around £30k, if you can find one. Prices should only go one way.
4 - Midas (1978-present)
The Midas evolved from the 1960s Mini Marcos, an adaptable and fun kit car based on the original Mini.
With a slippery body made of glass-reinforced plastic, the Midas was lighter and stronger than the donor Mini on which it was based (usually a 1275 GT) and arguably better looking. Dynamics were good, too, and that A-Series engine could be tuned to your heart’s content.
In time it got aerodynamic tweaks from one Gordon Murray, uprated Metro underpinnings and even a decent convertible version. Indeed, the Midas seemed on the verge of greatness when a factory fire ruined all its future plans.
However, it’s still possible to buy one new in kit form, and old ones start at £2k.
5 - Bristol Brigand (1982-1993)
If an Aston is too common and a Bentley too predictable, consider a Bristol.
The lovingly hand-made Brigand packed a turbocharged 5.9-litre V8 under its bonnet. Gentlemen, it turns out, do not discuss power outputs, but there was enough oomph to whisk this opulent four-seater from 0-60mph in less than six seconds. It was also surprisingly nimble, while both steering and ride were top notch.
Owning a Bristol brings instant dinner party superiority; the firm never made more than three a week and seldom advertised, so no one really knows what they are. If you see one for less than £30k, buy first and ask questions later. Oh, and they last for ever.
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