British car manufacturers like McLaren, Jaguar, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Lotus, Aston Martin and Land Rover produce some of the best sports cars that rival their German and Italian rivals. But like every other automaker, the European country has had an equal share of incredible lows when it comes to unreliable cars.
The period between 1960 and 1980 saw British manufacturers produce some of the most beautiful but unreliable cars, either due to poor build quality, outdated technology, economic conditions, government policies, poor engineering or electrical problems. As a result, owning these classic cars led to costly repairs and difficulties in obtaining spare parts. Despite being some of the most sought-after cars today, these 10 beautiful British classic cars have incredibly high maintenance and repair bills.
10/10 Lotus Spirit
Back then, owning a Lotus Esprit made you wonder why anyone would spend more on a Porsche or a Ferrari when the Esprit was cheaper and offered incredible handling and blistering mid-range acceleration. Its distinctive wedge-shaped design and supercar looks turn heads.
Surprisingly, the Lotus Esprit is still affordable today, but the high maintenance and repair costs can be hard on your wallet. The 907 engine in the Esprit is the main culprit that contributed to its demise. Common problems included engine overheating and oil leaks. In addition, the fiberglass bodywork was prone to cracking not to mention vibration and rusting of the steel frame.
9/10 Jaguar E-Type
The Jaguar E-Type reflects what British engineers can produce when they get to work. It captured the hearts of enthusiasts around the world for decades thanks to the car’s superb package and marvelous straight-six or Series III V12 engine. Even Enzo Ferrari couldn’t hide his admiration for the E-Type when he called it “the most beautiful car ever made”.
However, among all the good things about the Jaguar E-type, reliability is not one of them, especially in the Series I model. Owning one today is not easy due to repairs frequent. According to Road & Track, more than 10% of E-Type owners reported mechanical problems encountered in the cooling system, instruments, starter, clutch, fuel pump and oil leaks.
8/10 Aston Martin V8 Vantage
The iconic Aston Martin V8 Vantage from the 70s stands out as an impressive car, provided you can run it. This is due to the typical poor British reliability record combined with the fact that the model is over 40 years old. The finish lacks the crack resistance and durability of modern cars. Aluminum body panels also suffer from corrosion, especially on every part that comes into contact with the car’s steel substructure.
Door sills, window jambs, door sills, and the trunk floor are other issues that will require you to put your mechanic on speed dial. Higher mileage units have mechanical issues in the ZF five-speed transmission, specifically worn bearings and synchros. Finally, repairing the body of the car requires specialized labor and personnel, which is extremely expensive.
7/10 Jensen’s Interceptor
The Jensen Interceptor is popular not only for having one of the coolest names, but also because it is closely related to the Jensen FF – the first production car equipped with all-wheel drive and ABS in 1966. Impressive. However, it is better to look elsewhere when it comes to reliability and durability.
Well, the Jensen Interceptor has an American V8 engine under the hood, but remember it’s still a British car. Two main problems plagued the interceptor. The first is the rust that mainly affected the first interceptors built by Vignale. Second, the car experienced severe electrical failures which prompted the automaker to install fire extinguishers. And being a hand built car, repairs are expensive and time consuming. Simple changes like hood repairs will set you back over $1,000.
6/10 Aston Martin Lagonde
In the 1970s, Aston Martin was in really bad shape. The company unveiled the Lagonda in 1976, two years before the British automaker went bankrupt. The Lagonda was very expensive and unreliable.
The car comes with incredibly modern state-of-the-art electronics ready to fail at any moment. As such, the Lagonda probably isn’t a wise investment if reliability is what you want from a car.
5/10 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow
When launched, the Silver Shadow represented a stark departure from its predecessor, the Silver Cloud. While she was smaller and less attractive, the shade lost weight; it was therefore better handling and faster than any Rolls-Royce that came before it. It has captured the hearts of enthusiasts for over 30 years, something that cannot be said of its replacement, the Spirit.
However, owning one today comes with daunting repair bills. Its size means any faults are more expensive to repair than modern sedans. Sometimes the repair bill will exceed what you paid for that model. ClassicCarMag.net reports that the car’s biggest problems are rust, along with the brakes, air conditioning and suspension.
4/10 Triumph Spitfire
Launched in 1962, the Triumph Spitfire aimed to compete with the Austin-Healey Sprite. Although the two-seat roadster lacked power, its curb weight of 1,477 pounds meant performance and handling were better than expected.
The Triumph Spitfire was very cheap, which we believe is due to the appalling build quality. Also, the frame looked weird and wasn’t rigid. Other common faults of this classic car include problematic overdrive, worn crankshaft on the 1.5 liter engine and worn thrust washers on the 1.3 liter engine.
3/10 Lotus Elan
The appeal of the early Lotus Elans (1963-’74) stemmed from its simple yet elegant styling, light weight and exceptional handling. Performance on twisty roads will make you wonder why other sports cars of the era were so big and heavy. But being largely handcrafted, with many ingenious but lightly constructed systems, buying one usually asks for mechanical ailments.
The most common problems with the Elan all require expensive repairs. Its steel frame often rots, costing around £4,000 ($4,522) to repair as brakes and other parts are usually overhauled at the same time. In addition, repairing the cracking of its bodywork will require the expertise of someone versed in the work of fiberglass, which is also expensive.
2/10 MG Midget
Produced from 1961 to 1980, this two-seat roadster gained popularity with enthusiasts and buyers on a budget. Like the Miata, the MG Midget is a joy to drive thanks to its all-around performance.
When it comes to Midget reliability, corrosion is the main enemy. And although you can buy new panels or shells, they are quite expensive and require painting. Besides corrosion, earlier models with “smooth case” gearboxes are generally weak and replacement parts are not readily available.
1/10 Jaguar XJS
The XJS isn’t as popular and desirable as the Jaguar E-Type, but offers the best value for money. V12 models are surprisingly affordable, but after several months of ownership, you’ll likely be spending more time in the garage than on the road.
Like most Jaguar models, the XJS had issues like engine overheating, corrosion, water leaks, gearbox knocking and stalling. In fact, between 1992 and 2001, Jaguar issued more than ten recalls citing mechanical faults. According to users on the Final Gear forum, early V12 builds could easily catch fire due to faulty engines and catalytic converters.