All White Now

Assumptions have a nasty habit of becoming facts. Russell Howard is funny.  The French like Piat D'Or. American sports cars are rubbish.
Now this last assumption does carry some credence. Show your average Firebird a bend and it'll show you a Firebird shaped hedge. America has a lot of straight roads and it is in a straight line that most American cars sport their wares. 
However, in a country the size of America there are inevitably a few twisty roads and a sizeable part of the sizeable population who don't mind spilling their 32 ounce Sprite in the interests of enjoying them. 
For these people Chevrolet made the Corvette Stingray. Haha, you sneer. That ain't no sports car, says you, cocking your metaphorical stetson. That's a sports car for Miami boulevards, not British B-roads. And it is true that Chevrolet did an excellent job of speccing the stylish Corvette to appeal to  the sort of man who roles up his jacket sleeves in a manner he assumes is nonchalant but which is actually silly. 
The latest addition to our fleet, a Corvette C3 Stingray, was probably bought new by just such a man. It is white with a red leather interior. Its last owner was a double glazing salesman. And I absolutely love it. If you want a Corvette in a subtle colour combination you don't want a Corvette. You want a Mondeo. 
The Corvette's design divides opinion but few walk away untouched by its sharp Coke Bottle curves and sharknose snout. This is a well designed car, neatly detailed and as singular of purpose as an E Type. Big truck tyres dominate the massive arches and the integrated TVR-esque doorhandles keep the lines uncluttered.
The interior is less distinctive, despite the red trim, but is still a cocooning place to be. The very low dash is reverse racked like a Mk3 Cortina, the stubby gearstick juts out of a sloping console in front of a suitably comprehensive bank of dials. Electric power rules - seats, windows, locks. The seats are space age and very comfortable - behind them a stowage area, the car's only boot space.
Twist the key and the 5.7 litre v8 jumps into life. By the time of this 1980 model Federal laws had strangled power to just 220 bhp and forced a speedo with an 85 mph maximum on Corvette buyers. 
It doesn't matter. The Corvette has massive grunt. Power is instant and constant - from idle right to the red line if you wish. But you'd expect that from an American car. Here's the surprise - it really handles. The steering is well weighted and sharp and the car is nicely balanced, helped by the engine being located back in the chassis behind the front axle (just like a 928). You sit low with a view out front dominated by twin razor sharp wingtops and E-Type like bonnet cowl. There is a ridiculous amount of car in front of you but the Corvette doesn't feel intimidating. It may be big but it is so controllable thanks to firm suspension, direct steering and decent chassis and wheel feedback. 
Perhaps due to its sheer size you may not wish to explore the outer reaches of the Corvette on a typical B-road but find a wider, sweeping A-road and the car feels at home.
Few cars have the sheer drama of a Corvette Stingray, whether you're cruising on Broadway, NYC or in Broadway, UK. That this car also rewards the sports car fan is its real coup de grace. 
You can hire the Great Escape Classic Car Hire Corvette from our Yorkshire Dales site for £249 for 24 hrs. Mention this article and claim 10% off. For more details visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk orcall  01527 893733







 




The Greatest Car Names of all Time

Car names used to be such fun. Manufacturers would clearly spend long days huddled around a bar table dreaming up aspirational names for their new products. It all seems to have changed. Today we have Auris. Focus. Insignia. A6. In a world where rather a lot of things are really quite depressing and bleak here at Great Escape we think our humble car manufacturers, who enrich our lives with their vehicles and marketing, should really be trying just a little bit harder.
To help the creatives along as they assemble the comfy cushions and pin-ball machines of inspiration, here is our top ten of car names. We could easily make it a top 100. We've picked our favourites. We're ready to be shot down.

1. Jensen Interceptor
We have to agree with Jeremy Clarkson, no company has bettered the name Interceptor. It's the automotive equivalent of Brute aftershave. Whatever an interceptor actually is - and honestly, who cares? - there is no doubt that it should have a thumping great V8 and a lot of leather. 

2. MGB
Stick with me on this. If the MGB had been given a proper name would we love it as much? It's so simple but so right, the single letter denomination characterising the 'B's everywhere everyman appeal.  Sure, it probably didn't involve a great deal of creative time, and perhaps if it had it wouldn't have been very MGB. 

3. Trans Am
Never ever in the field of automotive nomenclature have two words summed up a car and culture quite so well. The Pontiac Trans Am is exactly the car you want to be driving when you're trans-ing America, T-Top roof popped and CB chattering away alerts on every Smokey from here to Alabami. A Trans UK, lets be honest, has less of a ring to it. Even when you're pootling around Stoke on Trent in your Trans Am this remarkable looking car and its equally remarkable name suggest freedom and carefree motoring like few other four wheelers. 

4. Dino
Named after Enzo's ill-fated son, the Ferrari Dino has a name that is just ridiculously right. Four letters that mean nothing but say everything - Italy, youthfulness, style. Like GTO names that end in 'O' generally just work. Except Vito. 

5. Mustang
Ford has a habit of hitting pay dirt when it chooses real words, although it is also responsible for some memorable clunkers. Of which Probe is just one. But Mustang, so obvious and yet so clever, summed up a moment in time and a car that was so new and different. For Americans, steeped in Wild West history, a Mustang is the wild, untamed horse in the pack. 'Stang buyers understood that they were buying into the idea of a slightly hedonistic, rule breaking way of life that threw two fingers up at convention. And then they drove to work at the mall. 

6. GTO
The history of motoring is littered with three letter acronyms used as car names. In many cases they are simply meaningless. That GTO stands for Gran Turismo Omologato is pretty irrelevant when it is pinned to two of the finest cars from Italy and the USA - Ferrari 250 and Pontiac. The Ferrari's name is of course genuinely descriptive as the car was homologated for racing, the Pontiac is just a marketing gimmick. It doesn't matter. GTO is a great badge that says nothing and implies everything. Like GTI a few decades later the GTO badge established whatever it stuck to as The Quick One. And as three letters it just works, more so I suggest than GTI. Borrowing it may also have been John DeLorean's finest moment. 

7. E-Type
Another utterly meaningless name that fitted an apparent Jaguar policy in the 60s of sticking the first name that came into the tea lady's head onto the car. Of course we had had the C-Type and D-Type so the name connected the aerodynamic E to a racing lineage but the name itself has no real meaning. And yet nothing else would quite work. Imagine trying to come up with an alternative. Anything more descriptive and less anonymous would detract from the astonishing looks of the car. So E it is. For no other reason than that it is. For the record we think E-Type nabs the honours in a way that F-Type doesn't quite manage, wonderful car though it is.

8. 911
Another car name that resoundingly underplays the car it sticks to. The 911 was nearly the 901 and thank goodness Peugeot kicked up a stink because that extra 1 is the difference between greatness and drabness. Like E-Type, 911 means nothing but says everything - it's simple, flows well and is easy to say. 

9. Spider
Alfa Convertible is what it actually says, but in so many ways it says so much more. A Spider is many things to many people - multi-legged arachnid to Brits, multi-coloured milk drink to Australians - but to Italians it spells freedom. Just calling your new car what it is let's the car itself do the talking. 

10. Mini
Ubiquity plays havoc with many things and the name Mini is no exception. BL's reputation in the car-naming arena is not an illustrious one. Oxford. Montego. Ital. Ambassador. The conglomerate is probably responsible for more than its fair share of woeful names but with Mini it got it right. Ok, so originally it was called the Mini Minor, hardly a stroke of creative genius when it was the small version of the Minor but BL quickly saw the error of its ways and gave it solo status. Mini cleverly played - no doubt unintentionally - on the trend for mini-related things in the 60s (eg the mini skirt and, er, well more mini skirts) and expressed the cheekiness and compactness of the diminutive runaround. It may also be one of the most enduring car names in history - although even the most ardent BMW Mini fan would be hard pressed to argue the name is now anything but ironic.

So, there you have them, our person list of top 10 car names. If you can suggest 10 better ones we'll give you £100 to spend on classic car hire from our Devon, Cotswolds or Yorkshire sites. There are 5 vouchers up for grabs. Email your list to graham@greatescapecars.co.uk or post them in the Comments field. For more details on what we do visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk







Say Yes to an XJS

Some cars are destined for greatness, some are destined to live in the shadow of greatness. Such, sadly, has been the lot of the humble Jaguar XJS since its launch in 1975. Here at Great Escape we think it's time for a change.
Conventional wisdom has it that the XJS is Not An E Type, which of course is hard to argue with. Jaguar replaced the gorgeous E with what many considered to be the visually challenging XJS, a car based on the XJ saloon that was bigger and heavier than the svelte E Type. Ergo, not as good. Except, not quite. Anyone who has driven a decent XJS will know that here is a hugely capable car that properly fulfils its goal as a GT car. Compared with other GT cars from Porsche, Ferrari and Jensen it is quite possibly the top cat. 
The mistake most observers make is to assume that Jaguar intended to directly replace the E Type with the XJS. That wasn't the plan. During its production run Jaguar tried to push the E Type upmarket into the GT sector but struggled because the car was too small. This hampered sales in the critical US market and despite initial success in the 60s the E Type faired less well in the late 60s and early 70s. Cue the XJS. Jaguar wanted a proper GT car that was also cheap to make based on XJ mechanicals. 
The problem for the XJS is that it had to follow the E Type. Although designed by E Type guru Malcolm Sayer with input from William Lyons it is fair to say that the first XJS suffered at launch from poor detailing, which entrenched already negative minds. The flying buttresses and slabby sides were so anti-E Type that it felt almost like a deliberate slight against the earlier car. But look beyond the duff bumpers and low rent interior of those first cars and there is a cohesive, attractive shape at play. Here was a mass-produced V12 super car with Dino-esque buttresses and a sleek profile. Sayer and Lyons surely deserve praise for taking a bold new approach rather than endlessly re-hashing the same thing. A lesson modern car makers might do well to learn. 
It has, I suggest, worked. The ugly duckling survived nearly being killed off in the late 70s to become Jaguars longest serving model, finally bowing out over 21 years after it was launched. In that time progressive improvements to quality, specification, model choice and design turned it from a lemon into a key part of Jaguar's history, enabling the transition from sports cars to profitable GT cars like the current XK. Jaguar's sports cars have continued to ape the lines of the E Type but this only highlights how distinctive the XJS was. 
Look anew at a 1980s onwards XJS in a decent colour - some of the options available hardly helped its cause - and you'll see a cohesive design that stands well against contemporary GT exotica. The long bonnet with its twin lamp cowls, the sweeping buttresses of course and the neat rear lights all work well. Less effective is the interior, although the later addition of wood helps brighten things up. It's not a bad place to be, just a bit of a parts bin special with a not entirely attractive binnacle for the dials.  
On the road is where the XJS really impresses and not just because of that silky V12 motor. The XJS is really just a shortened XJ saloon so the ride and handling are superlative. It is smooth, grippy and forgiving. The XJS is a heavy car but one that is easy to hustle along; whereas the super light steering of the XJ saloon augers against spirited driving, the more direct and weighted set up on the XJS makes twisting B-roads a joy. Whatever your speed and whatever the road surface the XJS is unruffled. This is a truly brilliant long distance GT car. It is as engaging as you want a transcontinental GT car to be but not as fidgety or demanding as a sports car.
It would achieve this with or without the V12 engine. To my mind if you're going to buy a XJS you might as well have the V12 one. 3.6 and 4.0 litre motors were available but it is the 12 that really fits the car's character. There's no logic to this as the smaller engines are nearly as quick and much less thirsty; but in an age of fuel austerity everyone needs an indulgence. And the V12 Jaguar engine is an indulgence. This is one of the world's greatest engines, effortlessly smooth, very quick and, shock of shocks, reliable too. The engine bay may look more complicated than Stephen Hawking's homework but the basic unit is robust. Fixing problems can be expensive due to the labour involved in dismantling and accessing everything but parts are cheap and plentiful. 
The only real downside of the XJS is the automatic gearbox. The Borg-Warner 3 speed unit, lifted straight out of the XJ saloon, is robust and trouble-free but ill suited to the torquey V12. It is reluctant to kick down and hunts between gears if you press on. A shame really as this fault was noted when the car was launched but never addressed. It doesn't really alter the XJS experience but makes you wonder what could have been.
At Great Escape Classic Car Hire we have been hiring out XJS' since 2007. Back then they spent more time waiting for customers than with them. Today the story is very different and they are popular hire cars. Which suggests that opinion is changing around this oddball from Jaguar's history file. The convertible makes an excellent and dependable weekend away car while the coupe is great for a longer holiday, with space in the back for children. 
Prices are also beginning to reflect the car's re-evaluation but it remains a super car bargain. Good convertibles are now in five figures while decent coupes are in the high fours. And yet there are still a lot of XJS' around, which compresses values. If you're wearing your risky trousers you can pick up a solid V12 coupe with MOT for just £1,200. Which is exactly what we have just done.
On Friday I went to collect an engine from specialist Just XJS in Derbyshire and came away with a complete car too. Our latest addition will be on the fleet in 2014. It's a sky blue metallic pre-facelift coupe (which I prefer in terms of looks) with 11 months MOT and 59,000 miles on the clock. The welding it needs has been done it just needs paint and a spruce up to make it suitable for hire. 
At these prices you can understand why garages like Just XJS find it is more profitable to break cars than renovate them. But that is changing very quickly as the price of good cars increases. The £15,000 convertibles on sale now would have been £8,000 a few years ago. 
It is easy to see why. The XJS really is the super car you can service down the road at everyday prices. The parts are available off the shelf rather than hand tooled by an artisan in Modena and you can do mega mileages on the engines without needing a rebuild every year.
Go on, spoil yourself. Get into the last ever V12 super car before the prices follow E Types. You can dip your toe in the water by hiring one of our V12 convertibles in Yorkshire or Cotswolds for £199. Mention this article and claim 10% off. Visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733 for more details. 






The 5 Ultimate Dad Cars


When you're a Dad of a certain age then frankly new rules apply. Which, lets be honest, is something kids don't get. While they mutter on about dodgy dancing, duff jeans and suspect shoes, not to mention the sheer unimaginable embarrassment of being seen out in public with you, the self assured father can get on with the simple task of doing what the hell they like. Which is the single greatest benefit of getting old.
This principle can be perfectly applied to Cars That Dads Like. Which here at Great Escape is the sort of topic that we spend a considerable amount of time pondering. That and exactly how much oil a car should reasonably consume in 100 miles. Call them Old Skool or retro, whatever you fancy, but the plain fact is that the Ultimate Dad Cars eschew youthful notions of cool, style and fashion. They are UDCs because they can be. No justification required, end of conversation.
So here they are, our Ultimate Dad Cars - embarrassing to anyone under 25, sheer unadultered joy to anyone with more hair in their ears than on their head.

1. Ford Mustang

Small children and old men cannot get enough of the venerable Pony Car. It's about as subtle as a sledgehammer but that's exactly the point because when you're choosing a Dad's Car it doesn't matter what people think. If the Mustang's sheer scale doesn't turn heads its V8 burble will. Of course, for any self respecting Dad the Holy Grail is a Bullitt-spec replica as driven by the saintly Steve McQueen. But pretty much any 'stang will do, provided it is V8 equipped.

2. Corvette Stingray

America's E Type eschewed the delicate aerodynamics of its British counterpart in favour of big bold curves and razor sharp edges. And why not. The Corvette has more front than Blackpool, more presence than Santa. A rare sight in Britain, the Corvette sets out its stall under a sign marked 'So what?' And any self-respecting Dad should do the same. The Corvette sticks two stubby fingers up at what other people think.

3. Jensen Interceptor

An American muscle car in a handmade Italian suit, the West Brom bullet is our own home-grown Dad's Car. If you're of a certain age (usually one starting with a 4) then chances are that you've always hankered after a Jensen. Not only does it have possibly the greatest car name of all time but the Interceptor furrows its own path deeper than anything sold by Massey Ferguson. Its thirsty 7.2 litre V8 thumbs its nose at common sense so just ease back in the thick hide interior, flick it into drive and let the long bonnet reach towards the sky. You don't have to explain that to anyone. 

4. Jaguar Mk2

If you can remember a time when ITV showed Jaguar saloons being driven on the doorhandles by no good slags then you'll probably love the Jaguar Mk2. Of course, the crims drove S-Types if you want to get technical, the independent rear suspension probably saving them from heading for the hedges rather than out-running Thaw & Waterman in their Consul. For anyone under the age of 30 a Mk2 is just an old car. For anyone over they know that this was the Subaru Impreza of its day with up to 220 bhp on tap. And still one of the most beautiful saloon cars of its day. Drive it like you stole it or pootle around the country lanes - this is a car to enjoy just being in.

5. Ford Capri

The car you always promised yourself. And now you can. No self respecting Dad can fail to see the appeal of the humble Capri, particularly iin full fat 2.8 or 3.0 V6 form. With its pseudo-transatlantic styling, all big-bonnet and fastback finish, the Capri is a handy reminder of life before kids and responsibility came along.  And who can deny any Dad the opportunity to get back there, even if for just one day eh?  The Capri's Dagenham Dustbin reputation disguises what is an attractive, capable sports car with space for 4 - if you can trick the kids into riding with you.

So there you have it, 5 great Dad Cars.  There are many others of course but these ones are, in our opinion, great because they fly in the face of what your kids consider cool. They're not just the anti-cool choice but the right choice too - all of these cars are purely indulgence and fun.

We'd choose these cars even if we didn't also hire them. You can hire any of these cars from our classic car hire sites in Yorkshire, Devon and Cotswolds, prices start at just £199 for 24 hrs. For more information call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk.






Beetling about Europe


A Volkswagen Beetle may not be anyone's first choice of trans-continental travelling but when you're getting together with mates to exactly recreate a trip from 1969 nothing else will do.
Such was the situation when a customer booked our immaculate 1969 VW Beetle for a 2 week trip around Europe including down as far as the Pyrenees. Despite covering over 2,500 miles the car returned to us without fault and with high praise from the customer for its condition, reliability and sheer fun factor. The only problem was a tyre blow out.

We regularly hire cars for extended trips abroad or around Britain. In the last few weeks our cars have gone to France, Ireland and around the UK for several weeks at a time. We maintain our Yorkshire, Devon and Cotswolds fleets in-house and they are subject to weekly inspections plus an ongoing maintenance regime. While we can't remove the risk of breakdown associated with old cars this attention to detail means we can be confident that our cars are perfectly capable of completing long, high mileage holidays that might test even modern cars. 
For more details visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733

Now get your kicks on the A66


Say America and you might think of stetsons, big bellies and enormous cups of coffee. If you're a Stateside car fan your first words will most likely be 'Mustang' or 'Corvette.' These two blue collar cars are the icons of American motoring, as Yankee as Coca Cola and French Fries.
Americans tend to be either Mustang men or Corvette connoisseurs, but here in good old Blighty we're less fickle. So to complement our recently added Ford Mustang in the Peak District we've added a stunning Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C3 to our fleet in Yorkshire. It's the classic 'Coke Bottle' shape with razor edge snout and brutal 5.7 litre V8. It is available to hire now from our Yorkshire base near Harrogate.
Few cars have quite the visual impact of a classic Stingray. Its relative rarity in the UK makes spying one for the first time a genuinely jaw dropping moment. This is a sculptural car that looks good from any angle, much like an E Type. It is more muscular than its British counterpart but has the same lightness of design touch with clever detailing. It is a long but narrow car, which makes it suitable for British roads, and very easy to drive - power steering and automatic gearbox plus every other driver aid in circulation in the 1970s means there is not much to do but steer, accelerate and brake.

You sit very low in unusual bucket seats, the Interceptor-esque rear window bubble bulging out behind you. Our car has a red interior and frankly, there is no other choice for a Corvette - it complements the white bodywork well and feels right, in a way that no other car could pull off. The interior lacks the lightness of touch typical of an E Type and the speedo only runs up to 85 mph - a sign of over zealous US legislation in the late 1970s. Of course the Corvette will go much faster.
The Corvette handles surprisingly well with good steering response and feedback despite the massive tractor-spec 15 inch wheels. Whereas the Mustang is a GT car for the Interstate, the 1970s Corvette is a proper sports car - quick, responsive and with firmer suspension. US emissions legislation progressively emasculated the Corvette's performance but our late 1970s car still pumps out 220 bhp, more than enough to enjoy it on British roads.


The Corvette looks intimidating but is remarkably docile and easy to drive from the off, despite being left hand drive. Visibility is good, gearchanges are taken care of and the brakes work well.  It is long but no more so than an E Type and when you point it it does what you ask it to do immediately. Despite the whopping 5.7 litre V8 it is, in the manner of a Jensen Interceptor, surprisingly docile unless provoked.
The Great Escape Corvette is fitted with the popular T-Top roof which consists of two removable panels that are stored in the smallish boot. With these off you can drop the windows - a legal requirement at all times of course - and enjoy the rumble of that massive Chevrolet engine. This isn't a car for wallflowers - or if you think you are, consider it therapy. Rest your arm on the door, put your shades on and just enjoy possibly the most eye-catching car on our fleet.
To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk. Mention this article and claim 10% off the normal hire price.

Devon's miles better

Sometimes a simple fact hits you like a wet fish round the lugholes. For example it is possible to be both funny and annoying at exactly the same time, like Jeremy Clarkson. 
Less traumatically, it is a fact, I learned today, that the humble county of Devon has more miles of road than the whole of Belgium. Goodness. This fact was highlighted by Devon County Council to explain why (a) they never manage to grit much of the 8,000 mile network and (b) they struggle somewhat to repair the roads as well. Fortunately the Council's pothole-shaped budget dilemma hasn't prevented them assembling a remarkable array of speed detection and prevention resources, presumably to deter all those miscreant septuagenarians in their Micras, but that's a discussion for another day. 
Devon Council's carefully researched excuse for not doing the job for which it collects council tax fortunately also serves a far more useful purpose for me. I have suggested before that Devon may actually be the best place in Britain to drive a classic car. It has sun (well, more often than the rest of us), it has beautiful coast and country scenery. It has nice pubs conveniently situated along some brilliant driving roads. Of which, we now know, there are 8,000 miles.
Devon, as I discovered in four years living here, is a wonderful place drive off and escape in, with rambling lanes that let you get off the beaten path quickly and without much effort. And wherever you go you eventually get somewhere.
We are currently providing our cars for a forthcoming BBC TV series, most of which is being filmed in the South West. Come along and enjoy the place, the roads are lovely.
Great Escape has a fleet of convertibles available to hire from our base in Devon near Exeter airport just off the m5. For more details visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733


The 10 best & worst classic cars


Classic car magazines are dangerous places, particularly after a couple of glasses of wine and with your Ebay browser open. They'll have you salivating over long-loved icons with their combination of dramatic photography and enthusiastic prose.
The trouble is that owning a classic car isn't always quite like that. They can break down and deteriorate. The beautiful vision of loveliness in the article can induce Basil Fawlty style tantrums faster than you can say 'money pit.' 
Of course, clever know-it-alls who wouldn't know fun if it jumped in front of them wearing a clown suit with the word fun on it will tell you that such is the world of classic cars and you only have yourself to blame. No. And maybe. Below is a list of the best and worst classic cars we've run. We run our classic hire cars over very high annual mileages so we think this list is a good real world indicator of what to buy and what to avoid. Hopefully it will help you avoid the know-it-all's pointing finger of blame.

The Best

1. Alfa Romeo Spider


If you're surprised to see an Alfa at the top of our 'best classics' list, don't be. The Spider is a brilliantly engineered, ultra reliable classic convertible that delivers fun by the bucketload. We have owned most variants of this superb car but it is the late Series 4 that we like best for its combination of comfort and sheer usability. In 70,000 kilometres of hire it has only failed once due to a faulty starter motor and even then it chose to do it just 1 mile from our unit on it return with customers. The only downside of the Spider is parts supply - some items are getting scarce and they can be pricey. But if it doesn't go wrong then that isn't such a problem. Wax inject the bodywork and it won't rust either.

2. MGB


There is a good reason why there are so many MGBs on the road - they endure. The very ubiquity of the MGB is exactly why you should buy one. They are very useable, pretty durable and when it goes wrong you can get everything next day. And there isn't really much to go wrong. MGBs are so simple that they really don't need specialist knowledge to fix them and if you're reasonable competent with spanners you can probably do it at home. Of course the old 'sporting Morris Oxford' jibes hold some water but spare your opinion until you drive one. There really is something quite special about a B and those looks, withered by familiarity, really are gorgeous if you take time to consider them anew. 

3. VW Beetle convertible


For some unknown reason the humble Beetle convertible always tends to get overlooked. Perhaps it's the suggestion of a moustachioed dictator standing in the back that is implied when the roof is rolled back. Forget that. The hardtop Beetle is a budget 911 that handles neatly so chopping the roof and improving the fit and finish - even more - turns it into a perfect weekend getaway car. It has four full seats, a peppy engine, easy gear change and stylish curvy looks. The doors clunk shut, the roof is a feat of watertight engineering and it is very economical. That's the practical stuff. It also doesn't go wrong. Karmann made the Beetle to astonishing levels of quality but the basic mechanical engineering is simple and very, very durable. And with excellent club support this is the hidden gem that every would-be classic car-loving family man should be driving.

4. Jaguar E Type straight six


What it sacrifices in terms of reliability it more than compensates for with sheer verve and beauty. The Series 1 and 2 E Type is utterly gorgeous and, if well sorted, is a very easy and reliable classic to own. The venerable XK engine may have been pulled out to 4.2 litres by the end of its life but it's solid, simple 1950s engineering makes it a reliable and dependable unit. E Types rot and gearboxes can be fragile but stay on top of both and they are perfectly reliable. They will go wrong but when they do parts are easy to get and not particularly expensive. This is a car to use and enjoy, not stick in a garage and stare at. Our pair of E Type coupes are the busiest cars on our fleet with amongst the best reliability records. The later v12 is also much more reliable than reputation suggests but its generally poor quality and parts complexity mean we favour the straight six models, particularly the coupes.

5. Jaguar XJS 


If ever there was a car waiting to be 'the next big thing' in classic car circle it is the XJS. Once the ugly duckling of Jaguar's range the svelte XJS has matured into a highly desirable classic coupe and convertible. The looks that once seemed ungainly and awkward now looks increasingly cohesive and innovative, particularly in full convertible style. We have run a XJS on our fleet for many years and it has been very reliable, despite being the notorious V12 HE fuel injected model. Despite the huge range of electrics and under-bonnet spaghetti the car is mechanically very strong and dependable with just the irritating fly off handbrake causing problems - it is very easy to burn out the pads, which is a complex job to fix. We like the pre-facelift V12 for its hedonism and smoothness but any XJS is worth a punt. Like any classic, just make sure you buy a good one - if you do you'll enjoy one of the bargains of the classic car world. But not for long we think...

6. Mercedes SL


Sneaking in at 6 is the R107 Mercedes SL. If you like your convertibles smooth, relaxing and oozing quality then the SL is for you. Prices are sneaking up thanks to some judicious pricing by specialists but well priced cars are still out there privately. The SL is stylish, solid and practical - it can seat four, the roof works well and it has conveniences like power steering, electric windows and automatic gearbox. Of course, they rust badly but buy well and you'll enjoy a very solidly engineered convertible that may be a little costly when parts fail but we don't expect that very often.

The Worst

Previously in this blog I've listed the worst cars I've ever owned. Generally these are cars I've put on hire and had to remove because, frankly, they're awful for a variety of reasons.  This list of the worst cars to own is a little different, but will perhaps contain some familiar candidates.

1. DeLorean


Never let it be said that the DeLorean DMC-12 is badly built. It is very badly built. I can't recall another car I've ever hired out that was so fundamentally flawed in terms of design and execution. I am a child of the 80s and while I was never a big Back to the Future fan I always wanted a DeLorean. They just look so incredibly cool. But that is where it ends. Familiarity doesn't dull the sheer gobsmacking style of the DMC-12 but the driving and owning experience certainly tarnish the shine of those glossy aluminium looks. The DeLorean handles and accelerates surprisingly well but the car is just so impractical. It is too low, the doors feel like a cruel joke after a day or so, the visibility is woeful and the turning circle rivals that of the Oriana. The interior is very much an afterthought with sub-Porsche 928 dashboard and fit and finish that makes an Austin Metro feel like a byword for quality. The gearchange is horrible, with more connections than a redundant executive on Linkedin. All of that I could just about live with if it wasn't actually fundamentally unsafe. In the 18 months we had it on hire the front suspension failed twice due to poor quality parts and shoddy design. The gear lever also fell of twice. These are not amusing faults or cuddly quirks, they are shortcomings. I may be alone here but 100% confidence that the wheels and gearstick won't fall off the car I'm driving is, I'm sorry to say John DeLorean, quite important to me. So, DeLorean - admire it, sit in it, have a short drive in it at under 20 mph on a private road with a full complement of emergency services immediately on hand. Then never do it again.

2. Rover SD1 Vitesse


Oh dear. Just like the DeLorean here is a great looking car, an icon of my youth, but just so incredibly disappointing. The Vitesse has the ingredients of greatness - lovely burbly V8, Daytona-esque looks, luxury fittings and four seater hatchback practicality. But then there is driving it and keeping it going. Boy did I want to like it. But eventually I had to admit that it probably has the worst driving position of any car I've ever driven - imagine driving whilst attempting to roll into a foetal position - and it even made the DeLorean feel well built. Once upon a time the people at Rover made excellent, solid high quality cars for customers who were doctors and lawyers. Then along came some other people who said 'I see what you're doing there with the quality thing but lets absolutely, categorically and definitively not do that any more.' And the other people did just that. Because the Vitesse is very, very badly built. The dashboard top is more wavy than a day at Royal Ascot and the doors have panel gaps bigger than the Suez Canal. Very few replacement parts are easily available and you'll need them - only the V8 engine is dependable, everything else disintegrates around it.

3. Triumph Stag


As we still have a Stag on the fleet I should say at the outset that they are excellent cars. Just don't buy one. We persevere with ours because it is popular, but it has been a constant source of stress and frustration for me. Put simply, not a lot on the Stag was fully thought through before it was thrown into production. That it took a very long time to go into production may give you an indication of quite how bad it must have been at the outset. This, after all, is a car where you have to remove the power steering pump and belts just to change the battery. On the plus side, the Stag is a lovely car to hire - it burbles, it steers neatly, it is comfortable and relaxing. To own is a different matter. The V8 engine genuinely is unreliable - forget all the stories about upgrades and fixes, the engine is fundamentally flawed. It can be made fairly reliable but it will never be completely reliable. We have suffered two head gasket failures in 2 years, despite careful and regular maintenance. The roof is a travesty - a poor copy of the design used on the Mercedes R107 SL it fits when it wants to, folds flat when it can be bothered and snaps release cables on a very regular basis. Stag parts are easy to get hold of, the car is practical for a family but please, whatever you do, leave the ownership experience to people who enjoy self-flagellation. Like classic car hire companies.

4. Bentley T1 & Rolls Royce Silver Shadow


Here is another car that looks great. It also drives beautifully too. It is well built as well. But don't buy one.  There is no such thing as a cheap Rolls, just a Rolls waiting to bankrupt you. These cars are very expensive to own and while no more unreliable than other classic cars of similar age they are catastrophically expensive to repair when they go wrong. The carburettor cars of the 1970s are also wallet-meltingly costly to run with single figure mpg. You may be reading this thinking - sure, I know that, but I still want one. You don't. If you want the Crewe battleship experience get a blown Bentley R from the late 1980s or early 1990s - they are robust, well built and pretty cool too.

So there you have it.  An Alfa is the best classic car to own, a DeLorean isn't.  Of course, buying a classic car is as much about emotion as practical level-headed decision making. In the process of building Great Escape I've experienced exactly that balancing act, but ultimately the cars I've loved the most have been the ones I have been able to enjoy the most and a big part of that enjoyment is knowing it will get me where I'm going pretty much every time.

To find out more about our classic car hire fleet and our maintenance regime call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk. 














Drive and deliver

We try to make our collection sites and times convenient and easy but sometimes we realise that the logistics just don't work. This is particularly the case for weddings where collecting or returning the car can sometimes prove awkward or unsuitable. So we have added a new delivery and collection service at our Yorkshire site. 

The new facility involves and investment of several thousand pounds in a 4x4 Jeep tow vehicle and a high specification trailer, a combination that is capable of transporting any of our Yorkshire based vehicles.

Great Escape Classic Car Hire will also use the new Yorkshire transport facility to support corporate events, customer rallies and film work.  It will also be used to provide general customer support in the event of breakdowns or other issues, enabling us to respond quickly with an alternative car if required. Very few classic car hire companies have this facility and, on the rare occasions it is needed, it can be the difference between the end of a hire and continuing your experience. 

Over the last 6 months Great Escape has invested £20,000 in improved transport facilities to support and assist corporate and private clients.  Our fleet of delivery vehicles based in the Cotswolds and Yorkshire includes two trucks, two trailers and two tow vehicles. 

"Our new transport facility in Yorkshire is a response to customer demand," explains Graham Eason of Great Escape. "Our delivery and collection option is convenient and can save customers time and money. 

"Breakdowns and problems are rare but when they do happen our customers expect a quick and effective response - having our own transport vehicles, as well as a nationwide breakdown service, enables us to do that."

Great Escape Classic Car Hire has the UK's largest fleet of classic cars to rent in Yorkshire, Devon and Cotswolds as well as a network of smaller owner operated sites. For more details visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733