Triumph 2.5 PI Mk1

24 Fascinating British Car Facts People Always Overlook

Britain has produced some of the finest automobiles in the world. Examples include the Jaguar E-Type, Aston Martin DB9, and more. We must remember icons like the original Mini, too.

Some British cars are very obscure. There are various unusual and often forgotten models and some interesting facts about them.

This list will go through some British car facts that you might overlook from time to time. We will include overlooked cars, as well as facts about some vehicles.

The Smallest Production Car Is British

The Peel P50
Image Credit: sv1ambo/WikiCommons.

The unusual Peel P50 is a three-wheeled British car that is also the smallest production vehicle in the world. The P50 has a single-cylinder 49 cc engine with 4.2 hp, but despite its size, it is road-legal. A top speed of 39mph would limit you to inner-city use in the car. 

Argyll GT Turbo

Argyll GT Turbo
Image Credit: Jaimie Wilson/Flickr.

The Argyll GT Turbo is a two-door coupe with a 2+2 cockpit and enough power for 150 mph. But its unusual secret lies under the skin. A 3.5-liter Rover V8 powers the car, but it is ahead of the rear axle, behind the rear seats. This makes this sports car a mid-engine four-seater, a rare combination.

Britain Loves Amphibious Cars

Tim Dutton-Wooley - AMPHIBIOUS CARS
Image Credit: Marten Kuilma/Flickr.

Britain is no stranger to the amphibious car concept. BBC Top Gear showed this to significant effect with their two challenges involving them, including a cross-channel adventure. Tim Dutton-Wooley would create an amphibious kit car in the late 1980s using the running gear of a Ford Fiesta. The Gibbs Humdinga is another British amphibious car, although its body resembles a boat more than a car.

Bristol Fighter

Bristol Fighter
Image Credit: Edvvc/WikiCommons.

Britain once attempted to create its version of the Dodge Viper. Legendary vehicle and aircraft manufacturer Bristol came up with the Fighter. Under the hood is an 8.0-liter turbocharged V10 from the Viper, producing 1,012 hp and 1,036 lb-ft of torque. The Fighter was a monster with a drag coefficient of 0.28 and a top speed of 225 mph. 

A Military Vehicle Became A Recreational Vehicle

Morris Mini Mokes 1963 & 1967
Image Credit: Andrew Wrigh/Flickr.

Retro recreations of the Mini Moke have sprung up over recent years. The original was a British Motor Corporation product designed as a lightweight military vehicle. It was also developed into a recreational vehicle for civilian use, achieving most of its fame as a beach buggy worldwide.

Reliant Robin

Reliant Robin
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Reliant’s Robin is usually the figurehead vehicle of the three-wheeler segment. Introduced in 1973, its size meant it could be cheekily taxed and registered at motorcycle rates in the UK, saving around £55 a year. The early Robin had an 850 cc engine under the hood, good enough for 33 hp.

TVR Cars Were Famously Quirky

412 TVR Sagaris 2006
Image Credit: Robert Knigh/Flickr.

One of Britain’s most famous manufacturers is TVR. The British sports car maker produced monsters such as the 440R and Sagaris, but the company wasn’t without its quirks. To start up the Sagaris, for example, the gauges would spring into life as if they were on a spaceship. And the door handle was a button on the center console. 

TVR Typhoon

TVR Typhoon
Image Credit: John McCulloc/Flickr.

It would be wrong to mention TVR without discussing any of their vehicles. The Typhoon is the fastest-production TVR produced, and the car was initially designed to race at Le Mans. It had either a supercharged 4.0-liter T440 engine or a 4.2-liter inline-six and could make up to 600 hp and achieve a top speed of 199 mph.

TVRs Came Without Safety Equipment

TVR
Image Credit: SAUD AL-OLAYAN/Flickr.

TVR deserves another entry on this list. Some of its cars would often come without safety equipment such as traction control, anti-lock brakes, and airbags. TVR always argued, “Don’t crash”, which, while sound advice, certainly isn’t the safest you could recieve.

Noble M10

1999 Noble M10
Image Credit: Alejo Blanko/Pinterest.

Noble is a small supercar manufacturer that still produces spectacular vehicles. Its most recent is the M600. The car that started it all is the M10, with just six produced. A 2.5-liter Ford V6 sat under the hood and made just 168 hp. However, it provided the baseline for the Noble M12, a supercar that shocked the performance vehicle establishment.

Britain holds The World Land Speed Record

Thrust SSC
Image Credit: Culture Coventry Trust/WikiCommons.

Britain holds the world land speed record, set in October 1997. This was with the iconic Thrust SSC, a jet car with two Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines from a Royal Air Force Phantom. It achieved a record speed of 763 mph and officially became the first and only land vehicle to break the sound barrier.

Thrust 2

Thrust2
Image Credit: AJB83/WikiCommons.

Before Thrust SSC, there was Thrust 2. The driver was Richard Noble, who would lead the team to create the later SSC. Powering Thrust 2 was a single Rolls-Royce Avon engine from an English Electric Lightning fighter jet, and the recognized record speed for Thrust 2 was 633.468 mph, set in 1983.

Bloodhound LSR

Bloodhound LSR
Image Credit: Jules1982/WikiCommons.

Bloodhound LSR, another jet-powered monster, is the last gasp in British land speed records. The original goal was to reach 1,000 mph on land, but now the hope is that it will simply break 800 mph and beat Thrust SSC. Financial issues have plagued the project, but it has achieved a top speed of 628 mph in testing. It currently resides in the Coventry Transport Museum, awaiting its next call of duty.

One Of Britain’s Rarest Cars Is A Humble Triumph

Triumph 2.5 PI Mk1
Image Credit: Charles01/WikiCommons.

Of all the vehicles in Britain in 2024, one of the rarest is one of the most humble. The 1969 Triumph 2.5 PI Mk1 is the UK’s first fuel-injected mass-production saloon. Under the hood, it had a 2,498cc straight-six-cylinder unit, a detuned version of the TR5 sports car’s engine. Sadly, the usual British Leyland quality issues stifled a vehicle that could have rivaled those from Lancia or Alfa Romeo.

McLaren F1

1995 McLaren F1
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The McLaren F1 is easily one of the world’s most impressive and iconic supercars. As designed by Gordon Murray, it has a 6.1-liter BMW V12 under the hood, and it is still the world’s fastest naturally-aspirated production car at 240 mph. What makes the F1 so unusual is the central seating position for the driver, with a passenger on either side of them.

The McLaren F1 Won The Le Mans 24 Hours Outright

Mclaren F1 GTR - Le Mans 1995
Image Credit: Martin Lee/WikiCommons.

The F1 was not a race car, but McLaren would give the car a shot at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It would go on to win the 1995 edition of the race as it stormed through the field in the rain, beating dedicated Le Mans prototypes that it had no right to do so. It was McLaren’s first attempt at Le Mans and their first win at the event.

A V6-Powered Supercar Was Once The Production Record Holder

1993 Jaguar XJ220-S
Image Credit: Perico001/Flickr.

Jaguar designed the XJ220 with a big 6.2-liter V12 engine in mind. But this elegant super would enter production with a 3.5-liter turbocharged Jaguar V6, producing 542 hp. Even if that disappointed customers, the XJ220 still achieved a top speed of 212.3 mph. At the time, it was the fastest production vehicle in the world. 

British Leyland Suffered From A Wide Array Of Problems

British Leyland Princess HL 1979
Image Credit: DeFacto/WikiCommons.

British Leyland was one of the biggest names in the British automotive industry. But its life was sadly characterized by a wide array of issues. Poor quality control and vehicle build quality were notable, as were chronic unreliability and the ability to rust exceptionally quickly. A lack of competent management was to blame for many of these problems.

Midas Cars

Midas 1979
Image Credit: No Author/WikiCommons.

Midas was one of the most obscure and unknown of all British automotive manufacturers. The company’s big focus was on kit cars, and it developed quite the enthusiast following from the late 1970s onwards. The company went under in 2003. But it returned a few years later, with molds to their vehicles found in Germany, allowing production to restart.

TVR Cerbera Speed 12

TVR Cerbera Speed 12
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Another TVR that deserves a mention is the Cerbera Speed 12. The car was first conceived as “Project 7/12” in the 1990s to create a TVR to rival the McLaren F1 GTR. Following various issues, such as rule changes in FIA GT racing, a sole Speed 12 emerged in 2005. Under the hood is a race-bred, 7.7-liter V12 engine that produces 840 hp, while the original engine produced a massive 960 hp.

Ginetta Akula

Ginetta Akula
Image Credit: Birgir & Björn Kristinsson/Flickr.

The forthcoming Ginetta Akula is a supercar that promises impressive performance. It will weigh just 2,535 lbs, and under the hood, it will have a 6.0-liter naturally-aspirated V8 with 600 hp. Ginetta primarily focuses on racing, so seeing it produce a road-going supercar is unusual.

The Hillman Imp Had An Engine In The Trunk

Hillman Imp
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The Hillman Imp is a famous compact car from the 1960s, but its size is not the most well-known fact. Under the hood of the Imp is a small 875 cc or 998 cc straight-four, but it was under the trunk of the car. This engine layout helped it gain its cult following. 

Aston Martin’s Lagonda Had A Digital Dashboard

Aston Martin Lagonda in a Front Quarter View
Image Credit: WikiCommons

The sensational Aston Martin Lagonda of the late 1970s and early 1980s was a hugely expensive yet luxurious car, costing around $380,000 in today’s money. One of its standout features was its digital dashboard, using CRT projectors like in an old TV. Sadly, it was unreliable, and later models had a more boring conventional dash.

The Aston Martin DB9 Is Faster Than A Train

2003 Aston Martin DB9
Image Credit: Aston Martin.

In series 4 of BBC Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson raced against James May and Richard Hammond, who paired up on public transport. Clarkson drove the gorgeous Aston Martin DB9 as his colleagues attempted to show that high-speed rail travel is faster than a car. However, it wasn’t to be for Hammond and May, with Clarkson and the DB9 winning the race.

Henry Kelsall

Author: Henry Kelsall

Title: Writer

Bio:

Henry has freelanced for over eight years now, mostly in automotive matters, but he has also dabbled in other forms of writing too. He has a lot of love for Japanese classics and American muscle cars, in particular the Honda NSX and first-generation Ford Mustang. When not writing, Henry is often found at classic car events or watching motorsports at home, but he also has a curious passion for steam trains.

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