As its amusingly-contrived title suggests, this work is a detailed study of all of the cars built in Britain, but styled in Italy. Italy has long been recognised as the greatest car designing nation in the world, creating some of the most beautiful, influential and admired vehicle styling for decades. Seminal Italian vehicle design moments have included the stylish Zagato-bodied 1930s Alfa Romeo 1750 GSs and Touring 8Cs, Pininfarina’s widely respected and influential 1947 Cisitalia 202, plus later classics as diverse as the Ferrari 250 GTO, Giugairo’s Fiat Panda and elegant Pininfarina Peugeot 406 Coupe.
In the vital Export or Die era of the British Motor industry post-war – the largest vehicle exporter on the planet in the 1950s – Britain’s car makers popped out some worthy but staid machines, benefitting from sound engineering and quality, but with grey porridge’ designs that lacked a certain style or flair.
When paying a formal visit to BMC’s styling studio at Austin’s Longbridge drawing office in the mid-1950s, for example, none other than H.R.H Prince Philip remarked to the motoring giant’s eager hosts proudly giving him a privileged sneak peek of their planned future family saloon cars, that the models were too staid and unadventurous, recommending that BMC goes to the celebrated Italian designers to style attractive and appealing cars. BMC took note and acted on Prince Philip’s shrewd advise. They commissioned Pininfarina of Turin to design a number of important future models. These included the influential truncated-tail Austin A40 that set the two-box pattern and profile for today’s popular hatchbacks, years before such machines existed. Pininfarina was also tasked with styling the sensible upper-medium-range salons of 1959, these successful Austin Cambridge/Morris Oxford family models collectively known as the Farina cars. The car that dominated Britain’s new car sales throughout the 1960s – the Austin-Morris 1100-1300 range – also enjoyed that crisp, modern styling Pininfarina excelled at.
Beyond BMC and Pininfarina, a wide variety of other British car makers have beaten a path to the doors of Italy’s finest vehicle designers and studios for many years; from the late 1950s Meadows Fiskey microcars, though to Triumph, AC, Aston Martin, and even Rolls-Royce.
Here are ten prime examples of British cars, in no particular order, all dressed in sharp Italian suits. There is considerably more detail given on each machine (plus many others) in Chris Rees’ highly-recommended Encyclopaedia Britalicar, a steal at £48 for all real car lovers.