The delights of owning an English sports car.

#1
I've owned a TR-3, two E Jags, and a Lotus and I've come to the conclusion that you have to like English sports an awfully lot to put up with them. Here's a few reasons why.

The TR was an absolute joy for a 16 year old boy to drive around in. On the other hand, the plug-in side curtains only kept some of the snow out, and because it had no heater, it didn't melt but just swirled around inside. This was a disadvantage on a first date.

The 1st Jag was an absolute joy for a 21 year boy to dtive around in. It was wonderfully powerful and very forgiving, but that combination encouraged you to believe that you were a much better driver than you actually were, leading to several near-death experiences.

The 2nd Jag was a gift to my 1st wife, who, it turned out, didn't like shifting a manual transmission, especially one that wouldn't go from 2nd to 1st unless you stopped the car. She sold it and bought a Pacer, which led to some spirited discussion and throwing of things. If the 3.8L had had a synchronized transmission, we might still be married.

I'm still working out why I love the Lotus more than I hate it, so in the meantime lets hear some of the reasons why you loved/hated your English sports cars.
 

roaldin

Active Member
#2
Does a Mini count?

If so: I hated the oil leaks, the exhaust that kept breaking, its splash non-resistance (until an electronic ignition cured that), its sticking rear brake that was never quite fixed, the constant search for exciting new areas of rust, the gearchange that would occasionally and for no apparent reason decide that the driver should not be allowed to change gear at this time, and the number of knuckles I left in its engine bay.

I loved it for exactly the same reasons. Also I loved its rortiness, its chuckability, its never give up performance and its quirky but wonderful handling. I love the fact that it makes a mockery of my hatred of front wheel drive and above all I loved its "soul". :)
It always gave the impression that if you were willing to have a go at something it would damn well give it a go as well. :)

I had a blast in that little car.

Tim.
 
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Jim Craik

Lifetime Premier Supporter
#3
I grew up in California, my first car was a 1963 850 Mini. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.........I was alone in those thoughts.

I was stupid enough to think that I could attract girls with a hot "sports car".

I bought a wrecked MG 1100 sedan, took out the motor and put it in the Mini. The gearing was a little low, but it was fast.

My second car was a 1071 Morris Cooper S. Now I was sure that it was the coolest ever.

Again I was alone.

Since then I've run the gamut, MGB, Lotus, two E-types...........I loved them all:).

If nothing else, they taught me a lot about cars and fixing them.

PS I taught my best friends kid sister Frances to drive in that 850 crash box mini. In the end it worked just like I hoped!
 
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JohnC

Missing a few cylinders
#4
A P1800S Volvo and 2 E-types were what cured me of the desire to ever own another British sports car. The 2nd Jag was the last to go in '75. My wife to be (at the time) gave me the final ultimatum, when her new hairdo and dress were ruined by a ride in it with the top down, and it happened to be raining at the time. The burgundy dye from the seats seemed to have a real affinity for expensive dress material.

I think one of the aspects of these cars that creates the "love" emotion is their utter simplicity, so you can bond easily with them. There's no mysterious, sterile black boxes.

The hate side is pretty fundamental as well. The electrics, the rust, the ongoing unreliability, etc. All fixable, but all requiring constant attention and resources.

I did find myself thinking the other day that a P1800S would be a great platform for a 4.0 V8 swap......
 

Nick

Bronze Supporter
#5
A P1800S Volvo and 2 E-types were what cured me of the desire to ever own another British sports car. ..
Sorry to be pedantic but the Volvo 1800 was Swedish not British, so we are not taking the blame for that one. Although we (Jenson Motors) did build the Frua designed body.

My first car was my granddads old 850 mini which I loved (you are not alone Jim) since then I have had 30’s Brough, Rover’s & Rolls Royce 60’s MGB’s Bentley 90’s Austin funnily none of which ever failed to get home under their own steam, with the occasional road side alterations.

Either I have been very lucky or we were very shrewd in exporting our problems.

Loved them all for their character, simplicity and heritage.
 
#6
I the early 60s we all used to run around in £50 bangers bought from the local scrap yard, and when the government brought out an annual MOT ( Ministry of Transport ) test for all cars we thought it was the end of our lives. At about that time our whole group of mates used to hang around my place talking cars when we became aware of a gorgeous girl walking past every day to and from work. This challenge was taken up by all of us, including myself, but she did not want to look at any of us and our old cars, so I determined to do something about it, borrowed a huge sum of £350 and bought a Mk1 Frogeye sprite - and been married to that girl for some 45 years now ! The reason for buying a Frogeye? - continueing discussion in the MOTOR SPORT magazine about the possibilities of sex in a frogeye Sprite, the challenge was there and proven ! Frank
 

JohnC

Missing a few cylinders
#7
Sorry to be pedantic but the Volvo 1800 was Swedish not British, so we are not taking the blame for that one. Although we (Jenson Motors) did build the Frua designed body.
OK Nick, it was assembled in Sweden from (mainly) British parts; how's that? :)

It certainly had all the endearing characteristics of a normal British sports car and most of the parts:

Jensen body
SU carbs
Smiths gauges
Lucas electrics
Girling brakes & hydraulics
Laycock 4spd w/electric overdrive
Terminal case of rust
Etc.

It's probably easier to list the bits that weren't British:

B18 engine (brilliant motor)
Volvo nameplates
Anything else ???
 

Nick

Bronze Supporter
#8
OK Nick, it was assembled in Sweden from (mainly) British parts; how's that? :)

It certainly had all the endearing characteristics of a normal British sports car and most of the parts:

Jensen body
SU carbs
Smiths gauges
Lucas electrics
Girling brakes & hydraulics
Laycock 4spd w/electric overdrive
Terminal case of rust
Etc.

It's probably easier to list the bits that weren't British:

B18 engine (brilliant motor)
Volvo nameplates
Anything else ???
OK I will concede you have a point and arguably one of it's most famous owners was a quintessential Englishman Simon Templer.

Would have loved to own one. :)
 

Martin

New Member
#9
I've still got my MGB which has been rebuilt into a V8 now. I've had every nut and bolt off that car including the inner workings of the rover SD1 gearbox that it now sports. I ran it for ten years as a standard motor and took it with a mate down to the South of France. Heaven only knows how it managed nearly 3K miles without a problem as it nearly fell apart when it got home. Great memories. It still requires a fair bit of attention now, although I've attended to most problem areas. It's always been and always will be a work in progress. had it for 26 years now.
I had an MG Midget for a while too which seemed a lot faster than it was. A nice 1969 example which was lowered and stiffened up. A real bone shaker. My girlfriend at the time borrowed it for 6 months as her main daily driver. Respect for that.

Martin
 
#10
Perhaps not sports cars, but definately sporting cars.

Mk1 Escort twin Cam (Lotus). On its day, the best car I've owned. Unfortunately that day only lasted about three days. Resprayed under warranty, as the body shell hadn't been prepared for paint by the factory after it's trip from the UK on the deck of a ship! Burnt a valve, again under warranty. Went to collect it, to be told the mechanic was over the road at the BMC dealer, aquiring valve shims from a Morris 1500 to get my FORD going again. Ford Australia didn't have a clue about these cars.

However, Ford UK came up with a car that was brilliant. The Ford Cortina MK11 1600E was the first of the 'Ghia" line. These were never imported into Australia, and to the best of my knowledge, I'd guess about 12 came in. I've owned 2, and they made Aust built models look stupid. Far stronger feeling, demonstrated by spot welds every 3/4 of an inch, rather than the 3 inch spacing on the local cars.

The local Cooper 'S' was a delight, with twin fuel tanks and wind up windows. Pity the 3 bearing crank couldn't handle the pressure.

Clive
 

roaldin

Active Member
#13
Another British car I owned that might qualify was a mk1 3 litre V6 Capri GT.
It had all the great British tech' including intermittent wipers, intermittent headlights, in fact intermittent everything.

Performance was reasonable, handling was questionable and braking adequate - barely...

Didn't really love a lot about this car but it looked great, sounded great and its "mind of its own" electrics made me laugh.

An English Mustang. :)


Tim.
 
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Jack Houpe

Gold Supporter
#14
I had a 65 series 1 XKE coupe, it was a great car after its restoration, heater only worked in the summer and dang cold in the winter. Also I owned two Bentleys, one 54 and the other a 47 that I wish I had never sold, it was a wonderful car except working on the brakes which I would like to have a word with its designer.
 

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#16
I had the pleasure of owning a 1 liter 1980 Mini while living near Toulouse for a while. I loved it.

It's exactly as stated earlier- it was always up for trying whatever you were up for trying. The motor wasn't much to speak of but it got its 660kg's going well enough and always made it back under its own power. My only issue was the master cylinder going on strike (it was in France) while heading down a large hill in the Pyrenees. That was an interesting drive home.

But it did haul my butt anywhere I pointed it, as well as whomever was with me. Three of us with three sets of skis and three overnight backpacks drove it up into the mountains for a backcountry ski/camping trip in the middle of January- packs sticking out the trunk, skis and poles lodged across the cabin, it looked ridiculous enough that even the road crews stopped what they were doing and stared at us as we drove by.

Miss that car, and casually keep my eyes out for one here in the states. I think it'd be a great stablemate for the 40.
 

Gary

New Member
#17
My first British car (a TR6) came when i was 18 years old. I bought it new (pumped at lot of gas and mowed a lot of lawns) and was a wonderful car to throw about. After two years someone offered me more than it was worth so i bought a new TVR 2500M with the help of my fathers signature. With the TR6 drivetrain in a lighter package this car was tons of fun to drive. It came new with pre-corroded electrical terminals with the famous Lucas smoke package. I credit this car with developing my uncanny sense of being able to fix any electrically powered item ever made (refrigerators, vending machines, injection molding machines, you name it.) This car came to an untimely end when a judges wife rear ended it while it was parked and deposited half of the car on my neighbors lawn. (strangely no police report was ever filed and the judge showed up with a check to cover the damage and then some). Hmmmm...... After a 25 year gap in British cars i bought a Mini. I did a full restoration including a modern wire harness and a 1380cc powerplant dynoed at 116hp. This is the most fun i ever had in a car. There was not a Civic in town that could beat it off the line. Initially my son (6'2", 260 pounds) thought it was a stupid car until he took it to school. The girls loved it and it became "his" car through high school. It became the school mascot and was driven onto the football field during home games with his jersey number on the doors. Wonderful times.

I have nothing British at the moment but do know where there is a TR3 that has not run in over 20 years. I should make a call.
 

Jack

Bronze Supporter
#19
Gary, buy the TR3. Check the chassis for cracking and corrosion around the rear spring hangers and crossmember first.
 
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