If John Harvey-Jones was blasting his belligerent way through Great Escape he'd call it Product Development or Future Proofing or some other description we don't quite understanding. We call it buying new cars that we think customers want to drive. Admittedly not as catchy but slightly more to the point.
Over the last few months we've put together a list of the cars we want to add to the fleets in Devon, Cotswolds and Yorkshire. The additions reflect customer feedback, demand for existing cars and trends we see in the classic car market. To avoid giving the game away to certain of our competitors (you know who you are) we can't publish the list in full. But we can let you know how we're progressing.
There are about 10 cars that we want to add fairly soon and we've got four of them already. Through experience we've found that buying cars that need work and then restoring them is generally the best way to create high quality, reliable hire cars. Apparently good condition, restored cars often struggle when we subject them to the demands and high mileages required of our fleet. Classic cars are often cosseted, low mileage, much loved vehicles that reveal their weaknesses when they are used regularly. By doing the work ourselves we can ensure a high standard of work and fit new parts wherever they are needed. This means we know the car well and what work has been done and when.
The new cars below have generally been bought requiring work, with the exception of the Corvette. Due to its rarity and parts supply it made sense to add a very good condition example to the fleet, so we did.
Triumph Herald Convertible
We have been after another four seater convertible to add at the lower end of our price range and the Herald was the obvious candidate. Heralds are simple, fun and easy to drive and blessed with excellent parts supply. We considered a Vitesse but decided to plump for a 13/60 for its blend of simplicity, reliability and performance. For the money we could get a much better 13/60 than a Vitesse. We bought our car as a restoration project from TRGB and we will be working on it over the winter for hire in 2014. The car has had a full under-body restoration and is otherwise in good condition. It will be resprayed before hire - right now, we haven't decided on the colour but off-white looks the most likely candidate.
Jaguar XJS V12 coupe
The XJS has spent so long in the classic car doldrums that its time had to come eventually. We think it is pretty much now. Hire volumes on our existing V12 convertible XJS' in Yorkshire and Cotswolds have increased year on year as customers discover what a svelte, capable and, dare we say it, stylish car this is. The convertible may be the more versatile hire option, but for our third XJS we've gone for a V12 coupe. Aficionados of the XJS - yes, there are some, us included - seem to favour the original 'flying buttress' style of the hard top XJS and while we do like the drop top we have to agree. Of course we had to get a V12 because a XJS without one isn't the real deal. Our car, a 1987 pre-facelift model, has a MOT but needs tidying before we put it on hire - we'll do this over the winter.
If the Fiat X1/9 had been made by MG or Triumph our roads would be full of them on classic car Drive it Day. As a dreaded Fiat, the story here is rather different. Because the oddly named X1/9 is an utterly brilliant low-cost sports car. Mid-engined with just enough power and no more it handles superbly, looks good and is practical too. So it was the ideal choice when we were looking for a low cost two seater sports car to fit into our hire fleet. The diminutive Fiat that we've bought is one of the last X1/9s made and while it has a MOT there are a few improvements we want to make to it before we release it for hire. It may not be a car you have thought of hiring, but trust us, you'll want to.
Corvette C3 Stingray
Hotdoggedydandy, there really ain't nothin' like a 'vette. With that obligatory bit of American cliche out the way lets tackle another cliche about out friends over the pond - Their cars don't handle bend very well. Sure, that is almost certainly true of your typical Cadillac Eldorado Fleetwood Brougham Coupe, which probably takes even longer to negotiate corners than it does to say, but the Corvette is different. It handles, accelerates and cossets all at the same time. Don't just take our word for it, visit www.classiccarsdriven.com to view their verdict.
The Corvette can be hired now, the other three cars are our work in progress and will be ready to hire in 2014. We'll put them on the website in the autumn but if you want to discuss hiring them feel free to contact us now on 01527 893733.