Sportscars – Brits still do it best?

Recent rides confirm, when it comes to sportcars and roadsters, the best thoroughbreds are still British

By Shahzad Sheikh

Sportscars – Brits still do it best?

It could be argued that Britain doesn’t really have a car industry anymore – at least not like before. MG has been shanghaied by the Chinese; Rover is dead; Rolls-Royce, Bentley and even Mini is German (to the loser go the spoils); and Jaguar / Land Rover are now as English as Chicken Tikka Masala. Frankly even Lotus is foreign-owned (Proton, Malaysia).

But Lotus is special and, along with a handful of other small British car makers, is able to consistently create genuinely special driving machines. Sportscars and Roadsters – the British still do it best. [Read our Lotus reviews here]

Lotus Elise S – video review

One of my other favourite UK cottage industry cars are Caterhams, also sired by Lotus, also owned by the Malaysians (and also coming here to the UAE officially through the same dealer as Morgan – stay tuned for more news soon!).

They were originally the Lotus 7, then Caterham bought the tooling for the car in the early 70s and has been building essentially the same car, now nearly 60-years old, to great effect, ever since.

Last week I finally got to sample a Morgan Roadster – almost eight decades old in its basic design – that had somehow evaded me thus far. As with the Caterham, it may have a modern mechanical heart, but at its core it retains the quality of classic roadster motoring.

Never happy with the roof up, it nonetheless writes the kind of stirring score for roving around with the roof down, that other manufactures can only dream of humming today.

Morgan Roadster with Mustang power – review

All of these cars are an absolute joy to peddle hard – motoring nirvana if you will. And there is a key theme that applies to all three – simplicity. Basic motoring, minimal weight, adequate power, superb dynamics, and sufficient but not excessive grip – all add up to raw thrills.

Driving these cars is to soak in a driving experience that engages, inspires and excites in ways that other present day contemporaries just can’t get anywhere near. And to be honest, they never will, as they have gone too far down the route of embracing complexity, often for complexity’s sake. Yes they’re more comfortable, practical, sensible and safe, but they’re just too isolated from the drive, with their autos, NVH insulations, driver’s aids and safety systems.

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Sure, the Germans build incredible and unburstable cars that are precise and very fast, the Italians make the sexy stuff mass-marketable, the Americans rock your world with shock-and-awe tactics and the Japanese… ah well the Japanese have been so busy looking over their shoulders at the Koreans since the 1980s, that they’ve almost forgotten how to build the cool coupes they’d mastered in the 1980s.

There is no disputing the fact that there are awesome and hugely desirable cars coming out of each of these markets: the AMG GT S is amazing, the RS6 Avant a monster family car, Lamborghini’s Aventador is legend and I’d happily order a his and her Hellcat from Dodge today without hesitation – if there were any available that is!

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As for the Japanese, there’s the Nissan GT-R, 370Z and of course the brilliant Mazda MX5 and Toyota 86, a pair that probably come closest to emulating the spirit of British sportcars (the former was inspired by the Lotus Elan for goodness sakes!).

Admittedly the only other manufacturer to come close to providing a genuinely visceral driving experience in today’s market – and that too with a completely new car – is Alfa Romeo with the stunning and delicious 4C. But for that they had to scrap their entire playbook and start from scratch – though thank God they did!

Alfa Romeo 4C

Lotus, Morgan and Caterham though… they’ve got it nailed. No compromises, love em or hate em, you can’t dismiss them. Not if you really, truly, totally want to devour the pure essence of what it means to actually pilot a car yourself.

You have to work hard at these cars, but the rewards are great. The driving is intense, immersive, focussed. You feel mechanical life, you speak to automotive souls and you pray to God that in heaven, only the British make the sportscars.

Sportscars – Brits still do it best?

Do you think Shahzad is right or talking utter balderdash! Tell us in the Comments section below


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