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10 Classic Cars That Made Britain

10 Classic Cars That Made Britain

By Giles Chapman, editor on The Classic Car Book

Far from just a means of transport, a great car has the power to represent style, mobility, modernity and prestige. And lucky for us Brits, the history of British motoring has been blessed with some truly great automobiles.

To honour this rich, wheeled history, journalist, author and The Classic Car Book editor Giles Chapman takes us on a race through the ages. From iconic to economical, for leisure and for luxury, these are the cars that defined Britain.

1. 1948 Jaguar XK120

Photograph of 1948 Jaguar XK120

Image: Dorling Kindersley: Matthew Ward / Jeff Hine

A beautiful two-seater sports car with a stunning, brand new engine that set new benchmarks of performance with its 120mph top speed.

2. 1948 Morris Minor

Photograph of 1948 Morris Minor

Image: Dorling Kindersley: Matthew Ward / E.J. Warrilow

One of the best-loved small family cars of the post-war period. The Minor was great to drive, if a little slow, easy to own and had enormous character. It became the first British car to reach sales of 1 million in 1960.

3. 1952 Bentley R-type Continental

Photograph of 1952 Bentley R-type Continental

Image: Dorling Kindersley: Matthew Ward

A stunning mixture of sleek styling and continent-shrinking high performance. At the time of its launch this was one of the world's most beautiful, powerful and desirable cars, and all totally handmade.

4. 1956 Ford Zephyr Mk II

Photograph of 1956 Ford Zephyr Mk II

Ford drew on American influences at its parent company for the image of this handsome family car, featured in the centre left of this spread. With two-tone paint, whitewall tyres and a powerful engine, it was a large family car to be proud of in 1950s Britain.

5. 1959 Mini

Book spread including 1959 Mini

Classless style and advanced technology made this one of the key cars of the 1960s, featured on the bottom left of this spread. It was fashionable and, in Cooper guise, could be very fast. Everyone loved it

6. 1959 Jaguar Mk2

Book spread including 1959 Jaguar Mk2

Britain invented the rapid sports saloon with this sleek number (on the left of this spread), dripping with chrome and – in the wrong hands – able to out-run the cops as a getaway car. It's enjoyed classic status for many decades, and is still revered now.

7. 1970 Range Rover

Book spread including 1970 Range Rover

You’ll find this one across the top of this spread. Here Britain breaks totally new ground with the first off-road vehicle that was also a luxury saloon. Superb design meant the stylish Range Rover could really perform in the rough, and then pull up elegantly outside Harrods even if coated in mud!

8. 1971 Rolls-Royce Corniche

Book spread including 1971 Rolls-Royce Corniche

Image: Dorling Kindersley: James Mann / Chris Routledge

This is the convertible version of the Silver Shadow, a luxury soft-top for the super rich, built with painstaking care as only Rolls knew how. No other car drives or feels like it.

9. 1980 Austin mini-Metro

Book spread including 1980 Austin mini-Metro

In the top left of this spread, a valiant attempt to save British Leyland's bacon, with a small family hatchback to take on the Ford Fiesta and Renault 5. A good little car and a piece of the vanishing roadscape of 1980s Britain.

10. 1985 Ford Sierra RS Cosworth

Book spread including 1985 Ford Sierra RS Cosworth

An amazing turbocharged version of the reps' favourite gave shattering performance, triumphed in motor sport, and was a lairy boy racer's darling.

From the Chevrolet Bel Air to the Ferrari Testarossa, The Classic Car Book showcases the most important and iconic classic cars from every decade since the 1940s. Fully illustrated and packed with stunning photography, The Classic Car Book uses specially commissioned photographic tours to put you in the driver's seat of the world's most famous vintage cars, including stylish roadsters and luxury limousines from manufacturers such as Mercedez-Benz, Ferrari, Rover, Jaguar, and Bentley

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