Our classic car expert, Adrian, compares UK and US classic cars
This is a tough one for me because there are two stances I can take on American cars. The first stance being based purely on function as a driving machine, American cars are (in comparison to European cars) massive, lumbering tanks with the ability to shred the tarmac between lights on the lengthy straights but screech and wallow with staunch defiance when asked to go around a bend.
The second stance forgets the shortcomings of cars with suspension made of soufflé and wings (fenders for those across the pond) the size of a Yorkshire village, there is something that American cars of the 40’s to the 70’s have and that is sub zero coolness. Regardless of what quibbles can been thrown at them about their size and driving dynamics, they epitomise cool and ooze presence from every panel gap.
So, let’s travel over the pond to the UK and have a look at the classics. There is no denying the cars made for the British market were smaller, more nimble but with far smaller engines and output. I will be pitting 4 classic cars from the UK during this period against my American colleague Maggie Murray and her choice of 4 American classics. Let’s see how they compare.
Maggie's picked out a few of her favourite cars from America, check them out below.
Top US classic cars
Although I may not have as much expertise as Adrian when it comes to classic cars, I've gone ahead and picked out some of my favourite cars that have come from American manufacturers.
The Ford Mustang. Can it get any more American than that? Arguably one of the most recognisable and iconic American cars, the Ford Mustang was started in production in 1965. Credited for starting the ‘pony-car’ class, the Mustang has been American favourite over the decades.
Ford Model T
I don’t think it can get anymore classic than the Ford Model T. Making its debut in the US in 1908, the Model T is often known as the first car that any ordinary person can purchase, thus revolutionizing the growth and transportation of middle class America.
Thanks to Henry Ford’s introduction of the assembly line, he was able to slash production from 12 hours per car to just about 90 minutes per car – creating over 15 million vehicles up until they were discontinued in 1927.
Introduced in 1953, the Chevy Corvette is another example of true American car classic-ness. With the incorporation of a V8 engine in 1955 – something that hadn’t been seen before –the Corvette was then transformed into a true sports car. Loved by many Americans, the Corvette is definitely a car that won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
It can’t be considered a list of American classic cars if it doesn’t have at least one massive SUV, right? The Hummer H1 is the civilian version of the M998 ‘Humvee’ and was produced from 1992 to 2006. Probably the epitome of the popular American term ‘gas guzzler,’ 2006 became the last model year due to new emission laws for diesel engine vehicles.
Top UK classic cars
And now, my list of classic cars. Let's see how they compare to Maggie's list.
Over the pond in the land of the free and home of the brave, Ford had massive success with their new pony car the mustang. So, the Ford of Europe decided they will do the same, and the result was the “European Mustang,” the Capri.
The original mustang is a behemoth of a cultural icon across the world but I believe the Capri is the better car, built on the basis of the mustang philosophy but improved upon but I am sure many are going to argue with that stance I welcome your comments.
Ok, the Cobra is going to blur the lines a tad. Yes, AC is a British company and the Cobra is a heavily modified version of the Ace but with an American Ford V8 engine and the vision coming from Legend Carroll Shelby. Shout and scream if you will but this car is sitting in the British camp.
The Cobra is being pitted directly against the Chevy Corvette which is apt since Carroll Shelby first went to Chevrolet and asked them to provide a V8 engine for the Cobra but they declined as they didn’t want to be involved with a car that could potentially be direct competition for the Corvette.
This is such a great debate as both nations have produced some famous off road vehicles but which one of them is the daddy of the group. Well for me, this is the Range Rover.
With the launch of the Bronco and Wagoneer in the states showed that there was a market for a more urbane 4x4 vehicle. Thus, the range rover was born (now known as the Range Rover Classic) the car remained in production basically unchanged for 25 years until the P38A replacement model came on the scene in 1994.
The Range Rover is basically unmatched for its brilliant balance of comfort and luxury, allied with unbeatable off road capability, either on or off road the vehicle maintains its composure with grace and confidence. This blend has not been matched let alone succeeded by any other manufacturer so in the world of the 4x4 the Range Rover classic is king.
Onto the Interceptor. Yes, I have chosen yet another British car with an American engine but it’s such a strangely beautiful car that’s criminally overlooked in classic car articles. Launched in 1966, the Interceptor utilised a Chrysler V8, first starting with the 383 ci engine and then moving up to the 4401 ci in 1971. However, the oil crisis of the early 70’s hit the sales of the Interceptor hard, and with the world wide recession, sales plummeted. In 1975, it was determined that production would stop in 1976.
With a large displacement V8, unique looks and an unforeseen and abrupt end only means a rapid and increasing desirability, but in fact is you can still pick one up for around £15k. Prices vary, but the convertible seems to attract a much higher value which I personally find strange given that it omits one of the most unique features of the interceptor, that distinctive wrap around rear window.
So, who has the best classic cars?
There are arguments for and against both sides but ultimately both nations have created some mouth watering examples of passion, engineering and design. Yes, not much of a definitive conclusion here, but I do believe that without the classics from either side of the ocean, the motoring world would be a little less colourful and a bit empty, and for many different reasons all these cars are wonderful.
Earlier this year, Adrian also wrote a helpful guide on what defines a classic car.