The release of the new range of MGs, the MG6 GT, MG Zero Concept and the MG 5 Concept this year has caused a slight stir throughout the industry, bringing this great British classic back to life and recalling bygone days of British engineering glory.
The motor industry in the UK really began at the end of the 19th century, when the Daimler Motor Company began its first serial production of motor cars in Coventry; after the lifting of rather severe restrictions on the trade designed to protect the highways. The first completely British built motor appeared in 1900, designed by Herbert Austin who launched the famous Austin Car Works in Longbridge, Birmingham. Other early movers and shakers included Henry Ford in Manchester, Sunbeam in Wolverhampton and Rover, who began some years earlier in bicycle manufacture and were based in Coventry, moving to Solihull at the end of the Second World War. Morris and Singer soon joined them, creating a solid foundation for the British motor industry.
The years of the Great War (WW1) had a serious effect on the industry. Much industry was geared towards the war effort and production of weapons and armoury, meaning that motor car development took a back seat, but new, automated methods of production and leaps forward in design facilitated by this increase in mass production were to have a very positive result across the industry. The Second World War had much the same result, and laws controlling the use of steel in the export markets meant that by the middle of the twentieth century, Britain’s automobile trade was thriving, exporting more cars across the globe than any other country. Although American and German production began to ramp up, the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s saw the production of many of the great British classics still venerated by today’s enthusiast.
British design and production has resulted in arguably some of the most iconic car designs of all time:
The Jaguar E Type
Of its time and yet utterly modern, the E Type has a huge fan base which grew from humble beginnings from its initial release in 1961, through to and past final production in 1975. Reasonably economic pricing meant that somewhere in the region of 70,000 were sold. It’s incredibly sleek, distinctive front end has been the inspiration for countless sports cars ever since, gaining cult status throughout the industry.
To many, MG was the ultimate in British sports cars. The MGB in all its forms was the world’s best selling sports car, and came as a roadster or coupe. The design was modern and lightweight for its era, making it a reasonably priced performance option with a distinctive look.
The Mini Cooper
Another 1960’s icon has to be the Mini. Popularised in The Italian Job, this little car became the epitome of British city life as fashionable as Mary Quant. Another big seller, the Mini worked as a run-around, a performance car and even a rally motor, and its classic design, though utterly revamped, is still rolling off production today, with fascinatingly 1960’s inspired concept cars being shown each year.
The Rolls Royce Silver Shadow
The Silver Shadow was produced throughout the 60’s into 1980, and was long the height of luxury, and presented an innovative design from the manufacturers in keeping with the periods standards of comfort and splendour. A favoured mode of wedding transportation, this British classic actually sold incredibly well in the USA. It’s distinctive grill, powerful engine and solid, beautifully built design have appealed throughout the ages.
The Aston Martin DB5
Another luxury brand, Aston Martin, produced the utterly cult DB5. An absolute design classic, famously favoured by James Bond, with the prototype model actually being used for filming in 1964’s Goldfinger. Packed with luxurious features and bold styling, this car was, and is, James Bonds perfect motor.