In January 1964 a team of tiny red and white Mini Coopers stunned the world by winning the legendary Monte Carlo Rally. It was a stellar year for British cars that culminated in Goldfinger breaking box office records and making James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 the world's most famous sports car.
By the sixties, on road, track and silver screen the Brits were the ones to beat, winning championships and capturing hearts. Stirling Moss, Jim Clark and Paddy Hopkirk were household names who drove the sexiest and most innovative cars. Designers like John Cooper, and Colin Chapman of Lotus, dismissed as mere 'garagisti' by Enzo Ferrari, blew the doors off Formula One and grabbed all the prizes, while Alex Issigonis won a knighthood for his revolutionary Mini.
The E Type Jaguar was feted as the world's sexiest car and Land Rover the most durable. But before the Second World War only one British car had triumphed in a Grand Prix; Britain's car builders were fiercely risk-averse. So what changed? To find out, Peter Grimsdale has gone in search of a generation of rebel creative spirits who emerged from railway arches and Nissen huts to tear up the rulebook with their revolutionary machines.
Like the serial fugitives from the POW camps, they thrived on adversity, improvisation and sheer obstinate determination. Blazing the trail for them was William Lyons, whose heart-stoppingly glamorous and uncompromising Jaguars propelled a bruised and bankrupt nation out of the shadows of war, winning the fans in Hollywood and beating 'those bloody red cars' at Le Mans. High Performance celebrates Britain's automotive golden age and the mavericks who sketched them on the back of envelopes and garage floors, who fettled, bolted and welded them together and hammered the competition in the showroom, on the road and on the track - fuelled by contempt for convention.