It’s now October and autumn is officially upon us, a time when many classics go into hibernation for the winter. However, road tax exemption means there is no financial incentive to garage cars on a certain date and owners can indulge in free roaming during the colder months if the weather plays ball. The last Sunday Scramble at Bicester Heritage took place on the first weekend of October and it looked very much like being a wash out with the forecast only 12 hours before predicting an extended downpour. Luckily, the weather unexpectedly flicked metrological V-signs at the forecasters’ super computers and the fully sold-out Scramble enjoyed a better attendance than might have been expected. You’ll probably be familiar with the venue from our previous Scramble reports, but for the uninitiated there’s nowhere else quite like it in terms of scale and heritage. To think it could have all gone for housing, but thankfully the old airfield buildings are now home to an established and thriving classic car hub. Bicester’s policy of only selling tickets in advance ensures Scrambles are busy but never overcrowded, and on a crisp October morning the place came alive with classics of all shapes and sizes. You’ll have you own favourites but here are some of mine.
Fords from the 1970s form the backbone of many shows here in the UK, but certain models are less common than others. I was therefore pleased to see a rare two-door example of the familiar MkIII Cortina, wearing a moody patina and a GT badge on the bootlid. The famous coke bottle shape is accentuated when in two door form but Ford never made the most of their great looking compact saloon. There was no Lotus version after the MkII and the Escort RS2000 assumed the performance role instead. Given the capacious engine bay, the real potential lay in using the six-cylinder Essex engines found in the Granada and Capri. Other markets such as South Africa got such tyre shredding Tinas, but Europe missed out and the mid-sized sports saloon niche went unexploited. You could imagine how a Cortina with a bit of waft would have made an impression on the home market and, as if to prove the point, such a thing was also lurking at the Scramble.
This is the opportunity Ford should have grasped, but the aftermarket stepped up instead. You’ll probably be aware of the Cortina Savage, but the Super Speed conversion is lesser known. Super Speed Conversions Ltd were based in Ilford and had built up a relationship with the Ford factory preparing racing cars, alongside Broadspeed and Alan Mann. Their conversion featured a 3.0-litre Essex V6 producing 136bhp, limited slip diff, upgraded handling and in the case of the car at Bicester, a five-speed dogleg gearbox. The intent was advertised with orange racing stripes over the dark blue paintwork, a four headlamp GXL grille and a set of chrome and black Dunlop wheels. One of only two survivors (compared with a whole three Savages), this is a rare piece of period tuning history and the only one left in original condition. Whoever put their money down back in 1973 had bought something special. I expect the survival rate of two door Cortinas would have been exponentially higher if such a specification had been made available in the mainstream Ford catalogue.
I usually studiously avoid bringing you photos of Jaguar E-Types because you should already know what they look like. However, this red coupé caught my attention due to its scuffed bodywork and general covering of grime. Søren recently wrote about values of fastbacks now touching those of the roadsters, so expect to see more get tarted up as restorations become more financially viable. This one was a bit scruffy but whilst I mused about the potential mechanical condition, I noticed a 25-litre container of 20w50 in the boot and wondered if that represented a wise bulk purchase saving or was specifically required for the run to Bicester.
Another car I recently damned with no praise was Reg Dwight’s old Ferrari Daytona, recently featured in Prime Find, our regular Saturday feature that tightly focusses on showcasing obscure old rubbish and daily transport for multi-millionaires (we’re a broad church here). I commented that the Ferrari’s proportions get worse the further back you trace along the body, culminating in a tail that sits too high and too narrow. The drop-top Daytona is better resolved than the coupé and a quite convincing Autokraft replica happened to be present at Bicester. Sitting in the sunshine it looked okay, but I still prefer the British built five-door hatchback Daytona, seen here sporting 3500 Vitesse badging and painted the traditional racing red of its Maranello spiritual home. We’d followed the five-door down the A43 towards Bicester and the V8 sounded fabulous as it accelerated out of the roundabouts. It’s a much more affordable option than the famous convertible or coupé, with plenty of space to haul around a big Casio keyboard should your job involve knowing all the chords to mawkish funeral-pop dirge-fest, Candle in The Wind.
At this point I could feign enthusiasm over the Lamborghini Espada, but on the basis that two is better than one, I can go one better and bring you two… Transits, that is! A spectacular pair of twin wheeled Mk1 Trannies caused great excitement in the immediate vicinity of me. Both appear to be imports judging by a DVLA check on their dates of registration, and a few have been repatriated recently. Nobody was around to ask about their histories but I didn’t need any additional guidance to appreciate the beige Custom adorned with triple stripes. It’s difficult to imagine a van being more groovy without tipping over into the murky world of custom with a small “c”. Modern vans are far more comfortable and efficient but none are better looking.
Here at ViaRETRO we love a bit of J-Tin – as I believe the cool kids call it – so I can’t pass without showing you this scarce Mitsubishi Sapporo GSR complete with a grey on grey velourtastic interior that you can imagine at your leisure. The Sapporo was extremely original but that’s not always the case in the world of Japanese cars. Two modified ones caught my attention; firstly a tastefully lowered gloss black Datsun Cedric and secondly a full JDM tuner spec Toyota Celica 2000 Liftback. The Celica was beautifully presented and sported a Japanese number plate on the rear, without any sign of UK registration. I’ll make the wild assumption it wasn’t actually on a day trip.
I enjoyed browsing through a selection of historic motorcycles, occupying the perimeter of the largest hanger. I won’t pretend to know much about bikes other than they’re tricky to photograph against anything than a clean background, much like trying to photograph a skeleton in a bone yard. I can’t risk getting embroiled in two wheels as I’m enough of a liability on four, but aesthetically speaking I could drink in the details of BSAs, Nortons and Vincents all day long. Bikes are still stonking value with a desirable 1963 Honda 125cc CR93 racing bike with competition history being on sale with a lower estimate of £26,000, a relative bargain compared to some very ordinary cars. What you can still buy for under £5,000 is a real eye opener and you surf the motorcycle classifieds at your own risk.
A small grey fellow in a small grey jumper inspected a small grey car. As he padded away I went to inspect a pint of Supersports at the Wriggly Monkey Brewery and consider what had taken my fancy. The immaculate Volvo P1800 made a nice image in front of a rusty hanger. The red BMW Z1 is an underrated sleeper classic having languished in the relative doldrums for several years before inflating out of my reach, which saves me having to wonder whether I could justify one. I liked the look of the stealthily modified Austin A30, and I always appreciate an MG Magnette. Despite the huge amount of choice, I’d probably settle on the multi-brown Transit Custom for its useful towing capacity. Obviously, what I really need is the facility to collect another rancid old crock with galloping rot which would generate a welding bill greater than the value of my house…