2019 is a vintage year for motoring milestones with some key cars celebrating big birthdays. We’ve selected 22 cars born every 10 years between 1949 and 1999 – every one a classic worthy of a toast in its birthday year.
Arguably the most iconic British car ever – the Mini – is the star of the show, celebrating 60 glorious years. There are also some significant sports cars too including the Austin-Healey 3000, the Triumph TR6 and Mazda MX-5.
Sit back and enjoy a spin through some of 2019’s top automotive anniversaries…
Rover P4 1 – 70th birthday
Sometimes referred to as the “Auntie” Rover, the P4 caused a sensation when it was launched at the Earls Court Motor Show in London on September 28, 1949. Officially known as the Rover 75 (the 80, 95, 100, 105 and 110 were to follow), it looked dramatically futuristic with all corners rounded and no running boards. The P4 remained in production until 1963 when it gave way to the innovative P6, or Rover 2000/3500.
Mini – 60th birthday
Launched in 1959, the Alec Issigonis designed Mini was revolutionary with front-wheel drive and a transverse mounted engine creating a remarkable amount of interior space. It set the template for small cars and a total of 5,387,862 Minis were built before production finally ended in 2000.
Austin Healey 3000 – 60th birthday
Built between 1959 -1967, the 3000 is the best known of the “Big Healey” models. Hugely popular in the States, it had a fine sporting pedigree, winning its class in many European rallies. It also raced at circuits including Sebring and Le Mans. By the time production of the Mk3 finished in 1967, some 42,926 examples had been sold.
Triumph Herald – 60th birthday
Launched in 1959, the Triumph Herald was very popular in the 1960s and more than half a million were produced (variants included saloons, convertibles, estates and vans) by the time production ceased in 1971. It was unusual because it had a separate chassis which meant that the main body was bolted to the chassis and the whole front end hinged forward to allow access to the engine – a dream for DIYers.
Saab 95 – 60th birthday
The ungainly Saab 95 was a seven-seater, three-door estate which was based on the Saab 93 saloon. Remarkably, it remained in production until 1978 and a total of 110,527 were made. Its first engine was a meagre 841cc three-cylinder two-stroke, but in 1967 it was replaced by a V4 1.5-litre four-stroke.
Daimler SP250 – 60th birthday
Also known as the Dart, the SP250 was an unlikely sports car built by Daimler between 1959–1964. Powered by a 2.5-litre V8 engine, 2,654 SP250s were produced, which sadly was way short of predictions. Around 30 were bought by the Met in London (a chase car pictured) to catch speeding motorists. It was built in Coventry in the West Midlands.
Morris Oxford – 60th birthday
The British Motor Corporation’s (BMC) popular mid-sized Pininfarina-designed “Farina” range was perhaps the ultimate in badge-engineering. Also known as the Wolseley 15/60, Riley 4/68, Austin A55 Cambridge Mark II and MG Magnette Mark III (pictured), the saloon remained in production until 1961 when a not dissimilar new Farina car was launched. The range continued until 1968.
Jaguar Mk 2 – 60th birthday
A popular sports saloon built between 1959-69 in Coventry, the Mk 2 was also a successful touring car racer. Best known to many as the car of choice of TV detective Inspector Morse (played by John Thaw), a Mk 2 also featured in the cult film Withnail and I. A Daimler version was also built with a 2.5-litre V8 engine.
Triumph TR6 – 50th birthday
Triumph made some of Britain’s best loved sports cars. The TR range of cars was built between 1953 and 1981 in Coventry, starting with the TR2 and ending with the TR7 and TR8 in 1981. However, the TR6 (which was officially announced to the press on January 14, 1969) had the longest production run of all the TRs. Staying in production until 1975, more than 91,000 examples were sold.
Porsche 914 – 50th birthday
The Porsche 914 (otherwise known as the VW-Porsche 914) was a mid-engined sports car designed, manufactured and marketed collaboratively by Volkswagen and Porsche from 1969 to 1976. It was available as a targa-topped two-seater roadster originally powered by a 1.7-litre flat-four VW engine or a 2.0-litre flat-six from the Porsche 911. Sadly it divided opinion because it was neither one thing or the either…
Austin Maxi – 50th birthday
The last production car designed by Mini creator Alec Issigonis, the Maxi was the first British five-door family hatchback. Launched in 1969, production finally ceased in 1981. Despite being a pioneer, the Maxi was the victim of BL’s usual woes and never came close to reaching its projected sales targets.
Ferrari Dino – 50th birthday
The Dino 246 GT was an evolution of the Dino 206 GT, with a larger V6 engine and a wheelbase lengthened by 60mm. Apart from the longer body, the design was virtually identical, with just a longer engine cover and a repositioned fuel cap. Launched in 1969, the car proved commercially very successful, and three series were produced during its lifespan. When production stopped in 1973-4, demand was still high.
Lancia Delta – 40th birthday
Giugiaro’s legendary Lancia Delta hatchback was launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1979 and went on to win the European Car of the Year award. Potent Delta HF 4WD and Integrale versions were to follow and competition cars dominated the World Rally Championship during the late 1980s and early 1990s. A true modern classic.
Mazda MX-5 – 30th birthday
First produced in 1989, the iconic MX-5 is now in its fourth generation and it’s still a great everyday car – it’s also the world’s most popular roadster. There are plenty of tatty Mk1s going for peanuts, but expect to pay closer to £3,000 for a decent one, along with the imported Eunos roadster. Spend £4,000 and you’ll get a very useable low mileage Mk 3 from the late 2000s. On April 22, 2016, Mazda built its one millionth MX-5.
Aston Martin Virage – 30th birthday
Built between 1989 and 2000, the brutal Virage was looked like no other Aston Martin every produced before with its boxy design, rectangular headlights and squared-off grille. It was powered by a 585bhp 5.3-litre twin-supercharged V8 and it could hit 60mph from standstill in 4.6 seconds and a top speed of 186mph – still impressive all these years later.
Land Rover Discovery – 30th birthday
The Discovery was Land Rover hugely successful attempt to bridge the gap between the Range Rover and the classic Land Rover (which would later be named Defender). Only available as a three-door at launch, it was powered by either a 2.5-litre diesel or 3.5-litre Rover V8 petrol engine. Now in its fifth generation, well over a million Discovery models have been produced and it’s nearly reached the legendary status of its iconic ancestor.
Alfa Romeo SZ – 30th birthday
The stunningly brutal 1989 Alfa Romeo SZ sports coupe (it was followed by the RZ roadster in 1992) is one of the most iconic cars produced by the Italian marque. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Il Mostro’ (the monster), it was built at the famous Zagato factory. Built on a chassis derived from the Alfa Romeo 75, it was powered by a thunderous 3.0-litre ‘Busso’ V6 engine producing 207bhp. By the time SZ production ended in 1991, a little over 1,000 had been built, making it highly collectable.
Honda S2000– 20th birthday
The acclaimed S2000 was launched in 1999 to celebrate Honda’s 50th anniversary. It enjoyed a 10-year production run and more than 110,000 cars were sold in all. It went as well as it looked and it’s now highly collectable. S2000s can be bought for as little as £6,000, but cherished, low mileage examples are closer to double that.
Audi A2 – 20th birthday
The A2 (1999-2005) was years ahead of its time. Boasting lightweight aluminium construction and especially frugal in 1.2 TDI form, it was also stylish and practical. However, sales were disappointing. That said, now’s the time to snap up a good example and to cherish it. They are available from as little as £500, but £3,000 will buy you a late, low mileage example with years left in it – if you can find one.
Honda Insight – 20th birthday
Honda was ahead of the curve back in 1999 when it launched the hybrid electric Insight. The first generation car (pictured) was odd to say the least. but still lasted until 2006. It boasted a dramatic aerodynamic design, plus a lightweight aluminum structure to maximise fuel efficiency and minimise emissions.
BMW X5 1999– 20th birthday
BMW’s sophisticated answer to the Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz M-class was an instant success because it was a luxury 4×4 with dynamic road manners. Now into its fourth generation, the X5 is better than ever and especially popular in the States where it’s assembled at BMW’s Spartanburg plant in South Carolina.
Honda HR-V – 20th birthday
The distinctive first generation HR-V (1999–2006) was another Honda way ahead of its time when it was launched – a car-like driving experience mated to an elevated driving position in a compact SUV package. Sound familiar? Like many a Honda before and since, it’s well engineered and reliable and there are still plenty of examples in everyday use. Expect to pay £2-£3,000 for an HR-V with low miles.