Caring about classic cars

Yesterday I was on an advertising photo shoot in London with a couple of other classic car hire companies. As we froze our extremities off in the east end of London we swapped stories of other film and advertising shoots we've done. It was remarkable stuff.
Providing cars for TV, film and advertising work is big business. Every car you see in an advert or drama or music video has been sourced from an owner or car hire company. At Great Escape this sort of work is a big part of what we do.
Production companies tend to source cars in three ways. The most common is via a specialist agency that often represents lots of cars owned by lots of different people or offers a car-finding service. Or they come direct to companies like Great Escape that have hire fleets. The third way, less common, is to approach owners' clubs direct for a particular car.
I have worked direct with clients as well as via 'middle men' car sourcing agencies. This includes providing one car for one day static shoots as well several cars for filming over several months. If you're planning to make your car available for TV and film work, there are a few things to check and be aware of.
Film, TV and advertising agencies have a job to do. Your beloved, prized car is just a prop. There are lots of people involved in a shoot, they all have lots to do and they're all stressed. Usually lots of money is involved and if something gets damaged it's insured so it can be sorted. It's not that they don't care, more that they're less familiar with the risks and they don't love your car like you do.
So when you hire your car for this sort of work you need to take care. I strongly recommend that you don't work direct, not just because I run No matter what you're charging you need to minimise the risks. Working with a specialist agency should do that. The problem is that usually it doesn't. Which is why I set up the new business.
I have never had a problem when hiring my cars direct to clients. I have had endless problems when hiring via middle men. And so, it seems from my chat with my peers yesterday, have a lot of other people. My experiences led me to set up to provide a proper, honest and professional middle man service for owners and agencies.
But this isn't meant to be a pat on the back. Here's why it so often goes wrong with middle men and what makes it go right.
The best way to explain this is by an example. Last year I provided a car for a music video involving a shall-be-nameless diminutive pop princess from Down Under. This was set up via a specialist car sourcing agency. They called me out of the blue in a terrible rush demanding a car for the following day. This isn't unusual and not in itself alarming.
Some of our hire cars are owned by third parties. As such I have a simple agreement with each owner that I will return the car at the end of the year exactly as I received it, even if it costs me to do so.
We struggled to obtain shoot details until very late in the day. We received no briefing documents from the agency and no contract terms - so we sent ours. We arrived on set, filled out our handover paperwork correctly - which controls vehicle condition - and did the same when we left. The car was damaged on the shoot and we highlighted this to the only person who seemed to be in charge, the Director.
During the first day's shoot we were asked to provide the car for a second day, which we were able to do. Again the same paperwork process was completed. The shoot finished at night.
When we got the car back we noticed that the black leather passenger seat had been damaged with a stiletto heel and gaffer taped over with black tape to disguise this.
There then followed 12 months of deeply unpleasant emails and phone calls with the middle man agency. To describe their position as 'uncaring' would be polite. They clearly didn't want to upset their client and their client, being one step removed, found it very easy to deny responsibility. The issue revolved around the fact that we should have reported the damage on set. But since it had been deliberately disguised this was a little difficult. I even provided evidence from the resulting music video clearly showing the damage being caused. To no avail.
The agency simply didn't care. I could have applied the same approach to the owner of the car, who I represented. I didn't. Facing considerable legal costs to pursue the agency, I backed down and consequently I lost over £1,000 out of my own pocket repairing his car to a high standard.
This story is not unique. Another agency sourced cars from owners and hirers for a BBC programme. We refused to deal with them. When they damaged one of the cars they simply returned it and ignored the plague of calls and emails to pay for repairs. In that example a lack of paperwork didn't help the situation.
Working directly with clients I have never had this problem. We are able to establish the rules of engagement at the outset and agree how the car will be used and the risks involved. We proceed or otherwise based on understanding and agreeing these issues. Because we hire our own cars every day we are very alert to the risks and problems. An agency representing cars isn't. That is the crucial difference.
Making your car available for TV, film and advertising work isn't inherently risky. But if it isn't managed properly and professionally it can be. That means experience to identify the risks and the paperwork that manages them.
That is why we set up We have a responsibility to clients and owners to minimise the risk they are exposed to. Because we hire cars every day we instantly see the problems or issues in whatever is being proposed. We have been hiring cars on behalf of owners since 2007 and because I don't relish telling them that their car has been damaged I ensure we avoid that happening. We cannot eliminate risk but when the worst happens we sort it out. With a proper paper trail and agreement that becomes much easier.
The middle man agency who damaged my car doesn't deserve to be in business. They deliver nothing and add nothing. Unfortunately, they're not alone. But my righteous indignation at their failings led to our TV car service. To find out how you can earn from your car without throwing your car to the sharks call 01537 893733 or visit

Use Them & Improve Them

Old cars and special occasions are a potentially explosive combination, as anyone who has chauffeur driven a wedding car will know. Here at Great Escape we have the sometimes unenviable task of hiring our cars for customers' weddings, birthdays and anniversaries. Which genuinely makes the job rewarding.
The trouble is, old cars don't always feel the same way. By definition they have aged over 30, 40 or 50 years. In most cases they weren't built very well or engineered well in the first place. It doesn't help that in Britain we love British classic cars. If German cars captured out collective imagination our job at Great Escape Classic Car Hire would be considerably easier because they actually are more reliable. Fact.
So we can never make our classic cars 100% reliable. But we can do everything in our power to make them as reliable and as presentable as possible.

At Great Escape we typically spend at least 35% of every hire fee on maintenance and improvement. As a result our breakdown or call out rate was less than 1% of all hires in 2012. The number of failed hires, where the car couldn't be fixed, is even less.  We achieve this on a typical annual mileage of 8-15,000 miles.
The key to achieving this is knowledge and investment. We took the decision in 2011 to set up our own workshop so that we could maintain our own cars at our main sites in Devon, Cotswolds and Yorkshire. This means that when a car develops a fault we aren't faced with a dilemma about the cost of fixing it. We just fix it because we already employ the people who will do it.
We have spent a while getting the right workshop team but we're there now. Finding a mechanic who understands old cars and has the right fault-finding approach is surprisingly difficult. Now we have the right team with the right approach to customer service.

Since January 2013 we have spent several thousand pounds and over 300 man hours maintaining and improving our cars so that they start the 2013 season as good as they can be. We'll be keeping up this pace throughout the rest of the year.
The work isn't just restricted to essential maintenance. We've improved bodywork, resprayed cars and fitted new interiors as well as refurbishing gearboxes, servicing engines and welding chassis. We've also made sensible improvements like fitting electronic ignition.

We will never prevent old cars breaking down. But we have a responsibility to our customers to keep them to an absolute minimum. And when it does happen, we have the right attitude and systems in place to put it right quickly. That means a 7 day a week emergency call out service run by each local manager backed by a full UK breakdown service. Unlike some companies, we'll recover you wherever you are at no cost.
I'm very proud of how we maintain and improve our fleet and how we manage breakdowns because I believe it's at the heart of what we do. Over the last 18 months we have trimmed and changed our fleet to remove cars that just don't meet our standards, either because of their presentation or reliability. I've also evolved our team and our branch network to ensure we offer a consistent service to customers. That enables us to confidently and successfully provide one car for a wedding or 50 cars for a corporate event.
Our customers trust us to help them have a brilliant and memorable day. The very least we can do is give them a reliable and presentable car.
To find out more about Great Escape call 01527 893733 or visit

Old Foes do Battle in Derbyshire

Today's cars, wherever they're made, are pretty homogenised.  There's not much regional distinction between them. But it wasn't always thus.  Back in the mists of time Germany, Britain and France took very different approaches to the business of transporting 2 or more people by means of self-propelled vehicle.
This is nowhere quite so ably demonstrated than in the three latest additions to the Great Escape Classic Car Hire Peak District fleet.  This site, which is part of our Owner Operated Network, has just added a Mercedes SLK, Citroen 2CV and Triumph Spitfire, three more different cars you couldn't really imagine.  But it is this sheer variety that makes running a classic car hire fleet so enjoyable - and such good news for our customers.

As part of our Owner Operated Network our Peak District site in Chapel-en-le-Frith means you can hire direct from the car's owner. These sites operate to standards and procedures that Great Escape manages. The site has added great examples of classic cars from France, Germany and UK to its hire fleet - a silver Mercedes Benz SLK convertible, Triumph Spitfire and a Citroen 2CV 'Dolly', three very different ways to enjoy the Peak District and Derbyshire Dales scenery on the site's doorstep.
All three cars are available to hire by the day or weekend, for weddings, celebrations or a short break, and include our normal comprehensive hire package. This includes insurance, breakdown cover and unlimited mileage in the price you pay - so there are no hidden surprises.
You can find out more about the cars by clicking in the links below. The Peak District site already has a Jaguar XJS, MGF and Mazda MX5 for hire with prices starting at just £95 for 24 hrs use. For more details call 01527 893733 or visit

Make your getaway with friends

This year at Great Escape we've seen a big increase in the number of private group bookings for our cars. These are hires where a group of mates, male or female, get together to enjoy our cars as part of a short break.
Now maybe this sudden surge in demand is because of the growing popularity of classic cars or a need to simply get away from domesticity.  Whatever it is, we're not complaining.
We have improved our service to make it easier for groups to hire from us. With a large network of sites, including our three main locations in Yorkshire, Devon and Cotswolds, we generally have cars close to where private groups want to spend a weekend. If they are arriving by train or air, which is often the case, we can provide either a minibus transfer service or we can deliver the cars to them. We can also provide routes and book accommodation, providing a turnkey service for private groups from the UK as well as overseas (we work a lot with groups from Sweden and Norway).

The Great Escape Classic Car Hire service for private groups is a development of our work for large corporate clients.  Both types of customer want a simple, easy and good value proposition, plus the confidence that we can deliver when we say we will. Our experience and our customer testimonials hopefully prove that.
Adding classic cars to a short break with friends isn't anywhere near as expensive as you might expect.  Our prices start at £75pp for 24 hrs use, which enables you to collect the car, stay over, enjoy a full day's driving and then bring it back.  We can also organise a day's driving with a route, lunch and refreshments.
To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit

Close but no cigar

When it comes to classic cars there are some undisputed greats, there are some remarkable duds and there is a lot inbetween. At Great Escape we love them all. But we have a bit of a bee in our bonnet about the duff versions of great cars.
Everyone has a different opinion about what constitutes a great car. We just define it as a classic car that our customers love. But a duff version of a great car is, I think, something we can all generally agree on. A duff version is the model in the range that undermines the inherent greatness of the rest of the range. Think Porsche 911 Targa, the ugly scuttle-shaking duck of the iconic 911 range. Or the E Type Series 1 2+2 - all that beauty and brilliance destroyed by the equivalent of a stove pipe hat plonked on top.
These cars, and others, are the chinks in the armour, the signs of fallibility that all car companies inevitably suffer from as they cater to the vagaries of the market.
As a classic car hire company we don't want the lemons, but they are very tempting because generally they're cheap. Our customers want to drive their perfect image of their dream car, in the right colour. Anything else is a compromise. We've learnt this by trial and error and I'll admit we've had a few duffers. Sometimes you don't realise they are duffers until you drive one or see it up close. Take that 911 Targa for example - like discovering a third ear on Elle Macpherson. It just ain't right.
So here is our list of duff classic cars, the great cars that snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Jaguar E Type Series 1 2+2

This is our number one travesty. Take a beautiful car with brilliantly cohesive lines and make it longer and higher. The long wheelbase Series 1 is truly bad mainly because the Series 1 is so pure and beautiful in standard form. The higher roofline looks like an awful last minute add on and the extra length wrecks the lines, without even making the car a proper 4 seater. Nobody can sit in the back of a 2+2 E Type and survive.


Conventional wisdom runs that 6 cylinders are better than 4, 3 litres better than 1.8. Hence the MGC. The MGC is not a bad car, it's just not a hire car. Conventional wisdom has it that the C doesn't offer many advantages over the B and there is some merit in that view, although a MGB with more power and a sweet 6 cylinder engine can never be a bad thing.  The C's issues are really about classic car hire - customers have a set view about MGs and they know what they should pay to hire one.  A B is reasonably priced and cheap to run, a C much less so. And yet when you're hiring it, you can't really charge more for it.  Far better, we think, to go for a V8 conversion and enjoy what a big engined MGB should have been like, with lightness at the front and plenty of poke.

911 SWB

Some great cars take a little time to get going, others fade away slowly. The 911 falls into the first camp. For the first five years of production Porsche only made a diminutive version if the 911 with a short wheelbase, commonly known as the A Series. It's rubbish. Slow, ponderous and with squat looks its erratic handling earned the 911 its end-swapping reputation. Later cars are much better and the pedals, thankfully, won't murder your ankles.

Daimler 250 V8

Now this is a tough one. The small capacity Daimler v8 is a very, very good car. The v8 Turner engine is far superior to the straight 6 Jaguar engines and it had power steering as standard. It also looks exactly like a mk2. But it isn't a Mk2 is it? Lured by the undeniable advantages of te Daimler version we put one in our hire fleet. It looked great and we organised some nice photos to reflect that. But despite all that, it hired twice in 12 months, roughly 2% of what we expect from a mk2. Why? Well there's one big fat reason - it's not a mk2. And unvariably the Daimler is automatic. To really enjoy the spirited driving that is a mk2 trademark you need a manual box. Otherwise you might as well be a passenger. So, Daimler v8, better than a mk2 but not, ultimately, as good. To the power of 2%.

Over the last 7 years we've learned by trial and error what customers want when they choose a classic car to hire. In some cases, like the Daimler, we've had to put personal opinion to one side. The result is a fleet of cars that we are proud to offer - we aren't cutting corners and we aren't fobbing customers off with the duff version of a great car.  To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit

Driving under licence

According to news reports, 2 million people are driving around with out of date and invalid driving licences.  By the end of 2013 that figure could be closer to 5 million.  Here's why.
Back in 1998 the government introduced what is commonly known as the 'card licence.'  This replaced the 'paper licence' that had been in existence for donkeys years. The card licence improved upon the old version by introducing a photo ID and bringing our licence format in line with the rest of Europe.
The problem is that the introduction wasn't handled very well. When the card licence was introduced it wasn't a card licence at all - it was a paper and card licence, with all licences actually consisting of two parts, a credit card style plastic card and an A4 paper sheet.  Whereas the old paper licence was valid until you reached 70 years old, the new one needs renewed every 10 years.  In principle this makes sense because having introduced the photo ID element of the licence, the DVLA needs to keep updating the photo as the holder ages.
And within those two facts lies the problem. Firstly, when told that their paper licence is being replaced by a card licence, many people simply threw away the green A4 paper part and stuck the conveniently small card part in their wallets. It is telling that a simple Google Images search on 'UK driving licence' overwhelmingly brings up images of the card part. It doesn't help that even the DVLA refers to the paper part of the licence, which contains the actual licence details, as the 'counterpart licence.' Which makes it sound like an appendix or subsidiary to the card. It isn't.
For car hire companies like Great Escape this presents us with a major problem - we need to check address details and licence endorsements, but the card part of the licence doesn't contain any of that information. The first time most people realise the problem is when they come to hire a car - and trying to obtain a paper licence quickly is impossible.
In such circumstances the DVLA offers hire companies a licence verification service via phone. This enables us to call the DVLA and check licence details, once the licence holder has given us permission.  The trouble is that this service isn't open 7 days a week (most of our hires are at weekends) and it isn't open 24 hrs. Oh, and it costs £1 per minute. I won't suggest that there is no incentive for the DVLA to clarify the situation when they send out licences, but you, dear reader, may come to that conclusion.
The second problem is around the 10 year expiry date on the licence. The DVLA sends out one reminder letter (or in fact sometimes it doesn't).  If you miss the letter or fail to recognise its importance (because nobody ever told you the licence would expire) it is extremely easy to end up with an invalid licence.  An invalid licence obviously makes it illegal to drive and negates your insurance.  It is fairly easy to renew your licence at most main Post Offices but it will cost you at least £25 to do so.
So, since 1998 we've moved from a free licence that is one piece of paper valid for over 50 years to a two-part licence that renews every 10 years at a potential income to the DVLA of around £125 per person. But that isn't really why I've posted this article.
At Great Escape approximately 15% of the customers we deal with have either lost the paper part of their licence or never realised they had to keep it.  As we ask for licences in advance we can usually get around this by using the DVLA premium phone line. But if those customers were stopped by the police and given a 7 day producer they'd be stuffed. All because, in our view, the DVLA has failed to explain the new licence arrangements properly. In addition a large number of customers present expired licences to us.  Again, we can solve it but again a stop by the police could result in a hefty fine.
At Great Escape Classic Car Hire we feel that this problem is sufficiently prevalent that it can't be down to individual oversight.  So we're highlighting the issue in the hope that it prevents anyone reading it suffering a nasty shock, either when they hire a car or if they get stopped by the police. And we hope that maybe the DVLA will concentrate on customer service rather than premium rate phone lines. 01527 893733.

Fuel for thought

In today's green and pleasant age of eco-friendliness classic cars sometimes get a hard rap. Their big lazy V8 engines, inefficient 6 cylinder engines and thumping V12 motors are considered rather passe compared to modern hybrids and ultra efficient small capacity power plants. But are old cars really that flagrant with fuel?
Lets get one thing out of the way first - modern cars have the benefit of progress so the gap between the fuel efficiency of old cars and new cars will always get wider. Certainly over the last 5 years that gap has widened quickly as car manufacturers finally grasp the nettle that is finite fossil fuel resources.
I'm not going to argue that classic cars are cheap to drive, but I will suggest that their reputation isn't quite what the uninitiated will have you believe.  So when you hire one it won't cost you the earth, in any sense, to do so.

Lets start with the worst offenders. The Jensen Interceptor has become a byword for shocking fuel consumption. As someone who discusses Jensens on a daily basis with customers I can confirm that it is the first thing everyone says about the multi-cubic inched V8 West Brom bullet. Sure, its fuel consumption is bad, by modern standards, very bad, but not as bad as its reputation suggests. Most people assume that the Jensen returns single figure MPG on a good day.  if you hoon around with your foot sea-sawing on the gas pedal then yes, it will. But if you drive a Jensen as it should be driven, namely at 50 mph max and with your mind set firmly to 'cruise' you'll easily achieve 15-20mpg. To put that into context, large executive saloons and most GT sports cars of the early 70s era like Mercedes 450s, Jaguar XJs and E Types all returned around 20mpg.  Amongst its peers, the Jensen certainly didn't stand out.

Of course, in 1974 fuel was peanuts and now it isn't. So then the issue is about how far you plan to go in your thirsty classic hire car. Our average mileage per day is 100-150.  In a Jensen that means about 8.5 gallons of fuel at a cost of £50.50. Sure, not cheap.  But how much would it cost to travel the same distance in a more reasonable 40mpg car? That would be £22.25. So, for a day out in a thirsty old Jensen covering 150 miles it will cost you an extra £28.25 compared to a modern Eurobox. You wouldn't want to do it every day, for sure, but surely for the love of driving a Jensen, that's pretty small beer?

Jensens and V12 Jaguars are clearly not paragons of fuel efficiency.  So how about the rest of our classic car hire fleet ? Our most popular cars are Jaguar Mk2s, MGBs and Triumph Stags, all of which will deliver at least 25mpg on a relaxing day out. Our Morris Minors and Alfa Spiders average at least 35 mpg and are generally good for 40mpg plus, well up there with modern cars.
The popular counter argument from classic car enthusiasts is that old cars don't go far so their carbon emissions are negligible compared to modern cars. Which is true. Obviously our classic car hire fleet does relatively high mileages - typically 10,000 to 15,000 miles a year - but we maintain them to a high standard to minimise pollution. There are plenty of arguments we can use to defend what we do but the reality is that people will always want to drive old cars - provided we are responsible with our maintenance, why should they not be allowed to do so? We have also extended our hire network so that customers don't need to travel as far to get to us - so their own carbon emissions are reduced.
If you want to hire an old car for the day or weekend then chances are its fuel economy isn't going to dissuade you. But perhaps when you see how the costs stack up - and how these old cars actually do perform - you'll see that the sacrifice required to drive a Jensen for the day is not significant.
We are always mindful of the total cost of hiring classic cars, which is why we haven't increased our prices for over 2 years. We are introducing a small increase in March 2013 but it will remain well below inflation - making hiring a Great Escape classic car this year cheaper than it has ever been.
You can find out more about hiring our classic cars by visiting or call 01527 893733.

Top tips for purchasing a classic car

Buying a classic car can feel like a plunge into the unknown – but this mysteriousness, this overwhelming urge for an affinity with a curvaceous piece of metal, is just part of what makes it so exhilarating.

For enthusiasts new to the world of vintage motors, this may seem rather unnerving. However, for those familiar with the fulfilment of owning a classic car, gazing out of the window and thinking, “I bet I look great driving that,” comes with the territory.
Of course, I’m only half joking.

Owning a classic car IS satisfying – but there are a few things you should know before you rush out clutching a fistful of fifty pound notes in your new leather driving gloves.
So, to welcome you to the club, we’ve outlined our top five tips for buying a classic car in the hope – nay, expectation – you will avoid the same pitfalls we fell into on our first time…
1. What’s YOUR reason?
Classic car enthusiasts purchase their vehicles for a variety of different reasons. Therefore, it’s worthwhile getting it clear in your own mind exactly what you want the car for. Are you buying a shell as a restoration project? Will you do the work yourself? Will someone else do it? Can you afford it? Is it an investment? Will it be driven on a daily basis or sporadically? These reasons may sound pedantic – and we realise you just want to get in the driver’s seat – but establishing WHY you want the car will quickly help you understand what it is you want to buy.

2. Know what you’re buying
This is crucial. It’s essential you do your research and ensure you know the car you want to buy inside out – and this is where the internet is invaluable. Every little piece of information imaginable is available online through forums and owners clubs. Typically, classic car enthusiasts are more than happy to talk to whoever will listen when it comes to their motor – so take advantage of their generosity and find out what you need to know about keeping the vehicle you buy in peak condition.


3. Don’t be hoodwinked by low mileage
Forget what you’ve been told, low mileage on a classic car doesn’t always indicate quality. In fact, because most vintage motors lie stagnant through the winter months, the hibernation can actually make them LESS reliable. A classic car that is used regularly (without highlighting significant problems) is likely to serve you better in the long term.

4. Keep a level head
The thought of buying a classic car can leave the best of us bouncing around like a kid at Christmas – but don’t let your enthusiasm blindside you into buying a car that belongs in the scrapyard. Keep a level head and ask yourself whether you can afford the initial purchase. Additionally, do you have the funds to keep it maintained? Take a friend with you; a second opinion can make all the difference.

5. Try before you buy
The difference between a modern motor and a classic car is palpable. As such, it may take a few miles in the vintage vehicles shoes before you’re acclimatised. As you’re no doubt aware, most modern cars are proficient at disguising driver errors – older vehicles won’t. Luckily, there is a solution: hiring a classic car. By hiring a classic car you can experience the thrill that has millions of enthusiasts around the world hooked – and, if you like what you see, it may be time to make a new addition to the family…



Guest post from Danny Dacres on behalf of Classic Cars For Sale – the online marketplace for buyers, traders and sales of classic cars.


The price is still right

For some the only way is up, but at Great Escape Classic Car Hire we don't see it that way.  In 2011, the last time we adjusted our prices, we put some cars up and some cars down. Now, over two years later, we're giving in to the march of time and reluctantly tweaking some of our classic car hire prices.
The changes won't happen until 1st March 2013 because we want to give our customers the chance to buy at the old price for a few more weeks. You can book dates or buy vouchers (valid for 12 months) at the old prices until 1st March. And you don't even need to pay in full - our Buy Now, Pay Later service lets you pay a 25% deposit now and the balance closer to the hire date.

We have kept the increase as low as possible - some cars won't even change - and also kept the hire package exactly the same. We don't like the trend for increasing prices and cutting back what you get for what you pay, that doesn't seem very fair to us. So you still get 24 hours use for every hire day, comprehensive insurance (arguably the best insurance package on the market) and full UK breakdown cover (that means we don't charge you if you happen to break down a long way away).  And most cars have unlimited mileage too.

To take advantage of the old prices just book a car or buy a classic car gift voucher before 1st March 2013. Our classic car hire prices start at just £99. For more details on our range of cars call  01527 893733 or visit
"Nobody likes increasing prices, least of all us," explains Graham Eason of Great Escape. "Value for money is important to me.  But inevitably after over two years we have to raise our prices.
"By delaying the price rise and keeping the increases as low as possible we hope that we are being as fair as possible on our customers."
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The ultimate coupe conundrum

Whether you prefer the Jaguar E Type or the Porsche 911 says quite a lot about you as a person. Frankly, I'm not quite sure what it says, but it is fair to say that if you like one you can often take or leave the other.
Today I had the chance to drive these two 60s coupes back to back - a 1965 Series 1 E Type 4.2 coupe in Sage Green and a 1969 911 2.2 coupe in slate grey, both of which are on our classic car hire fleet.  I didn't go far, but then I didn't need to.

Despite its image nowadays, back in the 1960s the E Type was by far the more modern, swingin' sixties car. It was streamlined, it went like stink and all the cool people owned one. This was an age when Jaguars were as popular with the kids as they were with doctors and solicitors. The original E Type, such as the one I tested today, was a properly sorted sports car with astonishing pace, a big bonneted British coupe in the fine tradition of big engined, lithe sports cars from this little old island. The E Type is about design and the simplicity of horsepower.

The 911, conversely, was very and perversely German. Engineering is the 911s thing, everything else is secondary. In that sense, the opposite of the beautiful but conventionally engineered E Type. Early 911s sat on a short chassis - when buyers complained of the car's almost lethal ability to swap ends Porsche added a few inches to the wheelbase and the classic 911 shape was born.  Whereas the E Type uses good old cubic inches to push a relatively heavy but streamlined car along the road, the Porsche has a small output, comparatively low powered lump and relies on light weight to achieve much the same result.
There is more than just engine layout and design to separate the E Type and Porsche.  As you might expect, the Porsche feels like it was bolted together, the E Type feels like it was screwed together, and not very tightly at that. The British car is by far the more delicate of the two - it definitely feels its age, whereas the Porsche could have been made yesterday such is the precision of its fit and finish.  To think these two cars were produced just a few years apart....
Where the cars are similar is in their approach to detail.  You might expect the Porsche to sacrifice form for function, but it achieves a happy balance between the two. The trademark sculpted dash, with its big central rev counter, has to be one of the greatest dashboards of all time.  Things fade away a little with the casually scattered switchgear, but the Porsche remains a thing of focussed beauty inside. The E Type feels more thrown together inside.  There is no obvious sense or design to the dashboard and yet it is remarkable all the same. The big main dials are incredibly close to the wheel and the recessed central dials scream British sports car. It may not be cohesive or clever, but it still looks great.

Outside the story is much the same - whereas the E Type just is beautiful from the minute you clap eyes on it, only the area around the A pillars detracting slightly from the overall effect, the Porsche is more of a grower.  Anyone who has stood and looked at an early 911 will understand what I mean about compound curves.  This is so much more than a squashed Beetle. At Great Escape Classic Car Hire we used to have an early short chassis 911 - with that car, which you can now hire from one of our competitors, I always wondered what the fuss was about. But the longer chassis later 911 transforms an ugly duckling into something quite sublime. This 1969 car is pure and unadulterated and makes the later cars, even the 80s whale tale Turbos, seem bloated and overdone. In slate grey it looks incredible. Whether you prefer the instant appeal of the E Type or the slow burn beauty of the 911 is personal taste.

On the road the differences continue.  Drive a good E Type and you will never forget it. From the view down the bonnet to the seemingly endless pull of the 4.2 straight six, this is a car made for driving. Sure, the steering is heavy and not very communicative, the gearbox is a bit clunky and the pedals a bit unnaturally placed, but who cares, you're in an E Type! It is the E Type's shortcomings that make it great - it isn't perfect but learning an E Type is the reward for all the effort. And all the while you've got that remarkable bonnet pouring away from you.
You have to learn a 911 too, and respect it. But from the off it does everything much more easily. It is only a slightly younger design but it feels light years away from the E Type in terms of progress. The steering is light and direct, the gearbox snicks where the E Type's shoves. The E Type pulls but the 911 inevitably pushes - the little 2.2 engine thrives on revs but is surprisingly tractable for a flat six. Forget the tales of 911s as widow makers - you're far more likely to cop it in an E Type than a 911, such is the British car's feel of a vehicle whose power is stretching the abilities of its engineering, rather than the 911 whose engineering is far ahead of anything the driver can throw at it. Of course, be stupid and the rear end will reflect that. But drive sensibly and the 911 will reveal hidden depths of ability.

This can never be a case of one or the other.  These cars are chalk and cheese. The E Type trounces the 911 for sheer drama per mile - just knowing you're in an E Type achieves that - but the 911 deliveries its charms slowly and surely.
I genuinely can't choose my favourite. I love the beauty and brutality of the E Type, its ability to draw in the horizon at an alarming rate. Yet the 911, a car I never had much time for thanks to the overblown 80s models, is so utterly rewarding for drivers.  I love the purity of the design and the real-world performance that you can enjoy without real danger. An E Type for weekends, an early 911 for continental holidays.... If only...
Our Series 1 E Type is now available to hire from our site in Harrogate, Yorkshire.  The grey 1969 Porsche 911 can be hired from our Cotswolds site.  Prices start at £249 for 24 hours.  Mention this article and save 10%. For more details call 01527 893733 or visit

I like driving in your cars

If you love old cars but can't afford the cost of hiring one, we might have just the job for you. Here at Great Escape Classic Car Hire our workload for delivering and collecting cars around the UK has increased dramatically.  We're doing more work for TV, film and advertising companies and we're planning more events for clients.  These jobs can mean taking the cars all over the UK.
So we need some help.  If you fancy a trip in our cars in exchange for helping us move them around the UK we'd love to hear from you.  We'll provide the insurance, fuel and expenses, you just provide the driving skills.
We operate from 11 UK bases and have a fleet of 80 cars.  Through our TV and film site at we also provide cars to production companies via classic car owners all over Britain. So the chances are you'll be near one of our bases wherever you live.
To find out more about what we do, call 01527 893733 or email or visit

The older the boys, the bigger the toys


Dinky and Corgi have a lot to answer for. For the price of a bag of sweets they introduced millions of otherwise sane men to the delights of old cars.  In the process no doubt straining many wallets and marriages. Often it isn't until a man hits his mid 30s or early 40s before the classic car bug really bites.  And then it sinks its teeth in and holds on.
Couple that enthusiasm with the need that every man has to occasionally fly the marital home and get away with his mates and you have what we at Great Escape Classic Car Hire have come to call the Boys Driving Weekend. 

We coined this admittedly rather obvious name after noticing the remarkable increase in demand for our cars from groups of mates, often in their 30s, 40s and 50s, who wanted a great weekend away. Adding a classic hire car to a weekend in the country turns a break into, ahem, a great escape.  And hiring classic cars means that everyone, even if they don't own a classic car, can join in.
We now regularly supply multiple cars, often up to 10, to groups of lads who are on their annual reunion or get together.  We either just provide the cars, perhaps with a delivery and collection service, or we provide turnkey event service with a route, accommodation and meals all sorted out.
These days or weekends away mean that everyone in the group gets a chance to drive each car, which overall makes the cost quite realistic.  Since our cars are two or four seaters the price is split at least two ways, making adding a classic car to the weekend away cheaper than a room for the night. Prices start at just £75 per person for a day's use.

To cater for the Boys Weekend market we've tried to broaden our range of cars to include modern classics like the DeLorean and Saab 900 as well as the older classics like E Types and Jensens.  We've also increased the size of our classic car hire fleets in Devon, Cotswolds and Yorkshire to make it easier for groups to find the cars they want in these popular weekend getaway areas.
We don't think the lads weekend away for the mature gent is going to go away.  In 2012 we provided cars for several groups and in 2013 we've already secured more group bookings than we did in 2012.

If you're planning a lads weekend away and want to know how to fit classic cars into the trip call Graham or Jamie on 01527 893733 or email We'll be happy to help.  We can provide this service for UK based groups or overseas groups travelling to Britain. For more information on our fleet visit