Register
A password will be e-mailed to you.

Here in the UK – actually most of Europe – the winter just seemed to drag on and on and on. And ON! And… Okay, you’ve got the picture. And if you live in Europe and have a desire to get your classic car out onto some twisty backroads, then you’ve no doubt suffered with me all the rest of Europe’s classic car enthusiasts. But this last weekend was just perfect, with spring swooping in just in time for the nationwide Drive-it Day on Sunday the 22nd of April.

The Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs is the instigator of the annual British Drive-it Day, which in turn leads to many classic car clubs organizing local drives on this day, or even just individual enthusiasts making a point out of taking their beloved classic out for a local spin. Last year I signed-up for the Hagerty Drive-it Day, which was such a success that I saw no reason not to do the same again this year. To add to the social element, one of my very close friends – himself an avid classic car aficionado – flew in from Copenhagen one day in advance just to fill the passenger seat of my trusty old Verona red BMW 2002. As such, we set of from the High Peaks at ludicrous-o’clock in the morning, and enjoyed a brilliant cross-country drive down through the length of the Peak District to the new and purpose-built facilities of Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works just south of Coventry, where the Hagerty team had arranged for our drive to start.

The holy exercise of mounting the all-important rally plate.

My trusty old NullZwei is ready to go!

Kindly, Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works opened their doors for us at 8am in the morning. I’m not entirely sure what we were expecting, but certainly not the treat we were in for! There was of course the mandatory highly stylish reception with a small and suitably varied selection of cars on display to portray the broadness and not least the history that lies behind the facility. From there we entered the workshop, which was frankly the largest workshop I have ever visited. It was also clinically clean and perfectly structured, with no less than 54 individual booths each the size of a small house, most occupied by either a Jaguar or a Land Rover at some random stage of build. I think I counted seven or eight of the brand new ‘continuation’ Jaguar XK-SS – some practically complete with others still very much in the process of being hand-built. Add to that, numerous series 1 Land Rovers being restored, several beautiful E-types and a handful of the nineties supercar XJ220, and you’ve probably got the picture. After a lot of oohing and ahhing, the next massive hall beckoned as this was the storage facility for their vast collection of historically significant cars – not just limited to Jaguar, Daimler, Land Rover and Range Rover either. I would guesstimate that there was probably close to 500 cars tightly packed on the hall, with roughly half of them being foreign marques. Everything from Hillman Imp to Iso Grifo. It would have been much too easy to spend most of the day here, so we had to remind ourselves why we were here again…

Sadly, we weren’t permitted to take pictures in the workshop or the storage facility, so you’ll have to make due these few pictures from the reception. That deep and luscious red velour interior of the Jaguar XJ-C was just scrumptious!

Back in the car park, we had time to appreciate the 100 classic cars that were doing the Hagerty Drive-it Day. I wasn’t the only one coming back for more, as there were several which I remembered from last year. Most of all the fabulous little turquoise Sunbeam Stiletto which again had me dreaming back to my Imp-owning days. But there were several others as well such as the Abarth 124 Spider, the Chevette HS and the Reliant Sabre. Luckily though, there were also plenty of newcomers to drool over. This year had quite a selection of classic Jaguars – perhaps tempted into the drive because of the visit to Classic Works? The aeronautically-inspired Bristol 405 was utterly lovely, as was the very early dark grey Volvo P1800 complete with wire wheels and Webasto folding sunroof. My personal favourite though, simply had to be the excellent Sunbeam Tiger – if for no other reason, then at least for the goosebump-inducing sound which it omitted whether at idle or charging down the road. However, my co-driver, Steen, just seemed thoroughly lost to the many Escort mk.1s and mk.2s, though I did also spot him gravitate towards the two slightly rough n’ ready MGC GTs.

We watched and listened to several classics depart on the backroad tulip book route, and eventually headed off in my BMW as well. This year’s route was approximately 60 miles long and thus a little shorter than last year. It also made due without a coffee break. Personally, I missed the extra miles from last year’s event a little, but in all honesty, it was probably for the better seeing as all of the participants spent longer at the departure this year as there was so much to take in a JLR Classic Works. Equally, our destination, Bicester Heritage, is constantly expanding as well, so we all wanted time there too. Still, the route took us down some captivatingly twisty roads, through stunning scenery, quaint little villages and past several places of interest such as Wappenbury Hall, the home of Sir William Lyons for many years. The tower at Castle Inn Edgehill was impressive, as was the drive down the steep Sun Rising Hill. Then past the 14thcentury Broughton Castle and onto to the ex-RAF base of the excellent Bicester Heritage in Oxfordshire.

Bizarrely, we ended up driving much of the route together with the Vauxhall Chevette HS just like I did a year ago. Didn’t bother me though, as it both looked and sounded fabulous.

As always for Sunday Scramble at Bicester Heritage, the whole venue was buzzing with activity and atmosphere. For this – their fifth anniversary – more than 6,000 visitors came through the gates, and there were classic cars everywhere – right from the mundane to the unique. It was my co-drivers first visit at Bicester Heritage, so I knew very well that it would make quite an impression. Yet, even though it was my fourth time at the venue, I think I might have been just as excited. We’ve written about this classic car Mecca before here on ViaRETRO, but it really can’t be emphasised enough: Bicester Heritage is amazing! All the old preserved red-brick buildings, the hangars and the myriad of narrow streets between them all add up to a truly magical environment. It is indeed a real gift – both for the 1920s RAF base and for the whole classic car scene – that this site has been given a second lease of life.

 

Regardless which direction you looked, something special, something interesting, something dream-worthy caught your eye. There were several new initiatives such as the AutoClassics Mart in the large events hangar where owners could sell their classics. It was the premier opening of the new showroom for Robert Glover Ltd, and Lubricant specialist Classic Oils launched their new “Fuzz Townshend’s Classic Oils”. Furthermore, it was a total sell out at Hagerty UK’s popular Valuation Arena.

Any chance you might fancy a 9-cylinder radial engined motorcycle?

– because I know I do!

And then there were the classic cars – this spring Sunday Scramble was attended by 45 different car clubs and more than 1,000 classic cars – that’s of course on top of all the beautiful machinery already on site with the various specialists, dealers and workshops which now make up the Bicester Heritage. Whether you’re into pre-war or youngtimers; British, Italian, French, German, American or Japanese; roadsters, coupés, saloons or estates; road cars or motorsport, your taste will be satisfied. There was so much on offer that both Steen and I found it virtually impossible to play the good old game “if-money-was-no-object-which-one-would-you-drive-home-in”. On the long drive back north, we had enough time to eventually both work out a Top 5, but we struggled to narrow it down any further. If you were at Bicester as well, please share with us what stood out the most for you. If you weren’t, then I hope you can at least enjoy all the pictures, and then try to pick your own Top 5 from them.

This stunningly beautiful mid-50s Alfa Romeo 1900 CSS Touring most definitely made my Top 5 list. But so did the AC Aceca, the lovely little turquoise Sunbeam Stiletto, the be-spoilered white Ford Capri 3000GT mk.1 and not least the perfectly stock SWB Porsche 911S in pale yellow and on narrow 4.5 inch Fuchs alloys.

While Steen got more than just a little worked up about this elegant Fiat 2300S Coupé. But then, that happened when he saw the immaculate Ford Fiesta 1.3 SuperSport as well.

There are of course more events happening at Bicester Heritage throughout the summer such as the new and exciting Flywheel Festival towards the end of June. Their next Sunday Scramble will be on the 7thof October. If you haven’t already experienced this overdose on everything classic cars, you really ought to block that day in your diary…

Spitfire, 911 or Allard. At Bicester Heritage you never know what will be hiding around the next corner…

9 Responses

  1. Tony Wawryk

    @02anders – wow, looks like you had a really terrific day all round; JLR Classic Workshop and Storage sounds awesome, and Bicester was clearly a more interesting place to be on Sunday than my choice, Brooklands – more on that later.
    Fantastic variety of cars at Bicester, picking a Top 5…hmmm….I’ll bite:-
    The Alfa 1900 is utterly gorgeous, and alongside that I’d take the Fiat 2300S – so two Italians in this Germanophile’s choice already…and the Lancia Flaminia makes three.
    So to redress the balance, I think the 914-6 and the Alpine 110…yes, that’ll do nicely!
    Bicester Heritage is just a great place, with something interesting around every corner, as you say – I’m definitely going there for Flywheel.

    My Drive It Day at Brooklands disappointed – had a nice run there avoiding the M25, and the museum is always worth a potter, but the turn-out of cars was less than I expected, maximum 200, possibly less. The BMW Car Club had a good turnout but mine was the only 02 other than a Touring, and the only other club representation there was….Smart. I’m not sure in which world any Smart is a classic, but there must have been 50 of them.
    There were some beautiful cars there – my cars of the day probably the spectacular Citroen SM pictured, a beautiful red CSL, and a really lovely blue Dolomite Sprint, one of three there, but many marques were conspicuously under-represented if at all, such as Alfa, Lancia, Mercedes, Opel and Porsche, among others, and there was very little in the way of American heavy-metal. I’ll try somewhere else next year, could well be Bicester.

    Reply
  2. Paul

    First things first. An excellent report which had me kicking myself that I’d missed it AGAIN!!
    Work interfered this year and I only got home Sunday in the early hours after being away for three weeks. Although the 79’ 1500ti Sud did get a drive to Duxford for Spring Alfa day with my Pop at the wheel. I had to make do with a late afternoon more local country drive in the 69’ BMW 2000 Neue Klasse through the B roads in West Suffolk. I did manage to spot half a dozen other classics while toodling about.

    So down the important stuff
    1. AC Aceca (hardtop coupe every time please)
    2. Ford Falcon Sprint (fav Yank)
    3. Gilbern Genie (underrated beauty)
    4. Citroen SM (long distance cruiser)
    5. Land Rover Safari (I live in the countryside)

    Reply
  3. Dave Leadbetter

    Ok, in no definitive order and valid only for this precise moment, my top 5 will be:

    1. The stripey and non-stripey RX7s (I can’t split a complementary pair)
    2. RWD Starlet on four spokes
    3. The metallic green Viva HB
    4. Jaguar’s own XJ-C because of that interior
    5. Chevette HS

    There does appear to be a Black Tulip Marina coupe too. Can’t be many of those around.

    Reply
  4. YrHmblHst

    Oh man…does that look great! Didnt know such existed, but it DOES raise a question ; Ive been a Hagerty customer for many a moon – like since not long after they started with cars. [the company began with classic wooden boats] Soooo…since I am a long time and loyal customer, AND am one of the people that GOT them to this position of prominence, WHY did they not send me over for this event?!?!?

    Reply
  5. Claus Ebberfeld

    WOW! While I’ll actually visit the JLR facility in just a few weeks time I think I’ll still feel shortchanged after seeing the report from the full monty.

    I MUST go there sometime. In something. Probably a car – but that radial-engined motorcycle is really, really radical.

    That Princess seems impossibly shiny! Starlet, 300ZX and RX7 speak to my heart – but I think I might prefer the Alfa Romeo 1900 Touring in the end anyway. Obvious, but at least it is not red. Or maybe I should have a closer look at that AC 3000 ME? We have unfinished business.

    Reply
  6. Anders Bilidt

    Gents, it was indeed a thoroughly fantastic day out!

    @tony-wawryk
    A real shame that Brooklands wasn’t much fun. Heh… with 50 Smart cars there, you would have had just as much fun had you just parked up on the M25. ;-)
    Though I do spy a yellow Scimitar behind the SM in your picture.
    I quite like you choices btw. That A110 was gorgeous as well…

    @paul
    Such a shame you couldn’t make it to Bicester – you were missed…
    Good to hear that both the Sud and the NK managed to get out for a spin though.

    @dave-leadbetter
    I too hovered around that RWD Starlet for a fair while. Sooooo cool…
    Btw. that Marina Coupé was indeed Black Tulip and it was a TC as well. Looked to be in stunning condition!

    @yrhmblhst
    HaHa!! I think you need to have a word with them at Hagerty. Needless to say, the least they could have done, was to ensure that you could attend the Drive-it Day and Sunday Scramble. Perhaps next year then…

    @claus-ebberfeld
    I have no doubt that you will enjoy JLR. It’s massive! Just make sure you get yourself into the storage facility.
    That radial-engined motorcycle was nothing short of amazing! I think I need it in my life… ;-)

    Reply
  7. SteenMP

    @paul ; that Falcon made my list too.

    Both locations of JLR were surprises. A lot of interesting machinery, indeed. I have loved Range Rover classics since I was a kid, and seing several early examples including a VELAR (YVB 163H) was a treat. The one-off’s, prototypes and various other cars on display lifted the experience even more.

    But Bicester was fantastic – even after being prepped by Anders, and having seen and read about it, I was still amazed. The atmoshpere and buildings are the perfect setting for our hobby.

    @anders-bilidt ; Thanks for inviting me, buddy! A truly memorable weekend.

    Fiat 2300s, AC Aceca, Falcon, Fiesta SuperSport, blue Lambo Espada (leaving as we arrived). The order of desirability changes throughout the day, so I’ll keep from numbering them.

    Reply
  8. Anders Bilidt

    @steenmp
    It was indeed a fab weekend! I’m so glad you made the trip all the way from Copenhagen. Feel free to drop by anytime again…

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Skip to toolbar