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Roadsters and Sports Cars

Instructed to help restore the UK’s devastated balance of payments after World War II, British car manufacturers hurried to build sports cars to sell in the lucrative U.S. market, where home-grown products were too bulky to match nimble European cars on twisty roads. Few of these British products would last long into the next decade (the Jaguar XK120 being an exception), and mainland Europe saw only a handful of expensive sports cars produced.

Bristol 400, 1947


Engine1,971 cc, straight-six
Top speed94 mph (151 km/h)

Bristol Aeroplanes entered the car market with a repackaged pre-war BMW design, brought back to the UK as “war reparations.” It was a good sporting car and sold well.

Riley RMC Roadster, 1948


Engine2,443 cc, straight-four
Top speed100 mph (161 km/h)

A somewhat half-hearted attempt to make a sports car out of a four-door sports sedan, the Roadster had a single row of three seats and a very long tail. In all, 507 were made.

Bristol 402, 1948


Engine1,971 cc, straight-six
Top speed98 mph (158 km/h)

Touring of Italy gave Bristol an attractive post-war style for the 401 sedan and this rare, four-seat convertible, which has a concealed hood and roll-up windows.

Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta, 1949


Engine1,995 cc, V12
Top speed125 mph (201 km/h)

The first true production Ferrari sports car, usually fitted with this fabulous Touring Barchetta body, won the Mille Miglia, Spa, and Le Mans races in 1949.

Jaguar XK120, 1948


Engine3,442 cc, straight six
Top speed125 mph (201 km/h)

William Lyons designed his 120 as simply a test bed for the new twin-cam XK engine. Huge demand, however, pursuaded him to put it into production.

Austin A90 Atlantic, 1949


Engine2,660 cc, straight-four
Top speed91 mph (146 km/h)

Leonard Lord’s attempt at making a car that would appeal to U.S. buyers was too small and costly to catch on, despite great PR generated by the records it set at the Indianapolis Speedway.

Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport, 1947


Engine4,482 cc, straight-six
Top speed120 mph (193 km/h)

The ultimate Grand Tourer of the 1940s enjoyed a wide range of fabulous coachbuilt bodies, with none finer than this model by Saoutchik. A lighter version won Le Mans in 1950.

MG TC, 1945


Engine1,250 cc, straight-four
Top speed75 mph (121 km/h)

Attractive, light, and fun-if very old-fashioned in its design-the TC sold as fast as MG could build it in the early post-war years.

MG YT, 1948


Engine1,250 cc, straight-four
Top speed71 mph (114 km/h)

An MG sports car tailored for family use, the versatile YT was built only for export. Just 877 were between 1948 and 1950.

MG TD, 1949


Engine1,250 cc, straight-four
Top speed80 mph (129 km/h)

It still looked like a pre-war car, but the TD was beautifully rounded, readily tunable, and had a left-hand drive version too. Worldwide, 29,664 were sold between 1950 and 1953.

Healey Silverstone, 1949


Engine2,443 cc, straight-four
Top speed107 mph (172 km/h)

Donald Healey added the powerful twin-camshaft Riley engine to his own chassis, which had excellent handling qualities. The result was this ideal club-racing road car.

Allard P1, 1949


Engine3,622 cc, V8
Top speed85 mph (137 km/h)

Sydney Allard put the readily available “flathead” Ford V8 engine in a sporting chassis with light bodywork to produce the P1. In it, he won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1952.


It is a quote. The Definitive Visual History Of The Automobile 2011

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