A Little Slice Of British History

British History

Over in Britain there are some amazing car manufacturers.  We have the opulent elegance of Rolls Royce, James Bond’s car of choice, Aston Martin and the cute, feisty little Lotus Elise a car which Michael Schumacher fell in love with when he was lent one during the Silverstone Grand Prix.  If you scroll back through history then you will find decade after decade of some pretty special cars from this tiny little island. They really are quite impressive pieces of British history. Let’s take a look at three of the countries most globally renowned successes. 

Mclaren F1

Lets face it the McLaren F1 is probably the most well known car to come out of that side of the pond. British classic racing driver, Tiff Needell, makes no secret that is his ultimate road car of all time and he isn’t alone famous fans of this car include Jay Leno and the Sultan of Brunei who in 2003 was rumored to have eight.

Along with Titanium, Kevlar, Carbon Fibre and magnesium McLaren used 16g of 24ct gold foil as a heat shield. This combination of lightweight material and precise engineering (McLaren went German for the 618 bhp BMW S70/2 engine) helped the car to achieve the fastest speed for a road car 240 mph and a standstill to 100 mph of just 6.7 seconds.

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The F1 made it’s debut at the Monaco F1 in 1992 where racing legends McLaren revealed to the world what it had been fiddling around with on it’s days off.  Only 100 would be made resulting in the fastest and most exclusive car in the world.  These facts, and the outstanding beauty of the cars clever styling gave the price tag of £634,500 a little more credibility.  It’s competitors? The Ferrari F40, Jaguar XJ220 and the Porsche 959.

So, they unleashed her and then all the statements Mclaren made were realised.  With it’s top speed of 240.14mph (in the pre production XP5 trim) the F1 went straight into the world record books.  The GTR version went on to win at Le Mans in 1995 and then smashed two FIA GT World Championships, helping to really nail the car’s heritage.

Gordon Murray designed 5000 of the Mclaren’s elements, mostly using his F1 expertise so these pieces tended to be carbon fiber, magnesium, titanium which all helped to keep the weight down.  It was decided that the car would feature the world’s first carbon fiber monocoque and as mentioned earlier, the German made 620 bhp engine produced so much heat that they lined the compartment with pure gold! Air conditioning came as standard and there was a pretty incredible seating arrangement so you could take a friend out and scare the bejesus out of him.  Why stop at one friend? Murray made it possible to have two passenger seats inside that little monocoque.  Incredible design!

When the car was first produced it had no drivers aids, that was quickly changed as it was deemed too dangerous for the general public however Mclaren was always on hand to look after any of it’s lucky customers, they even supplied a special high tech tool kit in each car so that the engineers could head out and work remotely on the F1 if it was needed.

Jaguar XJ220

However, this wasn’t the first time a collection of Brits had delivered a globally adored car.  Before McLaren came there was a supercar that caused huge controversy.  The Jaguar XJ220.  A car that got everything wrong except its stats. 0-60 mph 3.6 seconds 0-100 mph 7.9 seconds, a top speed of 217 mph and 542 bhp.  In 1992 until the McLaren took its crown THIS was the fastest road car in production.

Granted it’s not so easy on the eye, at over 7 ft wide its just clumsy looking.  But there is something about its lines that are beautiful and in face over the last decade it seems to have grown in beauty.

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Jaguar achieved what it set out to do with the XJ220.  The aim was to produce a car with the top speed of 220 mph (hence the name) But at the 1988 motor-show Jaguar launched the concept saying she would have a V12 engine producing 500bhp, an all wheel drive system and the scissor doors used on the Lamborghini.  All this at a price of £361,000.

The car finally spilled off the production line in 1992 but the V12 was now a V6, 4WD was replaced with RWD and because of the change in drivetrain the scissor doors had to go.  Along with the price which had now increased to £403,000

The turbocharged V6 made the car quicker, lighter and more economical. It meant the car met the ever harder emission controls coming out of the EU.  Also the V6 allegedly gave more Bhp.  It was based on the Metro 6R4 rally car, one of the greatest sounding cars of all time.  Unfortunately in the XJ220 it was thought the exhaust note was too harsh.

Potential buyers, including Elton John and Sultan of Brunei, had laid out deposits of £50,000 for a car that, on face value, was not what they had been promised.  This was a PR disaster for Jaguar and ended up with lawsuits against the manufacturer, although none were successful. In the end 281 cars were sold.

All this shadows the fact that the XJ220 was an incredible piece of engineering from Jaguar that today, nearly 20 years on, still holds impressive statistics.

Land Rover 4WD

Slowing the pace down a little and heading back even deeper into Britain’s manufacturing history, Land Rover were busy working on something a little bit special in 1948.  Maurice and Spencer Wilks decided they would produce a 4WD utility vehicle aimed at the military and agricultural market.  Inspired by the Willys Jeep, Land Rover became an international hit.  The design was incredibly simple using body panels which bolted onto a separate chassis making it extremely easy to repair using very basic equipment, this gave it great appeal to the British Military and may have been one of the main reasons for its immediate success. The Land Rover boosted the UK’s export economy.

Range Rover

Fast forward a few decades and years and years of the company trying to crack the general consumer market, in June 1970 the first ever production Range Rover was launched.  All those years of refining this incredible car were worth it and the Range Rover was an instant success.  Waiting lists were drawn up immediately, at the time there was no competition for the marque and so it sold, with a launch price of £1998.  A success.

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Range Rover was incredible off road but as an estate car customers were given a real treat.  Space, comfort and reliability all came as standard.  Over the years the car became a status symbol partly due to the high driving position which gave you the ability to look down on other drivers.  

No longer was it just farmers lining up their Land Rovers at the pubs on a Saturday afternoon, soon every Tom, Dick and Harry with a little bit of cash to splash were lining their Range Rovers too resulting in lots of rosy cheeked owners talking over their pride and joys.  Things were a little different back then and the world was a little more relaxed on drinking and drivers.  It was a time before DUI Defense lawyers existed.   

Over the years the car continued to develop and grew in popularity heading across the globe with complete fluidity.  The modern Range Rover Vogue and Range Rover Sport are now one of the most sort after 4×4’s in the world, which is a pretty incredible feat when you consider what they are up against.  Of course, what Land Rover decided to do next was a stroke of genius, although they aren’t the first european manufacturer to make the most out of their classic marques

Since 2008 the classic car market has gone crazy, with the public looking for alternative ways to invest their money the likes of Porsche has seen an unbelievable rise in price of it’s air cooled 911’s.  Land Rover started to notice this fashion too and decided they wanted a little piece of the action so, instead of letting the public take all the credit so at the Salon Retromobile (a classic car show in Paris) earlier this year Land Rover debuted its first Range Rover Reborn series.  A Gold 3 door 1978 Range Rover Classic that has had a complete factory overhaul.  

It isn’t going to come cheap though.  Prices start from £135,000 which is around $169,500 so you might need to save up a little before making that call to the UK.  The other small issue is that Land Rover have announced they are only going to restore 10 vehicles right now.  Of course we are pretty certain this is just to test the market.  Personally we think they will fly out and pretty soon we’ll be seeing a collection of pristine cars from the 70’s through to the late 90’s, on many global driveways.

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