I was asked once (by a landlord who was skeptical of my job description, if I remember correctly) what country I thought built the coolest cars. It’s not the kind of question I think about too often, so the answer took me a moment’s reflection. Avoiding the only answer based a dogmatic interpretation of the term “cool” (Italy), I went with the UK. From Rolls-Royce to MINI, Old Blighty’s given us some of the world’s coolest cars, and most compelling automotive brands. And despite having lost its mainstream auto industry to industrial malaise, Britain’s classic brands and cottage car industry have remained surprisingly resilient. Food for thought, that. Anyway, here are a few examples of what I’m on about…
Jaguar hasn’t been British-owned for some time, but it’s as British as brands get. And when I spoke to Chief Designer Ian Callum last Winter, he exhibited little nostalgia for the days of Ford ownership. What Callum did talk about at great length, incurable car nut that he is, was his desire to design a mid-engine supercar. There’s no hint of that yet, but with Tata promising a billion pounds per year over the next five years for the Jaguar-Land Rover cause (Cheers, China!), an F-Type roadster appears to be “imminent” (to be followed by an XF Wagon, XF Coupe, and 3-series competitor, if you’re good). Keep in mind, this is not necessarily the F-Type concept that has been cruelly dangled in front of the Jaguar faithful since, oh, 1998, but a “driver-focused roadster” nonetheless. In fact, given the history here, we’d have to say that the odds of a faithful production version of the F-Type concept are about the same as a Cayman Turbo’s.
Speaking of which, not every sportscar company is so cynical as to deny a good car its best engine just because it might upset its cynical pricing politics. Lotus has apparently dropped the V6 from its Evora Cayman-fighter into an Elise-based Exige mule and has been throwing it around a track. With great results, doubtless. Where this maniacal little trackday racer might end up in Lotus’s lineup (if it’s built at all) is not at all clear, but remember, cool and financially sound rarely go hand-in-hand.
McLaren’s F1 recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and assembled 21 F1s for the occasion. Sorry, not that kind of assembled. And the timing couldn’t be better, with McLaren just launching its first own-brand road car since the F1. After all, you can’t just make the largest-ever order of carbon monocoques for a production-series car and expect the press to line up at your door.
Especially when you’ve got to share the spotlight with the designer of the F1, who has gone coocoo for compacts. Make that subcompacts. Er, sub-subcompacts. OK, whatever segment a 1,500 lb 3-seater goes in. Specs for Gordon Murray’s 80-mile, 65 MPH EV T.27 at GreenCarCongress. We’ll wait for the inevitable club racer version. In Britain, it’s as inevitable as a 400-horsepower Impreza.