A super car or a super day?

They're not called super for nothing. Lamborghinis, Ferraris, hig spec Porsches and Astons are, by their very name, super. Of course they are. For proper testosterone-fuelled petrolheads, they're the stuff of dreams.  So when the special someone - or someones - in your life gift you a Supercar Experience then, quite frankly, it's bonanza time.
After all, what could be better than driving a proper, fully-fledged, snarling, growling Lambo three times around a damp airfield. With a rev limiter. After waiting 3 hrs in the rain. With an instructor/nanny sat beside you. Around some cones. 

Such, sadly, is the stark reality of a Supercar Experience. Sure, for most of us mere mortals it's the only way we'll ever get to drive one so put up or shut up. But it's hardly much of an experience. For one hundred and ninety quid or so. And in today's cash-strapped, damn-the-greedy-bankers era, how you spend £199 actually matters. Because there are fewer multiples of £199 available right now. This is what it feels like to be the squeezed middle. 
Part of the problem with The Supercar Experience is that quite a lot of the cost of providing the experience goes to people who aren't providing it at all. Most of the companies offering driving experiences are just middle men acting on behalf of individuals and companies who provide the actual experience. Some, the reputable ones, suss out and perhaps even meet the experience providers. Quite a lot don't even have direct contact except via finance functions. I know this because I've dealt with them. 

Whether the intermediaries manage the quality of the experience or not, they are just that - intermediaries. A big chunk of the money you pay for the experience - between 25 and 50% - goes to them. Which on a £199 experience doesn't leave a lot to pay for the Ferrari, airfield and insurance.
For the same £199 at Great Escape we do our driving experiences a little differently. You deal direct with us. So you pay for what you get. That also makes us directly responsible for the service we provide - we aren't hiding behind a big faceless organisation. That is why you can't book our driving days any way but direct. By cutting out the intermediary and doing what we love we can provide a full day's driving, 8.30am to 5pm, in five different classic cars for £199. Fuel, insurance and even lunch are included. We cover at least 100 miles and there are no clapped out cars or rev limiters. Just a great day out. 
For 2015 we've added more rallies than ever before and clearly listed the cars you'll drive - something that customers have asked us for. You can find out more - and read the testimonials - at www.greatescapecars.co.uk. Or call 01527 893733
To join one of our rallies as a driver costs £199. Passengers are £99. Lunch, fuel, route and insurance are all included. 

The 5 Best Wedding Cars.... Ever

Wedding cars. Such a simple thing, such a big decision. Well, for chaps anyway. And, not to be forgotten, for laydeez too. Except for chaps it's sort of, well, almost definitely probably certainly the point of a wedding. 
Be honest soon-to-be-wed men of Britain, and wed men of Britain while we're at, The Cars are a big deal. Bigger than the dress, bigger than the menu, bigger even than the honeymoon. And with some justification. Because if your wedding day isn't an opportunity to drive or be driven in your dream car, when is?
Back in the early days of the Internet, when I got married, choosing a decent wedding car was not straightforward. There simply weren't many options that didn't involve white and Rolls Royce. I am quite proud of the fact that perseverance put me in an Oldsmobile Toronado and the future Mrs Great Escape in a classic Cadillac. Neither of which, at the time we booked them, had actually been driven for several years... A mute point in the scheme of things.
And of course the Toronado, Detroit's fumbled stab at 'advanced engineering', broke down on the way to the church. Several times. Reliability being, in the interests of transparency, a fundamental weakness of the whole Interesting Wedding Car ouvre. But you can't have interesting without a little bit of risk; so while the recalcitrant Olds did cause a little stress at the time, it also didn't ruin the day. 
Back then I couldn't drive the Olds or Cadillac because the idea of classic self drive hire cars was in its infancy. Now you can not only hire something interesting, you can drive it too. 
All of which really is the point of having an interesting classic car for your wedding. It adds to the day, even when it decides to play up a little. Because old cars mean a risk of breakdown - not much, but it is there. In our experience at Great Escape it's less than 5% of the time. 
If you can't handle the risk, get a Beaufort, a new car that pretends to look like an old one. If you think you can, welcome to the wonderful world of interesting classic weddings cars. And here are our five most popular. 

1. Jaguar E Type 

Coupe or convertible, straight six or V12, it really doesn't matter. It's a flippin' EType. Based on a random straw poll of the weddings we've attended with our cars we can guarantee that the groom will be The Man the minute his guests spot the car. Everybody loves an E Type and nothing, repeat nothing, does Classic English Cool quite like it. We have four E Types for hire including Series 1, 2 and 3 and coupes or convertibles. 

2. Morris Minor Convertible 

If the Morris Minor was a person it'd be Stephen Fry - loveable, popular, non-threatening and smile-inducing. Everybody loves Morris Minors so for the groom looking to earn brownie points, this is the indisputable top choice. It's also practical (it seats four), a convertible and cheap to hire. The humble Moggy is also a subtle statement of intent - a simple, anti-consumer riposte to all those big shiny Rollers and stretch Hummers. We have a choice of four Morris Minors for hire, including three convertibles in different colours and a Morris Traveller saloon. 

3. Chevrolet Corvette

Where the Morris is diminutive and unassuming, the Corvette is big and bold. America's E Type is exactly what you would expect of the land of burgers and big-blocks - a burbling, rumbling beast of a car that announces its arrival from some distance away. If you want to make a statement on your wedding day, few cars make quite such a statement as the Corvette. And for a wedding, it's a pretty good way to arrive. The Corvette looks good, drives neatly and isn't so in your face and obvious as a Mustang. It's loud and happy to be so. We have a C3 Corvette in white with a red interior available to hire. 

4. Jaguar Mk2

The Mk2 may be one of the staples of the wedding car scene but it's usually white and usually not actually a Mk2 (most are later 340s or Daimlers, which don't look as good). A proper Mk2 in a decent colour (ie not white) is a traditional and elegant accompaniment to any wedding. And when you can drive it too, rather than be driven, you also discover why the Mk2 Jaguar is so revered. The Jag is possibly the most beautiful saloon car ever made and also great to drive. Which is surely win win for bride and groom. We have two Mk2s for hire.

5. Cobra

The original AC Cobra is one of those cars that small boys stuck pictures of on their walls. Which possibly explains why, when those boys get bigger, they see their wedding as an ideal opportunity to fulfill their dream and drive one. Proper Cobras are serious money so we have a replica for hire. It may not be the last word in driving finesse but it looks astonishing and sounds the same. And it has two seats, so your bride can come too. We have a V8 Cobra on our fleet. 

To find out more about our wedding cars and our self drive hire packages call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk

Gimme Five

It started with some legal eagles from London. We put them in five different classic cars over 100 miles and they haven't stopped raving about it. That was in 2008, th first of our corporate rally days. Since then we've done quite a few more and decided we were competent enough with the format to offer the same basic idea for our private customers. 
In 2011 our classic car driving days were born. Although we've added more dates and routes the format remains essentially the same - roll up in th morning and by the end of the day, at least 100 miles later, you'll have driven some great classic cars. And had a very good lunch. We've tweaked the idea along the way, adding in a passenger option - ideal for couples or dads and their lads - and offering a variety of route lengths to suit different customers. Because after all, some of us like to meander and some of us like to cover more ground. 

We've also developed our hire fleet so that there is more choice and variety, because customers now tend to come back and try different routes. With the largest fleet of classic hire cars in the UK we now make sure that each rally has a different range of cars; they always include the old favourites like E Types, but with several E Types on the fleet we even make sure we put on different E Types. 
Great Escape is still the only company offering th chance to drive five cars in one day. For 2015 our driving days are based at our Cotsolds site in the Midlands. By focussing on one site we can offer a wider range of cars and routes. In 2015 that means 8 rallies and new routes through the Forest of Dean and a new Welsh Triangle route through mid-Wales. 

Every rally day puts you behind the wheel of five different classic cars. And it's a proper, full day of driving - no time-wasting hanging around to pad things out. We typically drive 100-150 miles, with a stop for lunch, returning to the start between 4pm and 5pm. We then allow as long as you like to take a last spin in the cars. Insurance, lunch, fuel and route maps are all provided. Great Escape staff accompany the route with back up vehicles and a spare classic car.
The cost to join one of our rallies is £199 for a driver or £99 for a non-driving passenger. To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk. 

Not as Easy as One, Two, Three

Some people are born beautiful. Damn them. They bloom, they blossom and then, because there is a just and fair God, they wither and shrivel. Just like the rest of us after all. 
The bloom, blossom, wither arc is commonly perceived to be the E Type's lot. Like one of the beautiful people, it arrived fully formed and perfect in Series 1 form and then gradually shrivelled, or more accurately, got bigger and flabbier. The Pot Belly years. Such bar-room judgements are generally handed down by people who have never driven an E Type, let alone all three Series. Now, in one place for the first time Great Escape gives you the chance to definitively choose The Best E Type. Because we've brought our fleet of four E Types - from 1965 Series 1 to 1972 Series 3 - onto one site at our centrally located Midlands base. 

For some people of course an E Type is an E Type. Quite right. Any E Type is brilliant and chastising one over another is simply splitting hairs. I have a lot of sympathy with that view. But there are also a lot of enthusiasts who will trip over themselves to drive one model whilst poo-pooing another. So who is right?
The answer is, nobody. Early and late E Types are totally different cars. Viewed objectively one is not better than the other, just different. If you value pure beauty and simplicity then you won't like the later cars. If you like V12 sophistication and GT comfort, you're a Series 3 fan. 
When Jaguar came to replace the aging XK it faced a bit of a dilemma. The XK was hugely popular due to its GT size and gorgeous lines. The obvious answer was a similarly stately GT, but the competition had moved on. The new car would be up against new exotica from Italy and Germany. The stepping stone from this rather archaic grand tourer to the lithe and smaller E Type was XKSS, a svelte road-going version of the illustrious D-Type racer. The XKSS demonstrated to Jaguar that there was a market for an aerodynamic sports car drawing on Jaguar's racing heritage. Enter the E. 
The original E Type was a stunningly pretty sports body covering relatively ancient mechanicals. The suspension was innovative but the engine and gearbox were straight out of the XK. The first Series 1 cars are undoubtedly gorgeous but driving one reveals a few compromises that tarnish the shine. The Moss gearbox is a horror, clunky, ponderous and notchy. The 3.8 motor is quick but not scintillating, with poor low down torque. The seats aren't very comfortable and the headlights are dismal. Driving an early Moss box car is like discovering a wart on the Mona Lisa. 

Jaguar quickly realised the error of its ways and dropped the 4.2 XK motor and the full synchromesh box into the E Type from '65. These cars can justifiably lay some claim to being the best E Type ever made. More comfortable, more powerful and with a decent gearbox, the 4.2 E Type retained the original's looks but addressed its weaknesses (save for those lights). Great Escape has a 4.2 E Type and it is, frankly, brilliant. Our Sage Green E Type is quick even by modern standards, the torquey 4.2 straight six propelled along by a slick box. 
The Series 2 E Type built from 1967 to 1969 is the rarest and most controversial of the three Series. To meet changes in US safety legislation Jaguar tacked bulky lights to the back in place of the slim originals and raised the headlights. The inside story on these changes reads like the work of a man in a shed rather than an international car company. Inside the Series 2 gained luxury - better seats and rocker switches in place of toggles. Undoubtedly these little touches took the edge of the delicacy of the original, but the Series 2 is a much better long distance cruiser than the Series 1 - quieter and more comfortable. 45 years on the lights and interior mods seem like minor niggles. 
The Series 2 set the tone for the Series 3. The E Type had always aspired to being a GT but was too small and uncomfortable to really hit the mark. The Series 3 aimed to change all that. In came the astonishing V12 5.3 engine and a move to the longer 2+2 chassis for the coupe and convertible. The car was given a wider track - with flared arches - and a more luxurious interior. 
The Series 3 is a quite different car from the Series 1 and 2. It's heavier and rolls more but it delivers on the GT promise far better than the earlier cars, mainly thanks to its turbine-like engine. Whether you can live with the Americanised styling or not, it's all excused by the V12. Effortlessly quick and smoother than Barry White, this is one of the greatest engines of all time. Where the XK motor lagged behind the E Type's looks, the V12 turned the tables. 
Jaguar offered three body styles - coupe, convertible and 2+2. The 2+2 in Series 1 and 2 versions is, put simply, an abomination, a longer, taller car that ruins the original's lines. The Series 3 coupe used the 2+2 chassis but to my mind looks acceptable - not as good as the early cars but more balanced than the earlier 2+2. The convertible is the ideal choice for a hot day of posing, but serious drivers will opt for the more focused and rigid coupe. 
Driving any E Type is an event. Few mass produced cars provide the same sense of occasion. Sure, the E Type doesn't handle as well as a 911, a Jensen is more comfortable and a Mercedes is better built and more neatly detailed. But who cares. They aren't E Types. Forget what the pub bores tell you. Any E Type is brilliant. Judge each one on its own merits. And now, thankfully you can do exactly that. Our E Type fleet includes two Series 3 V12 convertibles, a Series 2 coupe and a Series 1 4.2 coupe. Prices start at just £249 for 24 hrs. To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk. Mention this article and claim 10% off. 

A Minor Screen Star

The time has come to sell our 1971 Morris Minor van. It joined the fleet in May as a humble thing in off-white cream, it leaves us a TV star and shiny blue. In those few short months it's been, literally, everywhere.  
Well, quite a lot of Britain anyway, all for the creation of a new TV cooking series by The Fabulous Baker Brothers.  But with filming over unfortunately we just don't have the space to keep it.  
The van was used for the second series of the Baker Brothers show, which sees them travelling around Britain seeking out good quality ingredients and concocting fresh meals, cooked outdoors, from what they discover.  The series was filmed across Britain including Cumbria, Sussex, Wales, Derbyshire and the South West.  The van is a key part of the series as the boys are filmed travelling around in it as well as cooking out the back of it. 
So here's the lowdown on our diminutive load lugger along with a gallery of photos charting its transformation from cream to blue. 
The Morris is a 1971 7 cwt Morris Minor Van that I bought specifically for the TV filming project, which has now finished so it is for sale.

As the van was bought for TV use it benefits from over £4,500 of mechanical and body refurbishment since June 2014 to bring this van up to its As you can see in the photos, the van has been used by The Fabulous Baker Brothers whose TV show will be broadcast on Discovery in the next few months. The van still has the TV graphics but these will be removed before sale. A recipe book featuring the van is also due to be published.

The filming took place over 3 months and involved locations from Cumbria to Sussex. The van was transported between locations using our own vehicles and staff.
The van was originally cream/beige (the V5 still states this but can be changed before sale) and was resprayed Pageant Blue for the show. As the photos show, this was a professional respray that also addressed various dents in the bodywork. The respray did not include the door shuts, backs or returns but this would be a straightforward job if the new owner felt it was essential. The paintwork is still in very good condition, with only minor stone chips and some minor damage to 2 wheelarches to detract. The load area was resprayed in grey primer before I bought it. The cost of the respray was £2,000.

To make the van dependable for filming we have replaced the gearbox and engine with very good second hand items. The can has run many miles with these units, both of which appear faultless. We have also replaced the points with electronic ignition and fitted new alternator and fuel pump. All work was done in our own workshop at an equivalent cost of £2500. 

We also fitted a tow bar with electrics and the van has a recent exhaust.
The interior of the van is in good, presentable condition rather than excellent. The seats are blue vinyl in good, unripped and well padded condition. The carpets are black and also in good, unripped condition. The dashboard is black and entirely original with no extra holes, gauges etc. the door cards and glovebox card inserts are in acceptable condition but would benefit from being replaced. The headlining in the cab is beige carpet and ideally would be replaced, although condition is virtually as new. The load area is good (repainted as mentioned) and there is a 'cut to size' carpet. There are no obvious dents in the side panels. 

The bodywork is in very good/solid condition. The dents were professionally smoothed and filled before respray. There was no significant rot as the photos show.
The underside is very solid with no MOT advisories. I am happy to re-MOT the van subject to negotiation.
The van comes with a decent history file, including a notebook listing every single maintenance item from ?? To ??. A photo log of the film work can be provided.
This is a very solid, honest Morris van with interesting provenance that has received significant mechanical and bodywork investment. It can be used as is or gradually improved without major expense.
The van is based in Redditch for viewing. Call 01527 893733 and ask for Julian or Graham or email info@greatescapecars.co.uk

These photos show the condition and transformation of the car, including the light damage to the bodywork as described above.

One idea. Two Answers

You would think it was straightforward. After all, the brief was a simple one - build a small, cheap family car to mobilise post-war Europe. It wasn't.
When Morris and Volkswagen set to building their competing people's cars they chose very different solutions. Those alternative approaches, perhaps, demonstrate why today one is a hugely successful company, and one simply isn't. 
The Morris Minor was, believe it or not, hailed as a technical tour de force when it was launched immediately after the war. Designed by Issigonis it fulfilled the brief of a simple, rugged, inexpensive family car brilliantly. The Minor was spacious, comfortable and practical. It sold in droves.
The Beetle, conversely, was none of those things. Not simple, not spacious, not practical. With its engine in the back the humble People's Car was noisy, cramped, ill-handling and smelly. 
So how come the Beetle kick-started a modern day economic marvel and the Morris didn't?
Looking at the duo of Great Escape Morris and Beetle convertibles side by side it is fairly easy to see why. Between the 40s and 70s VW continuously improved the Beetle, addressing its obvious shortcomings to make it more comfortable, more robust and just better. The Beetle got bigger windows, a wider track, bigger engines, nicer interior and a convertible. The Morris also evolved, but mainly in the direction of new variants like the Tourer and Traveller. The basic package, apart from the introduction of a 1000cc engine, barely changed. Whereas the Beetle became more solid, comfortable durable and faster to meet the dawn of the autobahn, the Morris didn't. So by the late 60s, when both models were in the sunset of their lives, the Morris seemed like a car from a bygone era, flimsy, weedy and antiquated. 
The difference is obvious with the convertibles. To make the Tourer Morris just chopped off the roof and welded in a couple of struts at the base of the a and b pillars. Anyone with a metal cutter and a welder could do the same. For the roof they ignored cutting edge technology in favour of the tried and trusted roof system from a pram. While simple, neither the roof or the cut and shut job make the car watertight or flex free. As a result, the Morris tourer is certainly characterful. 
In Wolfsburg they did things rather differently. They outsourced the job of chopping the Beetle's roof to a specialist, Karmann, who executed one of the nicest convertible systems of the era. The Beetle drop top looks good with roof up or down and the mechanism is a marvel of engineering - simple, smooth and perfectly weighted. Even the rear windows wind down. Alongside this the Morris looks like a cack-handed job executed in a shed. Which it probably was. 
Elsewhere the Morris feels flimsy and wobbly compared to the sturdy and sure-footed German. You can power the Beetle long distances without great concern, but not in the Morris. 
A late model Beetle is undoubtedly a better car than the Morris. Sure, it has less interior space and a small boot but these are its only shortcomings compared to the Morris.
None of which particularly detracts from the Morris as a classic proposition for weekend use. It is more characterful. It is simpler to maintain and it is more practical for a family. 
Considering where both cars started in life it is a great shame to see how they ended their lives. The Beetle's rugged durability and solidity were born of continuous development and, perhaps, the post-war determination to succeed. The Morris, on the other hand, started so well, so far ahead, but did nothing with its advantage. A lack of investment and forward thinking stalled it in its tracks. The same story is true of so many other British car products - E Type, MGB, Mini, and many more. Great cars that we simply made and then sat back awaiting the applause. While over the Channel engineers toiled on making the ok much better. 
You can experience four seater post-war open top motoring from our Cotswolds site from just £129 per day. For more details visit www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733