Sunday, December 5, 2021

8 British Sports Cars Most Gearheads Have Never Heard Of

With a vast history of building lightweight cars that uses their powerplant’s potential to the fullest, British manufacturers have been known for their specialty-built sports cars. Companies like Lotus, Aston Martin, MG, or AC could never thrive anywhere else in the world. This was especially the case back in the golden days of the British auto industry. While other companies like Ferrari used bigger engines to make more power and therefore be faster, British manufacturers made their speed by using new materials, lighter bodies, and stiffer chassis. This led to Enzo Ferrari’s nickname for the manufacturers of small, built-in-a-shed sports cars: Garagistas, which roughly translates to mechanics.

When the same British garagistas came and beat Ferrari at Formula 1 and endurance races, the old man respected them, even calling one of their creations, the Jaguar E-Type, the most beautiful car ever made. While the Jaguar E-Type is known and loved universally, the same can’t be said for most other British sports cars. There are some fine cars buried deep in British automotive history that deserves to be remembered and cherished. These are 10 British sports cars most gearheads never heard of.

Related: 10 Underrated British Cars We’d Love To Take For A Spin

Berkeley Cars

Via: Wikimedia

Berkeley cars were essentially the British equivalent of Honda S660. Like the Honda, it had a very light chassis, a handsome design, and a small engine powering it, which makes it economical, easy to drive, and more fun than the spec sheet led you to believe. They even came in three-wheel flavor.


Via: Andrew Bone from Weymouth, England, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Berkeley is one of the most important forgotten marques of British history. This fact boils down to one innovative feature of the Berkeleys: they built one of the first composite body production cars and might be the first production car to use a fiberglass monocoque chassis in 1956, beating Lotus Elite to the market by one year. Today, almost every supercar uses a monocoque chassis to stiffen the car and act as a survival cell in the event of a crash. There were a lot of Berkeleys to choose from, but none of them had an engine larger than a liter. But they have every bit of beautiful designs to make up for it.

Spectre R42

The Spectre R42 was Britain’s spiritual successor to the legendary Ford GT40. Just like its inspiration, it was a low car with a lot of performance. It featured a beautiful design, monocoque chassis, and a Ford V8. If it sounds too good to pass, you are right, it was very good.

Spectre R42

Via Cars Base

It was Ray Christopher’s vision for the modern-day GT40. He was a man who built GT40 replicas for a living, so his opinion matters quite a bit. But the Spectre R42 was also his company’s demise. Once he built the prototype, he knew he had to continue developing the car, which proved to be too costly for him. He reluctantly sold the rights to the car to Spectre. While there are only 23 examples of this fine vehicle built between 1995 and 1998, it was definitely a car that deserves its place on this list.

AC 3000ME


AC is one of the most iconic marques of all time. Apart from giving Carroll Shelby a platform to work his magic on, they also built some exceptional cars that motorized lads throughout Britain since 1913 and gave the world some instantly recognizable British cars like the Ace, Greyhound, and Frua. But the 3000ME was the end of an era.

1979 AC 3000ME

Via: Wikimedia Commons

The 3000 ME was the last car the original AC ever produced. It was based on a prototype called Diablo built by Bohanna Staples, which they bought the rights to manufacture. The prototype generated some hype when shown on the Racing Car Show, and AC desperately needed that kind of hype. It was redesigned and another powerplant was found for the car, and this interesting wedge was ready for customers in 7 years. The new power plant was the 3-Liter Essex V6, producing 138 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque. While it could have been Ford’s Group B monster or the car that saved the AC, none of those possibilities materialized and the 3000 ME faded into obscurity.

Related: 9 Classic British Cars Nobody Cared About, But Now They’re Worth A Fortune

Sunbeam Tiger

Sunbeam Tiger - Front Quarter

Via Mecum Auctions

Built upon the Alpine platform and powered by Ford’s small-block Windsor V8, Sunbeam Tiger was another handiwork of Carroll Shelby. As we all know, he was the man to call if you want to cram American muscle under a small and nimble British roadster chassis. And this time, his victim was the cute Alpine. After he was done, Alpine was a high-performance sports car.

Sunbeam Tiger - Rear Quarter

Via Mecum Auctions

Affectionately known as the other Cobra, the Sunbeam Tiger is one of the coolest British sports cars of all time. It is also largely forgotten, which is interesting because most of the time, even the mere mention of Shelby’s name launches most mundane cars to stardom. But the Tiger flew under the radar for a long time.

TVR Griffith

TVR Griffith 500 - Front Quarter

Via Coys

TVR is Britain’s most peculiar car company. They made some of the most outrageous cars and changed hands quite a few times in the past, but they always made their return with a Griffith. Today we are not talking about the Griffith 400 or the much-awaited 2022 Griffith.

TVR Griffith

Via Hemmings

Instead, we’ll focus on the Griffith that was introduced in 1991 and was produced until 2002. The first generation Griffith was one of the most beautiful TVR ever produced. It was also the sister car of the Chimaera, which overshadowed the Griffith. An exceptional vehicle in its own right, Griffith used the same chassis and the Rover V8 with the Chimaera and was built with lightness in mind with a different shape and smaller numbers.

Peerless GT

Peerless GT Side/front 3/4

Via: Bonhams

Peerless GT is a car that makes justice of its name. It was, indeed, peerless on the racetrack, with some important wins under its beautiful bodywork. It had a fiberglass body mounted on the underpinnings of a Triumph TR-3.

image (1)

Via: Bonhams

This beautiful grand tourer makes good use of all the 100 horsepower and 117 lb-ft of torque provided by Triumph’s 2-liter engine. The lightweight fiberglass body let the car have a 118 mph top speed, which was very impressive for 1957. The same top speed proved its importance in 1958 24 Hours of Le Mans when Peerless GT won its class. But the production was very expensive and production stopped in 1960 after 325 cars were built.

Sunbeam Harrington Alpine

NART's Harrington Alpine

Via: RM Sotheby’s

Sunbeam Harrington Alpine was a car so fine that it wore a Ferrari crest with blessings from the legendary N.A.R.T. A very handsome coupe with phenomenal performance, Harrington Alpine was a special, coachbuilt body that you could buy straight from the dealer.


Via: RM Sotheby’s

Built by Harrington Coachbuilding, the pleasing lines of this fiberglass car helped the car achieve better performance than the standard Sunbeam Alpine. Built between 1961 and 1964, different versions of the Harrington Alpine raced pretty much everywhere in the world, including 24 Hours of Le Mans and 12 Hours of Sebring.

Related: 10 British Sports Cars That Forever Changed The Game

Ascari KZ-1


Via: Wikimedia Commons

Ascari KZ-1 was a result of a multinational effort put together to take on supercar giants like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche. While it was named after legendary Italian racer Alberto Ascari, the company’s owner was Dutch, and the engine powering the car was German, it was designed, engineered, and produced in England.


Via: Darren, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Powered by BMW’s 4.9-liter V8, KZ-1 was the roadgoing version of Ascari’s Le Mans Prototype. It produced 500 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, transferred to the wheels by a 6-speed manual gearbox. It was a fast car. It was also extremely fun to drive, yet the limited production of 50 cars was hardly threatening the big manufacturers, and today, the KZ-1 is largely forgotten.

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