Aston Martin DB2
Charlotte Birchall

Charlotte Birchall

Charlotte is a marketing specialist and a writing genius. She has a distinct and hilarious way with words and a fine eye for the best topics to cover. In Charlotte's hands we know you'll be both entertained and informed.

Read time of 6 minutes.

Fancy a classic convertible?

Sleek, stylish and sporty – we choose the ultimate cars for summer driving

Britain is a nation of many things but one thing we do exceptionally well is create cult style icons, especially when it comes to cars.

With automotive giants such as Austin, Jaguar Land Rover and BMC under our belts, it’s fair to say we’ve had a good crack at the whip when it comes to designing high-performance, beautiful cars.

With the summer just around the corner and our thoughts turning to balmy evenings, it only seems right to dream of cruising on country lanes, wind in our hair with the top of our luxury convertible firmly down.

Fanciful thinking maybe, if, like us you don’t have a classic convertible to hand for such eventualities, but we can daydream. To fuel the fire, we are proud to bring you our top five most iconic British convertibles of all time.

1.  Jaguar E - Type

Jaguar E-Type

If ever there were a star of the automobile world, the E-Type would have to be up there amongst the most famous. Heavily featured in silver screen stalwarts such as the Austin Powers trilogy and stylish series Mad Men; the luxury car is the aesthetic epitome of all things Swinging Sixties.

It was first manufactured in 1961 and continued its production run until 1975 when the next generation of drivers turned their attention to German heavyweights BMW and Mercedes in a bid for everyday luxury.

That said, the E-Type was and remains a vehicle famed for its beauty, high performance, and competitive pricing. The first iterations boasted a top speed of 150mph and could go from 0-60 in just 7 seconds. Unlike other sports cars of the time, it featured rack and pinion steering and independent front and rear suspension.

Over the years it has been lauded for its brilliance, winning accolade upon accolade including Sports Car International’s 2004 ‘Top Sports Car of the 1960s’ and the Daily Telegraph’s ‘Most beautiful car of all time’ in 2008.

All pretty impressive but perhaps the highest form of praise it has ever received came directly from automotive godfather extraordinaire Enzo Ferrari, who, on its release in 1961 reportedly described the Jaguar E – Type as “The most beautiful car ever made”.

Who are we to disagree?

2.  Triumph Spitfire

Red Triumph Spitfire on the road

Up next, another beautiful example of British craftsmanship. In the form of the simply stunning Triumph Spitfire. Originally styled by Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti in 1957, the Spitfire was named after the infamous World War Two fighter plane. The obvious connotations of British stoicism worked in the car’s favour and it quickly became a firm favourite with car lovers everywhere.

Michelotti’s design efforts came to fruition a few years later and the first Spitfire rolled off the production line in 1962, making a dazzling debut at the London Motor Show. It was a front-engineered, rear-wheel drive, two-passenger triumph – and not just in name.

The popular design evolved over five production iterations and in its eighteen-year production run, approximately 315,000 units were made.

It became the car of choice for drivers in the street and rally racing communities, proving once and for all that it wasn’t all style and no substance. It won numerous SCCA National Sports Car Championships in F&G production classes.

In 1964 it won its class at the Tour de France rally, finishing second overall. A few months later it also went on to win at the Geneva Rally. In 1965 it won its class at the Alpine Rally.

You get the picture. It’s a beautiful car that delivers.

The final Triumph Spitfire ever to be assembled was lovingly created in Canley in 1980 before the factory closed its doors for good. It was a UK Inca Yellow model with factory hardtop and overdrive, a true thing of beauty. So important was the design to the automotive world that the final Spitfire never made it to public sale. Instead, it was put on display in the British Motor Museum, where it remains to this day, for all to admire.

3.  MG Roadster

MG Roadster

No British convertible round-up is complete without at least one MG, surely? The darling of automotive legend the British Motor Corporation (BMC) is perhaps one of the most recognized and remembered UK-manufactured convertibles ever.

There were several versions of the MG, but the overall premise was the same – a two-door sports car with a progressive design that used a unitary structure instead of the traditional ‘body-on’ frame. The roadster came first and paved the way for its successors, and it arguably remains the best.

Production ran from 1962 to 1980 and the car was an instant hit. Unlike previous sports cars, the MG Roadster made much better use of space for passengers and luggage accommodation, allowing it to straddle the line between luxury and practicality. It offered a smoother ride, owing to its softer suspension and the larger engine that gave it a higher top speed.

As with the Triumph Spitfire, the MG claimed a place in automotive history and the final vehicle ever produced is on display at the Abingdon County Hall Museum – the same town it was manufactured in.

However, its journey to the gilded display case was a little problematic. When it was inducted into the museum on 1st December 2011, actually getting it in situ on its 1st-floor podium was understandably tricky. In the end, officials had to employ a crane to winch the vehicle into place through a first-floor window of the Grade 1 listed building with inches to spare!

4.  Austin Healey Sprite

Austin Healey Sprite

In spectacular style, the Sprite was announced to the market with a flourish on 20th May 1958 – just two days after that year’s Monaco Grand Prix. It was cleverly billed as a low-cost model that ‘a chap could keep in his bike shed’, a moniker that felt suitably in line with the Cary Grant and Grace Kelly glamour of the decade.

The Sprite was a successor of the sporty versions of Austin’s pre-war Austin Seven another hugely popular vehicle. Known in the UK as the ‘frogeye’ the innovative upright headlight design made the vehicle stand out and gave it a playful ‘cute’ appeal. It had originally been intended that the headlights be retractable but cost-cutting at HQ led to the mechanism being scrapped. A similar design was seen some years later though on the iconic Porsche 928.

It was designed by the Donald Healy Motor Company and produced at the MG factory in Abingdon between 1958 and 1971, with the Mk 2 Sprite introduced in 1961. At the same time, it was joined by a badge-engineered MG version known as the Midget. The Midget name was an ingenious revival of a name from their productions in the 1920s and 30s and together the pair became affectionately known in the car enthusiast world as Spridgets.

Sprites are now considered highly collectable and retail on classic car sites for tens of thousands of pounds – which is a far cry from the original selling price of just £669 per unit.

5.  Jaguar XK8

Jaguar XK8

A relative newcomer on the British convertible scene, the Jaguar XK8 exploded onto the market in 1996 and was a hotly anticipated addition to Jaguar’s fleet. The grand tourer was the first generation of a shiny new XK series for the manufacturer – who were notoriously coy about launching new product lines.

Historically, Jaguar’s recovery from obscurity in the mid-1980s relied on fine-tuning and revamping old models and marketing them as a slice of British cultural heritage. It was a genius and highly effective move, so by the time the XK was released, it was set to become an instant classic.

The initial launch car came as a two-door, four-litre engine coupe or convertible. Two years later in 1998, a more powerful 4.2l version, named the XKR was introduced. Both had an electronically limited top speed of 155.4mph.

In later versions, the traditional 2+2 seating arrangement was shaken up and models were offered with an optional ‘Jaguar boot’ in which the small rear two seats were removed for increased luggage space.

In 2001, a special edition XKR Silverstone was produced in celebration of Jaguar’s entry into Formula 1. It featured an exclusive platinum paint finish, specific badges and tread plates and a high-performance package. In essence, it was the same engine as the standard XKR but with the improved transmission, steering suspension and brakes.