As national debates go, naming the best British-built car is right up there with whether it’s better to make tea with milk or water first, is it acceptable to mention the war to a German and should we apologise for getting into a lift when it’s not on the ground floor.
So, it was with a certain amount of trepidation that for St George’s Day, Hagerty, the insurer for people who love cars, asked the nation to vote for the best British classic car of all time.
After more than one thousand votes were cast, the honour went to the Jaguar E-Type. Famous for being described by Enzo Ferrari as the most beautiful car in the world, the E-Type beat the second-placed Austin-Healey 3000 and, in third place, the original Mini.
Hagerty tasked a panel of motoring journalists to create a shortlist of the best British-built classic cars of all time, then put the vote to thousands of owners of classic cars, asking them to name their top three classics. More than 1150 votes were cast, and after the final count the Jaguar proved almost twice as popular as any other car – even the Aston Martin DB5 that was popularised by the James Bond blockbuster, Goldfinger.
St George’s Day Top 10: Britain’s best classic car
- Jaguar E-Type
- Austin-Healey 3000
- Aston Martin DB5
- Aston Martin DB4 GT
- Jaguar XK120
- Ford GT40
- Lotus Elan (MkI)
- Land Rover (Series I)
- Jaguar D-Type
Marcus Atkinson, Managing Director of Hagerty UK, commented, “The Mini often cleans up in popularity contests but this time it was shown a clean pair of heels. As a Mini driver, I don’t begrudge the result because it was beaten by two of Britain’s most charismatic sports cars.
The Jaguar E-Type is a timeless piece of design that has rightly been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, while the Austin-Healey 3000 is a quintessential British roadster that is perfect for blowing away the cobwebs on a sunny Sunday morning. But I just know that the debate over the best British classic car will continue to rage on amongst car enthusiasts.”
The Jaguar E-Type was launched in 1961 and such was its popularity that it remained in production for more than a decade, until 1975.
When the car made its debut in the Spring of ’61, at the Geneva Motor Show, only one E-Type was planned to be displayed. But on the orders of William Lyons, Jaguar’s founder, another car was dispatched from Britain at short notice and driven through the night, by chief test driver Norman Dewis, to reach Switzerland in time to wow the world. Dewis then spent time taking VIPs and journalists for passenger rides, and the car left showgoers speechless.