- Image credit: Volvo.

5 Cars you might not know were built in Britain

Oddballs born in Blighty

1w ago


We live in a bizarre time in which globalisation has pretty much taken over the world twice over. Almost every industry relies on worldwide facilities with cheap labour, huge space and a skilled workforce to manufacture things that we take for granted every day.

Take Coca Cola for example: as of 2012, they employ around 900 factories and bottleries just to produce the drinks and get them on the shelves. That's utterly insane to think about considering we, as the consumers, simply buy and drink them like it's nothing.

Then there's batteries: the majority of the lithium ion used in such things is extracted in the vast plains of the Southern America lithium triangle. Everything starts in either Chile, Argentina or Bolivia before being shipped over, assembled in whichever factory before ending up on the shelves of your local supermarket. Globalisation really is a vast topic with much more involved than you might think.

The same principles have even made its way to the car industry: you might know that most car manufacturers have factories around the world producing different models. Three Japanese makers set base right here in the U.K for instance for their fleet models. There are however, some foreign cars assembled in Britain that you might not have known about: here's five.

Isetta Bubble Car

Image credit: BMW

Image credit: BMW

The Isetta was the brainchild of Italian manufacturer, ISO, before BMW came along and bought the design and manufacturing rights of the little micro car. Some believe this was actually the car that saved BMW from going bust; because once it was on the market, they sold like fresh toilet paper at the beginning of a global pandemic.

BMW then sold the design and manufacturing rights to companies all over the globe; with UK-based 'Isetta of Great Britain' being one of them. They previously were a locomotive manufacturer called Dunsfold Tools ltd.

Nevertheless, by 1957, production on the bubble car began in Britain and soldiered on well up until 1964.

Volvo P1800

Image credit: Volvo

Image credit: Volvo

To understand how this came to be, you must realise that the lavishly-designed sports coupe had a rather tricky birth.

After the press were stunned with the X1 prototype in 1957, the pressure was on to put the car into production. But since Volvo's already-existing sports car (the P1900) sold so badly and that the Amazon was in full swing in the Gothenburg plant in Sweden, they had to outsource a company that would make the bodywork.

They made a deal with Karmann in Germany, but this was short-lived as their main contractor, Volkswagen, feared the P1800 would interfere with sales of the car that Karmann made for VW (the Karmann Ghia) and therefore forbade Karmann to make Volvo's car. The project was nearly cancelled.

Eventually, Volvo broke a deal with Pressed Steel in Scotland to produce the bodywork before being sent south to the Jensen Motors factory in West Bromwich, for final assembly. The first cars arrived in 1961, but Volvo decided to move the P1800's production to their own Swedish factory by 1963 because they had concerns about quality control with the cars produced in Britain. 6,000 cars were produced in those two years.

In case you're wondering: yep, the early P1800s were made in the same factory as the Jensen Interceptor.

Ford GT40

Image credit: Ford Motor Company

Image credit: Ford Motor Company

Although the GT40 light bulb was lit up by Ford's main headquarters in the American city of Detroit, the actual blood and sweat of making the car happened in little old England.

It was based on the Lola MK6 as agreed by Lola Cars' owner, Eric Broadley. Ford also hired ex-Aston Martin team manager, John Wyer to manage the company's new subsidiary, Ford Advanced Vehicles which was set up in a sleepy industrial estate in Slough where the MK1, MK2 and MK3 cars were assembled.

There were also negotiations with both Lotus and F1 team, Cooper to help out with the GT40 project. It's important to stress that only the MK4 was assembled in the USA; the other cars however? Well... they're very much British!

Quite a few Peugeots

Image credit: Peugeot

Image credit: Peugeot

By the late 1980s when British car manufacturing in Coventry was coming to its knees, Peugeot saw an opportunity to both keep the car industry alive in the area while also benefiting themselves by making more of them.

Peugeot decided to take over a plant in Ryton (near Coventry) formally owned by the Rootes/Chrysler Group for a hilarious sum of $1 and later on, decided to make a few of their own cars there.

Production started with the 309 in 1985 before being joined by the larger 405 family saloon. Until 2006, production of the 206, 306 and even the 406 was done in Britain. Sadly however, the factory was sold and demolished by 2007.

Toyota Carina E

Image credit: Toyota

Image credit: Toyota

Some of you will be well-aware of Toyota's UK factory in southern Derbyshire near the little village of Burnaston. They currently produce the Corolla and have previously made the Auris and Avensis.

However, Toyota's immense example of globalisation all started with the mundane Carina back in 1992. Now, the car itself isn't all that exciting: it has 4 wheels, 5 seats and a fairly big boot and... erm... an engine of some sort.

But little do people might not know that this Japanese saloon was in fact, made in Britain. Not only that, but I only live a stones throw away from the factory itself!

Thanks for reading

Image credit: Ford Motor Company

Image credit: Ford Motor Company

So, there we are: those are five examples of cars produced in Britain that you might not have known about.

If there's anything missed, feel free to drop it in the comments section. Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed reading the article and be sure to stay safe and well.


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Comments (18)

  • Believed or not Peugeot 405 STILL produced in iran๐Ÿ˜ž

      6 days ago
  • AC Cobra too.

      7 days ago
    • Technically, the base for the Cobra (AC Ace) was built in Britain as AC was a British company but the engines were obviously supplied by Ford so they were built in Detroit

        7 days ago
    • The cars' final assembly happened in Shelby's workshop in LA, to be precise.

        6 days ago
  • I never realised toilet papers could replace the hot cakes phrase ๐Ÿ˜‚

      7 days ago
  • I knew the Ford GT was British but never knew the P1800 was. No wonder The Saint drove one

      2 days ago
  • Everything untill it imploded

      3 days ago