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British sports/racing cars - an industry to be proud of


Cobb racing at Brooklands in the 1930s

In Britain we have become used to the idea that we are pretty hopeless at making cars. Markets now seem to be dominated by German and Japanese manufacturers, and the majority of the old proud British names have either faded away into history or are now owned by foreign interests. This is not the whole story though!

It is true that during the 60s and 70s the British motor industry was pretty well brought to it's knees by a combination of lack of investment, management that really should have done better, and workforces which seemed more interested in getting their rights to costly breaks enshrined into law than actually helping their employers to create a good product and make a profit. At a time of great social unrest the country didn't lose its leadership of car manufacture; it threw it away.

The state is no longer there as a financier of last resort; the majority of the big names have been swallowed up by huge multinational companies; and many of the proudest marques have been allowed to vanish by their foreign owners. However there is still a worldwide admiration of British cars! Such makes as Jaguar, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin, Lotus etc are not only still superb vehicles, but they have history, breeding and heritage in abundance.

For such a small country, Britain's contribution to the car industry, based on dogged determination to be the best, an almost religious worship of the sports car, and an aggressively competitive spirit in motorsport, just cannot be underestimated. This was after all the country that once created more than a quarter of all the cars in the world.

Admittedly most of the early pioneers didn't really have a great deal of business knowledge. The history of car manufacturer is littered with companies that started up and built a few (occasionally superb) cars, only to file into receivership or bankruptcy a few more years down the line. Even Bentley went bust before it was swallowed up by Rolls-Royce, which itself declared bankruptcy back in 1971, and is now owned by BMW, a company which only just survived after the war by making pots and pans!

We now face a future in which the internal combustion engine, which has been the mainstay of car manufacture for well over a century, is expected to be phased out, with the changeover to electric cars. This is despite the fact that we have neither the electricity generating capacity, nor the number of charging points, or even the battery capacities to completely replace the petrol and diesel engines that we've all come to rely on.

Furthermore this will mean the loss of engineering skills, the scrapping of billions of pounds worth of manufacturing capacity and massive investment by the surviving car manufacturers. The future of motoring is looking very interesting indeed; whether or not British interests will triumph again and regain their mastery of the market remains to be seen.

Perhaps universal car ownership will come to an end, with us all jumping into self driving cars which we hire by the day, the hour or even the minute. The 20th and early 21st centuries may be looked upon, in the future, as the golden era of motoring, never to return again.

However, in the meanwhile why not take a look at some of the most wonderful motor cars that have ever graced the roads - all British built, of course!






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