60s style in Liverpool

Three classic cars from Great Escape Classic Car Hire helped recreate Liverpool's 60s beat heyday when they were displayed at the BT Conference Centre.
The classic car hire company's Aston Martin DB6, Jaguar E Type convertible and classic Mini Cooper were on display in the conference centre's main hall as part of a major conference event attended by 1,000 people. The cars were chosen by the organisers to complement the 60s themed evening, which includes live music from a Beatles tribute band.
The event placed significant logistical demands on Great Escape because of the timescale, location of the cars and distance involved. Fortunately Great Escape has a network of classic car hire fleets across the UK and a fleet of trucks and trailers to transport them. This, together with Great Escape's management structure, meant that the company was able to deliver three cars to Liverpool on the same day, handle all legal and practical requirements of the venue and crucially provide the right cars suitable for the event from its 60+ fleet.
"We undertake a lot of corporate events," explains Graham Eason of Great Escape, "but this was easily the most unusually and technically demanding. We have provided cars for The Brits but that was just one car - this was for three cars so much more complex.
"Fortunately we have the experience, resources and range of cars to successfully support this kind of event. The event organisers were very pleased with every aspect of our service."
For more information on Great Escape Classic Car Hire's corporate events experience, call 01527 893733 and speak to Graham or Jamie. Or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk/.
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See our Ariel Atom at Top Gear live

The Great Escape Classic Car Hire Ariel Atom will be on display at the Top Gear Live event at Excel in London from Thursday to Saturyday. You can find the car on the Ariel stand and to celebrate we'll be running some special Christmas discount offers at the show. Just come along, ask for Crispin and we'll take 10% off the hire price - for vouchers or bookings.

The Ariel Atom for hire from Great Escape is available from our London site. Discounted hire prices start at £310 for 24 hours, which includes 200 miles use, comprehensive insurance and AA breakdown cover. The car is an Ariel Atom 245 with optional seat heaters and windscreen.

To find out more about hiring the Ariel Atom for hire from Great Escape Classic Car Hire call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk/.

New Midlands satellite site

Great Escape Classic Car Hire has improved its service to customers with the creation of a new Midlands satellite site. The new location in Sutton Coldfield is home to our new Lotus Elan and gives Great Escape customers a convenient starting point north of Birmingham just off the M6.

Great Escape will relocate any local car to the new Midlands classic car hire site if it is more convenient for customers - depending on the length of hire, relocation may be free of charge.

The new Midlands location is a satellite of Great Escape's main Cotswolds site. Great Escape satellite sites tend to have smaller fleets with more limited facilities. They are generally run by some of the owners that Great Escape works with to provide cars to classic car enthusiasts.

"Location is one of the key determinates when customers are choosing a classic car hire supplier," explains Graham Eason of Great Escape. "Our Midlands site makes the process of hiring a classic car simpler and easier for customers. We will happily relocate any car from our Cotswolds to Sutton Coldfield if it is useful to our customers."

For more information on the new Midlands classic car hire fleet and the brilliant Lotus Elan M100 convertible for hire, call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk/.

Classic car hire gets closer to London

Great Escape Classic Car Hire has opened a new Northants Fleet that makes hiring a car near London simpler and easier. The new site, based near Milton Keynes, cuts the journey time from London by half compared to our Midlands site near Stratford Upon Avon.
The Northants Fleet opens with an eclectic range of classic cars including Citroen 2CV, Porsche 911, Mercedes SLK convertible and classic Mini Cooper in British Racing Green. We also have an immaculate Aston Martin V8 coupe available for chauffeur hire weddings.
Like every Great Escape car, the new Northants classic car hire fleet is backed by our comprehensive and transparent hire package, which gives 24 hours for every day you book, unlimited mileage (except Mini), comprehensive insurance and full AA breakdown cover.
"Our Northants Fleet is very easy to get to and a great jumping off point for excellent countryside and driving roads," explains Graham Eason of Great Escape. "We provide driving routes and recommendations for hotels, places to stay and places to visit."
The new Northants classic car hire fleet is available on a self drive basis for weekends and weekdays or self drive weddings or can be provided with a chauffeur for weddings. The Citroen 2CV is a full four seater and the Mini is the ultimate classic version with full leather and wood interior. The Porsche is the sought-after 993 air cooled version with space for 2 adults and 2 children. The Mercedes is perfect for relaxing weekends away.
Prices for the Northants classic car hire Fleet start at just £145 per day. For more details call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk/. Book a date or voucher before Christmas and save 10% on your total hire cost.

Website marketing de-bugged

This post strays a little from our usual four wheeled themes. But after a lecture from yet another cold-calling SEO company telling me how to optimise and improve the Great Escape Classic Car Hire site, I thought I'd share some simple words of wisdom for free.
I don't claim to be an expert but I have put the graft in over 5 years. Today the Great Escape site attracts 20,000 visitors every month and ranks in the top 3 on Google for every one of our key search terms. All that was achieved with some help from Mike Fieldhouse at RealityHouse and a lot of hard work.
In my experience, the effort put into marketing a small business in its first 3 years is at least 5 times more valuable than any other activity. After that it ranks equally with financial management.
Here are my 10 simple rules to website success.
1. Choose a relevant domain name - we hire classic cars, we should have put classic car hire in our domain name
2. Understand your customer - what are they looking for so what words will they put in Google?
3. Make the website journey simple - use Analytics to see which pages are most popular and focus on making them easy to find
4. Communication is king - fancy graphics and design have a role to play, but not if they get in the way of communicating clearly what you do and why someone should buy from you
5. Use social networking carefully - it can be time consuming so make sure you know what you're doing it for and what you are achieving
6. Use Google Adwords - you can't rank top for everything; target, target, target to maximise our budget
7. Do something every day - website marketing is a living thing; if you don't keep running, you'll get left behind
8. Always look around you - what is everyone else doing? What can you learn?
9. Listen - web marketing can feel like the sound of one hand clapping. Use Analytics, customer enquiries and customer feedback to learn what your web marketing is really doing and how it could be better
10. Enjoy it - if you don't enjoy web marketing, find someone who does. Otherwise it just won't happen

Money pit or money maker?

One thing is for sure, if you own a classic Jaguar you’re not in it for the money. Joy comes at a price. Like all classic motors, keeping a Jaguar reliable and in good condition takes cash, sometimes lots of it. This can lead to all sorts of complications – tension, marital strive, scuffles with bank managers, or even worse.
There are many different ways to solve the problem. Lock it away in a darkened garage and forget about it. Sell it. Give it away. On a more practical note, some owners have thought about hiring their classic cars out. There is a buoyant market for self drive classic car hire in the UK, which can provide a useful income to justify owning a classic pride and joy. It also carries much less risk than many owners imagine. For enthusiasts looking for a sound investment, buying a classic car for hire can provide better returns (and more enjoyment) than a savings account.
The trouble is, to set yourself up to hire classic cars is an expensive business – you need a website, specialist insurance, card processing equipment and there are various legal requirements. Typically the break even point is six good hire cars, which requires a typical investment in vehicles of £80,000. It is all too easy to watch profitable car hire revenue dribble back into the overheads of running a small business. And as many people have found, running a classic car hire business may be a dream job but it requires a very broad range of skills, in particular marketing capability.
I started Great Escape Classic Car Hire in 2006 motivated by most of these factors. I began with an Alfa Romeo Spider and a Jensen Interceptor but quickly realised I had a problem. I had the skills to get the phone ringing, but not the capital to build the business with extra cars in order to make it sustainable. That’s when I received two phone calls that transformed the business. Two classic car owners approached me to hire their cars for them. Both had cars but a lack of space and a dilemma – their partners were keen for them to sell, but they couldn’t bear to part with them.
The success of this early foray into leasing in cars from owners – both owners are still involved with the business – led to me developing a range of packages for classic car owners seeking to hire out their cars. Today Great Escape is the UK’s largest classic car hire company with a fleet of nearly 60 classic cars for hire. Over half of those cars are hired on behalf of owners. This includes the largest range of classic Jaguars for hire in the world.
Our experience working with classic car owners for nearly six years has given us an insight into what works best for both parties. So we now offer owners two different ways to hire out their cars. Our Owners Package is aimed at enthusiasts who want to hire their car from one of our existing sites. This arrangement suits owners who lack storage, have bought a car purely as an investment or want an entirely hands-off approach to the hire process.
For owners who want to be more involved, we have developed an Operators Package. This arrangement effectively sets the owner up as a new Great Escape Classic Car Hire location, offering cars from their own home or a local storage unit. Operators are separate businesses linked to Great Escape like a franchise, but without the costs and cumbersome formalities of a franchise arrangement. Operators also have the opportunity to grow their hire fleet through cars that Great Escape sources from other owners who join us under an Owners Package arrangement. This option is popular with owners who are looking for a small retirement income or an additional income stream. If you enjoy meeting customers, then it is also a very rewarding experience.
The returns an owner can expect vary depending on which route they choose. Under the Owners Package we offer two remuneration options, which are dependent on the level of risk the owner wants to take. Our most popular package is a percentage payment, with the owner paying for the maintenance of the car. Alternatively, we can pay a fixed leasing fee with Great Escape then picking up all costs incurred during the hire and maintenance of the car. The Operators Package is more straightforward, with the owner being remunerated for the hire of the car and their work to prepare, handover and maintain the car.
The returns you can expect from hiring a classic car inevitably vary greatly. We know which cars work and don’t work on hire, and the ones that cost a lot to keep reliable and roadworthy. The different returns between a good hire car and an average one are considerable – a good hirer will return two or three times the rate of a savings account and will generally appreciate. When you are thinking about which car to hire it is important to decide whether you want to secure a good return on your investment or simply cover the cost of owning and enjoying a beloved classic. This decision affects your choice of car for hire and will enable you to properly assess the benefits you receive.
Great Escape Classic Car Hire does give you a head start with ensuring a good return. We have become the UK’s largest classic car hire company through successful marketing. Our website, http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk/ attracts over 20,000 unique visitors every month and is ranked at the top of page one on Google for all key search terms. Consequently, we consistently achieve hire rates per car that are well above the norm for classic car hire companies. Our relationships with event and experience companies, our advertising and our various unique initiatives to boost rental days means that when you put your car with Great Escape you are giving it a very good chance of success.
We have an established set of procedures and systems for managing hires through our network of locations. We use the car hire industry’s leading booking system to process all hires, whether online or by phone. This means that we effectively manage all hires for you and keep life simple, whether you are working with as an Owner or Operator.
Jaguars are consistently amongst the most popular – and profitable – cars for hire. Inevitably E Types and Mk2s top the list, but the XJS and XK8s – particularly the XKR – are growing in popularity. Other Browns Lane models such as the Daimler V8 250 and XJ6 are showing signs of becoming future classic hire cars.
When thinking about hiring out your classic car there are a number of issues to consider. From our perspective, the car must be presentable, reliable (which means it is receiving regular use) and largely standard. Ideally we are seeking cars in popular colours such as red, green, blue, white or silver.
As an owner you need to be mindful of the risks. The risk of loss or damage inevitably increases when you hire your car to someone else. However, in five years of hiring out cars for thousands of hire days I have only suffered one serious accident, which was resolved through our insurer. Our checks and controls ensure that we can always trace every hirer and we do not hire to boy racers. The relatively high price of classic car hire, plus a hefty insurance excess, tends to mean that customers are actually more careful than many owners are with their own cars. Inevitably, wear and tear commensurate with increased usage is unavoidable – stone chips and some car park damage are the most likely problems.
We have continuously refined our packages for classic car owners to ensure that they work in everyone’s best interests. And as a classic car owner myself I am acutely aware of the responsibility we have when we hire your car, whether you work with us as an owner or operator.
If you would like to avoid marital strife and find out more about hiring your classic car with Great Escape, including a personalised analysis of the costs and income, call or email me for an informal chat on 01527 893733 or graham@greatescapecars.co.uk.

Celebrate 50 years of the MGB in 2012

Great Escape Classic Car Hire, which operates the largest fleet of MGBs for hire in the UK, has announced a series of events in 2012 to celebrate 50 years of its most popular hire car.
The company, which has MGs based in Suffolk, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Worcestershire, has created a series of unique experience packages for customers around the MGB’s 50th anniversary. These include an exclusive weekend package for the Blenheim rally and dedicated MG-themed touring days. Great Escape is also planning an MG-themed classic car rally around the Midlands and a charity Lands End to John O’Groats trip featuring four of the company’s MGBs.
“MGBs are our most popular hire car so we wanted to fully support the anniversary,” explains Graham Eason of Great Escape. “The B’s popularity never seems to wane and they are perfect hire cars – robust, reliable and easy to work on.
“Our packages are aimed at people who are considering owning an MGB or who are coming to Britain to join the celebrations and want to attend in a MGB.”
Great Escape Classic Car Hire’s MGBs typically travel over 10,000 miles every year. This year the fleet has made trips to Greece and the Scottish Highlands as well as several long holiday hires. The cars include three standard 1800cc MGB roadsters, a V8 roadster and a MG TD.
Great Escape Classic Car Hire was founded in 2006 and now operates a fleet of over 50 classic cars from 6 UK locations. Prices for standard self drive hire start at just £95/day.
For more details on Great Escape’s MGB anniversary packages call 01527 893733 or visit the Great Escape online shop at http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk/.
Great Escape is offering MG Car Club members 10% off the hire of any of its fleet of over 60 cars. Just mention the Club when you call.

The greatest driver's car of all time?

At Great Escape Classic Car Hire we live and breath classic cars. We like the well-known stuff like MGBs and Jaguar E Types, but we always like to seek out something a little different to bring our customers.
With our latest acquisition we think we've found a winner. In the 1990s Lotus built a brilliant convertible two seater called the Elan. It was expensive so nobody bought it. Now it's been virtually forgotten, except by diehard enthusiasts. They have discovered what we hope more will do now that one is on our fleet - the Lotus Elan M100 for hire in the Midlands is quite simply the best front wheel drive sports car of the last 25 years. That's a tall claim, but when you drive it you'll see why.
The M100 Elan is the Lotus you can confidentally drive more than 5 miles from home. It has bulletproof mechanics, it's built quite well and it is comfortable, spacious and rides superbly.
The latest addition to the Great Escape Classic Car Hire fleet is available to hire in the Midlands. Prices start at just £165 per day and include unlimited mileage, insurance and full breakdown cover.
"We're always on the look out for interesting cars to offer to our customers," explains Graham Eason of Great Escape. "One of the advantages of having a large fleet is that we can offer cars that are less obvious, such as the Lotus Elan M100.
"Anyone considering a car for the weekend or who wants to know what a great Lotus is like to drive, should grab the keys to this brilliant little car"
For more information call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk/.

Jaguar XKr road test review

Try Before You Buy – 1999 Jaguar XKR 2+2 Coupe
by Matt Nichols

370 horse power. It’s got a nice ring to it hasn’t it. 370 horse power in a car that weighs in at just over 1700kg to give a power to weight ratio in the order of 210-220 bhp/tonne. Important in as much that it sits above the magical 200bhp/ tonne mark and therefore enough in a road car to let you know it is going to be quick without having to do any more calculations. Couple that to a massive 387lbs/ft of torque, an official 0-60 time of 5.2 seconds and an all too easy to reach top speed of 155 mph and you have the Jaguar XKR 2+2 coupe that, if you choose, will propel you up and down the A-Roads of Great Britain all day long at extremely high velocity. Slightly ironic then, once sat behind the wheel that the thought of racing anyone else off a set of lights couldn’t be further from your mind.

The reason, well this is a Jaguar after all, and as with many other cars from the same marque you find yourself being seduced by its charms and adopt a far more laid back style than something with this performance should engender. The gentle warble from the very British and new at the time 4.0 litre AJ-V8, Jaguar’s fourth engine derivative and first V8, quite literally purrs along combining beautifully with the ‘J-Gate’ 5 speed ZF auto to select gears that match your every need. The left hand side of the ‘J-Gate’ selector introduces engine braking and restricts forward gears to the first two, three, or four ratios for quick and controlled progress. With the right hand side offering conventional ‘D’ drive, ‘R’ reverse and ‘P’ park options. There is also a sport ‘S’ button which holds onto gears longer whilst in drive, a combination that seemed to work best overall during my time with the big cat coupe in its dark blue hue.

Which brings me onto this cars looks. It is stunning, particularly when viewed from the side and the colour of the Great Escape Classic Car Hire model really nails it, enhanced by an original Jaguar body kit that adds some more subtly aggressive styling cues around the edges. I am ignoring the miniature chrome Jaguar added to the front of the bonnet which thankfully is out of sight once sat inside. Get in and you wonder why Jaguar tried to copy Jensen’s Interceptor in terms of massive proportions on the outside and yet restricted space within. One or two adults on board, there is plenty of space to stretch out and room in the boot for any amount of luggage with soft bags in the back. Do what I attempted in embarking on a three hour round trip to the seaside with my wife, son, who at 14 years old is taller than me and ‘tweenager’ daughter and things can get a little too close for comfort. Inside is also where the Ford influence reveals itself the most, with familiar looking; ignition key, switchgear and central console. Still what you can say in their defence is that they all work brilliantly; cruise control, climate and CD changer, no classic car traits to report here then.

So what does 370 bhp and 387lbs/ ft of torque feel like? Well I’ve driven the quite mad TVR Tuscan which packs 360bhp into a much lighter frame and in theory at least touches 300bhp/ tonne. TVR’s horsepower claims were always optimistic though and the normally aspirated Speed Six unit is shy of 100 lbs/ft of torque, an often forgotten performance statistic that closes such gaps extremely effectively. Back in the Jag and the XKR’s auto-box, particularly whilst in drive mode, masks the immediate impact of applying such a large amount of twist through the 245 profile 18 inch rear tyres by apparently having to drop two or three ratios before anything remotely resembling acceleration can be experienced. Even knocking the box down to 2 on the left hand gate means if you are already rolling one down change is still required. Personally I’m amazed anyone got it to 60mph in the claimed 5.2 seconds when, as far as I can tell, it takes until 60mph to really get going. What is happening aurally though is still dramatic enough, like the drum roll before a grand finale.

What a finale as well, because when everything does finally connect, the correct ratio is selected, the supercharger starts its spine tingling banshee war cry, drowning out the already impressive V8 roar and the XKR sits back on its E-Type like haunches and heads for the horizon at a truly breath taking rate of knots. This is exactly what this sort of power and torque should feel like, acceleration that never lets up despite the ever increasing physical forces acting against such rapidly advancing progress. It is so strong that the only conclusion I can draw is that the claimed 155mph max is due to an artificial restriction, because there’s no way it ends at that point naturally. This car really shifts and what’s great is that the brakes and handling are all well up to the job. Better still ease your right foot back from where it was firmly embedded in the pile of the plush carpet and the first question the car asks is whether this is going to be the cruising speed today. Now that is Jaguar. This isn’t about acceleration after all. It’s more about high speed travel, arriving somewhere faster than anyone else and in comfort. Although I think my family would argue, as long as there are no more than two of you on board at the time.

1999 Jaguar XKR 2+2 Coupe
Slightly light steering is disconcerting at first, but then tightens up nicely on fast flowing roads. Jaguar’s supercharged V8 is a gem.
Supercharged 4.0 Litre Jaguar AJ-V8 DOHC with variable valve timing.
Power: 370bhp
Torque: 387lbs/ft
0-60: 5.2 Seconds
Max Speed: 155mph
Superb and well up to the job
1700Kg aside, XKR is true to E-Type handling characteristics of excellent ride, regardless of road surface, combined with relatively low levels of pitch and roll
Appreciating asset that reflects close ties to DB7. Values still tantalisingly low at present
Those looks and that engine
Buying: Avoid anything without Jaguar or specialist service history
Renting: None except remember the fuel gauge is not dropping as quickly as you feared only because it is connected to an enormous 20 gallon tank.
Grace, Pace and just enough Space (For Two) by Matt Nichols
Sir William Lyons had a simple vision for his beloved Jaguar cars during the time he presided; grace, pace and space, and so the question is how do the beautiful 60’s E-Type, rectangular shaped 70’s XJS and retro styled 90’s XKR square up. Well one thing they do share in common is space, or more precisely a distinct lack of it, because all three offer a snug fit for two, with any notion of there being room for plus two more best translated as meaning plus two more bags, perfect then for that weekend getaway.
First impressions
E-Types are stunning cars that draw you in the minute you first clap eyes on them, and so unfortunately for the other two here, win your heart in an instant. Their long slender bonnets that hand over to curving rooflines, for the coupes at least, to then meet with the distinctive and equally curvy rear haunches. It doesn’t get any better and therefore any surprise that the newest Jaguar here, the XKR, takes many of its good looks from its granddaddy, albeit on a physically much larger scale. So what of the XJS a car that spanned the 21 year gap between E-Type and XK8 on which the XKR is based? Well back in the day straighter lines were in, and working on the basis that Ferrari were at it with the Daytona, Aston the same with the V8 Coupe and Jensen likewise with the Interceptor, I don’t think anyone can really criticise Jaguar for doing something similar. Of course looking back now it is all a bit academic with the E-Types being the clear winners of the beauty pageant, XKR second and XJS a distant third.Sat insideWithin the cabin is where everything starts to become a matter of taste and just how snug you want to be. Squeeze yourself into an E-Type and you face two stunningly large dials for engine and road speed with a surprisingly modern looking long row of rocker switches mounted dead centre on the dash between you and your passenger. There is no getting away with one thing though, as comfortable as they are once installed, E-Types are tricky cars to enter and exit from with tiny doors and extremely wide sills. If mobility is at all an issue, the cruel truth is looking at one from the outside may be as close as you get.This is where the later XJS and XKR derivatives come into their own, as both offer far easier accessibility from their more conventional interior design. The XJS is still low slung, but with plenty of room up front for both driver and passenger with pleasantries like powerful heating and ventilation systems and in the convertible, an electric folding roof. The XKR coupe offers similar, this time being more modern again, marred just slightly by the Ford sourced console and switchgear which thankfully falls below your eye-line whilst on the move. Surprisingly all three do share one thing in common; perfectly placed elbow rests either side of the driver, and so time now to hit the road.
Engine and exhaust note
When you do turn the key it’s the E-Types and XKR that truly deliver. Depending on which model you plump for depends on just how aural your experience is, as the Great Escape Classic Car Hire E-Types come with 5.3 V12 and smaller 6 cylinder engines with and without sports exhausts fitted. Volume levels therefore range from 1 to 10. The XKR has its own glorious sound in the form of a Jaguar V8 power-plant that rewards at tick-over with a distinctive throb giving way to the shrill of its supercharger as the loud pedal is fully depressed. Both are truly inspiring and completely different. The XJS on the other hand is much more ‘grace’ and the sleeper of the three as its V12 is almost completely silent until pushed really hard, with the only noise generated being that of wind passing quickly overhead when the roof is down.
Out and about
If you are after a relaxing and classy jolt around the countryside with something extra on tap if required then the XJS might just be for you. This car by its very nature is grace personified, combined with easy entry and exit as well as a heater so powerful you could probably drive to the north-pole roof down. The XKR takes away some of that grace and replaces it with much more pace, courtesy of its 4.0litre blown V8 that at 370bhp and 387 lbs/ft of torque is enough to see off any hot hatch and most other things up to Porsche, Ferrari and TVR standards. This car is extremely quick on fast flowing roads only needing to slow on tighter sections, largely due to its bulky 1700kg mass.E-Types on the other hand are lithe machines, particularly in 4.2 litre guise, and can be hustled along any road at any speed in relative comfort. The absence of body roll combined with comfort over virtually any road surface is a revelation with the only constraints being the car’s systems, such as the heater and fit of the roof around the windscreen, if a convertible. There is also the mild inconvenience of exhaust fumes being sucked into the cabin in the coupes, meaning a stop every 60 minutes or so is essential to preventing brain fade.
Ownership prospects
This is really a question about available funds, or maybe a gap that needs filling if you have a collection. The good news is that space aside, all three cars fulfil the ethos of grace and pace and so allow you to enjoy Jaguar ownership as its owner intended. E-Types provide the ultimate in classic car ownership in everything that means. Whilst XJS’s are now gaining recognition in their role in providing a basic platform for the later XK8, XKR and Aston Martin DB7 models and respected all the more for that with prices holding firm. XKR’s are now looking remarkable value for money for a car that is quite simply bonkers fast with an uncanny ability to cruise all day long at high speed. Each has something to offer, and so all three are cars Sir William should be, and I’m sure would be, extremely proud of.
An E-Type offers the ultimate in classic car ownership; the squarer XJS is for those on a tighter budget or for anyone who doesn’t quite bend and flex as well as they used to and the XKR serves as a useful halfway house both in terms of its looks and the investment required whilst providing serious pace to boot.
E Type - Incredible balance of cross country pace and grace, truly amazing for a 50 year old car
XJS - More grace than pace and so the XJS is by far the most refined of the three here
XKR - A supercharged V8 ensures this car wins the pace race, once the auto-box has done its thing
E Type -4.2 litre 6 Cylinder DOHC or 5.3 litre SOHC V12
XJS - 5.3 litre SOHC V12 with Lucas fuel injection
XKR - Supercharged 4.0 litre Quad Cam V8BrakesDisc brakes front and rear work well
E Type - Flat with hardly any roll, can be driven anywhere and rewards at any pace
XJS - Soft and cosy, best driven at a gentle pace
XKR - Comes close to E-Type but cannot hide its 1700kg mass in tighter corners
All E-Types are sought after cars, Series 1 convertibles commanding the highest values, with later 2+2 coupes being the most affordable
XJS -Has suffered in the past but prices have now settled with interest on the increase
XKR - Just starting to be of interest now especially when compared to its higher valued cousin, the DB7.
E Type - Instantly recognisable fame
XJS - Accessible to more people and can be used all year round
XKR - Rocketship with some nice E-Type styling cues
E Type
Buying: Tricky and potentially very costly to maintain
Renting: None
Buying: Not so tricky maybe, but still potentially costly to run and maintain
Renting: None
Buying: Same.
Renting: None
E Type - 5/5
XJS - 3/5
XKR - 4/5

Sun, sand and a seventies supercar

Great Escape Classic Car Hire's Jensen Interceptor took a trip down to Cornwall this week to take part in a photoshoot for Jack Wills clothing. The quintessentially British clothing brand chose the big British supercar bruiser because of its iconic 70s looks which match Jack Wills' classic lines.
We worked with the production team to help select the right vehicle for the shoot and to arrange the logistics at very short notice. Thanks to our investment in logistics equipment during 2011 we are able to transport any of our fleet of over 50 classic cars anywhere in Britain to tight deadlines. Our Operations Manager Russ Pemberton made the trip with the 1974 Jensen Interceptor using our truck and trailer set up and attended the photoshoot, which was located right on the beach at Boobys Bay near Port Isaac in Cornwall.
"We regularly work with TV, film and advertising teams to provide cars for shoots," explains Graham Eason of Great Escape Classic Car Hire. "We have invested in this area so that we are able to deliver vehicles to site anywhere in Britain at short notice and in a highly presentable condition.
"Our experience means we can help production teams make the most of our cars without the hassle of having to collect the car and maximising their time and budget."
For more information on Great Escape Classic Car Hire visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk/ or call 01527 893733.

The finest saloon car there should have been

One of the perks of the job here at Great Escape Classic Car Hire is that we get to meet petrolheads on a daily basis. And a long chat with an enthusiast last night fired us up all over again about our Rover SD1 Vitesse. Sadly we've got to sell this car due to lack of space - something we regularly have to do with our cars, but with the Rover it feels increasingly like a real wrench.

For classic car fans the Rover SD1 still sits somewhere between a cheap hot rod and a classic car. But values are rising fast as the stock of good quality cars dwindles - 10 years ago there were 20,000 Rover SD1s on the road, today there are less than 2,000.

The Great Escape Classic Car Hire Rover is one of the last of the homologation special Vitesse Twin Plenum cars, which pushes 190 bhp out of the 3,500cc V8 engine. Sitting in our garage under the low neon lights, we had to admit that this is one of the greatest saloon car designs of all time, one that still looks good today. And it came about entirely by chance. Designer David Bache had come up with a succession of traditional, rather pedestrian Rover designs for the British Leyland board. The head honchos, apparently, couldn't agree on the direction for a car that was supposed to replace the top end Triumph and Rover saloons, two brands with entirely different images. Frustrated, Bache apparently rushed out a sketch intended as a pastiche of the Ferrari Daytona, never quite expecting it to be accepted. It was, and the Rover SD1 was born. Like many design classics, the car looks so good because it went into production virtually straight off the drawing board.

The BL top brass had wasted so much time prevaricating that the SD1 was rushed into production virtually 'as is'. Consequently much of the detail design of the car is poorly executed. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the interior, which contains some clever ideas but, particularly in early versions, appears somewhat rushed.

The SD1 was British Leyland's ultimate own goal. Here was a practical, highly competent car that looked brilliant, particularly compared to the staid German competition. But these detail design failings and the input of BL's bean counters conspired to turn a shining star into a lemon. The accountants green lighted a brand new factory to build the SD1 then systematically went through the car and cut as much cost out as possible. Fairly enough, the car needed to be profitable. But they went too far, giving a premium market car the fixtures and fittings more befitting of an Allegro. Under the skin they reversed the technical innovations of the Rover P6 and made the SD1 basic and simple with a live rear axle and rudimentary suspension. These were good ideas adopted from Ford, except Ford kept on the right side of selling showroom shine to the masses. And people expected Fords to be simple and basic - Rovers were upmarket and advanced. Now they weren't.

The final nail in the Rover's coffin was truly woeful build quality. Although BL improved standards, particularly under Michael Edwardes' tutelage, the Rover SD1 was always significantly below market standards for executive cars, let alone much cheaper cars. It was almost as if Rover was trying to lose buyers.

Looking at the Rover SD1 Vitesse on a November night in 2011 much of this is history. Today it simply looks brilliant. Sure, the driving position isn't great, the steering is too light and the rear axle give as uncomplicated a ride and handling combination as it's possible to get, but it is these flaws that make the Rover great. That engine, that burble and that profile are an addictive combination.

For men of a certain age the Rover SD1 is the ultimate dad's car. Enjoy one now before prices sky rocket.

For more details on Great Escape Classic Car Hire call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk/.

Is the MGB great with a V8?

At Great Escape Classic Car Hire we run the largest fleet of MGBs and our cars cover amongst the highest annual mileages for these cars in the UK. We have experience of running MGB roadsters MGB GT coupes and V8 and 4 cylinder versions of these cars. Since the V8 conversion is high on many MGB owners' wish lists and with the MGB 50th anniversary approaching we thought we'd share our experience of running the 3,500cc Rover engined car as well as the conventional 1800cc MG engine.

MG always envisaged a larger engined MGB and there are factory versions of the car with the 3-litre straight six 'Healey' engine (the MGC, in coupe and roadster styles) and with the 3,500cc V8 Buick-derived Rover engine (in MGB GT coupe style only). These factory-developed models were never particularly successful, feeling hurried and under-developed.

Several specialists created V8 versions of the MGB, generally more successfully. The Costello version was probably the best resolved - using the 3,500cc engine - and appears to have influenced the factory to create the MGB GT V8.

The 3,500cc Rover V8 in theory makes a wonderful addition to the MGB. It is lighter than the 1800c engine so sits better in the nose of the car, it revs easily and it adds a useful dollop of extra power, typically 50 bhp (an extra 50%). The Rover engine is one of the best engines of the last 40 years, being highly tractable with smooth power delivery and a wonderful burbling soundtrack. So it is understandable that many owners consider dropping a V8 into the MGB, particularly the MGB convertible.

At Great Escape Classic Car Hire we have a 1971 MGB convertible V8 in burgundy metallic with a black leather interior. This car was retro-fitted with a V8 by a previous owner, although we're not quite sure who did the work. The V8 conversion does release a lot of the MGB's latent potential, providing brisk acceleration, a lovely soundtrack and the car is noticeably more nimble with less over-steer in corners. Our customers certainly love it, enjoying the extra power and the noise in particular. The Rover engine's ready torque and smooth delivery are a sheer delight that simply encourage down changes. Compared to the 1800cc engine, it feels willing and eager and yes, more sporting. Quite why MG didn't put more effort into a V8 engined version of the MGB, including a MGB roadster, is beyond us.

The problem, though, is that the extra power and improved weight distribution do tend to highlight the limitations of the MGB chassis. This is a beautiful car with a fairly antiquated chassis, but one that is quite well set up with 95 bhp and 1800cc at the helm. Sure, the steering is a little slow and the chassis doesn't like to be hurried, but the relative lack of power means that it is still great fun to drive because its limits can be explored at relatively low speed. That's an experience that is hard to replicate with a modern car.

The MGB V8, conversely, tends to highlight these limitations by the sheer ability of the 3,500cc engine. A proper V8 conversion in a MGB is about more than just replacing the engine. It needs suspension and handling improvements that match its increased performance. Racing versions of the MGB mean that such upgrades are available, albeit at a price. The MGB V8 at Great Escape Classic Car Hire has benefitted from such improvements, but it is not typical of most V8 conversions for sale.

Anyone considering a MGB V8 conversion should look very carefully at the extent of the upgrades to engine and handling but also pay particular attention to the quality of the installation. The MGB engine bay was not designed to take the V8 Rover engine, so it requires significant alterations to the chassis to accommodate the engine and the exhaust manifolds. Even with this work done, access to the engine bay can be extremely tight, turning simple repair jobs into lengthy tasks. On our own MGB we have also experienced significant problems due to poor work (we mean bodges) with breather hoses and other connections. This has led to reliability problems that have taken time to iron out - without access to a factory manual it can be difficult to trace exactly what the engine installer did and how to resolve it.

Any car that has been significantly adapted and modified after production poses a much higher risk to future owners than a standard factory car. It can, of course, provide much more enjoyment. Such cars do not benefit from the significant R&D investment required to get upgrades right and without a factory-approved 'map' to help rectify problems, issues can become expensive to resolve.

Much as we like the MGB V8 on the Great Escape Classic Car Hire fleet - and it certainly shows what the MGB could have been - as an ownership prospect we'd choose a spiced up 1800cc engined car any time. The MGB Owners Club offers endless options for extracting more performance and better power delivery from the 1800cc engine - these upgrades are relatively simple to install (compared to a V8 engine) and do not require significant adaptations to the car's basic structure. They're proven in thousands of applications and they are backed by lots of technical support.

For more information on hiring an MGB from Great Escape Classic Car Hire call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk/.

Join our Club

Great Escape, the UK’s largest classic car rental firm, has come up with another reason for enthusiasts to close the garage doors and hire a classic instead. The new Great Escape Classic Car Club gives members access to over 50 classic cars from 6 convenient UK locations, all for just £900 a year.
The new club covers all of Great Escape’s fleet including everything from Minis to Aston Martins, with collection from locations in Suffolk, London, Midlands, Shropshire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. Membership starts at less than £900 per year and provides discounts on normal classic car hire rates as well as exclusive extra benefits, free time in the cars, regular promotions and events. Members also get the first chance to drive new cars as well as act as test drivers, providing driving reports for other customers. There are three levels of membership offering increasing levels of discount on Great Escape’s standard price list. Members receive points based on the level of membership they choose – it’s very simple and easy to use and unlike similar clubs, there is no joining fee.
“Our classic car club gives members access to their own virtual garage,” explains Graham Eason of Great Escape. “They get to drive and enjoy some great cars across the country, without the cost and hassle of ownership.
“We’ve tried to make membership simple and transparent – no joining fees, no hidden charges and low starting prices. It is a great way to enjoy our classic car fleet – whether for yourself or as a gift.”

The Great Escape Classic Car Club is open to anyone to join provided they are aged 25 to 75, with a full UK licence and no more than 6 points on their licence. Members can choose to pay their subscription over 12 months by direct debit – starting at less than £79/month – or in one simple payment.
Great Escape Classic Car Hire was founded in 2006 and now operates a fleet of over 50 classic cars from 6 UK locations. Prices for standard self drive hire start at just £95/day.

Celebrate 50 years of the MGB

We've created some unique classic car packages to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the MGB in 2012. The unique experiences complement Great Escape Classic Car Hire's existing MG packages and include themed MG driving tours and a special experience built around the MGB's 50th anniversary celebrations at Blenheim Palace on September 23rd.

The MGB 50th anniversary celebration packages are available to buy as gift experiences, with the dates selected later, or can be booked in full. They are available to buy online at http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk/ or phone 01527 893733.

Great Escape Classic Car Hire operates the largest fleet of MGs for hire in the UK including 5 MGBs and a MGTD. Normal self drive classic car hire starts at just £165 for 24 hours.

For more information call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk/.

New online booking system

At Great Escape Classic Car Hire we've made a major investment in our customer service experience with the launch of a new online booking system for classic car hire. The new system covers our entire fleet of 50+ cars and all of our UK sites. It is now even simpler and easier to book online using a system tried and tested by thousands of UK car hire companies.
The new system makes picking and choosing cars, locations and dates from Great Escape much easier. It automatically advises availability - or suggests alternatives - and calculates the price. The system also shows the car specification. Customers can then book securely online, so there is no risk of losing chosen dates and cars.
"We have been offering online booking since we started," explains Graham Eason of Great Escape Classic Car Hire, "because we want the experience to be simple, convenient and easy for customers. The new system is the best available and most popular in ther industry and provides a customer experience on a par with large international hire companies.
"With over 50 cars and 6 locations it is important for us to make selecting and buying classic car hire from Great Escape simple, easy and trustworthy."
To see the new online system and try it out visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk/ or call 01527 893733 for more details.
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Christmas for classic car fans

This Christmas we've got more gift ideas for classic car fans and bigger discounts for those who love them. Our gift packages start at just £95 and are available to buy online or by phone on 01527 893733. And until Christmas we're offering 10% off everything. Plus, because we supply the experience direct rather than through an online gift reseller you save even more.

Great Escape Classic Car Hire operates the largest fleet of classic cars for rental in the UK. You can start your experience from any of six convenient locations. In our Online Shop you'll find classic car gift vouchers, themed packages, getaway breaks and driving tours. Every package includes everything you need to enjoy your classic car to the full - insurance, breakdown cover and a full vehicle briefing.

To find out more about Great Escape's gift vouchers click here. Our Online Shop for classic car gifts can be found here. For more details cal 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk/.