If there is one thing the British are known for across the world it is being eccentric. This may or may not be a fair perception but it is certainly one that as stuck around for many years. It might be because we stand outside in the middle of the summer playing cricket while most other nations would have a nap indoors. perhaps it’s our traditional insistence on manners and dress code over comfort and convenience, who knows, but no one can argue as a nation Great Britain hasn’t had it’s “odd” moments when creating cars.
Famous Eccentric British Cars
There are a few cars that, looking back, do seem a little “out there” that you will have probably heard about. Cars like the Austin Allegro; in itself not that crazy but the idea of having a square steering wheel was certainly a little left field. The Allegro was not only a bit odd but it was a pretty terrible car too. The square steering wheel didn’t catch on and although the car did sell fairly well at the time it has not made it into any classic car lists.
The Reliant Robin only had 3 wheels, if that is not enough to brand it eccentric then what is? This little car was actually very popular during the tough economic times of the 70s as it had a very small engine and was originally allowed to be driven on a motorcycle license. There were, of course, a few issues with only having three wheels and it did have a habit of falling over as many of you may have seen on a recent Top Gear episode.
Less Well Known Oddities
As you would expect, there are many more British oddball cars that didn’t quite reach the heady heights of the Allegro and the Robin. There were cars that fell into the sports car bracket rather than the family car and so naturally sold in smaller numbers….if any.
The Light Car Company produce a rather fast little number called the Rocket back in 1991. This was something rather like an old F1 car from the 60’s but somewhat more odd looking. There is no doubt the Rocket lived up to its name though, it went like a…well, a rocket. With a small 1.0 litre Yamaha motorbike engine the Rocket could hit 60 mph in just under 4 seconds and by all accounts handled like a go kart. Slightly scary, rather silly looking and certainly odd, the Rocket was a stroke of British genius. Sadly only 50 were ever made so you can imagine how rare they are now.
Our friends at Reliant, despite many peoples perceptions, actually made more cars than just the Robin. The Scimitar came in two main forms, the early model was somewhat of a bruiser with a big straight 6 and came straight out of the 60’s. With a fiberglass body and plenty of power it was a great car, and not very eccentric at all. However, the brand released a newer version called the SS1 in 1984 that rather changed things. The SS1 was awkward looking at best, it changed from first incarnation by losing the rear seats, the roof and pretty much all the power to leave something akin to a potatoe wedge on wheels. Earlier models had minimal power, this was later addressed by putting in a turbo charged 1.8 Nissan engine but it did not really help things. Although the handling was good, the styling, if you can call it that, was considered too divisive and there were only 1500 ever made.
Britain has a strong history in car manufacture and design. Naturally there are some oddities out there but there are also some motoring legends like Aston Martin, Jaguar, Mclaren, TVR, Noble, Morgan and more. The good out weigh the bad considerably, but maybe the rest of the world is right, we are a bit eccentric, because even though some of our more ridiculous cars are terrible, we still love them.