Our best ever price on E Types for 7 days only

Save £99 on Jaguar E Type hire, 7 days only

As we build up to The Christmas rush we've decided to drop in a special offer just for our existing customers and Twitter followers. It's our best ever deal on hiring our E Type coupes in Yorkshire and the Cotswolds - we've lopped £99 off the price of our E Type coupe gift vouchers.  Now you can drive away the Jaguar that classic car fans drool over for just £149 (normal price £249). We have E Type coupes in Yorkshire and the Cotswolds. 
This offer is only available for 7 days until 4th November. When it’s gone, it’s gone.  You can book online using discount code etype99 or call  01527 893733 to redeem it.
For £149 you get the same full hire package as we normally offer.  That includes 24 hours use, 200 miles per day allowance, comprehensive insurance for 1 driver and full UK breakdown cover.  Your gift voucher is valid for 12 months and you can even choose the start date.  When you’re ready to drive, just call us and we’ll book you in.
You can also use this offer to book specific dates during 2013. You can book online or call  01527 893733 to book by phone.

We have two Jaguar E Type coupes for hire from our sites in Yorkshire (Harrogate) and the Cotswolds (near Stratford).  Each car is fitted with the classic 4.2 litre engine matched to a manual gearbox – perfect for cruising the idyllic countryside on the doorstep of each of our sites.  To view our E Type coupe fleet click on Classic Cars at the top of the page and follow the links. Your discount E Type gift voucher will be valid to use against any of these 2 cars.
To grab your E Type coupe bargain for just £149 call  01527 893733or buy a voucher online.  Just use discount code etype99.
If you don’t fancy our E Type offer or you’ve already driven one, we have a lot more Christmas gift ideas.  As well as hire of our fleet of 60 classic cars we also offer driving day experiences and gift packages.  To visit our online shop, click here. (link to Shop page).  We’re offering 10% off the rest of our range until 25th December.  To grab your saving just use discount code '10' online or call  01527 893733.  (10% not available to be used in conjunction with E Type offer).

How to dodge the avenger

The Avenger is quite a good name for a car, up there with Interceptor and Mustang. Yet it hasn't, so far, adorned anything on four wheels worthy of the name. I know this because I've just spent a week and 1,000 miles with a Dodge Avenger driving from San Francisco to Seattle on a variety of roads.
The Avenger, of course, was a dismal also-ran family saloon built in Britain and variously badged a Hillman, Chrysler and a Talbot. Hardly names to strike passion in the hearts of family men up and down Britain. Back when it was new the Rootes Group made BL look like a model of efficiency. Such was the Coventry conglomerate's commitment to producing second class tat that even when it had the right idea, the Hillman Imp, it got it all woefully wrong in the execution. 
Step forward the Avenger Mark 1. Here was a reasonably designed four door saloon that owed more than a nod to the Mark 2 Ford Cortina with the stylish kink over its rear wheels and the curving rear screen and boot line. It was competent in almost all respects except that a car badged 'Hillman' was about as sexy and desirable as the plague. Hence the rebadge as Chrysler - which nobody had heard of or cared about - and then Talbot, a once proud British marque reduced to turning out ancient tinny fayre like the Alpine, Horizon and, lest we forget, the Tagora. 
So I didn't approach the Dodge Avenger with any great expectations. Which is just as well - what you don't expect can't disappoint you. We collected the Avenger in San Francisco and were immediately taken with the fact that it was red. Mainly because it was Very Red Indeed. Alamo cleverly hid the Dodge in a dark underground car park so it was a few minutes before we took it out into the autumn California sunshine and realised that this was, quite possibly, the reddest thing ever produced by man. 
Dodge, so far, hasn't made many inroads into the UK market so its roster of boxy saloons and hatchbacks are not familiar sights. Probably just as well because at least in the case of the Avenger, ugly is a stick it knows only too well. The larger Charger and Challenger models look quite good, in coupe, saloon and estate versions, but Dodge's butch design language doesn't work on a smaller scale. Amusingly the Avenger has a similar kink over the rear wheels as the original Hillman, although I suspect that is a retro homage to the Dodge Charger made famous by Luke & Bo Duke rather than a nod to the heinous Hillman. The Avenger is clearly meant to look butch and sporting but, particularly when sporting steel rims, just ends up feeling a bit silly. Rootes Group aficionados may recall the Chryslyer/Talbot Horizon, a Golf-wannabe from the late 70s that had massive flared arches covering tiny narrow wheels. Well the Avenger continues that vibe. 
On the road little improves. Dodge is apparently America's fastest growing car brand, something it has achieved through improved design and interior fit and finish. The car is competently built in the way any modern car is but it hardly feels premium. The dashboard was obviously designed with a brief including the word 'sporty' in capital letters and looks ok. But elsewhere in the cabin the idea of sewing - yes, sewing - two pieces of hard plastic together using sporty (presumably) white thread and pretending its leather was never going to fly like an eagle. The Dodge suffers from direct but dead steering and a particularly ancient and asthmatic 2.4 litre 4 cylinder petrol engine. This is mated to one of the worst automatic gearboxes in the history of assisted gearchanging - it is forever hunting between its four widely spaced ratios. Factor in uncomfortable seats and a ride that is only at home on a billiard board and you have a very disappointing car indeed. Oh, and it struggles to top 27mpg, even with motorway driving. Gas may be £ 2.50 a gallon in the land of the free but that's still a poor show. 
All of which is a shame really because I was looking forward to spending some time behind the wheel of a modern car. The newest car in our household is a 2005 Mercedes. Most of my time is spent either piloting 60s classics or driving a soggy 2001 Saab. Believe it or not, the idea of a car with air con, cruise control and the opportunity to talk to my passenger without being drowned out by various creaks and groans was quite appealing. But after sampling the Dodge I came away wondering whether I really wanted that at all. Because dismal as the Hillman Avenger was it did have character. You could drive it hard because it told you what it was doing. The same couldn't be said of its modern namesake. And perhaps that is the story with many modern cars.
As cars get cleverer and the driving experience easier and more remote I hope there will still be a place for the stuff we like at Great Escape - cars that are engaging and entertaining, not because they've been designed by marketing people to make them like that but because they just are. 
To find out more about our growing fleet of classic cars for hire as well as our driving day packages, visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733

Gimme More More More

Believe it or not, people get bored of E Types. Which is a shame really because if they didn't here at Great Escape we could just have E Type hire cars and be done with it.  But you, the people demand more. So we give you more. And we tirelessly and persistently seek out more choice for you, our customers. Which means buying more classic cars. Frankly, there are worse jobs in the world but I can't think of any right now. Think of us as you press your demands for new stuff. Our dedication to buying new classic cars for us, sorry you, to enjoy means when you get a Great Escape gift voucher or go on one of our driving days, you get more choice of cars than anywhere else.
Over the years we've tried lots of new cars out, many have stuck and some thankfully haven't. For every Triumph TR6 there is a Rover SD1 Vitesse, great cars that just don't work as hire cars. Often, as it turns out, because they often simply don't work. We like to seek out the sure fire bets as well as the offbeat options in order to bring customers something different.  This inevitably leads us up a few blind alleys, like that SD1 and our favourite bad car the DeLorean DMC-12. Popular as it was we have a responsibility to our customers, and that excludes cars whose wheels fall off. And gear sticks while we're on the subject. 
During 2013 we've added £100,000 worth of new cars to our fleet. Sure, we've ditched some lemons but overall that investment brings you more cars and more choice. And no risk of cars whose wheels fall off by design. With the new cars we've concentrated on making classic car hire more accessible - by adding cheaper hire cars - and creating more choice, by adding cars like our Corvette and TVR Chimaera. We've also added more examples of our most popular cars including Jaguar Mk2, E Type and MGB as well as opened a new hire base in Devon. 
For the 2014 season we will have several more new cars available to hire including Fiat X1/9, Triumph Herald convertible and Jaguar XJS V12 coupe. Most of the new cars will be at the affordable end of our price range, which starts at just £95 for 24 hours hire. 
To find out about our fleet of 60 classic hire cars (and growing) and our range of driving days and weekend experiences, visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733. Use discount code 'iwant' to claim 15% off online or mention this article by phone to get the same. 

Stuff the socks, get something you'll really enjoy this year

When you reach a certain age it takes a bit more effort to get excited about stuff. You've seen a lot, you've done a lot. At Great Escape we do realise that. That's why when we created our Christmas gift voucher packages we raised the bar a bit. And it seems to work, because we probably see more than our fair share of madly grinning grown men.


The secrets to our success have four wheels. If you've always dreamed of driving some of the greatest cars of the last 50 years now is your chance.


Our driving days put you behind the wheel of 5 classic cars during 8 hrs driving. Not for us a 20 minute spin around an airfield in a clapped out supercar. Nope. For just £199 you spend a full day driving some of the best cars from Jaguar, Jensen, Porsche, MG and Alfa over some of Britain's best driving roads from our sites in Yorkshire, Devon and the Midlands.


All that for £199. That covers everything, including your lunch.




Claim 15% off during October


We run regular driving days from each of our sites during the Spring, Summer and Autumn. You can find more details of the schedule on our website at www.greatescapecars.co.uk . You can buy our driving days as gift vouchers valid for any rally or book for a specific rally.


And when you buy a voucher during October we'll give you 15% off. Just use discount code 'iwant' online or call 01527 893733 and mention this email.


Vouchers are available online in our Gift Shop atwww.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733. Use the code or mention this email to claim 15% off in October.



60 cars, 3 great locations


Great Escape has the widest choice of classic cars to hire in the UK, available from three convenient locations in Yorkshire, the Midlands and Devon. If you would prefer to immerse yourself in one car rather than join our driving days our self drive classic car hire packages start at just £80 per day using your 15% discount. For more details visitwww.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733.


To take advantage of the 15% discount use discount code 'iwant' online or call 01527 893733 and mention this email. Or email us atinfo@greatescapecars.co.uk


Simply email a link to a loved one as a less than subtle hint - that should ensure you get what you really want for Christmas this year.  


Moving On Up

It isn't easy to grow a business in the current climate but thanks to the enthusiasm of our customers and quite a lot of luck we seem to be on a winning streak. So we have moved Great Escape HQ in Worcestershire to a bigger, better location with, at last, some proper office space and room for more cars and a bigger workshop. 

The move gives us improved storage for our growing fleet of cars and more workshop space to service and improve them. We will be installing a second ramp to enable us to manage our workflow more efficiently and take on more third party external work. So if you have a classic car that might benefit from some honest, fair and knowledgeable repair work please feel free to get in touch. 

For classic car owners looking for a reputable workshop the idea is pretty simple. We maintain a large fleet of classic cars for high mileages and daily use. We've been doing that for seven years now. That ought to put us in a fairly good position to maintain low mileage customer cars. Plus, crucially, I've been on the other side of the fence. I've used countless independent classic car specialist workshops over the years. It cost me a fortune - well in excess of £250,000 over a few short years.  I can say with some authority that every one has had its considerable failings and none of them have been particularly honest.  

The trouble is that most garages lead a fairly parlous existence from job to job - they charge on an hourly basis and nobody except them knows exactly how long it took. The temptation to tweak prices is considerable. We are different. By getting to know customers and their cars we can do what we do already - fix them quickly and honestly. Our self drive hire business already funds our workshop so we can afford to be good value and honest. It means we also know classic cars inside out and what sort of problems to expect. We are used to turning unreliable classics into dependable daily hirers - and keeping them that way.  
We undertake bodywork and mechanical and electrical work and can arrange paint, trimming and other specialist tasks as required.  And because we're already doing this for our hire business we're the customer and the supplier. So we can see both sides.
Our current projects include:

Jaguar E Type - bodywork, brake overhaul, new clutch & flywheel, interior re trim
Triumph Herald - paint preparation, respray and retrim
Jaguar Mk2 - major bodywork renovation and preparation for respray
Jaguar E Type - head gasket replacement
Jaguar XJS - electrical work and respray
Saab 900 Convertible - brake overhaul & welding
Fiat X1/9 - bodywork, interior, welding, respray
Jensen Interceptor - bodywork & respray
Triumph TR6 - rebuild & respray

These are just some of our current projects. To find out if we can help with your classic car project call 01527 893733 or email info@greatescapecars.co.uk. Our workshop is in Worcestershire near the M5 and M42 and we offer a nationwide collection service. 

A Super Car or a Super Day

It comes to all of us chaps eventually, that time of life when stuff, to be exact Christmas presents, doesn't really matter. There's nothing we want. Fortunately those around us quickly realise that the substituting Stuff with An Experience is the way to go. So they raid the outer-reaches of Red Letter Days for inspiration. If you're even vaguely interested in stuff on four wheels this invariable means A Supercar Day or A Rally Car Day.
Few men, and it is usually men in this 'what's the point of stuff?' situation I'm afraid, would pass up the opportunity to drive a Supercar or make like Makinen. To say you've piloted a Lambo is naturally cool. The trouble is that the Supercar and rally experiences never quite seem to live up to expectations. They're cheap due to the competition but you get what you pay for. Which usually seems to be 3 laps in a clapped out Lamborghini on a deserted airfield and an awful lot of hanging around. 
In part this is because there are a lot of middle men involved. When you buy from an activity reseller you're paying a chunky proportion of the price just to them force privilege of selling it to you. The activity provider gets perhaps half the sale price after the retailer takes their cut. This has to pay for use of the car, instructors, insurance, use of the airfield and so on. There's not much left to give you a good time. 
At Great Escape Cars we don't subscribe to that sort of 'experience'. For the same cost as a twirl round some cones in a Ferrari for 20 minutes you can get behind the wheel of 5 classic cars over an exhilarating 8 hour day.  You drive on proper roads rather than an airfield and there's no nannying instructor sat beside you warning about not exceeding 3,000 rpm. Our '5 cars, 1 great day' rallies have become very popular because they seem to give customers what they really want -  a really memorable experience. And proper value for money. We only sell direct so all of the price you pay goes  towards the event you are attending. 
We run our rallies from our three sites in Yorkshire, Devon and the Cotswolds. Each one - and there are eight to choose from in 2014 - follows a different route but they all follow the same format. Each one gives each driver the chance to drive 5 classic cars over a route of at least 100 miles. Lunch, fuel and insurance are all included. A great day out for just £199. Non-driving passengers can come along too for only £99. 
Visit our website at http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk and follow the Driving Days links to find out more or call 01527 893733. Don't just take our word for it - you'll find links to plenty of honest testimonials and articles from customers on the Driving Days pages. 
Gift vouchers valid for any of our 2014 driving days can be bought online.  

X Hits the Spot

As a child of the 80s I've always had a soft spot for the Mk2 Ford Granada Ghia X. Wandering the leafy, aspirant suburbs of Woking where I grew up it was an easy task back then to do as many around me did and assess relative wealth by the length of the badge on the back of each car parked on each mock-Tudor driveway. And for a brief period in the mid-80s no car said 'I've Arrived' quite like a Ford Granada Ghia X.
In the peaceful, innocent days before the Germans waged all-out war on our executive car sector Ford pretty much had the market themselves. Jaguar fought it out in the Boardroom while Ford rewarded white collar workers with the Granada in a huge array of specifications. But the 2.8 Ghia X was the only one to have. Today, in an era of stripped out BMW 520ds in black on 16 inch wheels it is hard to imagine a world where a Ford could be considered the better option. Yet in the 80s it was ever thus. There was something honest about the Ford Granada driver compared to the social climbing Mercedes owner, eschewing as they did the Ford's faux wood veneer and ruched velour in favour of hard seats, wind-up windows and a four-pot motor. Today we buy badges and brands, back then we bought to showroom tinsel and trinkets. And in the battle of tinsel and trinkets no car fought better than the Granada Ghia X.
From the 60s to the 80s Ford was the master par excellence of car marketing. You surely can't polish a turd but you can sprinkle it in glitter and call it a Cortina, an Escort or a Fiesta. These competent but humdrum cars flew out of the showroom because Ford recognised one simple fact - people always want to be one better than their neighbours. With a simple model trim hierarchy Ford enabled buyers to do just that. Initially the trim names were a little confusing but when Uncle Henry chanced on the blindingly simple L, GL and Ghia ascendancy paydirt was reached. Never mind that Ghia was once the name of a renowned Italian design house, its glory days came when it was nailed to the back of top-spec Cortinas, Escorts and Grannies. There was something reassuring and concrete about all this, something that is missing from today's corporate car park. Salesmen drove Ls. Regional Managers drive GLs. National Sales Managers drove Ghias. Rivals like Vauxhall tried to get in on the act with copy-cat hierarchies but nobody hit the spot like Ford. 
The Blue Oval refined the concept with endless additions including GLS, Popular Plus and many more, few of which really moved the game on. Except when they whacked a X onto the end of the Granada Ghia. Suddenly, in a moment that would be familiar to fans of Spinal Tap, Ghia was not enough. Ghia was One Below. Ghia was merely 10. Now there was 11 to contend with. It may be hard for younger readers to comprehend just what adding a X meant to executive car buyers back then unless you've sat in any business meeting for any length of time surrounded by striving salesmen. Soon the conversation turns to company cars, a discussion whose subtext is all about relative success. The man sat in that room driving a Ford Granada Ghia X holds the trump card. He has turned it up to11, he cannot be beaten. 
The Ford Granada Ghia X was Ford's showpiece. It had everything Ford could think of putting in a car as standard. In many ways the electric windows, rear headrests, leather seats, timber dashboard, rev counter, alloy wheels and sunroof of the Ghia X were Ford's defence against the emerging German makers with their stripped out, spartan offerings. But for a short period the sheer opulence of the Ghia X merely highlighted how silly anyone would be to buy a hair-shirt equipped German rival. Those who did were seen as image-obsessed snobs. Oh how times have changed. 
It helped, of course, that the Mk2 Granada was actually quite good. It looked great, with simple chiseled lines, and the Ghia X paraphernalia gave it undoubted presence, particularly compared to its more lowly trim levels. It's big headrests and over-stuffed seats gave the impression that there was so much stuff inside that there was barely room for the occupants. 
Unfortunately, all this Gha X stuff wouldn't last. Sure, Ford has soldiered on with the idea offering Titanium X variants but by the late 80s it rather felt like the game was up. The Mk3 Granada wasn't premium enough and ditching the Ghia X badge for Scorpio was an own goal. By the time of the mk3 company car drivers were quite happy to swap space and equipment for a German badge; technology began to trump tinsel and, in a way, who can blame drivers for wanting a car that handled better and was neatly screwed together. 
Today Ford is fighting a new battle to reclaim the Ghia X crown with the mk5 Mondeo. And who knows, perhaps the time is right for a car that trades on ability and showroom tinsel rather than a brand. 
In the meantime you can immerse yourself in the 80s world of middle management success with our latest addition, a Ford Granada Ghia X 2.8i, available to hire from our Cotswolds site from 2014. For more details visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733.

Winterise Your Classic

If, like me, you have no idea whether Winterise is actually a word, my apologies. It is at least easier to say than Get Your Classic Car Ready For Winter, which is what this article is all about.
Of course, on or about the day when temperatures dip into single figures, every classic car-related blog, magazine and self-appointed pundit rushes out their annual list of advice on laying up your car. Perhaps though, the Great Escape Cars list is a little different because our cars work for a living so we have to follow the advice we give. 
Here is our list of tips for helping your classic car survive the winter months. It isn't exhaustive but covers the main, simple and cost-effective ways to help your car survive winter.

1. Keep It Dry

Damp is a classic car killer but eradicating it is a full time job. Dampness causes rust, deteriorates electrics, eats interiors and worms its way everywhere to often catastrophic effect. If you are gar aging your car consider investing in an indoor Carcoon, a superb and inexpensive way to solve the damp problem. If storing outside a Carcoon is a must. If you can't stretch to a Carcoon ensure the storage area is waterproof and that air can circulate - this will help minimise dampness. 

If you don't have a garage seriously consider finding one - the money it costs will be less than the cost of repairing your deteriorating car.

2. Maintain the battery

Batteries suffer in cold weather and due to lack of use. There are two schools of thought with them. One is to use a trickle charger that keeps the battery topped up - the downside, say some, is that the battery is weakened by this process. Alternatively disconnect the battery from the car. The battery may drain but at a slower rate. We personally recommend a trickle charger.

3. Use it

Actually using your classic in the winter may seem like a mad idea. Think of the salt, the damp, the mud, the snow. Certainly those are issues. But your car needs to be started and run regularly and the components exercised - without this seals dry out, parts seize up, tyres flat-spot and ancillaries give up the ghost. It is not wise to simply start it up and leave it running - this causes excessive engine wear and the car needs to move to be properly exercised.  Find a suitable dry day and salt-free roads and give your car a 15-20 minute run every couple of weeks. At the end of the drive fully jet wash the bodywork and underside then dry off. The potential risk of deterioration to the bodywork is, we think, worth the pay-off in terms of mechanical deterioration and general reliability. 

4. Underseal it

A few pounds spent undersealing your car, or even having the cavities wax injected will pay dividends over the winter by protecting the hard-to-reach rust traps.  I had my Alfa Spider wax injected for £120 7 years ago and it remains utterly rust free despite being used year-round over high mileages. 

5. Keep it clean

Dust is a silent killer of paint, causing discolouration over time and scratches. Before you lay up your car for winter thoroughly valet it. Apply a good polish to protect the paintwork and jet wash the underside, paying particular attention to sills and wheel arch lips.  

6. Get the antifreeze mixture right

The cheapest way to kill your car is to have a weak or non-existent antifreeze mix. The issue for a stored car is not the risk of freezing inside the engine. Without the correct mix of antifreeze and water the latter will quickly corrode everything it touches inside your engine. We recommend a minimum 30:70 or ideally 50:50 mix.

7. Pump up the tyres

When a car is left standing for a long period of time tyres can flat spot and deteriorate if the pressures are too low. As well as exercising the car it is a good idea to pump the tyres up beyond the normal recommended level to avoid flat spotting and continue to monitor levels. 

The list of recommended tasks are a cheap and simple way to maintain your car's condition. 


Brought to you by http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk

Cheap as Chips

Good old David Dickinson, he keeps tanning salons in work and brought us the immortal catch phrase 'cheap as chips.' Apart from its alliterative value it's not quite clear what it actually means. But heyho, no doubt Dicko would approve of our expanding range of budget classic hire cars. Just £95 puts you behind the wheel. 
Now you may imagine that £95 doesn't get you much in the world of classic hire cars. If you're looking to get one of our five E Types for that money the sadly you'll be disappointed. But our budget fleet does offer variety and thrills to rival even Browns Lane's finest. And, we might argue, without the high excesses and values that come with E Types et al, there is less to worry about which means more time to enjoy.
Our fleet of £95 Band A cars has been steadily growing because we want to make classic car hire more affordable and accessible. We have also invested in new workshops to maintain our cars which has reduced our costs, so we can reduce our prices (except for the 20% chunk that goes to the VAT man). The range, which can be hired from our sites in Yorkshire, Cotswolds and Devon, currently includes Morris Minor convertibles, classic Minis, MGFs and Saab 900 Turbo.  For 2014 we will be adding Triumph Herald convertible, Fiat x1/9 and Jaguar XJS v12 coupe. And no doubt a few others we spot along the way.
Despite the low price we haven't cut corners on the hire package. The 24 hr price of £95 and the weekend price of £160 include comprehensive insurance for 1 driver (extra drivers £25 each), unlimited mileage and full UK breakdown cover. Every hire day includes a full 24 hrs use and we offer flexible collection and return times during weekdays. 
Gift vouchers are available for individual cars or you can buy a Band A voucher online. To find out more visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733.

Get me to the church on time

Brides have their dresses and pretty much everything else to organise. But as any self-respecting groom knows, it's really all about the cars. While your dearly beloved is fussing over table fancies and colour schemes you can concentrate on a task whose critical importance to the day nobody else quite seems to grasp.
If you are a groom then you will be treading a well worn path known as Finding The Cars. You have plenty of time to spend on this because besides traipsing around venues, meeting vicars, lunching in-laws and generally advising on but not actually making any other decisions, you have nothing else to do except turn up and make a humorous but tear-jerking speech.
Like many grooms before you you will marvel at the sheer lack of interesting wedding car choices at your disposal. Unless you live in London, where of course everything is possible, you are largely stuck with white Rolls Royces and Beaufort retro kit cars.  The limited range of interesting stuff is either miles away, gets booked up years in advance or is stupidly expensive. 
The other frustrating thing about wedding cars are that there is usually some bloke in a suit and peaked cap in exactly the seat you want to be in. So you're stuffed in the back trying to persuade yourself that a 20 minute spin in a Rolls for £400 is 'a great value experience.'
Perhaps, you think, there is a gap in the market for someone who likes, indeed needs, a fleet of interesting cars to hire for weddings.
When I got married I also faced this dilemma and had the same thought. We used a recalcitrant Oldsmobile Toronado as groom car - it broke down three times on the way to the church- and a vast 50s Cadillac saloon for the bride. Naturally, it was my job to find the cars and it took months of research in the days of the dawn of the internet (yes, that long ago). 
Afterwards, as I surveyed the destroyed remains of my bank account, I wondered whether someone ought to offer something more interesting for wedding couples. Cars, perhaps, that I might like to drive. Cars, in fact, that would need regular exercise when not doing weddings. And so, six years later, began Great Escape.
We don't only do wedding cars but it is a big part of what we do. We no longer offer chauffeur drive, preferring instead on a package that we think is more appealing to brides and grooms. And cheaper. Self drive wedding car hire means that the couple get a flexible, good-value experience that is more fun than chauffeur hire. For the less than the price of a budget chauffeur car couples can have one of our cars for 2 days to enjoy. Less stressful and more relaxing.  We do have a roster of freelance chauffeurs that we can put couples in touch with if they need a driver for one or both of the cars. By dealing direct for chauffeur the price is always lower than for a chauffeur driven car package. 
Our fleet of 60 cars gives wedding couples access to a wide range of unusual, stylish or quirky cars to suit most weddings.  They range from Morris Minors and classic Minis to Jaguar E Types and Jensen Interceptors.  Although we had the range of cars in place we quickly realised that couples also need help with the logistics of fitting the car into their day. This has historically been the bugbear of grooms across the land - find a car you love, lose it because it's miles away.
In 2013 we introduced a new range of wedding services to make using one of our cars simpler and better value. The main problem couples experience is collecting and returning the car in as little time as possible to keep their costs down. So we now offer a 1.5 day package, where couples can collect the day before and return the day after without incurring the full 2 day hire price. Extra drivers can also be added for a fixed cost of just £25 each, meaning someone else can collect and return the car for the groom and bride without incurring significant extra costs. Finally we have also invested in a new fleet of transport vehicles so that we can offer a nationwide delivery and collection service at a competitive cost.
Self drive hire is growing rapidly in popularity because of the choice, simplicity and, crucially, the cost. Typical chauffeur hire costs at least £200. Self drive hire for 1.5 days starts at only £160 including insurance and usually unlimited mileage. 
Great Escape tends to book up early for weddings and some key cars and dates have already been filled for 2014. To find out more and arrange an informal viewing of our fleet call 0152789373 or contact us via the website www.greatescapecars.co.uk. 

A year in the life of an E Type

Hiring out old cars can be, I'll be honest, quite an effective way to fall out of love with old cars. No matter how much you love being around classic cars they do tend to be more unstable than a XFactor  contestant. Which can, at least sometimes, lead to a rather fraught relationship twixt man and motor.
None of these tensions apply to my relationship with our 1969 Series 2 E Type coupe. It is no concours queen but then a Meguiars contestant probably wouldn't be able to run 10,000 to 15,000 miles a year without incident, in the hands of many dozens of different drivers. In the last five days alone it has done 1,200 intensive miles.  And every customer returns with a huge grin invariably keen to make an offer on the car.
It has not always been thus. It generally takes us 12-18 months to create a car that is sufficiently reliable to hire. This is because most classic cars are rarely used, so when the vendor states 'very reliable' they mean for runs of 50 miles every so often and up to 1,000 miles a year. Our hire cars regularly do that annual mileage in a week. 
In the case of NAV580H, our E Type Series 2, it took a little longer to make it reliable. I inherited this car when I bought Grand Touring Club, the Suffolk-based classic car hire company (the old management now trade under a different name). In the 1980s the bright red car had been a concours example. Under the stewardship of Grand Touring Club it had suffered somewhat. Stored in a damp, leaking barn and never serviced it had developed rot and become unreliable, losing water and oil in equal measure to fuel. Customers enjoyed it but they were hardly getting the proper E Type experience. 
Rather embarrassed by this we brought the E Type to Worcestershire and off to a Jaguar specialist for assessment. At that time I didn't have a workshop so was outsourcing maintenance. The expert diagnosed a huge range of faults, most of them MOT fails, and a quote of £5,000. The main work included a top end engine rebuild as the head gasket had blown, hence the oil and water use. The back of the car was rotten so needed significant welding work. 
With the work done we put the car on hire at our main Worcestershire site, where it proved adequately reliable but no more. Despite the work some of the old problems recurred - by this time we had our own workshop so we could do the repairs more cost effectively. Although the car's interior was careworn we concentrated on reliability and mechanicals, our normal priority. It is far better to have a dependable car than a pretty car that is nice to admire on the hard shoulder. 
The car had been limping along in Suffolk with a very worn clutch so we did this too. As it built up miles inevitably old ancillaries began to fail - clutch slave cylinder, alternator, battery, fuel pump, radiator fans. We have come to expect these - heavy use can lead aging ancillaries to give up the ghost quickly. Even replacement parts are no better - parts quality is variable and are often supplied faulty or have short working lives. 
Our new Workshop Manager set about making various mods to the car when he joined in January 2013. This included rigging up the radiator fans to stay on with the ignition - so the car runs cooler - and servicing the car thoroughly to improve low-end running. Since he sprinkled the magic fairy dust the car has been totally reliable. This is despite hardly ever stopping long enough off hire to get cold. Customers tend to do high mileages in the E Type because it is such a great drive and of course they all want to get the full E experience so it has a hard life. Despite this, it continues to deliver.
All of this is testament to the fundamental strength of the original car. The XK engine is extremely robust and E Type mechanicals are simple and strong. The car's Achilles heel is the bodywork and trim, which are notoriously fragile and expensive to repair.  It is also rather prone to light damage thanks to unusual dimensions, a long bonnet and poor visibility. The electrics are another weak point but relatively simple to fix. 
The key to this car's remarkable turnaround from rent a wreck to reliable renter has been investment, improvement and knowledge.  With the will to improve it and the right mechanic on the case the car is as dependable as a 44 year old E Type can ever be.  It helps that Julian, our Workshop Manager, now knows the car well - this makes it easier to spot when it isn't running right and diagnose it. This is far more important than so-called specialist skills that are much-vaunted by classic car repairers. 
Through time and investment we have created a fleet of cars that are infinitely more dependable than most classics, and this is tested daily. The lessons we've learned are that you can't cut corners on maintenance and when you spend you need to spend on mechanicals first. But ironically it is regular use that benefits these cars the most - idleness breeds unreliability. Fortunately, in the case of the ever-popular '69 E Type, regular use is not a problem.
To find out more about our classic car hire fleet visit www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733. We are in the process of moving to a larger workshop and will be expanding our classic car repair facilities.