E Type Giveaway at the Practical Classics Restoration Show


When it comes to weekend entertainment I have to admit that I don't naturally gravitate to Birmingham's NEC. But on 28th and 29th March that is exactly where you'll find me. Rooted to the spot, no doubt, on Stand 300 in Hall 5 of the Practical Classics Restoration Show.

Great Escape Cars is taking a stand at the show to promote our workshop business. And give away an E Type. Yes, honestly, Ok, a bit honestly: we're not actually permanently handing over the keys to a £50,000 E Type to some lucky, lucky devil, instead we're giving away a weekend in one of our four E Types, worth up to £650. So even if you don't want to discuss the finer details of inner sill replacement with us there is a good reason to drop by the stand. Entry is simple: tell us who you are by completing the form, we'll draw the winner out of the proverbial hat after the show and if you've won, we'll tell you straightaway. If you haven't well, obviously, we won't. 
The Practical Classics show promises to be well worth a visit: it's built up a decent, loyal following and provides a more rough and ready mix of stuff than the flashier Classic Car Show in November.
The Great Escape Cars stand will be an opportunity to see one of our project E Types during restoration: if you have a project then we'll also be on hand to talk about how we work and what we do.

Our workshop business is a little different to most restoration garages because it was born out of necessity: running a large hire fleet means you rely on good, honest repairers. The trouble is, I struggled to find them. After shelling our hundreds of thousands of pounds repairing my cars - and repairing the repairs in many cases - I called time and decided to set up my own workshop in 2011.  For the first few years we worked flat out maintaining the Great Escape Cars fleet. Now, with four permanent workshop staff, we're offering the same service to classic car owners.
The principles are based on what I learnt as a workshop customer: all I really wanted was good communication, a fair and transparent price and reliable turnaround. So those are the things that drive how the workshop operates.
You can find out more about what we do at www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733. Find us on stand 300 in Hall 5 at the Practical Classics Restoration Show.


01527 893733

Why the MOT exemption is daft

In 2012 a MOT exemption was introduced for cars built before 1960. This was hailed as A Good Thing for classic car owners because it would cut red tape.
The exemption was championed by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs and the All Party Parliamentary Historic Vehicles Group. Aside from an effective way to consume a lot of syllables, these groups represent classic car interests at Government level. Their exemption plan was in response to EU proposals to reform the MOT, which could have threatened classic cars. In that sense they won a reprieve for classic car owners. 
So pleased were they, presumably, with this sticking it in the eye to The Man that the two organisations decided to push for a wider rolling exemption of all vehicles over 40 years old. As recent news stories indicate, this is likely to happen. 

You may wonder why you don't know anything about this proposal, despite it being close to becoming law. I know I do. In 2012, when the original exemption came in, the FBHVC and APPHVG surveyed the former's members. Although only a small percentage actually responded, unsurprisingly they liked the idea. This survey constituted the Consultation phase of the process. If you missed out - and clearly many did - don't bother trying to influence democracy later on. I did and received a rather terse response from APPHVG grandee Greg Knight. Most of the media did too, for whom the exemption plan then and now has been a surprise. 
This time around much the same is happening. According to the APPHVG, which is championing the idea, it has nothing to do with them. Ask the Department of Transport. I did. They invited consultation during 2014 via three online surveys.  Less than 2,000 people responded. They liked the idea so now it will probably happen. 

The Roadworthiness Test 

At this point you may wonder what is going on. Why, in an age of motoring safety campaigns, are we letting some cars off the hook? The answer lies in the proposed changes to the MOT being pushed through the EU. Cars are undergoing a technological revolution. Their safety is governed less by mechanics and more by electronics. This puts strain on the MOT system as it tries to cope with a widening range of car safety systems. The EU is therefore proposing a new 'roadworthiness test' that future-proofs the MOT. The trouble is, to create a test that covers all cars is a Herculean task: therefore it serves a lot of interests to exempt older cars and so make the new test simpler and cheaper to police. 
The FBHVG and APPHVG have quite rightly tackled this issue head on to protect their members. Something needed to be done, obviously, to avoid the risk of old cars being pushed off the road or deemed unroadworthy under the new legislation. Bravo etc. Old cars, they argued, represent a minimal risk because they aren't used much and their owners are more fastidious than ordinary car owners, who they inferred, need an annual kick up the backside to keep their cars safe. 
My problem is that their strategy based around exemption is flawed. Even if you accept the assumption of minimal use and caring owners, the idea that the most inherently risky cars - through age and design - don't need checking but the newest, most advanced ones do seems slightly bizarre. To attempt to solve a problem by simply removing the problem from the equation also doesn't actually solve the equation. 

I'm all for democracy: just because I disagree doesn't make me right or that my view should prevail. But this isn't democracy. A limited survey of FBHVC members (who disproportionately own pre-1960 cars) and a hidden online survey of, statistically speaking, nobody, hardly constitutes consultation. Faced with a starkly presented choice between exemption or extinction what would you choose? 
Still, you might argue, what does it matter if the idea is right? Fair point. But, I humbly suggest, it isn't. It's madness. 
The FBHVC and APPHVG (I really am getting fed up with typing that) have come up with a solution that solves one problem and creates another. It is too simplistic. It relies on too many unproven assumptions. 

The Argument In Favour 

When I wrote on this subject a couple of weeks ago several people disagreed with me. I argued that we need every car to be MOT'd for safety reasons. They argued that the MOT doesn't guarantee safety, and of course they're right. Maintenance does that. A car can be MOT'd today and be unsafe tomorrow. But, I suggest, that is a different issue: the MOT system may be flawed but exempting some cars from it is hardly a step in the direction of fixing it.  
They also argued that MOTs are redundant as drivers can be stopped by the police for having an unroadworthy car and prosecuted. Of course. But name the last time you were stopped by the police for anything? It's hardly a Draconian deterrent.
The FBHVC and APPHVG of course argue that exemption is the lesser of two evils. This is the sort of argument used throughout history to justify all sorts of things. But it is far too simplistic. Exemption may well be the best option, although I'd be surprised if it is, but in isolation, bereft of education and training or any form of monitoring and management it is utterly flawed. And dangerous. 

My Experience 
I have my own personal reasons for objecting to the MOT exemption. Obviously I hire out cars. We MOT our cars irrespective of legislation. The same can't be said for the cars we use for filming. And many pre-1960 cars that we are offered are, as a general rule, lethal. 
I'm not talking about static props, the barn finds and dishevelled motors that form picturesque backdrops. I'm referring to cars that are actually in daily use by their owners. In one case they feature on posters promoting a major classic car show. These are cars that have been offered to us for filming by their owners as good, reliable and useable classics. Cars that 'don't need' a MOT. 
The people who own these cars are not related to Arthur Daley. They're the sort of classic car owners that Greg Knight referred to when he said old car fans tend to be more fastidious about maintenance than car owners generally. They do care. The trouble is that good intentions of caring tend to crumble when   faced with a lack of knowledge and money.
I am not exaggerating the state and extent of the cars and problem. In the last six months we have hired in many cars for filming. Only one, a Porsche 356, has actually been roadworthy on arrival. The rest have had innumerable fundamental safety problems ranging from perished tyres to brake faults to non-existent wipers and indicators. In the case of the wipers, not just faulty, actually not present. Or washers, or wiper motor or screen wash bottle. Then there are the mechanical faults, a myriad number of reliability issues typical of under-used cars.
All of these cars were road legal. Had the brakes that failed on me due to a poorly maintained system failed on a road rather than in our yard I may not be writing this. Every cloud etc. 
Whether or not the MOT would prevent these problems is not really the main issue. My point is that it is the system we have and it is the one that maintains the status quo. Removing some cars from this system slackens safety regulation on those cars. 
If, as the two multi-syllabled organisations argue, exemption is the only option then fine, I accept that. But let's not capitulate wholesale to it: there are many shades of grey between inclusion and exemption and there is a vital role to play for education and training. I am just a humble classic car owner but even I can imagine a system policed by clubs, garages and insurers that would guarantee a minimal standard for all cars. 
It may well be true that old car owners care more and maintenance creates safety not MOTs. But my own experience demonstrates that that system alone does not make cars safe. Every car must be subject to an independent safety inspection in order to check its roadworthiness. The MOT system may not be ideal but surely it is better to change that system than to remove it all together?
MOT exemptions are utter lunacy. We will now no longer use any car for filming that doesn't have a valid MOT, whether it needs it or not. 



Brown Fury Rides Again

Avide readers of this blog, of which the law of averages suggests there might be at least one, will know that Brown Fury is the Great Escape Cars Allegro. They'll know the name derives from the interior, which has been described as so brown it makes other brown things less brown. 
On 21st February 2015 The Fury suffered a rear ender on the Coventry ring road. Since then it's been touch and go whether it/he/she will ever be back on the road again. Sadly for Brown Fury's many, many fans insurance companies make rational, practical decisions. There is no place for emotion. Consequently the last few weeks have been, if not actually stressful, certainly made mildly more interesting because of the very real risk that this much derided piece of motoring ephemera might be written off and sent to the crusher. 

The Sickener 

Like the All-Aggro's interior, this would have been a bit of a sickener because the accident didn't cause much damage to the car. It faired considerably better than the Peugeot 307 that hit it, suffering light damage to the rear offside quarter. There is also, it appears, much to be said for driving a car without headrests fitted. Several weeks on I am suffering no neck or shoulder pain, unlike the driver of the headrest-equipped, safety-cell fitted Peugeot who is off work with terrible neck and shoulder pains. Gosh. Has Euro NCap been shoving us up a safety blind alley all these years? Some might say that I'm a walkin talkin rootin tootin medical miracle but for me, it's Brown Fury that deserves the praise. 
Whether it is his pain medication, amnesia from the accident or the weird and wonderful effects of the solar eclipse, I can only guess. I may never know for sure. But it seems likely that at least one of those factors, as opposed to simply lying, explains why the Peugeot driver now can't remember what actually happened. Or rather, appears to recall two different scenarios, neither of which involve the traditional distribution of blame when one car goes into the back of another. 
All this only served to ratchet up the mild interest in the office as to whether the Allegro would survive the assessor's beady gaze. Earlier this week it was collected to be checked and quoted. Within hours I received the dreaded call. 

The Executioner 

The conversation was perfunctory but friendly. Repairing Brown Fury was going to cost £1000. The car's insured for £1500, which puts The Fury right on the tightrope between crusher and survival. The assessor was clear: its fate was in my hands. I mulled it over for what may have been a nanosecond. Or quicker. I'm ashamed to admit this but admit it I must: for a brief moment I felt that giddy feeling surely familiar to the sword-wielding executioner on the scaffold. I felt all-powerful. "I'm sure we both agree that it's not worth anyone wasting £1000 and time on that car. What'll you give me?" 
The assessor sounded almost relieved. There was no quibbling, no last minute appeal, no reprieve. It remained unspoken but we both knew it was the right decision. The only decision. We had independently arrived at the same place: that it would be more painful to force someone, anyone, to waste days of their life fixing up Brown Fury. 
We agreed a price for the loss. And then I did something I may live to regret. After the wielding of unfettered power often comes regret. A chink of reconciliation even. I found myself uttering the words that may come back to haunt me: "can I have salvage rights?" Now it was his turn to mull things over in a nanosecond. Or sooner. "Of course. When can you collect it?" I agreed to buy Brown Fury back for fifty quid and so, avid readers, it remains if not quite a much loved part of our fleet, certainly a part of our fleet. 
We'll fix up the damage to make the car road legal and safe but we won't be repairing the dents. This latest fender bender will join the many other tell tales of the car's history, from the hand-painted wings to the Tesco battlefield scars. A concours Allegro feels like an oxymoron: while we want to hire out cars in good condition, the Allegro is different. Its dings and dents are part of what make it Brown Fury. 

You can discover the joys of Brown Fury for £95 or get the full effect over a weekend for £160. Find out more at www.greatescapecars.co.uk 01527 893733



Classic car events up 50% in 2015

Running classic car corporate events is a specialist little niche activity. Not many companies do it so not many people know you can do it.  And yet, despite its under-the-radar, nudge, nudge nature it's becoming one of the biggest parts of what we do.  In 2015 our corporate event sales are up 50% again. 

The growth is coming from event management firms whose clients are seeking new and unusual networking opportunities with key prospects and customers.  Our clients tend to be high end and by, definition, this makes the target market quite small.  It also means that the event management companies that we work with expect high standards and a slick operation. 

Our clients are looking for entertainment and networking opportunities that differ from the norm. Classic cars provide an unusual alternative, but with a clear business driver. The Great Escape Cars corporate event format pairs up clients and customers in cars to provide them with an informal networking and relationship building opportunity.  Guests switch cars and partners throughout the day, with a lunch stop and refreshments along the way to enable wider interaction.

Our clients tend to be high end. We’ve tailored our package to enable them to network and building relationships during the day.  The cars provide a strong carrot to attract attendees but it is the format that turns that to the client’s advantage. Since the recession clients we feel that clients want events that deliver results, not just a nice day out. Our format perfectly suits that: it is enjoyable but there is a serious business edge to it as well.

We run corporate events every week during the season for blue chip international clients.  Generally we work in conjunction with event management companies, but we also work direct with clients.

The classic car events can be run anywhere in the UK. Great Escape Cars is based in the Midlands on the edge of the Cotswolds but has the facilities to move any number of vehicles anywhere in the UK and overseas. The company’s events were recently positively reviewed by The Telegraph newspaper.

To view some of our case studies click here.


For more details on Great Escape’s classic car hire fleet visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733.  

A Day In The Life Of Great Escape...

Most of the time this blog is the rambling preserve of me, Graham. But there's more to what we do than me, much more. Here our General Manager, Andrew Kerr, gives an insight into life at Great Escape Cars. Andrew is one of two people who generally handle our phone enquiries: so if you call you'll speak to him. 

Just another day in the life of a Great Escape employee. Monday morning and I roll into the office about 8:40 taking a few moments to wander into the workshop to have a quick look at a concours condition candy turquoise and cream 1960 Ford Zodiac that we collected over the weekend for one of our TV projects. The owners did warn me that is was a bit more bling than their current grey and off white example and they were right. The engine was so clean you could eat your dinner on it. As everyone trotted in to work they all expressed their approval and pretty soon it was the focal point of the unit. I had a wry smile as I walked away, on Friday we took delivery of another concours condition 
beauty, a cream Austin Healey Frog Eyed Sprite that is in the workshop for some well, er work. It was on one of the ramps behind the Zodiac, now outshined by the candy colours of the blinged up Ford. 

As I made my way back to the office I had to squeeze by a dark blue Porsche 356 Coupe we have borrowed for a TV shoot, I gave it an admiring glance as I always do and it reminded me that all the people that work at Great Escape Cars are all enthusiasts at heart. We tend to take the fleet for granted, when people come to hire one of our cars they generally walk around the unit in open mouthed awe at the cars that we see every day. So when we have a few foreigners on board we end up like our customers, bug eyed and gawping which is great, it keeps our feet on the ground. 

Almost at the end of the day I took a booking for our Corvette (it's suddenly taken off now the web pictures are doing it justice) and I ended up chatting to the customer about Porsche 914s, otherwise known as the VW Porsche. He was restoring one and I told him about a German customer who wanted to try our Jensen before buying one himself who turned up in a beautiful red restored example he drove all the way from Germany. There aren't many jobs where you get to drool over your hobby, chat with people about the classic cars you grew up with and work with a bunch of like minded people.

I had posted a picture on Facebook of an E Type Convertible I took to Greenwich last year for a photo shoot and a friend commented "you have the best job in the world and I'm jealous", I didn't reply, I never encourage friends when they're right.

We're always on the look-out for likeminded enthusiasts who want to join the Great Escape Cars team. To find out more visit www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733.



Great Workshop Tales: Episode 2

Brown Fury, our illustrious 1980 Allegro, has been on a road trip to Belgium, a feat it managed to perform virtually without incident. This was good news for Classic Car Weekly, but bad news for the Great Escape Cars Workshop as we didn't have the All-Aggro to laugh at.

Fifty Shades of Saab 

Luckily we found other things to amuse us, principally in the form of James, the multi-coloured Saab. James is named after E L James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, on account of James being, well, quite a lot of shades of paint, most of them grey. This is thanks to an altercation with a Peugeot 2008 last year, out of which the Pug fared considerably worse. We've just put the Saab back on the road after a year.  It's a rare 3 litre Turbo model, which we've had for several years, and now use for collecting parts locally. And, if the need arises, quickly.

Standard Vanguard Pick up

Our action car film projects often put us behind the wheel of some unusual vehicles. A Nash Metropolitan sticks in my mind, memorable for its self-opening doors. But this Standard Vanguard Phase 1 Pick Up ticked all the boxes. It's in for a check over prior to filming, which starts next week.  The Pick Up is a rare beast, which probably explains why this one is actually a replica, albeit a very, very good one. It's owned by a Standard Vanguard enthusiast - he has several.  It was a rare treat to see so many in one place when we collected it.

Jensen Interceptor

Mention Jensen to any car fan and they'll rub their chin and sigh deeply. The West Brom battleships have a reputation for rot and being cantankerous and expensive to fix and with some reservations I'd agree. We have run two on hire for a while: a dark blue car that has been endless trouble and this car, which hasn't.  I've owned this one since 2006 - it's the car that started Great Escape Cars in the first place.  When it went for MOT in February it looked like just a minor rot issue. But with a Jensen, rot is never minor: the inner sills rot from the inside, but in a manner that is virtually impossible to see, even by MOT inspectors. So we're fitting new inner and outer sills. It's not a cheap or quick job but after 60,000 miles of Jensen ownership, I don't begrudge it.


This 1964 B has just come off our hire fleet so we're treating it to some major surgery ahead of its retirement. Although fundamentally sound, the car had started to deteriorate in the usual places - sills, arches, floors and so on. The paint had never been a great job so we attended to that too. The car you see here is at the refit stage of a four month project that has included chopping the rot and fitting new panels, a new roof and a full respray. In fact, a full respray twice: we weren't happy with the first job so we insisted it was done again. This is a big investment on a B but the early cars command a premium and the owner will recover the cost if he ever sells. In the meantime he will have a very pretty MGB.

We're on show

Hall 5 Stand 300 will be the place to be on 28th and 29th March. Well, if you're Andrew and me anyway, because we'll be manning the Great Escape Cars stand at the Practical Classics Restoration & Classic Car Show. We'll be there with an E Type project car to talk about our repair and restoration work. We'll be giving away a weekend in an E Type too so drop in. You've got to drop in to be in with a chance to win etc.

Cars & Coffee

Redditch, our home, is steeped in motoring history. BL had its HQ here, its management training centre was in Studley and Longbridge is just up the road. The town also has a massive number of classic car fans. And yet until now there has been no regular classic car meet in the town. We're changing that with our Cars & Coffee event on 19th April. Entry is free and we're giving away coffee and bacon butties to anyone who brings a car - as long as stocks last.  We're expecting a big turnout so even if you don't have a car, come along and oggle.  The event starts at 10am.


The Great Escape Cars workshop maintains our own 50+ hire fleet.  Now we can do the same for your cherished classic.  We specialise in MG and Jaguar but can cover all makes. To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit www.greatescapecars.co.uk.

Take it to the prom

Kids today eh? Back in my day we were content to celebrate leaving school with a dodgy disco and a sneaky Vimto down The Dog and Duck. Today, as any parent knows, it's a bit different. The modern take on that crafty Shandy is a full on American-style prom and for full on American-style proms you have to arrive in full on style.
Apart from the red carpets and big dresses and new Burton suits, that means a decent set of wheels. Arguably proms are like weddings, only with more non alcoholic drinks: years later guests might not remember much about it but they do remember what you wore and the car that got you there. 
Typically proms of old demanded you arrive in a pink stretched Hummer. As the phenomenon has got more sophisticated, so have tastes. Today the creaking Hummer limo is, taking a back seat, in favour of more stylish and offbeat choices.

Be safe, be insured

This is quite a good thing in many ways. Firstly, people living near schools in June no longer have their roads blocked by trapped stretch limousines. And secondly, less people are arriving at proms illegally. I hate to be a spoil sport at this point, or to sound like the Old Man Of The Hills, but chauffeur driven prom cars are often, ok probably, being driven illegally. To chauffeur drive someone anywhere for money, with the exception of weddings, you need a private taxi cab licence. As most Councils won't issue taxi licences to cars over 15 years old or that operate outside fairly strict limits on modifications, ergo, you can't guarantee the limo is insured.  

Classic Car Hire

It's also quite a good thing for little 'ole classic car hire companies like us. Over the last few years we've been hiring more and more cars for proms. It started off as a bit of an excuse for petrolhead dads to get behind the wheel of the car they'd always promised themselves.  And, lets be honest, it often still is, but who cares? Increasingly, however, it's about switched on teens picking the car that reflects who they are. Which is great. We have everything from Minis and Morris Minors to fire-breathing Cobras so whoever you are or want to be, we have the car.
We only hire self drive, of course. And this seems to work for all concerned: it's cheaper than a limo, you can still share the cost because our cars seat up to five and you know you're insured. For 2015 we've made prom hire easier and simpler.  And cheaper. And we've explained it all on the big flashing link below.

Prom Hire Packages

It is all astonishingly simple. We've even surprised ourselves. We've create a standard prom hire package of 4pm to 10am. Whatever car you choose it's £100. You get the hire period, one driver on the insurance and, on most cars, unlimited mileage. 
Our prom cars include a range of two, four and five seaters and the option of saloon, coupe or convertible.  They range from 1950s cars to 1990s supercars. All for exactly the same price. 
To find out more click here or call 01527 893733. 


01527 893733

Extending the MOT Exemption

Here in Britain we still troop around the world with a bit of an Imperial approach to Johnny Foreigner. Look at the silly things they do, we say to ourselves. Observe their illogical laws. How backward! How not very British. 
Of course, we have our own roster of looney customs and laws, although in most cases they're just silly and inconsequential, we think, rather than fundamentally weird, unlike those backward foreign types. Some of us attach bells to our ankles and dance around a pole in May. Others chase a rag smelling of fox wee across a field with a load of dogs and horses. These things are silly but slightly endearing. 
So it might come as a bit of a surprised to discover that one of the daftest and most dangerous laws is in place here. Ok, so it originated in Europe, but we agreed to it and applied it without real debate. 
I'm referring to the MOT Exemption, which currently applies to all pre-1960 vehicles. This means that anyone who owns and runs a car from this era doesn't need to MOT it. You're probably aware of it, since it came into force in 2012, although you probably don't hear much about it. Now the plan is to extend the exemption to all vehicles over 40 years old, on a rolling basis. 

Santa Votes For Christmas 

The first wave of exemptions was made law in response to guidance from the EU concerning MOTs, more on which later. It was pushed through by a group of old car-connected politicians called the All Parliamentary Historic Vehicles Group (APHVG). If you own a classic car then this Group is your mouthpiece in Parliament and the Lords. The Group is effectively the Parliamentary front for the Federation of British Historic Vehicles Club (FBHVC), which itself represents 500 or so classic car clubs across the UK. These clubs have 250,000 members so, by extension, the Group is quite a powerful lobbying force for classic cars. Although, you might argue, the FBHVC does tend to be disproportionately represented by owners of older cars. A quick look at its website demonstrates the point, plus they exclude cars under 25 years old, which rules out a lot of cars, owners and clubs. 
To bring the original 2012 exemption into place the Group had to consult with The People as part of the legislative process. So via the FBHVC they wrote to all 250,000 members and asked them what they thought. Less than 25% replied and, perhaps because Santa always votes for Christmas, they supported the idea. The Group also, apparently, publicised the proposal through the classic car media, although nobody in the classic car media at the time seemed to know much about it. The resulting exemption came as a surprise to a lot of people - although not perhaps the five people who run the Group - and it was universally criticised by the classic car community. 

The Argument For Exemption

The argument in favour of MOT exemption runs like this. Old cars don't get used much, their owners tend to be enthusiasts who care for their cars and old cars are disproportionately under-represented in accident statistics. The exemption's supporters argue that their goal is to make owning and running classic cars simpler and easier. They say that maintenance, not the MOT test, is the key to safety. 
These arguments are used to support an idea that actually originates in changes to the MOT testing procedure. As modern cars advance of course the technological gap between old and new widens. Consequently the MOT has to change to cater for the advances. As it does so the scope of the test has to widen to encompass all vehicles. The pragmatists in the EU, and remarkably there are a few, realise that exempting old cars means the MOT testing procedure no longer needs to cover them, making life for MOT test stations and the task of MOT governance easier. 
This is an obviously challenging issue and the extension to a rolling 40 year exemption is clearly aimed at addressing it. Without an exemption, you might reasonably argue, the EU could consider removing older cars from the road, rather than face the cost of legislating for a MOT to cover them. Or the MOT might become so complex and onerous that old cars are effectively excluded from the road. 
If those really are the reasons behind the multi-worded organisations' actions then they're easier to understand. But they aren't the reasons that they appear to be giving. And even if they were the reasons then you might argue that there are better and more robust solutions to them than just removing old cars from the legislative equation. 

Poppycock, Whatever That Is 

The problem with the reasons given by the FBHVC and APHVG is that they are absolute total poppycock. I feel I can say that with some certainty, despite having no idea what a poppycock is, although it's the sort of language I imagine circulates within the APHVG. It is broadly true that old cars don't get used much, their owners are enthusiasts and they're under-represented in accident statistics. But there is a rather fundamental flaw in this argument. 
It is also entirely true that it is maintenance not MOTs that keeps cars roadworthy. The MOT is annual so theoretically for 364 days of the year it might not comply. 
The trouble is that without an annual inspectiom where is the incentive to maintain to a legal standard? Proponents of the 'maintenance not MOTs' argument assume that everyone is assiduous and knowledgeable as they are. The reality is entirely different. 
Despite their enthusiasm, most owners are not MOT-standard assessors. They don't have ramps, inspection pits, emissions equipment and brake test equipment, to name a small part of the paraphernalia of MOT test stations. And old cars are obviously under-represented in accidents because they don't get used much. But every time an old car does go on the road the risk of an accident is exactly the same as for any other car, arguably greater if it hasn't been MOT checked. 

In My Experience... 

I know from bitter experience that the current system is flawed. We buy a lot of cars and also hire pre-1960 cars from clubs and owners for film work. In most cases the pre-1960 cars would never pass a MOT. The most common problem we experience is cracked tyres: old, relatively unworn rubber boots that have perished through age. The owners generally have no idea that they are dangerous, because they're only checking tread depth. They're not using their cars much so often they simply haven't noticed. Or, and I hate to say this, they don't use them much so they're prepared to take the risk when they do. A cracked tyre might not seem much, until it explodes at 50 mph and causes an accident. Cracked tyres, I suggest, are just the problem you can see: they're symptomatic of a wider issue. If cars have to face an annual MOT then the owners are forced to address safety. If they aren't, well, they aren't. This isn't a pop at classic car owners: it's a comment in human nature, plain and simple. 
The problems facing MOT testing need resolved. Old car owners need protected from the risk of being forced off the road and the FBHVC and APHVG may or may not be trying to achieve that by these actions. But the current solution of a blanket exemption is not the answer. Or rather, it isn't the answer on its own. 
If exempting cars is the lesser of two evils then to be effective it must be more nuanced than the current solution. It is not enough to assume that old car owners are diligent, upstanding citizens who ensure their cars are roadworthy. Clearly that is nonsense. Old car owners may all, every man, woman and child, have their hearts in the right place but knowledge and finances generally hold sway.  My own experience with film cars proves the current approach is flawed. 

A More Intelligent Approach 

If the FBHVC and APHVG want this solution to work then they need to be more intelligent in their approach. They need to educate. They need access to equipment to enable them to test their cars. This is not just important for other road users, it is essential for owners. They might not be subject to the same regulations but in the event of an accident their car must be proven to be roadworthy to avoid prosecution and obtain an insurance payout. Without a MOT how can anyone prove this? 
The trouble with educating and equipment and all that stuff is that it doesn't take long before you realise that what you actually need is a regular condition test for old cars. Something like, oh I don't know, perhaps a MOT. 
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Sure, the existing MOT is having to stretch to accommodate a widening range of cars. But then it always has. The current MOT already excludes cars of certain ages from different parts of the test, depending on the legislation in place when they were built. While evolving this to accommodate more cars may be troublesome and probably expensive, the answer doesn't seem to be to walk away from the obligation to ensure all cars on the road are safe. This isn't an option: it's an infallible rule. 
The MOT exists to ensure all cars are safe. It may not be a perfect system but it is the one we've got and it does, generally, ensure cars are safe. Enabling some car owners, for reasons not strictly based on sound logic, to take responsibility for this task is flawed. Extending the idea to even more owners is borderline insane. 
I only want all cars on the road to be safe. I don't want anyone driving, driven in or being near an old car to die or be injured by said vintage chariot. I don't particularly care how we ensure all cars are roadworthy except that we need to. We have a perfectly serviceable system of tests and legislation that delivers that. Messing with it, by exempting a growing group of vehicles, is illogical. If as classic car owners we fear being driven off the roads then exempting ourselves from the rules isn't the answer: those who claim to represent us should be working to ensure we are included in the legislation rather than cast out in the cold. 

Have Your Say 

The last time this issue came up it slipped into law largely unnoticed. When I politely questioned the logic with the APHVG and its main man Greg Knight, MP I was soundly slapped down and blocked from communicating with them (so much for democracy). This time we have a chance. If you disagree that cars over 40 years old should be exempted from the MOT test you can do one or both of two things: 

Sign the petition: 

Write to the FBHVC and APHVG today using the details below. Tell them why and, if you wish, suggest an alternative solution. 

At Great Escape Cars we will continue to check and MOT our cars whatever the law changes to. 



What does it all mean? Jeremy Clarkson & Top Gear

There is one thing about Jeremy Clarkson upon which everyone agrees: he splits opinion. For some he is a broadcasting God, for others he is everything that is wrong with society today. Of course, what he actually is is a bloke off the telly. An entertainer. The presenter of a motoring-themed TV programme. He's not the Messiah.
But he is, according to a lot of screaming headlines, a very naughty boy. I don't know whether Jeremy Clarkson hit anyone, I don't know if he was involved in a fracas, mainly because I have no firm idea what a fracas actually is. I do know that it may well not matter. Because I have a sneaking feeling that there is more to all this than meets the eye. 
In case you have missed it, Clarkson has been suspended by the BBC for an alleged 'fracas' involving one of the Top Gear producers and the rest of the series has been stopped. This is as much as the BBC will say officially, although 'sources' close to, well, mostly the Daily Mail, claim he punched Oisin Tymon because he didn't get his dinner. This, if it happened, is obviously serious and obviously worthy of suspension. 
The first indication that all may not be what it seems lies in the collective responses of Clarkson himself plus Hammond and May. All three revel in pushing the boundaries of what the BBC will accept, it's part of Top Gear's schtick, but none of them appear to be taking the issue very seriously. They have been joking about what to replace the absent episodes with. Clarkson hardly looked like a broken man in photos taken yesterday. While droopy faces and abject apologies were always going to be unlikely, their joie de vivre in the face potential disaster seems surprising. 
And disaster is, on the face of it, what the three of them are apparently facing as a result of this latest fracas. Clarkson has been edging ever closer to a major showdown with the BBC since the 'eeny meeny miney mo' fracas, followed as it was by the 'slope' fracas and the 'Porschegate' fracas. The BBC widely publicised the fact that he was on a Final Warning. Suspension and cancellation of the rest of the series hardly bodes well for the combined futures of the three amigos. Although all three have branched out into other presenting roles, they each arguably depend on Top Gear as the bedrock of their careers. 
So why the big smiles? Well, you could argue that this is just another example of the programme's well-rehearsed policy of floating as close to the boundaries of acceptable as possible. It's what gives Top Gear its edge and, arguably, it's brilliance. The righteous indignation it instills in many, many people is critical to its success. And it's fair to say that the boundary has been getting pushed, possibly shoved, with increasing enthusiasm over the last couple of years. Compare current Top Gear to an episode from say 2010 and the evolution in controversy and edginess is clear. 
To some extent the programme is caught in a vicious cycle. The controversy generates column inches and viewers. Viewers want a new series to push harder than the last. Eventually the cycle has to be break. It appears to have just broken. 

But Top Gear is a bandwagon. It is, in modern TV parlance, A Franchise. The brand has been spun off into lucrative DVDs, magazines and tours. At the centre of all of them lie the dynamic trio. 
Until 2012 the income from this bandwagon was split between the BBC and Clarkson, with producer Andy Wilman, via Bedder 6, a company jointly owned by all three. In 2012 Clarkson and Wilman sold their 50% share to the BBC. So since 2012 Wilman, Clarkson, Hammond and May have all been equal: employees, albeit well-paid ones, of the BBC. 
This seems quite pertinent to the current fracas. When ownership of the company transferred to the BBC the presenters signed a three year contract, which expires in September this year. Meaning that the current series is the last under the current arrangement. Meaning that we may, quite possibly, have already seen the last ever Top Gear with the familiar presenters. Nobody seems to be talking about that. 
Set against this backdrop you have to wonder what is really going on. I'm a natural sceptic and for a long time the various Top Gear/BBC fracii have felt like theatre: not that the stuff that happened didn't happen but that the way the fall out has been managed says more than either side have actually said. Top Gear is BBC2's most popular factual documentary programme. The brand roller coaster cannot be anything other than lucrative. But for the BBC there is an Achilles Heel and it's called Clarkson. Top Gear is Clarkson. It's also May and Hammond: arguably without any of them it ceases to exist. It is no longer what it was. Clarkson obviously realises this, he may even have been acutely aware of it when he sold the business. It may even explain the Cult of Personality that follows him everywhere and which he so assiduously cultivates. 
Whether the BBC cottoned on is less clear. Certainly the sense of spending millions to buy a business and then only signing the key assets up to a three year deal seems short sighted.  Doing no visible work in the intervening three years on a succession plan also looks odd. 
So, when you're the BBC and looking contract renewal straight in the eyes, what do you do? Well, you might just try to make your prize asset toe the line. You might make a big fuss about doing so. Then everyone can kiss and make up and start again, probably with the Grand Fromage being paid less than might otherwise have been the case. 
Alternatively, you might push your man to hang himself, enabling you to sweep the board clean and start again, riding the public backlash against the old guard. This feels like a considerably riskier strategy. If Clarkson, Hammond and May don't present Top Gear on the BBC then they'll go and present Not Called Top Gear somewhere else, probably for Sky. 
Yet it is this which feels like the endgame. The Top Gear cycle of excess always had an end. Viewers have been suggesting it was already in sight. The only long term solution is a wholesale change, and possibly this is what the BBC is pushing for. Viewers would not accept a fizzling out: far better for it to end in a distinctly Top Gear-esque manner with an explosion and a car crash. Just like the one we're seeing now. 
This arrangement might suit the BBC, but it also suits Clarkson, May and Hammond. They cashed in their chips in 2012. Since then they've been on an earn out as paid lackies. They are motoring hot property. A move to another broadcaster, such as Sky, is an opportunity to renegotiate and, perhaps, perform the Top Gear franchise trip all over again. If the BBC anticipates this then knifing Clarkson, the prize asset, ahead of any move, can only be a good thing as it potentially diminishes the competition. 
The speculation, and that is all it can ever be, could run and run. Whatever is actually happening I'm pretty sure you can bet it isn't just about a fracas in Newcastle last week. I enjoy Top Gear. I don't like or dislike Clarkson, he's just a bloke on the telly, but I deeply admire his journalism. Whatever happens I hope we'll all see him on our screens again.



Only Connect: the power of engagement in sales

Sales people, lets face it, spend a lot of time in their cars. Skype, email, conference calls and all the paraphernalia IT can assemble cannot overcome the fact that people buy from people. Which means face to face. Which means driving.
I used to work at a senior level in marketing for a company employing 3,000 people, most of them resolutely not sales people. Yet the company spent £1 million a year on fuel. That is a lot of motorway ploughing.
This is all relevant because most companies spend less than 1% of that fuel bill on corporate events. On prospect entertaining. Since the sales team has bought into face to face selling and the finance department condones the resulting fuel costs, why is a major weapon in the face to face sell so overlooked?

The Main Event

Here's the spoiler: events work. They may not always work, but don't blame the ship when the captain runs it aground. Corporate entertaining is about engagement and building relationships. Plan an event well, brief guests well, structure the event careful around your objectives and they work. We run classic car events, which put suppliers and prospects together over a 7 hour day in one-to-one situations in cars. We vary the format but the principle is the same: getting to know each other. Engaging.

How businesses budget

If events work, why are they such a small part of the business promotional spend? The answer seems to lie in how businesses budget. Most companies still budget using a historic analysis model. They look at year X, conclude spend A delivered sales B creating profit C and look at how to tweak that for year Y. Obviously this is sensible (if a little hard to follow). But what it does is carry forward unchallenged a set of assumptions. In the case of fuel and events this puts the former as a largely fixed, unavoidable cost that is subject to minor changes, and events as a discretionary cost whose size is determine by the larger 'fixed' costs like fuel.  Put simply, this approach assumes driving around Must Happen but events Might Not. 
This arrangement also means that events compete with other marketing or sale activities for budget. Having run such budgets I know it comes pretty low down the list of priorities. Often events don't feature in the sales calendar at all.

That's Entertainment 

The problem with events is not whether they work, but how they are perceived.  Spending £1m on fuel is ok because it involves work. Advertising, PR, exhibitions and all the other weapons in a marketeer's armoury happen without question but events never slide through quite so easily.
A lot of this has to do with the fact that prospect events are usually called corporate entertaining. Entertainment, scowl the suits in Finance, isn't work. Ergo, why are we doing it? Consequently, it takes a plucky sales director or marketing bod to pipe up and recommend increasing the event spend.
Yet logic says that this is exactly what they should do.

The Sales Arc

The arc of a sale is well documented: you attract attention, you generate interest, you engage, you persuade, you sell. In the history of flogging stuff nobody has found a better or more robust process than that one. Corporate events fit neatly into that sequence because they engage. They build relationships and engage individuals in a way that sitting around a table after a long drive simply doesn't.  But many companies base their sales strategy on attention, interest and persuasion.  They may not overlook engagement but it receives less attention: they assume that the sheer brilliance of their product or service will do the job for them. But cold, hard facts are only part of the engagement process: to balance the rational you need to appeal to the emotional.  People buy from people. If you want to prise open the sales door, to wedge your foot between door and frame, you usually need something more than rational persuasion.

Get Out

If you want to get to know your prospects, get them out the office: it's a simple and proven rule. Engagement must come before persuasion. By overlooking a key tool in the sales armoury, namely corporate events, companies are making the process of persuasion and conversion harder and slower.
Without something like a corporate event it is extremely difficult to get to know and engage customers. This not only delays the decision and persuasion process but also weakens the ongoing relationship. Once a customer is a customer things will go wrong. Competitors will start snooping. Salespeople want sticky customers who will weather the vicissitudes of business relationships. Getting to know them, spending time with them, makes customers sticky.

Until events are seen more as corporate engagement rather than corporate entertaining, the events sector will face an uphill struggle. I know from experience how hard it is to sell events spending to peers and employers. It can be hard to quantify the result and, if poorly managed, can easily descend into an expensive jolly. At a time of belt tightening nobody wants to be seen to be endorsing frivolity.

Yet there is nothing frivolous about an activity that plays a clear and essential role in the sales process. If sales and marketing budgets were created by dissecting selling into its constituent parts then corporate events would be more frequent and better respected.

At Great Escape Cars we're involved in a small corner of corporate events but, having been a customer and supplier in the sector, I know how effective events are. Because without engagement selling stumbles, and few tools deliver engagement like informal, relaxing time with prospects.

You can find out more about our corporate events experience and packages here.  Or call 01527 893733 or email graham@greatescapecars.co.uk for more details, including our case study sheets.


Great Escape Cars operates a fleet of 50+ classic hire cars and runs corporate driving days for large and small groups across the UK.


01527 893733

Great Workshop Tales: Episode 1

This week in the workshop has involved some head scratching, some remarkable success and, as ever, a lot of swearing. 

Austin Allegro 

When my much-maligned Allegro was rear-ended in Coventry at first it seemed to give us all yet more reasons to laugh at the squashed bean. But the joke was on me. It turns out that Series 3 Allegro rear lights are as rare as hen's teeth. Bearing in mind that you pay £200 for a new front indicator on your Ferrari 456, £125 for a rear light on Allegro feels like someone's having a flippin laugh. It also risked the Allegro being an insurance write-off (and that wouldn't be a joke) so I decided to go all retro and get flush-fit series 1 lights, £12.50 for a pair. And then the brilliant Austin Allegro Appreciation Society Facebook group came up trumps with a free Series 3 light. Wowsers. The All-aggro is currently in Belgian with Classic Car Weekly. 

Fiat Coupe 

I love my £600 Fiat, mainly because it goes like a rocket. Unfortunately a couple of weeks ago it kept going like a rocket, long after I'd asked it to stop. A broken throttle cable was the cause of my trouser-wetting incident. Surely an easy fix? Nope. Fiat has cast its distinctive coupe hot shot into the wilderness and doesn't make new parts. Second hand parts are almost non-existent. So £80 it is for a remanufactured one. We're not looking forward to it arriving: like most things on the over-complicated Fiat it isn't a straightforward fit. 

Jaguar Mk2 

Our Mk2s are popular so they work hard. Unfortunately they're also prone to being a bit argumentative.  Our 3.8 was fitted with a new coil for the season and performed happily on the Autotweetup Rally. Then it didn't. The coil packed up and the car broke down on the M5 with a customer. This isn't the first time and it won't be the last that we suffer problems with new coils: it's one of our most common faults and is caused by poor quality parts. Solution: buy better? If only we could. 

Cobra Replica

Some classic cars are a masterclass in how not to buy a classic car. Obviously it isn't obvious that they're obviously bad when you buy them. Kit cars are a particular case in point. The body may be new but nothing else about a kit car generally is: the engine, chassis, suspension and drivetrain are from donor cars. So whenever you buy one you're at the mercy of whoever made the buying decisions when it went together. Our Cobra had allegedly covered 700 miles when we got it 4,000 miles ago. Not much of what has happened subsequently suggests that was true. We've essentially rebuilt the whole car: gearbox, diff, ancillaries, the list goes on. Now it's the engine. The car had developed a misfire so this week we partially dismantled the engine and identified a worn camshaft. This, plus the heads, have gone off to be sorted. In the last 12 months we've put around 250 hours labour into this car. The lesson learned: if you must buy a kit car be very, very careful. You're buying an amalgam of second hand bits, expect problems. 

Triumph Herald 

I like a bargain. I drive a £300 Alfa after all. My canny Scottish genes mean I tend to buy projects for restoration, rather than restored cars. This enables me to invest in the car over time and when the workshop is quiet, which increasingly tends to be never. This explains why a Triumph Herald project that I bought from TRGB two years ago has only just emerged, blinking, into the light of day. Ostensibly solid, the Herald had been partly restored before the owner gave up and flogged it to the Suffolk Triumph specialist. When I bought it it was a hideous shade of blue. Now it's white. Edging this car to completion has taken a while because sourcing small but essential parts has been a slow and difficult process. This problem isn't new to classic car restorers but it may explain why your restoration project stalls and stumbles at the garage and the months roll on with minimal progress. When you're waiting for parts the car has to be pushed to one side and another gets started. Even when the parts arrive it can take a while to get back onto it. But the wait has been worth it: the Herald looks amazing. 

Porsche 924
The diminutive 924 is one of those cars that is perennially overlooked. Which may explain why you can buy a good, solid car like the one we worked on this week for a few hundred pounds. That's a decent, proper Porsche for the price of a 10 year old Fiesta. This car was a recent purchase and just needed a check over: we sorted out a few practical issues like slow windows, ill-fitting rear hatch and poor hot starting. The car isn't perfect but at 22 years old and 200,000+ miles it is remarkably solid and drives really nicely. At this price and with these problems, where's the risk? 

Healey Sprite 
Before MG got hold of it and made it a Midget, there was the Healey Sprite. The Frogeye is the personification of 'cheeky': small, curvy, nippy and sporty. We had a lovely cream Frogeye in for some work this week. The car is in excellent condition, a real testament to its owner, and was in to cure handbrake problems and a gearbox leak. We took on the work because the owner struggled to find a local garage interested in tackling these simple problems: this is one of the issues increasingly facing old car owners. Modern cars are so different to classics that more and more garages don't want to touch them. We will. 

Porsche 356

We start filming on a new TV series in a week so we had this 356 in for checks. We're using the Porsche for filming between March and May so it needs to be fault-free and reliable. Fortunately this one is. I'm not a huge fan of Porsches and the 356 has split opinion at Great Escape Tower but I like it. The car is tiny but svelte and looks great on its beefy conical chrome rims. Plus inside there is Bakelite, lots of it. Watch out for it on screens later this year. 

For more from the workshop, tune in next week or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk. 



Where have all the crap cars gone?

There was a time, now quite a long time ago, when you knew where you were. You could flick to the back pages of Car magazine, peruse the Good, Bad & Ugly section and know that all was right with the world. We had good cars, not very good ones and very bad ones: the good ones were good because the bad ones were bad, the world kept spinning in this Ying/Yang relationship. 
Today it's different. All cars are good, most very good. Only Ssangyong makes cars we can laugh at and even they've decided not to do that any more. Where are the Wartburgs, the Ladas? Whither the Hyundai Stellars, the Reliant Rialto, the lonely desperate FSO Polonez? I miss them, I really do. Sometimes I dream of seeing, just once, another Dacia Denem, the Renault 12 clone that clever namechecked the Levi's-driven retro revival wave. 
It wasn't just the automotive hinterlands that gave us crap cars. Our mainstream companies did it too, although in practice only one excelled at it: the Allegro, Princess, Maxi, Marina, TR7, SD1 and on and on were the work of a supposedly experienced car maker. 
Progress, of course, explains the fact that no cars are rubbish any more. But I pity young car fans today because they'll never know the joy of an uneven playing field. Society needs an underdog, an Eddie The Eagle, to laugh at, sympathise with, empathise with. 
For the sake of posterity here are my favourite useless cars of the last 40 years. 

Austin Allegro

Much like a bad smell, once you enter the murky world of Allegro ownership you can never quite shake it off. Ever since I bought mine last year I seem to have spent more time discussing it, writing about it and, indeed, explaining my lunacy, than any other car. By any rational benchmark the Allegro is either Not Very Good or actually Awful. And yet, and yet.... 

Skoda Estelle

Today Skoda makes bland, dependable VW clones. It's been doing that for so long that we've almost forgotten those archly ironic adverts about how embarrassing Skodas are, despite the fact that they're actually, y'know, preally good. Before Skoda's reinvention it really did make rubbish cars. The Estelle was the butt of pretty much every motoring joke going. It looked ok (a bit like a Saab) and had decent space but the engine was in the wrong place, it handled like a shopping trolley and people who cared nothing about cars except how much they cost bought them. Skodas transformation from an eccentric car maker to a mainstream me-too producer is a particularly depressing sign of the times. 

Reliant Rialto

Before micro cars and Twizzies we had the Rialto, nee Robin nee Regal nee rubbish. The three wheeled plastic pig from Tamworth is such an easy target that bullying it feels almost pointless. But it was bad, very bad: bad in the sense of dangerous. It sold to people who didn't have car licences or were plain silly. Stability doesn't come in threes: if you're prepared to compromise your safety because you can't be bothered to get a driving licence then you are a very silly person indeed.

Hyundai Stellar & Pony

In the 1980s Hyundai was very different from the company it is now. It made very boxy, very staid clones of European cars. The Pony was a sort of Escort hatchback. The Stellar was a Cortina, for people who didn't want a Sierra. Although not actually awful they also weren't much good. Their distinctly Korean take on Upmarket Feel, which involved faux-chrome and a mysterious material apparently intended to look like wood, puts them firmly on this list.

FSO Polonez

It's hard to briefly and clearly express how bad the Polonez was. Sure, you can Google a picture and get a fair idea. But that's not enough to fully understand the sheer awfulness of this bizarre Fiat 124-based hatchback. The words 'fit' and 'finish' barely apply since nothing fit or was indeed finished. The engine was so agricultural it might as well have been a cow. The much-feted hatchback versatility involved a boot lip so high that owners complained of vertigo. The FSO was and is possibly the worst car ever sold in Britain.

Yugo 45

First off Yugo thought Britain would quite like its novel hatchback Fiat 128. We didn't mainly because normal human dexterity prevented us loading anything over thr high boot lip. Then we got the 45, a conventionally designed supermini that at first glance appeared quite good. Truly, it wasn't.  Under the svelte body (which I think Guigiaro had a hand in) lay the automotive equivalent of the Dark Ages. Of course the 45 was built to a new standard of Bad and quickly became showroom poison. Astonishingly, the Yugo was sold in America as a cheap, quirky car in the style of the original Beetle (there is a very good book about the saga). Strangely, the project stalled. 


In the 80s, when coal miners were being made redundant, the story goes that a lot of them bought cheap new Eastern European tat. Lada, FSO and even Reliant saw sales spike in Northumberland, Wales and Nottinghamshire. Fortunately by then Wartburg had stop selling its cars in Britain. Fortunate, indeed, because a single Wartburg probably generated more air pollution than a city of coal-fired homes. The ugly-looking and even more ugly-named 'burg was actually a DSK, an illustrious East German car maker. But in the UK they were sold as Wartburgs. They were well screwed together, which only meant they poisoned more pedestrians for longer. 

Lada Riva

Riva is a pretty resort nestled twixt Lake Garda and the Dolomite Mountains. So it makes an obvious choice for a car name. Oh how Riva must have regretted not lobbying the world's auto makers to adopt it before Lada nailed the name to its reheated Fiat-124 based saloon. Few cars this side of the Mitsubishi Carisma were more inappropriately named. Such was the Lada's giddy mix of shiny, cheap chrome grille and wheel trims that calling the wretched thing Blackpool would have been spot on. Lada also made the Samara, which was less Fiat and more Lada so actually worse than the Riva. But nobody bought it so it misses out on this list. 

I applaud Ssangyong for carrying the torch of crapness in recent years. I had a Musso for a brief period so I feel I can say that with some authority. For a while China showed promise in the crap car ouvre, but it looks to have been short-lived. No, in making the new Ssangyong SUV look Quite Good we must finally mourn the passing of truly, honestly bad cars. 

If you feel the world is just a little less exciting with the passing of automotive crud then you may wish to celebrate all that is dull, duff and dumb by hiring our Allegro for the day. Just £95 does the deed. None who gave gone before you have emerged unchanged. Many have found within themselves a love of brown they hitherto never knew. Go on, unleash your brown fury.... 

To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit www.greatescapecars.co.uk.