Top 10: Big British bruisers
If you’re looking for a big-engined, British-built bruiser and your budget is less than £10,000, fear not – because there’s a great choice of desirable, powerful models at your disposal. Join us on a tour of our ten top choices…
Bentley Turbo R
Although the new Bentley Mulsanne of 1980 was little more than a re-badged Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, things got exciting two years later with the arrival of the Mulsanne Turbo – with 50% more power from its 6.75-litre V8 thanks to Garrett AiResearch turbocharging. The ultimate, however, was the Turbo R that replaced it in 1985, offering uprated suspension and wider wheels and tyres for dramatically improved handling. With around 320bhp on tap, here was a Bentley that deserved the tag of ‘driver’s car’ – and these days it’s a fine choice for luxury lovers, with good examples available from less than £10k.
Jaguar ‘X308’ XJ
Replacing the X300-gen XJ6 in 1997 was the X308, swapping straight-six power for the same AJ-V8 engine as the sporty XK8, albeit in a choice of (240bhp) 3.2- or (290bhp) 4.0-litre guises. There were further options when it came to trim levels and extra power, with the X308 being sold as the XJ8, Sport, Sovereign or high-performance XJR – the latter being supercharged to the tune of 370bhp. Early cars are best avoided due to reliability issues, with the best X308 being one with a sensible mileage and a comprehensive history. Prices start at less than £1000, with decent XJRs costing up to £10k.
Rover SD1 V8
Although the 1976-on SD1 wasn’t as technically advanced as its P6 predecessor, it was still an impressive machine – aided by sleek five-door styling and, of course, its use of Rover’s ex-Buick 3.5-litre V8. Other engines arrived over the years, but the ultimate SD1s always had V8 power – with the later Vitesse having a strong following now, a version that ended its days with an impressive 190bhp. Prices are heading upwards, although there are still some bargains out there – with standard-spec V8s in good order available from around £5000, while excellent Vitesse models top out at around twice as much.
If you fancy a 1970-77 Triumph Stag with your £10,000 budget, you can expect a few issues along the way, as fully restored examples often now command more than twice as much. MoT’d, solid bargains can still be found, however, and can make interesting ‘rolling projects’. Its reputation may have been poor when new (with overheating issues often caused by neglect), but a large proportion of surviving Stags have now been mechanically sorted and are well maintained. With timelessly handsome styling and a bespoke 3.0-litre V8 pushing out 145bhp, it’s easy to see why the Stag is so sought after.
Announced in 2003 was the most outrageous variation on the Rover 75-derived MG ZT theme, with the V8-powered ZT260 being re-engineered from front- to rear-wheel drive in order to handle V8 power, while the powerplant itself was bought in from Ford. The 4.6-litre ex-Mustang engine was tuned to around 260bhp, resulting in a top speed of 151mph and 0-60 in exactly seven seconds. In the end, however, only around 715 ZT260s were produced before MG Rover went into administration. Values of these modern-classic rarities are rising, but a reasonable example can still be found for less than £10,000.
Jaguar XK8 / XKR
Launched in 1996 as a replacement for the classic XJS, the XK8 coupe and convertible were both handsome machines, with more than a hint of DB7 in their styling. Under the bonnet sat a 290bhp 4.0-litre V8, boosted to a whopping 370bhp the following year when the supercharged XKR arrived. Even the standard XK8 provides a top speed of 155mph, with similarly impressive acceleration and effortless cruising capabilities. It’s remarkable value for money too, with early XK8s starting in price at just £4000 – although for a low-mileage first-gen XKR, you can expect to pay anything up to £10,000.
There aren’t many TVRs you can buy with a maximum budget of £10,000, but you can just about manage it with the Tasmin-derived 350i. Previously Ford V6-engined, these wedge-shaped wonders were always good performers; but when TVR squeezed Rover’s 3.5-litre V8 under the bonnet in 1983, the transformation was impressive. With 190bhp on tap, and 0-60 in around six seconds, the 350i was a brute. It sold well through to the end of the ’80s, with more than a thousand built in total. And, of course, it also led to the launch of the even more powerful 390SE and 420/450 models.
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
Boasting V8 power and gloriously British style both inside and out, the Silver Shadow was Rolls-Royce’s biggest success – and remains its most popular classic to this day. Launched in 1965 and enjoying a 15-year career, the Silver Shadow has survived in decent numbers, with superb examples now topping £20-25,000. However, less than half that figure will get you a solid, tidy car with a decent history – and if it’s a 1977-80 Silver Shadow II, it’ll even have a front spoiler, rack and pinion steering and upgraded suspension. When it comes to big-engined cruisers, there’s little to touch the most ubiquitous ‘Roller’.
Range Rover V8
While the ultimate classic Range Rover will always be… well, the Range Rover Classic (as the long-lived original model eventually became known), excellent examples easily exceed our £10k top budget. But the good news is that just half that amount will see you behind the wheel of a superb second-gen P38A Rangie, with a sensible mileage on its odometer and a 4.0- or 4.6-litre V8 petrol lump under its bonnet. Launched in 1994 and lasting seven years, the P38A is one of today’s best-value big Brits – with prices starting at under £2000 for those in less-than-perfect condition.
Jaguar S-type V8 R
Another Jaguar? Well, yes – and we make no apology for that. You see, in V8 guise the 1998-on S-Type really was a brute, with effortless performance and impressive speed to counteract its controversial, deliberately retro styling. Output from this supercharged beast was a mighty 390bhp at 6100rpm, with just shy of 400lb.ft. of torque at just 3500rpm, all fed through a six-speed auto ’box. Top speed was limited to 155mph, but you’d be hitting 60 from a standstill in just 5.6 seconds. Buy a late-model low-miler for less than £10k and enjoy one of Jaguar’s most surprising creations.