The real difference between British and American sportscars though is that we tended to make them from metal rather than plastic. The only volume producer of fibreglass cars in the UK is a company called Reliant, who are probably most famous for a car used in a sitcom called "Only fool and horses".
Er... Lotus? TVR? When was the last time either of them made a sportscar that didn't feature plastic bodywork? And that's just two British makers of plastic sports cars I can recall just off the top of my head who are still around now - there were others in the past who aren't around any more, and I'm sure there are others now.
Not much wrong with plastic bodywork though, it has to be said. The nextdoor neighbour bought a 1972 Lotus Elan Sprint Drophead Coupe when I was very small. He's moved a couple of miles down the road but his sister still lives nextdoor to my folks and he still has the car. The plastic bodywork was never one of that car's problems...
Some years ago he finally let me drive it and I found the handling and acceleration to be fantastic. I was much impressed with the rigidity of that backbone chassis and the solid feel of the glassfibre reinforced polyester body - there was no scuttle shake or flexure of any kind at all and that lent a real precision to the feel of the car. The low weight also made for really brisk turn-in, while all this precision and briskness was achieved with a suspension that also felt supple and smooth to ride on. Very impressive.
Less impressed with the engineering though. An enduring memory from my childhood is that guy always carrying the cylinder head about - I think he had it off about four or five times because of various problems with overheating, valve timing going off and so on. The Lotus engine was just a normal Ford Cortina engine with a Lotus DOHC cylinder head grafted on, you see, and the modified timing chain drive wasn't really up to handling the DOHC reliably for everyday use. It was always a bit of a kit car.
He was also forever adjusting the carbs - they were Webers but Lotus rigid-mounted them directly to the cylinder head, with no shockmounts at all, and they were always foaming the fuel and shaking themselves out of adjustment. No space in that tiny engine bay for an inlet manifold or carburettor shockmounts... The current mileage on the car is only just over 13,000 which says something, the thing was always immobile for one reason or another. It's been off the road for some years now - he took it apart some time ago because something broke yet again and hasn't put it back together since.
One funny fault that I helped him trace was a wiring fault that caused the electronic ignition to go haywire when the electric cooling fan came on. I cured it by independently earthing the electronic ignition to the battery... a bit like curing hum in a phono playback system. Being an audiophile endows one with all sorts of useful skills.
There was an Englishman and his wife with a '74 Lotus Elan fixed head coupe in the 2003 classic car rally I was taking part in here. He saw my '79 Alfa Romeo Alfetta 2000 GTV and immediately started cracking Alfa Romeo jokes. I smiled and nodded my head sagely. The Elan eventually retired with a broken differential, after also having had problems with overheating, fuel vapour locking and - of course - the wiring to the electronic ignition. The Alfetta? It took me and my dad to the finish of the rally in air-conditioned comfort, not having missed a beat. I found the English couple on the roadside and offered them a lift to the finish, but they declined, opting to wait for the recovery service instead. I guess it's a way of life with Lotus owners.
Have fun everyone,