The UK’s car industry offers a great variety of vehicles that cater for different tastes. The prices are high, and so are the characteristics of the cars. Not all the brands are wholly British-owned at present, but all those mentioned in this article build or used to build their vehicles in the UK.
Currently there are more than 30 car makers in the UK and the number of models they build exceeds 70. Here is the list of the most notable British car brands.
Aston Martin brand is often associated with the movie industry and especially with James Bond as one of Aston Martin’s cars was in Bond’s collection of elaborate vehicles. But the company’s life has been even harder than James Bond’s adventures. It has gone bankrupt several times since its foundation in 1913. Despite all the hardships each time it not only survives but also grows in strength. Though, as a result of numerous ownership changes the brand is not as British as one may think. Aston Martin’s present owners are from the USA (Ford), Italy and Kuwait.
Besides the DB line to which Bond’s car DB5 belongs, the range of Aston Martin’s products is very impressive. For the time being the company is building 12 models of sports and performance cars that belong to the category of grand tourers.
The brand has been representing the British automotive industry since 1919. Its cars have always shown high performance. In the 1920s Bentley won the 24-hour races several times, which brought fame to the company in its early days. The following great success was in 2003.
In the 1970-1980s the brand was best recognizable for its luxurious saloon cars similar to those made by Rolls-Royce. The royal family travel by Bentley limousines. For this reason it has always been perceived as a brand destined for the richest people. However, more and more lovers of high-class vehicles with spacious interiors do not deny themselves the pleasure of purchasing a Bentley.
In 2013 the Mulsanne sedan won in the nomination “Luxury Car of the Year”.
At present besides the Mulsanne, the Flying Spur, the Bentayga and the Continental GT roll off the Bentley’s production line.
Bentley used to be in consortium with Rolls Royce, before they were both sold to the Volkswagen Group in 1997.
The Jaguar brand is another representative of the British automotive classics. Its history started in the 1930s. The company was fully independent till 1968. Then it was part of a conglomerate together with Land Rover and later became a subsidiary of Ford MC. Now it is a subsidiary of Tata Motors, India.
The company is planning to stop making fuel combustion cars in the near future and launch models based on recent technologies.
At present the brand enjoys recognition due to its XE, XF, XJ, F-Pace and F-Type versions with an advanced modular architecture. They also offer an electric version, i.e. I-Pace.
Despite the enormous cost of a car with the Land Rover logo on it, these vehicles are common on the British roads. Consumers appreciate their reliability and adaptability.
Land Rover is an acknowledged brand, a British icon, especially after it got a Royal Warrant in 1951. It developed from the Land Rover Series which the Rover Company put into production in 1948. Almost 30 years had passed before the production line became a company, though a unit of British Leyland. Now like Jaguar it is owned by the India-based company Tata Motors.
The model line-up of Land Rovers includes the Defender, the Discovery, the Freelander and the Range Rover series, all of them being four-wheel-drive off-road vehicles of different sizes.
Since its foundation in 1952 the Lotus brand has been focusing on manufacturing lightweight sports cars. They are fast and are among the best cars of this kind. To encourage people to buy its cars the brand was the first to enter Formula One.
The brand boasts of an endless list of the models ever produced by it, but the best known is of course the Lotus Seven. The company had manufactured it for 15 years before the rights to make the car were passed on to Caterham that still uses the original design to build its Caterham 7.
What concerns the road vehicles, the Lotus’s current lineup consists of the Elise, featuring a number of engineering innovations, the Exige, a more track-focused version of the Elise with a coupé, the Evora and the 3-Eleven.
The mid-80s was a difficult time for the brand. It was acquired by General Motors. Then it had Italian and Malaysian owners. Now it is patronized by the Chinese Geely and the Malaysia-based Etika Automotive.
Founded as McLaren Cars in 1985, the company was renamed as McLaren Automotive in 2003. It mainly specializes in sports cars that are not without luxury, of course, and at the same time feature everyday usability.
Both motorists and sports fans know McLaren in connection with Formula One where the brand once achieved magnificent performance due to its specific technology.
The current model P1 features a majestic design, not to mention numerous engineering innovations. It deserves the right to be called a supercar.
The brand launched its first road car in 1994. It was F1 which is still recognized as the best road car of all time. Then a racing version of this model was developed ‒ F1 GTR and in 1995 it won GT1 Championship.
The SLR supercar appeared in 2003 as a result of collaboration with Mercedes. In 2011 the company switched over to the MP4-12C, its own product, and launched it into mass production.
Today McLaren’s offerings are the 720S supercar, the 540C, 570S, 570GT, and the Senna which replaced the P1.
The original Mini used to be a line of small economy vehicles intended for the British middle class. It had been produced by the British Motor Corporation since 1959. The cars were extremely popular with residents of urban areas due to their distinctive design and decent performance. There were eight models in the line and all of them were two-door cars.
In 1994 BMW bought the brand. Gradually it has turned into something very different. The German owner only keeps the name, while all the rest has been changed. The first cars of new generation came off the assembly line in 2001. The current Mini cars are three-door hatchbacks and three- and five-door crossovers.
Rover no longer exists as a company. It operated from 1878 to 1967 and always enjoyed a good reputation as the cars were highly praised for their quality and performance. They could be compared only with Rolls Royce vehicles. The brand’s most successful product was the Land Rover launched in 1948.
In 1967 Rover ceased to exist as a separate company. British Leyland (at that time Leyland Motors) bought it. When Leyland was nationalized in 1978 the assets that had belonged to the brand were passed over to the newly established Land Rover Ltd. Now the company’s marque is owned by Jaguar Land Rover.
The British car industry has always taken pride in Rolls Royce, the embodiment of style and elegance. It came into being in 1904. The company that operates today as a subsidiary of BMW, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited, has nothing in common with Rolls Royce cars made prior to 2003. The successor is Bentley, a unit of Volkswagen AG. Volkswagen purchased them both in 1998. BMW acquired the right to sell the brand.
The process of making a Rolls Royce starts in Germany, and then it is completed in Goodwood, England. The company manufactures such models as the Phantom, the Ghost, the Dawn and others. Enormous and extravagant, these cars can be altered to the customer’s needs.
Other Car Brands
These are a lot of other automakers in the UK, though they are less popular.
AC that stands for “Auto Carriers” is the oldest British manufacturer of sports cars. It is more than 110 years old. There have been different joint ventures which have resulted in new advanced models ‒ the AC MK VI, the AC MK II Classic and the AC 378 GT Zagato.
The history of the Somerset-based Ariel dates back to 1870. At first the company made penny farthing bicycles. Actually, they were first machines. At the beginning of the 20th century the company started building cars. Then they switched to motorbikes and the production lasted till 1973.
In 2000 the company launched the Atom model line ‒ racing cars with an exoskeleton, featuring neither roof nor doors. There have been seven generations of the car so far. Each next generation exceeds the previous one in power, the Atom V8 having a shocking 500 bhp.
In 2015 Ariel widened its range with the Nomad buggy, an off-road car.
Ascari’s specialization was making sports vehicles. The Banbury-based automaker was set up in 1995. The first model Ascari Ecosse was presented to the public in 1998. After 15 years of existence the company closed down.
BAC is the abbreviation for Briggs Automotive Company. It is a relatively new manufacturer of sports cars with a central-seat format. The brothers Briggs who founded it in 2009 aimed at providing better facilities for race enthusiasts.
BAC is known for the Mono, a car with a single seat. Its weight is 540kg, so it can develop 60mph in 2.8 seconds with the 305 bhp engine.
The producer offers the possibility to tailor its cars to the customers’ requirements.
Bristol is known as a maker of hand-built luxury cars. Annual production has always been low. The largest number of cars was produced in 1982 ‒ 104 vehicles. Now this company is dormant but it is planning to return to production.
The characteristic feature of this manufacturer’s cars is that they are the most lightweight ones. The company was established in 1963 and operated as a dealer. Eleven years after its formation the first sports car the Caterham 7 appeared, one of the iconic vehicles of the century. The range of cars made by Caterham is not limited to sports cars. The company builds ordinary road vehicles. Its Caterham 21 enjoys the greatest popularity.
The company also offers the Caterham 7 in kit form assuring consumers that it takes 80-100 hours to assemble the car.
One more classic British brand is MG which means Morris Garages. The MG sports cars are still made in the UK. But in 2005 the Chinese acquired its assets and now it is a subsidiary.
It is the only British company that is still wholly British. Morgan began in 1910 as a maker of three-wheelers. Twenty-six years had passed before the brand launched a four-wheeled 4/4 car. Today they are making the same three models, more modern-looking, assembling them by hand and using wood to make the frame. Every year they make 1300 prestigious cars.
This Leicester-based manufacturer of sports cars was set up in 1999. Seven years later the owner sold the company. The company’s current products include the M400 and the M600.
TVR, founded in 1946, is closely associated with two-seat sports cars, lightweight but powerful.
The brand has encountered serious financial problems. The first one was in 1965. The company was quickly sold, and the production was soon resumed. In 2004 TVR was bought by Nikolay Smolensky, a Russian businessman. The owner made several different companies from one, tried to relaunch two cars but failed to do it.
Recently under new owners TVR has revealed a new version of the Griffith which is to come off the production line in 2019.
Founded in 1857, Vauxhall is the oldest car brand in the UK. Over the period of its 161-year-old history the company has had several owners. Its current owner is Opel, so their lineups are identical. The only difference is that the Vauxhall models such as the Astra, Zafira, Mokka and others are intended for the UK.
Westfield Sportscars makes several models of two-seater sports cars with open top, as well as their kit versions. They are based on the Lotus 7 concept. The company has been operating since 1982.
British cars mostly known as luxurious models enjoy great popularity thanks to their interesting design, exceptional quality and performance. No wonder foreign consumers’ demand for British cars has always been high.