In the world of motoring, there are historic British cars that can bring a tear to the eye for a number of reasons. Whether due to their beauty, sound or driving experience, cars such as the Mk1 Jaguar XJ6 or the Austin Healey 3000 will continue to increase in value and are already a collector’s dream.
There are, on the other hand, a large amount of British cars that we would rather forget. While there are ‘a few’ bad cars that have increased in value thanks to their rare status or due to their legendary inability to get you to your destination alive, most of the following cars could be left in a car park overnight in South London with a sign saying ‘Steal Me’ and you can guarantee it will still be there in the morning.
The Delorean DMC-12 needs no introduction thanks to its starring role in the Back To The Future movies. The company, founded by John Zachary DeLorean – an American businessman – made cars in Northern Ireland that were subsidised by the British Government.
While it certainly looked the part, the car itself worked better as an ornament than a car. It had an awful engine that had been previously only used in European family cars, the bodywork was incredibly heavy thanks to its stainless steel construction and a its revolutionary chassis was eventually left out of the final production design as they couldn’t get it to work.
Delorean only ever produced this one car model, and between it’s failed marketing, terrible quality issues and a $24m cocaine deal investigated by the FBI, it’s status is iconic.
It’s always depressing to see a car company slowly dying in its twilight years, but as it was originally built by the British Leyland Motor Company, it’s no wonder that the Allegro makes car-lovers feel slightly nauseous. The Allegro was incredibly famous as a car that, if driven backwards, was more aerodynamic that it would be if driven forwards.
Alongside its square steering wheel, and a constant preference for losing a wheel or two when travelling at 83mph (it’s maximum speed), the Allegro has gone down in history as legendarily bad. Despite it’s useless gearbox, the ‘Flying Pig’ – as it became known – was eventually consigned to waste bin in 1982 when it was replaced by the Austin Maestro.
Originally built in 1971 by the British Leyland Motor Company and based on the Morris Minor that came before, the Marina was so unreliable and suffered from such bad design choices that only 120 out of the 800,000 ever produced are still in working order. While its rival, the Ford Cortina was winning rallies left, right and centre, the Marina often found it difficult to transverse a puddle without breaking down. Similar to the Allegro, the Marina still managed to sell quite well during its production run. Which is a stunning indictment of a buyer’s taste back in the Seventies.
Both Austin and Rover had, in the past, been brands to be proud of. Unfortunately, now that they were a part of the British Leyland Motor Company (you may be able to spot a pattern here), their newest venture, the Rover 800 was a failure before it even started production. Designed in collaboration with Honda, British Leyland made a version that forwent all the advice given to them by the Japanese engineers and decided to make a car with doors that didn’t fit, a dashboard that melted in the sun and an inability to reach the end of your driveway without your transmission falling out. The Japanese equivalent, the Legend, worked absolutely fine of course.
A long-standing joke, the Robin Reliant was actually a surprisingly good seller – but only because it was so underpowered that you could drive it with just a motorbike license. While four wheels appeared to be the choix du jour for most companies thanks to research, physics and common sense, the Robin motor company decided that it made more sense to go with three, because why not.
Built from plastic with the all the aerodynamic technology of a dead squirrel, the Robin Reliant later found fame as the arch-nemesis of Rowan Atkinson’s character Mr Bean, a fitting end to a disastrous car.
After British Leyland’s bankruptcy in the Eighties, the company underwent several name changes before the residual seeping mass of misery slowly reformed itself into the MG Rover Group in the late Nineties. While (embarrassingly) more reliable than many of British Leyland’s cars thanks to its production line being outsourced to Tata in India. Unfortunately, when Brits realised they were paying £6,495 for a re-badged 2002 Tata Indigo – a car that cost only £2,000 to build and buy in India, the City Rover’s reputation was pretty much responsible for killing off both the MG, and Rover Brands for good when they went bankrupt in 2005.
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