Workshop Tales: Autumn 2015

Celebrities have it easy: 'never work with children or animals' they're told. Advice that various radio DJs of the 1970s perhaps ought to have paid a little more heed to.
No such sage advice exists for anyone with a penchant for old cars. And yet building your daily life, not to mention your financial security, around a fleet of classic cars is, frankly, insane. I know, because I've done it.
Old cars are quite like children: temperamental, unpredictable, prone to regular but erratic breakdowns and expensive to keep. Unlike children they can't communicate and don't respond to verbal abuse. Just ask Basil Fawlty.
At Great Escape Cars we've made our bed in the classic car gutter but I like to think we're looking at the stars.  Whether it be masochism, the love of a challenge or the simple fact that we just love these old cars, we love what we do. And here, for your delectation, is what we're up to right now.

Why We Have a Workshop 
Most classic car hire companies make do with outside suppliers.  Until 2011, we did the same. But it wasn't working.  With over 20 cars to maintain the costs and logistical challenges involved in moving cars between our base and various suppliers was enormous.  And I wasn't best pleased with most of the work that was being done: we were paying premium prices because we needed a quick turnaround (which usually we didn't get), and the garages simply didn't get the concept of customer service. In particular, having to return the same car for the same fault several times, and paying for its repair over and over again, just didn't seem right.
So we set up our own workshop, met with a few challenges but achieved a faster turnaround on more durable repairs. Crucially the workshop team gets to know the cars and this makes a massive difference to how faults are diagnosed and rectified.
Today we have four full time mechanics, two ramps - with a third planned - and we maintain our own 30+ fleet plus customer cars. The key to our success is how the workshop is run - which is down to my fellow Director Julian Mills.

Painting the Forth Road Bridge
One of the main frustrations of running a classic car hire company is the cars. No matter how much money and time you put into them they will never be reliable.  This is particularly frustrating for our customers, who occasionally suffer faults and breakdowns.  I do understand that.  Although this is surprisingly rare (we had just 10 RAC call outs in 2015), customer expectations have risen dramatically in recent years: those who have modern cars are used to impeccable reliability while those with classic cars tend to do very low mileages, which doesn't stress components.  Our cars are subjected to 15,000 miles in an 8 month season in the hands of hundreds of different drivers. 
With 160 man hours going into fleet maintenance every week of the year and over £50,000 spent on parts I don't think we can be accused of cutting corners. But every time a car develops a fault we are still immensely disappointed - and always do what we can to fix it quickly and minimise inconvenience.  

Winter is for restoration not resting
We take our cars off hire from early November and put them back on for Valentine's Day in February. This gives our workshop a clear window to do the jobs that pile up over the summer.  Not that we put off essential repairs, but this is the time for mechanical and bodywork overhauls. Over the summer our four mechanics are flat out keeping our classic cars running over the demand high mileages they rack up with customers.
We have four full time mechanics and here are a few of the projects they're currently working on. 

1964 Ford Mustang Convertible 

 Click here to see how the Mustang is progressing. 

1965 Jaguar Mk2

Click here to see how the Mk2 3.4 is progressing. 

1974 Jensen Interceptor 

Click here to see how the Jensen is progressing.

Can we help you?

We don't just work on our own hire fleet, we repair and restore customer cars too. Although we specialise in MG and Jaguar we can handle virtually any classic car repair job.

Of course, if you own a classic car you have a lot of choices when it comes to repairing it. Why choose us? Well I'd like to think we can back up the usual claims about transparency, quality and honesty by the fact that we sit on both sides of the fence: we are our own customer and supplier.  Plus the workshop was set up precisely to avoid the pitfalls associated with many classic car specialists - we've seen that, lived to regret sampling it and decided it's not for us.

The final advantage is cost.  Because we have a ready stream of work on our own classic cars we don't need to charge vast sums to cover our overheads - they're already covered.  So we can do your job at a genuinely competitive price.

We price all of our work up in advance and, where possible, we work to a fixed price: what we tell you it will be will be what it will be when you come to pay.

You can find out more about our workshop facilities, and download our case studies, by clicking here.  Or call 01527 893733 and ask for Graham or Julian.

01527 893733

Jensen Interceptor restoration: 30.10.15 update

Oh dear. The Jensen Interceptor.  Few cars have developed a reputation for scaring off buyers quite like the West Bromwich flyer. Given the car's hand built complexity and dismal electrics that's probably not entirely undeserved.  Throw in historically low values - although that is changing now - and it's easy to see why many enthusiasts are tempted and why many cars have been bodged.

We currently have two Interceptors in the workshop, including this Royal Blue 1974 J-Series car.  This car has received a huge amount of work over the last two or three years and in many sense is an object lesson in how Interceptor ownership requires deep pockets. Most of the work has been done by Jensen specialists to a generally good standard, but the car's tendency to rust quickly means that much of the work now needs redone.

We have got the car in for a full body restoration and respray. As with many Interceptor projects, what you see is rarely what you get once the sanding machine gets to work. This car was showing rot to the front and rear arches and some deterioration to the doors. Initial investigation revealed a huge amount of filler across the front of the car and rot on the nearside wing due to a previous poor repair.  Interceptors are of course lead loaded and this can be one of the reasons why they deteriorate - the lead reacting to the metal and paint.

We are some way into this project now, with the car stripped and a replacement panel welded into the front offside wing.  We've also repaired the nearside front wing.

We have begun work on the rear of the car, where the nearside arch was in a poor condition.  A replacement arch panel costs over £600, which may explains why the previous repairer fashioned strips of metal to effect a repair, which you can just see in the photo above.

The next job is the doors and the front valance: under the thick layer of filler there are pin hole rot spots in the corners of the bonnet aperture that need resolved.

You can follow progress on the Jensen on this blog.

We maintain our own hire fleet and also work on customer cars, like this one.  To find out more about our workshop facilities just call 01527 893733.

01527 893733

Jaguar Mk2 restoration: 30.10.15 update

Jaguar made beautiful cars, but they also made complicated ones.  So restoring any old one, particularly those of the 1960s, is not a task to assume lightly.

We have two 1965 Jaguar Mk2s on our classic car hire fleet, this 3.4 and a similar 3.8. The Green 3.8 was restored by us over the winter of 2014/15, including a huge amount of welding and panel work.
The grey 3.4 car has been on the fleet for several years: I bought it from another classic car hire company in a fairly dismal state and we have invested a considerable amount in the mechanicals of the car. But now it's time to attend to the bodywork.

The car is fundamentally solid but is beginning to deteriorate cosmetically around the wings and arches, the front 'crows feet' behind the bumper and a couple of the doors. The challenge with a Mk2 is to make any new metal and panels fit the lines of the car accurately: replacement panels are pattern parts and usually a poor fit and most Mk2s are laden with filler, so judging the original line without incurring a huge amount of extra work is tricky.  Similarly, some of the bodywork around the car is highly styled and complex to replace, such as the wing markers on the front corners.

Our objective with the 3.4 is to return it to a very good, presentable standard.  Because it is a hire car it simply isn't worth doing a nut and bolt concours job because the car is going to be subjected to high mileages and will deteriorate relatively quickly through use and general light damage. What we will achieve is a solid, rot-free car that can be used without worry, rather than a car that will live in a carcoon most of its life.

This rust spot on the rear nearside door of the Mk2 is typical of the sort of thing that can happen with a regularly used car.  When the workshop broke through the remaining metal a small waterfall gushed out.  The drainage holes in the door had blocked up and the water had simply collected, with nowhere to go.

So far we have begun to strip the car and investigate the main areas of deterioration so that we can get an idea of what is required. Next step will be stripping back these areas and ordering parts.

You can follow the progress of this car on this blog.

We maintain our own fleet and customer cars.  To discuss your project, big or small, just call 01527 893733. 

01527 893733

Ford Mustang Restoration: 30.10.15 Update


I bought this 1964 Ford Mustang convertible in mid-2015 as a useable, presentable example with a plan to improve it over the winter.  It's a rare straight six manual and spent most of its life in Alabama before being imported to, of course, Coventry.

The car's main problem is the paintwork, which has micro-blistered all over, either due to a damp car cover or poor paint preparation.  We have stripped the brightwork and trim off the car and begun flatting back the paint to bare metal. We've started removing the panels, around the main area of rot in the A pillars. The Mustang has an air vent in front of the windscreen which also acts as a water drain. If the drainage holes block, as they inevitably do, the box section in front of the A pillar rots out.  As it has done here.

We have the facilities and skills to do most of this work in-house, with the exception of the paint. Since 2011, when I set up the workshop, my fellow Director Julian Mills has gradually broadened the facility's skill base so that we are less and less reliant on outside contractors. With this car the only job that we will have to outsource is the actual painting of the car. He has done this to give us more control over quality and speed up the restoration process.

We plan to get this car back on the road at the end of the first quarter of 2016. You can watch its progress through updates on this blog.

We maintain our own classic car hire fleet as well as customer cars. Whether your project is big or small feel free to call 01527 893733 for a chat. 

01527 893733

Car features we now take for granted

Running a classic car hire company can feel, at times, like living in an automotive parallel universe. While the rest of the world is ogling parking cameras and connectivity, at Great Escape Cars we're amazed to discover that nowadays windows can be lowered by switches.
On one of my rare encounters with modern motoring it got me thinking about the modern car features that we take for granted. Here goes...

1. Central Locking

Believe it or not there was a time when dad - because mum wasn't trusted to drive back then - had to reach back and lock or unlock the doors whenever back seat passengers got in or out. The impact of central locking on the reduction in shoulder injuries has, sadly, gone unrecorded. 

2. In-car entertainment

Forget ipod connections and built in satnav, remarkably there was a time within living history when a simple mw/fm radio was a luxury extra. Opt for the humble Popular Plus and your in-car entertainment was restricted to looking at the blank space where a radio should be. 'Extra storage space' hailed the brochure. 'Ho hum' responded a despondent world.

3. Climate control 

Today's modern motorist can brave climatic extremes safe and secure in their insulated air conditioned dream. For drivers of yesteryear it was not so simple. Until the late 90s air conditioning was restricted to the luxurious few, Major Cowley's world rather than that of mere Bodie and Doyle. The upside was that we all drove around with the windows down, waving and chatting to our fellow bipeds. Not so now, but we are more comfortable. 

4. Front wheel drive 

Believe it or not there was a time when rear wheel drive wasn't for sporty BMW drivers, it was for everyone. It was just How Things Were. Because, for most drivers, RWD is a scary, slippy-slidey roundabout experience, manufacturers invented FWD, which had the added benefit of being cheaper to manufacture. 4WD? Reserved for farmers. Driving may be safer now but it's a little bit less fun. Unless you drive a BMW, which of course you wouldn't.

5. Power Steering

Every modern car has power assisted steering. That's a relatively new invention. As cars have got heavier and more complicated drivers have needed electricity to help them turn the wheel. That isn't to say cars of the 60s and 70s were lightweights - try parking a Mk2 Jaguar to see what luxury motoring meant 1963. Power steering is A Good Thing, but it's no longer a Luxury Thing

6. Airbags

The world of car safety moves swiftly and nowadays airbags are just there. Olden day car makers were also bothered about safety, the trouble is that for them it meant 'impact resistant' padded rolls on dash tops, which were as effective as they sound. Cars are safer now, but perhaps that safety net encourages us to drive less safely. 

7. Seat belts

Astonishingly - if you're under 40 - there was a time when it was perfectly acceptable to drive your car 'unrestrained.' Before 1968 seat belts were an optional extra. It took another 15 years before anyone was actually required to wear them. Which, when yoi think about it, is quite shocking. Now not wearing a seatbelt is pretty much a crime against morality, ably enforced by our own chiming, flashing and bleeping cars.

8. Automatic chokes

Modern drivers miss out on the joys of jiggling the choke lever - that's not a euphemism - wedging it in position with a handy clothes peg. Old cars needed manual intervention to start from cold, a black art perfected by shivering motorists of yesteryear, grappling with minute adjustments through woollen gloves. Some may miss the passing of this morning ritual, less masochistic people won't. 

9. Alloy wheels

In a bygone era - ie the 1990s - alloy wheels were the preserve of posh cars and sports cars. Not so now - every car from the Kia Picanto upwards sports shiny alloys. What was once a weight-saving device for sports cars has become a modern staple. Before all this happened the buyers of humbler models made do with wheel trims in various guises. For afficionados this was a quick way to assess how rich the owner was, as trims got more stylish as you ascended the range. Alloys are a good thing therefore, more egalitarian, easier to clean and our road verges are no longer littered with cracked and cast off trims. Hoorah. 

10. Car keys

Who'da thought that one day something so essential would become so redundant? Keyless entry and push start cars have pushed the humble car key to the outer reaches of motoring. In some ways this is a shame - it makes replaying a popular 70s party game a little harder - but in others it's A Good Thing. Trouser pockets now last longer. 

You can still experience the absence or presence of most of these things by hiring a classic car from us - call 01527 893733 or visit


Are you experienced?

Marketing and the bods who peddle it, of which I am one, don't do themselves many favours. Under fire from pretty much every part of a company to justify, deliver more, cost less and talk more plainly, they often respond instead with good stuff wrapped in a pseudo-intellectual bubble.
The latest in a long line of collaterals, engagements, reaches and segmentations is Experiential Marketing. Once I worked out what Experiential was I realised I was all for it, because it's what I do. Experiential marketing is the provision of services, such as events, that enable suppliers to get to know customers better. If you prefer, it's engagement marketing.

Marketing activities that put suppliers in front of prospects or customers are universally hailed A Good Thing. Quite rightly - there is nothing better than telling and showing and looking in the eye. I know that from, ahem, experience - we run road trips for corporate clients that enable networking. They turn business relationships into something more buddy buddy.
So I like experiential marketing. The trouble is though, that its vociferous proponents seem to have got the wrong end of the stick. Firstly, the name is all wrong. Event marketing will do - we know what it means. Experiential isn't a word and it undermines what is fundamentally a strong, valid marketing tool.
Secondly, experiential marketing proponents argue their case in isolation. They argue the role of event marketing at the expense of other goodies in the marketing toolkit, like seo, advertising and literature. Sure, in the realm of tightening budgets events need to battle their corner and something will lose. But event marketing should not be seen in isolation: it cannot deliver results except as part of a cohesive, dare I say, joined-up marketing strategy.

The marketing ladder is quite simple: you get attention, you generate interest, you create desire, you get action, you engender loyalty. Event marketing can be used at any of those stages but rarely at every stage and rarely is it effective entirely in isolation.
Suggesting that experential marketing can deliver on a broad range of objectives potentially dilutes its core strengths. Being clear about the role of events in a marketing strategy and the results they deliver is, I believe, the most effective way to drive budgets to events.  For example, networking events for prospects will only work if it attracts quality attendees if your audience is aware of your product, trusts it and you. Without good PR, advertising, sales team and data-driven marketing your event will be ill-attended or, worse, packed out with freeloaders. Similarly, if you want to use an event to build loyalty you first need engaged and interested customers. You need to know who they are and what motivates them. That requires more than just experiential marketing.
I am pleased that marketers have a better understanding of event marketing and what it delivers. This is a valuable tool, but it is one that works best in combination rather than in isolation. By grasping that nettle experiential marketers can demonstrate how relevant their results can be to marketing strategies.


Graham Eason, Director, Great Escape Cars

Great Escape Cars is a supplier to the events management sector.  We organise bespoke, unusual events involving classic cars, from static displays to multi-day road tours for hundreds of people. Find out more at or call 01527 893733.

Our new classic car payment plans

Occasionally the combination of petrol fumes and old car aromas clear my mind sufficient to allow a brain wave.  And so it was this week. To coincide with our long-delayed price rise on 1st November we introduced a payment plan option for customers. Just life a sofa you split the cost into four equal payments that are equally spaced before the hire.

It's a simple idea but it seems people love it. Since it launched the feedback has been great and the take up superb.  And it's not like we didn't already offer a sort of payment plan - for hires more than 6 weeks in advance we only take a 25% deposit, with the balance due 6 weeks prior.  However, this option can leave the customer with one fairly sizeable sum to pay. The installment plan solves this by creating four relatively small equal payments.

So if you choose to hire a Jaguar E Type for the weekend next July then options might look like this:

October 2015
Jan 2016
April 2016
June 2016
Pay in full

Deposit & balance


There is no charge for the installment service and it's completely optional. But it's part of our efforts to make hiring a classic car more affordable and attainable.  As far as we know Great Escape Cars is the only company offering different payment plans for customers.

The added advantage of paying in installments or via our deposit and balance option is that you avoid the price rise - the price you pay is the price in place on the day you booked.

The new payment options apply to everything we sell - car hire, packages and events. 

We want our booking process to be simple and transparent.  So we don't apply hidden fees - no charges for payment cards of any type and the price we quote already includes VAT.

To find out more about our range of cars call 01527 893733 or visit