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14 Alternative Sports Cars

14 Alternative Sports Cars Published: 13th Dec 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

14 Alternative Sports Cars
14 Alternative Sports Cars
14 Alternative Sports Cars
14 Alternative Sports Cars
14 Alternative Sports Cars
14 Alternative Sports Cars
14 Alternative Sports Cars
14 Alternative Sports Cars
14 Alternative Sports Cars
14 Alternative Sports Cars
14 Alternative Sports Cars
14 Alternative Sports Cars
14 Alternative Sports Cars
14 Alternative Sports Cars
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Here’s 14 alternatives to any Jag or Healey, a baker’s dozen of delightful British Bulldogs and a modern German infiltrator that thinks it’s a retro roadster…


Capital A

The MGA was the link between the raffish war-time MG sportsters and the brave new style fit for the 50s. Based upon the TF chassis but with mechanicals that were to be found later on the MGB, for many it represents the best of both worlds and certainly more an all out sports car than its 60’s replacement. With only a small bore (1489/1622cc) four-cylinder engine, the MGA is frisky rather than fast but, as we all know, this is easily rectified – see our guide in this issue! Ultimate MGA is the Twin Cam that, with almost 110bhp and (Jaguar-type) Dunlop disc brakes all round, is as fast as any Big Healey and that once fickle Weslake-designed engine is now a gem, albeit a costly one to maintain and repair. TCs sell for double what normal MGAs fetch but will be worth the most in the future. However, a regular MGA is just as much fun as well as being more usable. And those looks…

Triumph TR7-V8/TR8

The true modern Healey?

You can argue that if the TR7 had stayed in production longer and the TR8 properly launched (only a handful of UK models were sold), then this modern Healey would now be an even hotter classic than it’s become. This last-of-the-line of TRs was always designed with the evergreen Rover V8 in mind. Converted TR7-V8s are plentiful and make great value buys so long as the conversion is done well (kits are available, try Rimmer Bros). US TR8s aren’t too thin on the ground but the evergreen engine is detuned and the chassis settings softened (shades of MGB). Watch the values soar for a good original TR8 over the next few years because it’s just how the Healey would have evolved after the disappointing Jensen-Healey of the 70s, we reckon.

Daimler SP250

Face values

With its plastic body, high-brow name and smoothly swift V8 power, the Daimler SP250 is a major rival to any Big Healey or Jag XK. Most pundits say that the Dart’s saving grace is that lovely V8 engine but there’s more to this dignified roadster than that, such as a civilised cabin, 2+2 seating and great back up from specialists like David Manners and the Owners’ club. Even its most ardent fans wouldn’t claim that the SP250 is a looker, but as we all know, looks can be deceptive and this Daimler is as sporty as the best of them.


Timewarp tourers

As magnificent as these Malvern marvels are, it is stretching the point to regard a Morgan as a grand tourer like the Healey and XK, not unless you are made of the sternest of stuff, that is. But ride and refinement aside, Morgans are a pleasure to drive – or be in – because of their unique character. Plus 8s will always be the most regarded, mostly for their mighty performance, but don’t dismiss the modern classic Jag-powered Roadster which we reckon is as good plus provides the sort of modern touches many enthusiasts – even hard core Morgan types – are increasingly appreciating. While spares and support are no problem, even from the factory, DIY repairs are not as easy as the car’s vintage make up suggests.

Triumph TR5/6

Heir apparent Healey

TRs were a cheaper alternative to Healeys yet sport a similar character and are always inherently easier to own. When, late in the day, the Triumph TR4 gained the trusty six-cylinder engine, it was hailed as the spiritual successor to the A-H although fuel injection problems made them less trustworthy – meaning many were duly converted to carbs, like the American spec ones, and still perform just as well. The TR6 is by far the more plentiful and so are cheaper to buy although prices for all versions are heading North. If you’re after a traditional classic that’s affordable and easy to own, few do it better than this Triumph or with such class and style.


A modern miniature Healey?

If we had to stick a mainstream modern in the mix then it has to be the BMW Z3. With its classical long flowing bonnet, short tail, and a lusty big six up front, there’s a distinct touch of that Austin about this German. Available in a variety of four and six-cylinder engines mated to either manual and automatic transmissions, there’s a Z3 to suit all pockets and driving styles; our personal pick is the 2.2 ‘four’ for ease of running – and the swift and smooth 2.8 ‘six’ which generates a healthy 192bhp – enough to take the car to nearly 140mph. Although the Z3’s handling was always criticised thanks to its rear suspension set up – unusual for a BMW – all are as easy and economical as a 3 Series to run and maintain.

Because they haven’t ‘caught on’ they can be great value and a change from the default MX-5 purchase!

Sunbeam Tiger

Just a V8-Powered van?

Based upon the Hillman Husky van of all things, first came the Alpine in the late 1950s as a rival to the MGA as well as the MGB albeit less sporting than either pair. However, the Tiger, although similar looking, is a different animal altogether thanks to the development of the legend named Shelby who effectively made a cut-price Cobra out of the pretty Alpine. A wonderful Q car that sadly was only produced for two years, you need fairly deep pockets to buy one of these rare animals although this swift and stylish Sunbeam is still less expensive than any Jaguar XK.


Blackpool rocketships

Peter Wheeler knew how to make a big-engined brutish British sports cars in the Healey mould. The Chimaera (pictured) and the TVR S are the best of the moderns because they are super quick, pretty civilised, good value and head turning; the latter classically styled with a taste of the 70s. Chimaera shares the same basic chassis but is much more brutal in looks and performance. This popular modern classic was launched as a softer alternative to the Griffith, would you believe, so you can imagine what that car is like! TVR Parts – http://www.tvr-parts.

com – ensures a continued spares source for both classics and contemporary models so owning one is fairly straightforward. Finding a good one is more difficult.


Alternative astons but far cheaper

This quality British specialist that died in 1967 after its Rover take over, two years previously, was an Aston rival in its day yet the TD-TF cars, dating from the mid 1950s, can still be bought for the price of a TR5/6 let alone a decent A-H or XK. Bentley-like in style and status, by Swiss Graber, these are smart and swift coupés and dropheads, with up to 150bhp in TF21 guise, plus front disc brakes (all wheel set up for 1963) along with five-speed transmissions. Despite the fact that this specialist name died half a century ago, Alvis classics aren’t difficult to own – speak to Red Triangle who are the true experts. A dedicated buying guide appeared in last month’s issue, back copies still available.


Fast becoming a queen B

Never the Healey successor it was intended to be, the slow revving, big-engined MGC is now enjoying the respect and even admiration it would have enjoyed from the outset half a century ago – if only BMC set the tyre pressures right at launch. While still not as coveted as the Healey or XK (or never likely to be), the MG is a much better tourer and considerably less expensive to buy and run, costing not much more than a MGB to keep. Modern radial tyres and subtle suspension tweaks can make the C handle properly. Fifty next year, the MGC has well and truly turned the corner…

Jensen 541 & CV-8

Plastic fantastics

You can view the fibre-glassbodied 541 range as a familyfocused Big Healey, as it shares a fair number of mechanical parts if not the same six-cylinder engine.

But this massive Austin 4-litre powers the Jensen in a similar style and the tall gearing make them superb, as well as fairly frugal, cruisers. Meat in the 541 and Interceptor sandwich is the CV-8 (pictured) which is a bit of both and perhaps offers the best of both designs having the style of the earlier Jensen (as well as a GRP body) and the V8 might of the Interceptor. And some rather angry ‘move over’ looks!


Still flying high

Old Bristols make fine sporting saloons and coupés all with a touch of individuality. They can be as potent and hairy-chested as any Aston and are as crafted as any Rolls-Royce – yet can be bought for the price of a top notch TR6 or decent Healey.

Bristols are an acquired taste that appeal to dustmen and Dukes alike. Some aficionados reckon that the 400 is slightly better to drive than the 401, with sweeter handling. People either love the 401-403’s slippery styling, while the 404 and 405 are lithe, attractive things and features like overdrive and front disc brakes make them quite usable on today’s roads. From the 407 onwards American V8s were used; final series 411s are the most wanted due to their Aston-like pace. The 1976-launched 603, which replaced the 411, also looks strange to modern eyes and are unlikely to go for much over £25,000 as a consequence.


A modern antique

Say you want classic like a Healey or Jag but would prefer something not so antiquated – what’s the answer? Really, there’s only one option: the MGR V8. We doubt you’d be disappointed either; this is a cleverly reworked MGB that’s modernised only where it needs to be (transmission, suspension and brakes) so leaving the vintage character largely intact. That Rover V8, now tuned by TVR to 190bhp, really gives this roadster the grunt that the Range Roverpowered GTV8 of the 70s lacked. Inside it still shouts MGB but its wood and leather has the touch of Bentley about it, even though it’s not of the same quality. With less than 2000 made, rarity will make the RV8 a classic and yet they can be bought for less than a MGC. Buy while still cheap.

Triumph Stag

No more snags

Once known as the Triumph ‘Snag’, owners, specialists and a brilliant Owners’ club all helped develop this ‘2.5 cabrio’ into a nicely matured, mellow, reliable, easy-owning roadster and coupé combined – the car it always should have been when launched back in 1970, in fact. Essentially a tourer than a sports car, despite V8 power, yet, if you’re after a GT cruiser for more than two, the smoothie Stag simply has to be on your shortlist, so long as the Triumph V8 is still fitted.

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