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British Sports Cars

The classic front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, soft-top sports car appeared to be under threat from all directions in the 1970s. New US emissions laws were emasculating engines, affecting those European models that relied on lighter weight and relatively little power. Added to this, safety and insurance concerns mandated ugly, impact-resistant bumpers, and there was even talk of banning convertibles altogether—but the sports car survived, and thrived.

Triumph TR6, 1970


Engine2,498 cc, straight-six
Top speed119 mph (192 km/h)

Produced from 1968 until 1976 and similar in shape to the TR5 but with a squared-off front and rear, the TR6 was as muscular as the TR series got. There were some who complained that, like the big Healeys, its power outstripped its poise, but that just made it more fun to drive.

Contoured lines

The side profile was a natural development of the TR4, TR4A, and TR5/TR250, but the TR6’s distinctive, cut-off design was styled this time by Karmann of Germany, not Italy’s Michelotti.

All-British ambience

The driver interface of the TR6 was the epitome of the purposeful British roadster: polished wood dashboard, white-on-black instruments that were easy to read through the three-spoke steering wheel, and stubby gear lever; the predominant matt-black trim cut down on glare.

Power under the bonnet

All TR6s share the same basic 2.5-liter, straight-six engine; for the USA—the car’s primary market it came with carburettors and just 105 bhp, but for European markets there was fuel injection and 150 bhp, later de-tuned to 124bhp.

Lotus Elan Sprint, 1971


Engine1,558 cc, straight-four
Top speed120 mph (193 km/h)

The fifth, final, and arguably finest incarnation of Colin Chapman’s benchmark sports car, the Elan Sprint had 126 bhp of power from its big-valve, twin-cam engine, a 5-speed gearbox, and striking livery. Road manners were excellent thanks to independent suspension all round.

Jensen-Healey, 1972


Engine1,973 cc, straight-four
Top speed120 mph (193 km/h)

Created by legendary sports-car designer Donald Healey, and built by Jensen, this roadster was the first car to use Lotus’s new engine. It was great to drive and light on fuel, but could be temperamental. The short-lived estate version was called the Jensen GT.

MGB GT, 1974


Engine1,798 cc, straight-four
Top speed105 mph (169 km/h)

The MGB GT’s fastback body was more slippery than that of the MGB roadster, so the GT had a higher top speed. It was also more practical, with its tailgate opening onto a useful luggage area, and two small rear seats in the cabin

TVR 3000S, 1978


Engine2,994 cc, V6
Top speed121 mph (195 km/h)

Blackpool sports-car-maker TVR produced this convertible after three decades of being in business. An open-top version of the Ford V6-powered 3000M, it had abundant power, was extremely lightweight and very fast, and boasted tight handling.


It is a quote. The Classic Car Book – The Definitive Visual History 2016

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