Italians are undoubtedly the kings of the sports car industry, but British automakers gave them a run for their money throughout the 20th century. British automakers like Aston Martin, Jaguar, Bentley, and McLaren are responsible for building some of the greatest European cars, including icons like the McLaren F1, Aston Martin DB5, and Jaguar E-Type. However, owning most classic British sports cars isn’t an option for budget-minded gearheads, as they can cost millions.
Not to worry, though. If you’re looking for an affordable classic British sports car, there are plenty of options in the used car market that still look good enough to turn heads today and are fun to drive. Read on to learn more about them.
10 Lotus Elise S1 – $30,000
In 1996, Lotus introduced a car that changed how manufacturers developed sports cars forever. As a general rule, the more powerful a car is, the more fun to drive it’s likely to be. The Lotus Elise proved to be the exception to the rule, as it managed to deliver an exhilarating driving experience despite only having 116 hp.
To achieve this, Lotus used an aluminum chassis and fiberglass body, resulting in a weight of just 1,598 lbs. This not only made the Elise super fun to drive, but it’s also the reason it’s cheap.
9 Aston Martin DB7 – $25,500
In the late ’80s, Ford bought Aston Martin with a clear plan that would make the British marque profitable again, by building an entry-level grand tourer that many could afford. The result was the DB7.
The DB7 was based on an evolution of the Jaguar XJS platform (Ford also owned Jaguar at the time) to keep costs down, but it had a beautifully designed body that many loved and the option of a mighty V12, which explains why it became the best-selling Aston Martin model. With prices still under $30,000, the DB7 is among the most affordable V12-powered sports cars in the market.
8 Lotus Esprit – $25,000
Lotus has lost the plot over the last few decades in the eyes of most gearheads, but it will always be an iconic brand to many. One car that helped Lotus earn respect from gearheads worldwide is the Esprit.
Introduced in the ’70s, the Esprit had a lot going for it. For one, it was among Giorgetto Giugiaro’s first polygonal “folded paper” designs and was among the popular poster cars back then. The Esprit was also fun to drive, especially the turbocharged versions. The icing on the cake is the Esprit’s status as one of the most popular movie cars, having been featured in James Bond’s The Spy Who Loved Me.
7 Lotus Elan – $25,000
Lotus has built many iconic cars, but the one that earned respect from everyone in the auto industry was the Elan. Unveiled in 1962, the Elan had a fantastic design that later served as the benchmark for the Mazda MX-5 Miata and many advanced technologies for the time.
The Elan had a DOHC four-cylinder engine, four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and rack and pinion steering that gave it great handling. The renowned Gordon Murray reportedly said that one of his biggest regrets with the McLaren F1 is that it didn’t have the Elan’s ‘perfect steering.’
6 TVR Chimaera – $25,000
When asked to name top British automakers, gearheads immediately think of Aston Martin, Jaguar, and Bentley. TVR will rarely be mentioned, even though it has made some pretty cool cars over the years.
One car that showed the world that TVR knows how to build a proper sports car is the Chimaera. Introduced in the ’90s, the Chimaera had an eye-catching design and the power to match, thanks to its 5.0-liter V8 with 340 hp on tap.
5 Sunbeam Alpine – $19,000
Introduced in the late ’50s, the Sunbeam Alpine is a superb roadster built by the Rootes Group, which was a conglomerate of small British automakers. Sunbeam had used the ‘Alpine’ name on another model built almost a decade earlier, but it was nowhere near as stylish and sporty as the 1959 Alpine.
The Alpine initially had an 80-hp four-cylinder engine under the hood but was later upgraded to 100 hp, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was enough back then.
4 Triumph Stag – $16,000
In the ’70s, Triumph decided to build the ultimate luxury sports car that would compete against anything from Italy, resulting in the Stag. The Stag wowed gearheads when it debuted, largely thanks to its superb design, which was penned by the renowned Giovanni Michelotti.
The Stag was so good-looking that it was featured in the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. Although Triumph doesn’t build cars anymore, there are still thousands of Stags on the road today and multiple specialist suppliers to make life with them easy.
3 Jaguar XK8 – $15,000
The aforementioned XJS wasn’t a great success for Jaguar, as many felt it was too much of a downgrade compared to the E-Type it replaced. As such, Jaguar wanted to ensure that the successor to the XJS was a massive improvement, and the XK8 turned out to be just that.
For starters, the XK8 looked much better than the XJS. It also had plenty of power to play with, thanks to a 4.0-liter V8 engine dishing out 290 hp.
2 Jaguar XJS – $14,000
The XJS is a superb luxury grand tourer Jaguar introduced in 1974 to replace the iconic E-Type. The XJS had massive shoes to fill from the get-go, especially in the design department, and its failure to do so has turned it into a failure in most gearheads’ eyes.
However, we don’t think it’s that bad. It may not be as pretty as the E-Type, but it still looks like a cool classic car and comes with a huge V12 engine that sounds great.
1 MG MGB – $13,000
MG has been quiet in the 21st century, but it was among the top British sports car manufacturers of the 20th century. MG was known for its stylish, affordable sports cars, and the MGB was among the best.
The MGB is a two-seater roadster that many gearheads loved, largely thanks to its beauty. The MGB is probably not the car to buy if you’re interested in speed, as it made less than 100 hp, but it’s perfect for cruising leisurely with the top down and the wind in your hair.