The mere mention of classic British cars conjures images of quirky open-topped sports cars driven by cap-wearing gentlemen with mustaches that defy gravity, quickly followed by said gentlemen tinkering under the hood of a broken-down car.
Are all British classic cars unreliable? Of course not! The once-famous automotive center of the world has produced some of the best cars on the planet, the fact that a few bad ones slip through the net shouldn’t deter anyone from driving one every day. The great thing about any classic car is the simplicity of engineering, which means breakdowns are normally due to poor maintenance, and that can happen to any car of any age.
Every gearhead should try a classic, and these British examples can actually be daily driven.
10 British Leyland Mini
Arguably the greatest small car ever built providing more smiles per gallon than any other, the classic Mini has enjoyed a huge following since the original launched in 1959, for many owners the classic Issigonis design remains the best.
This was the first truly successful car for the masses, a simple but groundbreaking design that gave gearheads thousands of trouble-free miles. A properly maintained example makes perfect sense for everyday use, especially around town where road space is fiercely contested. The Mini never feels lacking among modern rivals.
9 Daimler Double Six
Daimlers existence is a curious one, essentially badge-engineered Jaguar sedans providing a more upmarket experience for the carmaker’s clients, most notably finding home with British Royalty. This example was once the personal car of HRH Queen Elizabeth II.
Based on the Jaguar’s Series III XJ, Daimlers Double Six has all the credentials of a great drivers’ car, added to which the supremely smooth 5.3-liter V12 engine makes it one of the great luxury cruisers, traveling in silence at speeds well into treble figures. Aside from big fuel bills, the big Daimler is surprisingly cheap to maintain, the lazy V12 engine offering near bomb-proof reliability.
8 Lotus Elan FHC
Unofficially, Lotus played a key role in Mazda’s world-conquering MX-5 sports car, with the 1960s Elan often cited as being a major source of inspiration for Japan’s best export.
To most gearheads, Lotus ownership is shrouded in claims of questionably build quality and reliability, but in truth, the Elan with its galvanized steel chassis and composite bodywork is immune from the dreaded corrosion that blights many classic cars. Under the hood it’s a similar story, a Lotus-modified Ford twin cam engine delivers just enough power to excite owners without reliability issues.
7 Triumph TR4A
British sports car maker Triumph’s simple approach to engineering was possibly a masterstroke when it came to producing the TR4A. Carrying over some lessons learned from the earlier TR3 made it the brand’s most popular model among classic collectors.
Like so many carmakers of the era, Triumph, confident with the engineering side, turned to Giovanni Michelotti for the TR4’s classic lines, introducing the world’s first removable targe roof option on early production cars. For daily use it is hard to find fault with the TR4, its robust Ferguson TE20 based engine should outlive the car itself.
6 Jaguar MK.2
Modern Jaguar sedans lack the classic graceful lines of earlier cars, the 1960s Mk 2 Jaguar epitomizes the brand’s famous advertising slogan, Space, Pace, and Grace perfectly.
Produced between 1959-67, Jaguar’s Mk2 had a mixed audience, those of somewhat shadier occupations instantly loved the performance and handling. No wonder many movies of the era feature getaway drivers at the wheel of the Jaguar’s finest. As a daily driver, gearheads will be content with the mid-range 3.4-liter spec cars providing the best handling experience.
5 Ford Escort RS Cosworth
During the 1990s, Ford’s Escort Cosworth grabbed the headlines for several reasons, mainly due to hooligan levels of performance available from a normal family car. This, in turn, led to owners being unable to insure their cars for fear of theft.
Commonly referred to as the working man’s supercar, the Escort Cosworth had little in common with standard production models, save for its body which Ford cunningly mounted on the larger Sierra platform to accommodate the Cosworth tuned engine. Finding one of these junior supercars today isn’t easy, but with a little patient searching and a light right foot, they make storming daily drivers.
4 Land Rover Defender SWB
The perfect off-roader for urban survival, Land Rover’s classic Defender is still one of the best all-terrain vehicles money can buy, and should the impending zombie apocalypse finally happen there is little doubt the no-frills 4×4 will be ready and waiting.
Admittedly, there are more comfortable 4×4’s on the market, but these often compromise off-road ability or the luxury trimmings we have become accustomed to. Originally intended to be an agricultural vehicle, the Defender’s reputation for rugged build and reliability is legendary. The great thing about owning a Defender is that no one cares about grime and the odd dent here and there, adding to the charm of ownership.
3 Rover SD1 Vitesse
A wonderful relic of the dark days of British Leyland, Rover’s SD1 fastback changed the brand’s reputation in more ways than one. In a move away from the dated styling of its predecessors, Rover claimed the SD1 drew heavily on Ferrari’s Daytona for its fastback appearance, we are not so sure about that, but it did give Rover a much-needed modern makeover.
A great daily driver with Rover’s 3.5-liter lump under the hood producing around 190 HP the later cars had a decent turn of speed, something the UK Police quickly noticed and bought large numbers of SD1’s. There is however a caveat, anything earlier than the Vitesse model will be prone to corrosion, a common British Leyland fault.
2 Ford Capri 280 Brooklands
In many regards, the Capri was Ford Europe’s answer to the Mustang, a fastback two-door coupe available with a range of punchy engines aimed at the working man, advertised as the car you have always promised yourself. Despite the catchy advertising, the Capri was nothing more than a re-bodied Ford Sedan,
And yet gearheads bought them in droves, the final Mk3 model alone selling 727,000 cars in a 9-year period, culminating in the best variant of them all, the limited edition 280 Brooklands. In producing the best Capri ever, Ford also effectively killed sales, the limited edition 280 proved too expensive for owners and spelled the end of the road.
1 Reliant Scimitar GTE
We can only guess what the design brief was for Reliant’s Scimitar GTE. It’s an odd combination of a sports coupe and hatchback that resulted in a quirky shooting brake style affair, at least it is different from the competition.
Produced over 30 years, the Scimitar changing drastically between coupe and shooting brake. However, every incarnation shared a common box steel chassis fitted with Ford’s 2.6-liter engine. Despite the low volume sales, a combination of maintenance-free bodywork and durable Ford engines means the GTE can be used daily as demonstrated by Princess Anne who drove one regularly.
NEXT: This 1966 Chevy Nova SS Hot Rod Is The Perfect Daily Driver
These Are The Coolest Lowriders We’ve Ever Seen
About The Author