Rare 1960s English Sports Cars

Written by rob wagner
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Rare 1960s English Sports Cars
The British-made Austin-Healy is a rare sight on North American raods. (Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)

The British sports car of the 1960s was king of the road in the United Kingdom. Many automakers, particular Lotus and Austin-Healy, demonstrated their prowess on European racing circuits. Their racing pedigree mattered less to North American buyers who bought two-seater roaders just for the pleasure of driving. British automakers generally produced sports cars in limited numbers. Few of those cars made it to U.S. shores, making them particularly rare among North American buyers.

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Since its founding in 1910, the Malvern, Worcestershire-based Morgan Motor Company produces small numbers of sports cars by hand. For decades, the body style of the Morgan 4/4 and Plus 8 models changed little save improvements to meet safety standards. The Morgan 4/4 Series III had a 1960 to 1961 production run. In all, just 58 Series III Morgans left the Malvern shop. The Series IV ran from 1961 to 1963 with only 114 manufactured. The Series V had a longer run from 1963 to 1968 with 639 units sold. These cars featured bulbous front fenders with partially integrated headlamps and an oval grille. Morgan cut the roadster's doors low and the windshield had a chopped look. In some respects, it shared styling cues with the MG TF, but with more streamlined features. For 1963, the Morgan 4/4 featured a 65 horsepower 1.5-litre in-line four-cylinder engine.

Austin-Healy 3000 MkIII

The 1959 to 1967 Austin-Healy 3000 MkIII was the last of the automaker's sports cars as production of all Austin-Healys ceased in 1967. Donald Healy founded the company in 1945 in Warick. The 3000 MkIII was dubbed the "big" Austin-Healys because of its six-cylinder power plant. It also featured several improvements, including a wraparound windshield and roll-up windows. The straight-six in the 1963 model displaced 2.9 litres and generated an impressive 132 horsepower and 167 foot-pounds of torque. A four-speed manual transmission matched the engine. By 1967, the engine generated 148 horsepower and achieved a top speed of 121mph. Only 6,113 1962 Austin-Healys left the factory.

TVR Griffith 200

The TVR Griffith 200 was somewhat of a British-American hybrid. The London-based TVR, which began producing sports cars in 1947, shipped base TVRs to an assembly plant in Syossett, New York, where Jack Griffith and Mark Donohue modified them. The two men shipped some models with the TVR Griffith nameplate were back to England. Another version, the TVR Griffith 200, remained for sale in the United States. The 1965 TVR Griffith 200 coupe featured a fibreglass body. Under the hood was a 200 horsepower 289 cubic-inch Ford engine, hence the "200" in the car's name. Buyers could order a high-performance version that generated 270 horsepower. Its wheelbase was only 85.5 inches. Only 200 TVR Griffith 200s left the New York factory.

Lotus Elan

Perhaps more common than its competitors, but difficult to locate in the United States, are the Lotus Elan and Elan S2. Based in Norfolk, England, Lotus preferred to mass-produce its mechanical components to keep costs down and ensure its cars were reliable. The Lotus Elan featured a 145.25 inch-long fibreglass body and retractable headlamps. Lotus placed the two-seater on an 84-inch wheelbase. The S2 version with a close ratio four-speed gearbox came with a 105 horsepower 1.5-litre in-line four-cylinder engine that developed 108 foot-pounds of torque.

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