The, ahem, official Top 5 British sports cars. Ever!

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James Elliott
James Elliott's picture
Joined: 2011-03-11

Top 5 British sports cars – the final results (with points scored in brackets) as polled by the C&SC team. Each of the eight voters was given 50 points to distribute however they liked among their top five contenders.

Read, digest, carefully consider… and then please tell us what idiots we are!

1. Lotus Elan (66)
2. Lotus/Caterham Seven (64)
3. Lotus Elise (48)
4. AC Cobra 289 (38)
5. MGB (28)

Also receiving votes:
6. AC Ace-Bristol (26)
7. Jaguar XKSS (25)
8= Austin-Healey (18)
8= TVR Griffith 500 (18)
10= Jaguar E-type (10)
10= Allard K-Type (10)
12= Austin-Healey 'Frogeye' Sprite (8)
12= Sunbeam Tiger (8)
12= Mini Cooper (8)
15= Triumph TR3A (7)
15= Talbot 105 (7)
17. Bentley 4 1/2 (6)
18. Riley MPH (5)

And here's how the team voted:

Julian Balme
AC Cobra MKII (12

But the Ace is so nicely balanced, blah blah. Just give me horsepower. 
A nice early car, 289 powered, no silly arches
Lotus Elan S1/S2  (12)
Likewise – a nice early car without electric windows

Allard K type  (10)
By far the best looking two-seater Allard and with the best engine. Would still find room in the 
garage for the right one
Lotus 7  (8)

Even though I don’t fit in them, a fact I learn’t only after having bought a resto project nearly 30 odd years ago, still think a series two with pre-cross flow is a fantastic bit of kit
Sunbeam Tiger (8)

Build quality probably makes them more GT than sports car, but still hugely underated along with the Alpine.

Mick Walsh
Lotus Seven (17)
Love its uncompromising character. Nothing matches its dual appeal as club racer or road rocket. You may grow too old for a Seven but it never ages. 
Lotus Elan (12)
Peerless handling, compact package and dream steering. No classic life is complete without driving Chapman's gem
Mini Cooper (8)
Rattled everyone's concept of sports car. Big smiles with  every drive and amazing race/rally pedigree.
Talbot 105 (7)
Georges Roesch's understated masterpiece  that runs rings around any Bentley. Remarkable pre- war Rally pedigree too.
AC Cobra 289 (6)
Strictly an Anglo-American creation but really a highly developed AC Ace. Dynamite performance, thrilling  when pushed, but a  relaxed roadster when just touring.  No dream garage is complete  without one.

Alastair Clements:
AC Ace-Bristol
 (12) Still the most memorable sports car I have ever driven, and to me ticks every box: sound, looks, balance and sheer thrills. Not the fastest, but by far the most involving (and, yes, I know a 2.6 is prettier, but I’d have to have that Bristol ‘six’
Lotus Elise
Much as many (including Group Ed Elliott) think I should be tarred and feathered for this one, I just couldn’t go for an Elan because it’s too small for me. The Elise is just as delightful to steer, and has that clichéd ‘Chapman’ lightweight purity that singles out the most brilliant Lotus models.

Jaguar XKSS
So, so fast for a car that is 54 years old – it’s as quick to 60mph as the latest XKR and will outpace it at the top end, too, with the right diff. Incredibly evocative experience, with magnificent stability and sweet, accurate steering.

TVR Griffith 500 (10) 
The ‘hairy chested’ British sports car reinvented for the ‘90s, with just about the best V8 noise this side of Santa Pod. Super-quick, surprisingly capable and ever so slightly scary – it’s a blast.
Triumph TR3A (7)

Tough one this, because I had to choose it over two other all-time favourites, the MGB (a bit too sensible) and MGA (too delicate). Edge-of-your-(bouncy)-seat stuff, with performance to challenge an Austin-Healey and a touch more finesse in the corners.

James Mann
Jaguar XKSS (15)
AC Cobra 289 (12)
Austin Healey (10)
Lotus Elise (8)
Riley MPH (5)

David Evans
Lotus Elan 
Caterham Seven 
Jaguar E-type (10)
‘Frogeye’ Sprite (8)
Lotus Elise (6)

Martin Port
AC Ace Bristol (14)
MGB (12)
Lotus Elan (10)
TVR Griffith 500 (8)
Bentley 4 1/2 (6)

James Butler
Caterham/Lotus Seven (17)
Lotus Elise (15)

Austin-Healey (8)

MGB (6)
Lotus Elan (4)

James Elliott
Lotus Elan (14)
Lotus Seven (10)
MGB (10)
AC Cobra 289 (8)
Lotus Elise (8)

Dinsdale Piranha
Dinsdale Piranha's picture
Joined: 2011-05-24

I can't express an opinion on the majority of those already listed as I've not driven them, however, restricting myself to those models I have experience of, my top 5 are;

1. Mini Cooper.

2. Lotus Elise

3. Jaguar E-Type

4. TVR Chimaera

5. Noble M12


I shall now don helmet and await incoming.




Alastair Clements
Alastair Clements's picture
Joined: 2011-04-20

Hmmm, controversial! Can a four-seater tin-top really be called a sports car?

Magazine editor, C&SC

Simon Charlesworth
Simon Charlesworth's picture
Joined: 2011-05-25

Lotus 2-Eleven (14)

Delicacy or power? In this you can have both, as long as you
don’t need doors or a windscreen... Superb supercharged fun with the
power-to-weight ratio of a ’60s F1 car and ride quality that a 7 couldn’t hope
to match. Once spent 90 minutes screaming around Hethel in the prototype and it
only felt like 30mins.


A.C. Ace Bristol (13)

A beautiful flowing drive with one of the great
six-cylinders. I’d have to go for a rack and pinion conversion, to keep it true
to Tojeiro’s original design and stop the spoilsport Bishop steering box from
raining on the parade. Avoids having to repeat the phrase, ‘no, it is a real
one’ to interested onlookers.


M.G. MGB (11)

A brilliant basis for racing or tuning – whether it involves
taking the modern approach or period BMC Special Tuning. Go for the ST
short-coils and front anti-roll bar and it really brings the rear of this
much-maligned sports car alive. One of few classic sportsters with plenty of
room for the huskier chap.


TVR Griffith 4.3 (10)

I like a car that’s hairier than my knuckles, which the
pre-cat Griff is. Forget the later ones with power-steering (tssk!), go for
manual steering, a chassis with incredibly keen turn-in and none of that nasty
C02 creating tinware that dulls the muscle-car soundtrack.


M.G. K3 Magnette (2)

Nimble, hugely involving and powered by an intoxicating
jewel of an engine – a tiny 1100cc supercharged straight-six. Every
full-throttle blast makes you feel like Biggles strafing enemy trenches. It
only scores so lowly, because my National Lottery pension plan still hasn’t
paid up yet, plus maths isn’t a strong point and I’ve run out of points...

Simon Charlesworth

Joined: 2011-05-27

'd agree with Mick's choice of Lotus 7 as the best. a true sports car in that it ofers the mst fun and feedback to the driver. Biggest grin factor of them all.

Jag XKSS is good with a little more finess

The big Healey has to be considered and the E Type...this is impossible. It like being asked which super model you want to S*&@!!

Zagato's picture
Joined: 2011-05-25

I can't bring myself to contribute to this list because every Lancia, Alfa, Ferrari , Porsche and BMW I think of makes the whole thing feel a little hollow, to say the least. Enjoyed a recent blast in an AC Ace though, and a good E-Type is a fine thing for long journeys.


Don Callum
Don Callum's picture
Joined: 2011-05-30

No Aston Martins even in the running? Oh my good ness!

Dinsdale Piranha
Dinsdale Piranha's picture
Joined: 2011-05-24


Dinsdale Piranha
Dinsdale Piranha's picture
Joined: 2011-05-24

Don Callum wrote:

No Aston Martins even in the running? Oh my good ness!


If some object to a Mini being classed as a sports car good luck getting an Aston past them!


Can I just say how much I'm looking forward to the Top 5 German & Top 5 Italian Sports Car threads so that I can post how I won't be contributing as they're all rubbish because they're not British.

MrBenovich's picture
Joined: 2011-04-12

Ok. My top 5 would include:

- Lotus Elise (or is it Elan. I can't decide..)

- Jaguar E-Type

- AC Cobra

- Sunbeam Tiger

- Austin Healy 100M

Sadly I have only driven 3 of the above (Elise, E-Type and Tiger). Well, technically 4 although the Cobra I have been in command of came out of a large Airfix box or something or other. I desperately want to include something MG and Caterham related but their commonality spoil it for me. Though the R500 I drove at the Ascari race track last year, however, was ball-bouncingly enjoyable!

And in response to Dinsdale Piranha - I would look forward to a German and an Italian version of this thread. But more for the opposite of showing how they are better than many of the British offerings...


Dinsdale Piranha
Dinsdale Piranha's picture
Joined: 2011-05-24

MrBenovich wrote:

And in response to Dinsdale Piranha - I would look forward to a German and an Italian version of this thread. But more for the opposite of showing how they are better than many of the British offerings...


I think you may have entirely missed the point of my comment, maybe I should have made it clearer for the humour-impaired amongst us? :-)  It was a response to Zagato posting on this, a thread about British sports cars, how he couldn't join in because he considered Italian and German cars to be superior.  Maybe the IT bods could arrange for a sarcasm font?