The Americans might have invented super-sizing anything which was deemed to be good. But this last weekend, Bicester Heritage just proved that they have now perfected the concept.
I and all the rest of the team here at ViaRETRO have right from the word go been great fans of the now well-established triannual Sunday Scrambles held at the atmospheric Bicester Heritage. The former RAF site is simply the perfect scene for an all-encompassing meeting grounds for our oldschool hobby. That, and the pleasantly relaxed atmosphere always ensures amazing attendance from enthusiasts who all contribute by bring their own classics along for these informal open days. Well, Bicester Heritage seem to have figured that more of a good thing can only be a better thing, so this year they introduced the mind-blowing Super Scramble! Everything just got bigger, better and more action packed with a few new initiatives introduced as well such as demonstration runs of various motorsport themed classics on a closed off test track and not least the first autojumble to be held at Bicester in the huge Hangar 113.
My close friend Steen had previously attended a Sunday Scramble last year. It didn’t take much convincing before he had bought tickets to fly in from Denmark so he could experience the Super Scramble as well. And so we set off early from the Peak District for a cross-country blast in my daily driver Reliant Scimitar GTE to arrive shortly after the gates opened to the beautifully preserved historic airbase. We parked up the Scimitar in good company and enjoyed watching the classics roll into Bicester Heritage to the smell of unburnt fuel, rumbling V8’s and smiling faces all-round.
Both Steen and I were immediately gob-smacked by the flawless gold metallic ISO Grifo with its immaculate contrasting brown Gran Tourer interior. What a car! It somehow succeeds in looking both beastly and beautiful all at once, which is something only very few cars manage. Given the option, I would have happily missed out on the rest of the show if the owner had tossed Steen and I the keys and given us free reigns to head for the French Riviera…
Just across from the ISO was another of Giugiaros greatest designs and an all-time favourite of mine: the rare and oh-so gorgeous Gordon-Keeble GK1. It’s rare to be given the privilege of witnessing just one of the only 99 Gordon-Keebles originally produced, so imagine our delight when we proceeded further onto the fields and then in between the old buildings of the RAF base and found not just one, but two more Gordon-Keebles attending the Super Scramble. Surely this has to be one of the most stunningly beautiful GT’s ever to see production.
As you will easily see from the pictures, there was huge variety to drool over. Everything from rough and heavily patinaed classics which were clearly in regular use to almost unbelievably mint concours winners, from vintage to youngtimer, from yesteryear’s daily heroes to rare and exquisite blue-chip collector cars, from performance to luxury. If you can think of it, it was probably here somewhere…
Chunky Tonka Toys were well represented too.
As we continued through this minefield of dream worthy classics, we eventually got as far as the club stands. Lotus were out in force and we quite enjoyed a small selection of Renaults too. The Association of Healey Owners had an intriguing collection of the quirky early Healeys from ‘46 to ’54. As expected, there were more Jaguars than you could shake a stick at, but it was especially a meticulously restored early XJ-S on Kent alloys and in the most period colour of faded olive green which absolutely blew my mind.
Steen and I eventually broke away from the XJ-S and proceeded toward the German participants. There were tons of Porsches, but disappointingly I have to say that far too many of them were moderns. The same can usually be said of the BMW Car Club’s display, but they surprised positively this time by having their entire club stand fronted by an 11-strong line-up of BMW E3 saloons. Several had come across the channel from the German E3 Club and we were even graced with the presence of the ultra-rare BMW 3.0Si Estate which the UK BMW Concessionaries created in corporation with FLM Panelcraft. Add to this some E9 Coupés and a few seventies and eighties Alpinas and these two BMW nutters were suitably delighted.
The roar of engines and screeching of tyres tore Steen and I away from the static displays. The test track was alive with action! From vintage specials to seventies rally cars tearing up the track in sideways style, it certainly wasn’t lacking on entertainment value. The insane angles achieved by a Mk2 Escort while waving its inside front wheel high in the air easily made it the crowd favourite. For me though, the hero of this spectacular show was undeniably the BMW 2002 with a 16 valve BMW Motorsport M12/7 engine which Achim Warmbold drove with real conviction in the early and mid seventies on rally stages all around Europe.
From here we proceeded onto the atmospheric tree-lined streets between the old RAF hangars and administration buildings. This is the real Bicester Heritage, and I truly believe that as a classic car enthusiast, you will find no other place quite like it. It’s pure magic. It soothes the soul and wets your appetite.
How about – parked beside a hoard of pre-war Bentleys, no less – a stunning 1-of 18 Ferrari 250MM Berlinetta which raced its way to seventh place in the 1953 Carrera Panamerica? Unless you’re a regular at Pebble Beach these days, that’s not likely to be something you see often…
Next up, scattered in between trees, we came across a formidable collection of nine – yes, nine (!) – Graber bodied Alvises. The highly regarded Swiss coachbuilder did an impressive job in retaining the old-world charm of the original Alvis cars while adding just a pinch of elegant sportiness to the equation. Of the nine cars, I truly struggled to choose my favourite as each one of them had its own allure and a wealth of exquisite details. Of course, the whole scene was improved even further by the sinister black Graber bodied Bentley on German numberplates which was parked in close proximity.
But the car which stopped me dead in my tracks more than any other was no doubt the dramatic Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada. These low-slung race cars (because even if when they badged them as “Strada” it was essentially still a pure race car) simply don’t come to their full right on pictures – only in the flesh does their vicious design express itself freely. Everything from its elegantly integrated front bumper, to the perspex-covered headlight, its vast wrap-around windshield and those bulging rear haunches just oozes power and sex. If I could have swapped the Scimitar for any other car at the Super Scramble (please don’t tell my dear Scimitar – I’m sure she won’t start tomorrow if she finds out I have such feelings…), well, Steen and I would have been blasting northbound in a fury of American V8 power and brutish Italian curves. One can always dream…
Still, I could go on and on, waxing lyrically about the wonderful Fraser Nash parked outside Robert Glover’s showroom. Or how about the glorious Tojeiro which eventually became the AC Ace which of course inspired Carroll Shelby to build the famous Cobra, which was of course fittingly surrounded by just that – several Cobras for both street and track. But I really must draw the line somewhere.
If there was any fear that super-sizing a Sunday Scramble would somehow dilute it (as is sometimes the case with such an exercise), then rest assured that Bicester Heritage dodged the bullet on this occasion and created a scorcher of a classic car event!
On that note, I leave you with a picture gallery which despite my best efforts at narrowing it down as much as I felt I could justify, is still positively overflowing with awesomeness – kind of like the Super Scramble.