When car companies went bonkers

As a small boy, little legs burning on vinyl seats, I imagined adults Knew Stuff. As an adult I discovered otherwise. As a thrusting young executive I imagined older, sage-like directors Knew Stuff. Quite quickly, and across several different employers, I discovered quite the opposite.  
Nowhere is the bursting of balloons more evident than in the world of car building. And yet the blind alleys and shocking cock-ups somehow deliver greatness, a sense that the world is just a little better because lots of clever people decided to give us a car called Probe.  Here are my 5 favourite automotive lemons, the own-goals and zaniness that reveal feet of clay. It's not just a celebration of badness, it's a fist-punch for wierdness in the midst of conformity. 
Inevitably this list is personal - feel free to add your own. 

1. Aston Martin Lagonda

In the 1970s and 80s Aston Martin made cars for gin-slugging, pot-bellied James Bond wannabes, middle aged chaps who found in the wood-trimmed interiors a familiar echo of the ancestral home. So it was an obvious decision to offer these tweedy traditionalists an uber-modern saloon with design inspired by their cheeseboard. The Lagonda also featured the sort of technology more familiar to NASA than a car company based in a potting shed. That the car broke down at the launch event didn't bode entirely well, and yet the Lagonda really is brilliant, a life-affirming paean to bonkers Britishness. 

2. MG SV

Sometimes clever people do silly things for the right reasons. Sometimes silly people just do silly things. The MG SV probably fits in the latter category, a purpose-free vanity project by arch-villains The Phoenix Four. The MG SV started as a DeTomaso, became a Qvale and then a MG, suggesting that quite a lot of people around the world thought this dumpy bitza sports car was a good idea.  The SV was meant to give MG a halo car, but nobody wanted a supercar with a MG badge and MG Rover didn't have the money to develop it. The SV was the product of four vain, silly men convincing themselves that it was a good idea.  It wasn't.

3. Ford Probe 

Quite a lot of time and money was expended by Ford on the laudable idea of giving the world a new Capri. The Probe was a world car that the world didn't want. Partly this was because it looked awful, a bland attempt to make a car look like a stingray, presumably because some mischievous people in a focus group told Ford it was what we The People wanted. We didn't. Neither were we that keen on inviting people for a ride in our Probes. 

4. DeLorean DMC-12

Well, obviously. Remarkable as it may now seem, world governments queued up to attract John Z and his new car to their particular patch of impoverished ground. Britain won, presumably fulfilling their wish list for a low-volume, stainless steel, underpowered sports car with weird doors to blow the socks off a market 6,000 miles away. That the DeLorean Motor Company made a pretty good job of flogging the DMC-12 shows how clever some of the people were.  But this was always going to be an oddball car that courted Risk in the same way the Thatcher government courted Conflict. 

5. Talbot Rancho

Back in the 80s, Talbot made cars for people who found Austin Rovers too exciting. But beneath Middle England's super staid exterior often lies a beating heart of rebellion and for these customers Talbot offered the Rancho, the chunky love-child of a Range Rover and a Maestro van. There was a lot to laugh at, and we did: the wing-mounted spotlights for weekend 'lamping.' The raised rear roofline for improved visibility of the roaming wildebeest of Torquay. The raised ride height for clearing Surbiton's pavements. All these things provoked the sort of incredulity that, years later, we'd call Style. Today the Rancho would fit right in amongst the Cactus', Q5s and Kugas. What an odd world, whacky world we live in.

I love these examples of automotive 'out of box' thinking. None will ever make it onto our classic car hire fleet I suspect but you can see what we do have at www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733.


Graham Eason

10 Things I've Noticed About The DeLorean

My relationship with the DeLorean DMC-12 has been wobbly and wavey. Like most of the Western Hemisphere I've loved John Z's insane creation since childhood. When I got the chance to put one on our hire fleet I was quite excited. 
And that's where the problems began. Literally. The DMC-12 has, as I discovered, a well-earned reputation for naffness, for being less than its amazing looks and time-travelling reputation imply. It's also catastrophically unreliable. I fell quickly out of love with it when the wheels kept falling off. Literally. Ever since I've tended to be bit harsh about the DeLorean. Trying to winch a 3-wheeled example onto a trailer on the M40 at 1am tends to do that to a person.  But a recent film project gave me the chance to re-evaluate the DeLorean. So here's what I discovered, good and bad.

1. Everybody Loves It 
No classic car, bar none, attracts attention like the DeLorean. I can't vouch for supercars but I'm prepared to bet it can outrank them too. I've been lucky enough to drive a lot of desirable classics and none of them elicit shouts and pointing fingers like the DMC-12. And the great thing is that it's all positive. They may consider the driver to be an arse, but the car delivers love. 

2. The Doors Are Stupidly Addictive 

Small children and dogs are endlessly fascinated by revolving doors and automatic doors. But gullwing doors charm everyone, young and old alike. They may be stupidly impractical and more showy than an episode of X Factor, but gullwing doors just make the otherwise mundane task of getting in and out of a car a sheer joy. An occasion. 

3. It's Incredibly Badly Built 

Even taking into account that the DeLorean was essentially an American car and American cars are hardly the last word in quality control, the DMC-12 build quality is shockingly shoddy. The exterior panels have gaps that could easily be called Watford and the interior is less assembled than thrown together. Which might be passable if the component materials were any good, but they're not. DeLorean took a blindfolded rummage in the World Motoring parts bin and literally threw the results at the cars. 

4. It Drives Better Than You Expect

The DeLorean has a reputation for being a half-finished bitza, combining in-house and Lotus engineering to create a sports car that does nothing very well. That's not quite true. It does feel half-finished, with heavy, wooden steering, dismal gearchange and poor driving position, but plenty of American sports cars of the era were worse. The DMC-12 handles well, in a rapid A-road hustling sort of way, is nicely balanced for a rear-engined car and has a good ride. 

5. You Can't See Out Of It

I can't remember a car I've ever driven that offers less visibility than the DeLorean. Wherever you look, to the front, back or sides, you can't see anything. It doesn't help that the car takes the concept of 'wide' and well, widens it. All of which means that road positioning is less of an art, more of a Hope. Perhaps this doesn't matter in America, where racing across something called The Prairie appears to be The Norm. It is a more pressing issue in downtown Redditch. 

6. It's Faster Than You Expect 

One of the things that most car people know about the DeLorean is that it uses the unloved 'Douvrin' engine that also found a home in the Volvo 260. Well, that much is true. But it's actually a decent motor that also powered the Renault Alpine GTA. It's grunty and in decent tune quite pockey. In the DeLorean it isn't in a decent state of tune (it pumps out about 120bhp) and yet the car is surprisingly sprightly. Certainly in the context of sub-200 bhp Corvettes of the era, it's not that bad. 

7. It Looks Amazing But Not Great 

One of the strange contradictions of the DeLorean is that it draws attention like moths to a flame but you'd be hard pressed to argue it's a decent looking car. The Lotus Esprit, TVR Tasmin and Aston Martin Lagonda all do the 80s Origami Design schtick much more successfully. The DeLorean looks compromised, under-wheelbased and almost dumpy from some angles. Sure, it's arresting, mainly because it's unpainted stainless steel, but it's not a great looking car. 

8. Back To The Future is it's Bond 

For 40 years between the 60s and early 00s Aston Martin built a business out of mediocre cars driven by a famous spy. DeLorean has inadvertently worked similar magic thanks to Michael J Fox. The choice of the DeLorean as a time machine was inspired but not necessarily due to the inherent amazingness of the car. What many forget now is that back when BTTF was made, the DeLorean was a huge automotive failure - the idea of using an unreliable, unloved car to go back and forth in time was meant to be a joke. 

9. It was Actually A Sales Success 

9,200 DeLoreans were sold in 18 months. 10,200 Lotus Esprits were sold in 18 years. While projected volumes were always daftly unachievable, the DeLorean didn't fail due to lack of demand. Had it been built properly there is a strong argument that the company would have prospered and the range evolved. The car has been marked by the sign of failure, but that over-simplifies the story. 

10. I Like It 

No matter how hard it tries to stop me, I still really like the DeLorean. It's seriously flawed and plays its cards like an X Factor diva, but there is something about the car that I just love. It's silly, very bad in so many ways but somehow it redeems itself. The DMC-12's weaknesses give it a character so lacking in many contemporary American cars. It may not travel through time, but time has been kind to it. 

Great Escape Cars sourced the DeLorean for film work, one of 50 cars we are providing this year for the BBC series Antiques Road Trip and Celebrity Antiques Road Trip. 


Graham Eason 

The Big Green Voting Machine

When we decided to add another truck to our classic car transport fleet we hit a snag.  Decent twin-deck trucks are in short supply and the best one locally was finished in bright Kawasaki green. Of course. But we never let the opportunity to stand out significantly from the crowd stop us.  And so it is that this truck joins our existing Mercedes and Renault transporters later this month.
With a colour best described as character-building it felt essential that the new addition had a name. So we turned to the most discerning audience audience we know - our Twitter followers. They came up with a huge list of ideas, most of them clean.  We whittled them down to four and asked Twitter to vote. Here's the poll - just click on it to vote.
The winning suggestion will receive a £249 voucher for one of our road trips.  We'll put the name on the side of the truck and credit the winner.

The best classic cars that nobody seems to love

The world of classic cars is an odd one. Some people, who call themselves Passion Investors, spend small fortunes on cars, mostly Astons, irrespective of how good they actually are. Others deliberately champion the odd and awful. Like Maxis. 
In the vast, yawning chasm inbetween lie a number of excellent classics that for some reason are permanently overlooked. Why this happens owes something to the power of branding, marketing and all the other dark arts of people in power suits. 
Any list of overlooked classics will be incomplete, but here are my favourite 8. Feel free to comment and add your own.

1. Renault Alpine GTA

France has made a lot of brilliant cars, but it's probably fair to say that the land of cheese and white flags probably isn't your first port of call for Porsche-bating supercars. Alpine has made a lot of brilliant sports cars, most of which have a strong following, but somehow the GTA is perennially overlooked. Its confused nomenclature doesn't help - is it a Renault or an Alpine? - nor do the slightly anonymous looks. But the GTA is brilliant, a proper supercar bargain.  And sadly, it probably always will be.

2. Lotus Excel

In the 1970s Lotus came up with not one but two answers to a question nobody ever asked: The Eclat and Elite were GT cars with hysterical 2 litre engines and all the dependability of a London Midlands train timetable. The Excel was essentially an Eclat with the edges knocked off - properly engineered using a lot of Toyota parts. The Lotus engine was still in place, but by the 80s the firm had finally got around to making and engineering it properly. The Excel is a brilliant sports car with everything going for it, including ridiculously low prices. 

3. Reliant Scimitar GTE

Everyone seems to agree that the Scimitar is great and they'd like one. Except nobody buys one. This may be because the Scimitar shared showroom space with the terminally put-upon Robin/Rialto or because Tamworth is not exactly Modena. Or you can blame Princess Anne, who had several. This toxic mix conspires to keep the Scimitar perennially overlooked, which is a shame because it looks great, it drives well, it's practical and quite a lot of them had brown dashboards. 

4. Porsche 924/944

Porsche has been trying to emerge from the shadow of the 911 for decades, only recently with some success. The 924 and 944 were part of an 80s drive to achieve this. The model's status in the classic car pantheon perhaps owes something to the fact it wasn't really meant to be a Porsche (it started life as a VW) and early cars used a van engine. This ignores the car's inherent greatness: 50:50 weight distribution, decent performance even from the naturally aspirated versions and an image refreshingly free of bright redness and banking bonuses. When you can buy a Porsche-badged sports car for under £1000 is there really anything not to like?  

5. Jensen-Healey

You have to feel sorry for Jensen. When they were casting around for a volume model to keep the factory busy following the demise of the Austin Healey they came into the orbit of motoring's very own Child Catcher, Colin Chapman. Just as John DeLorean would 10 years later. Jensen had created what was essentially a pretty good, albeit rather lumpy-looking sports car, designed to compete in the lucrative US market. Charming Colin offered his 2 litre engine, which on the face of it made a lot of sense - a British sports car with a race-proven engine. Bingo. No, not Bingo. The highly stressed engine was catastrophically unreliable due to the usual Chapman-esque lack of testing and Jensen ended up with crippling warranty claims that caused the failure of the firm. The last-gasp Scimitar-bating GT was lovely but arrived too late to make any impact. Most Jensen-Healeys are now well-sorted cars and make superb classics for less than the price of a MGB. 

6. Jaguar S-Type

Of course I don't mean the awful bulbous 90s Lincoln. In the 60s production of Jaguar's new saloon, the XJ6, was drifting further into the future so the company needed new models to keep the market entertained. The solution was a plethora of models like the S-Type that borrowed bits from the new car - such as the style of the front end or the independent rear suspension - and dumped them onto the Mk2 body. These hybrids, while perhaps lacking the homogenous beauty of the Mk2, are arguably much better cars with better handling, ride and performance. They're also bargains right now - often quarter of the price of an equivalent Mk2. 

7. AC 3000 ME

The Cobra, like the 911, casts a long shadow and the tiny Thames Ditton firm struggled to follow it up. Designed and developed with Ford cash, rumours of AC's new car were met with huge enthusiasm in the early 70s. But by the time the AC 3000 ME eventually reached the market many years later it was yesterday's news.  Its looks were out of kilter with competitors and the performance from the Essex V6 was disappointing compared to the Cobra. It was also too expensive. None of this matters now, of course, because the AC 3000 ME is a rare, good-looking and well-sorted car that is arguably much better to drive than a proper Cobra. 

8. Citroen CX

Citroen is the nerdy, weird kid of motoring. Sometimes the things this oddball does are cool and interesting. But because it's always going on in a dusty corner of the motoring lab, we don't always notice. So we like and revere the DS, but we ignore the CX, a car that is arguably prettier and better. The CX Turbo even turns the whacky up to 11. There are very few CXs left but there can be few executive cars of the 70s and 80s more deserving of a wider audience. 

Our classic hire fleet inevitably has to follow commercial necessities, so we don't have any of the above on hire. But I'd love to: so show them some love and give us an excuse to add one or more. Find out more at www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733.


Graham Eason

What is it about classic Astons?

The world of classic cars is full of conundrums. Why is the DeLorean so revered but the Renault Alpine GTA overlooked? Will the world ever 'discover' the Lotus Excel? But no conundrum taxes me quite as much as the reverence given to classic Aston Martins. 
Let's be clear: I'm not talking about the pre-DB5 Astons or the post DB7 cars, which are variously quite good and very good. No, my ire is directed at the ones in the expansive middle - the cars of the 60s to 90s that are what most people think of when they think of Aston Martin.  Their values are, frankly, astronomical, putting them firmly in the 'passion investment' category ahead of pretty much every other marque except Porsche and Ferrari.
These Aston's aren't exactly bad. They're just not, in my opinion, worthy of the adulation and sky-high prices that they command. There are other less exalted cars of the period that are infinitely better. 
Exactly why is that? Ferrari and Porsche have made some amazing cars, four wheeled wonders that are beautifully engineered, have race pedigree and drive beautifully. Aston Martins of this era aren't any of those things. I feel I know of what I speak because I've been fortunate enough to drive several Astons, including DB6, V8 coupe and Volante and DB7. 
Of course, the answer is pretty obvious: Bond. James Bond. The world's favourite Man drove a DB5 and ever since Aston has milked the association beyond the point of embarrassment. Just as well because by any objective assessment its cars for many years were Not Very Good. 

Aston DB6

The '6 is undeniably beautiful but its reputation seems to far outweigh its place in the aesthetic firmament. Plenty of 60s GT cars arguably look a lot better, including the Iso Grifo and Riviera, the Jensen Interceptor and even the Ford Mustang. The DB6 is barrel-sided, with long overhangs and excessive height in a world of sleek and low sports cars. The engine is under-powered and rough, the gearbox clunky and the handling more befitting of David Brown's tractor heritage than the world of cars. It steers nicely, rides smoothly and the interior is lovely, but is that enough to justify the price of a nice detached barn conversion in Hertfordshire? 

Aston V8

The DBS and then the V8 were meant to move the game on considerably from the clunky DB6. Smooth, typically attractive styling and new engines brought the GT game to Aston's rivals. And the V8 is a much better car than the DB6, but it is just a low volume Ford Mustang. Once you make that association it's hard to shake it. The V8 is heavy, has a horrible interior littered with Jaguar switchgear and a Mustang, even a Mk3, would run rings around it in a straight line.

Aston V8 Volante

In the 80s Aston decided that the route to personal expression lay in bulging bonnets and wheel arches. The drop-top Volante took the little that was good about the V8 coupe, ditched it and replaced it with scuttle shake and the styling equivalent of your Granny in fishnet stockings. Naffness on four wheels.

Aston Virage

By the late 80s Aston was scraping the barrel. The hairy-chested Virage was heavily influenced by the 'bulldog' end of the British cultural pantheon and was a car Bond would never have been seen dead in. Where the DB6 could lay claim to lithe and svelte, the Virage was bulbous and lardy. 

Aston DB7

The story of the DB7's genesis is one of a magpie-like approach to design and specification. The story goes that Jaguar designed it and Tom Walkinshaw stole it, gifting the idea of a new DB to Ford management. If true, the DB7's calling card - its looks - can't even be credited to Aston. The '7 is undoubtedly gorgeous, perhaps the best looking GT of the 90s, but that's where the good stuff ends. The interior is a riot of half-arsedness, a horrible amalgam of bits of wood nailed on at random and Ford Fiesta switchgear. It's truly, truly horrible. The XJS under-pinning so and Ford-derived V12 should make up for this but they don't. The DB7 has none of the Jaguar's supple handling and ride and the V12 is somehow less silky smooth than in the XJS. 

Thankfully, post-DB7 Aston has found its mojo. The DB9, which I've driven, is a hefty, road-hogging thing of beauty and wonder that goes as well as it looks. The V8 Vantage is arguably even better, a proper 911 rival that disguises its parts bin origins brilliantly. Both have interiors to die for and I'd readily find a home for a V8 Vantage. This Renaissance is perhaps all the more remarkable considering how mediocre the cars of the previous 40 years were. And yet I have a sneaking regard for Aston's ability to eek an enduring business from such uninspiring metal. 

I will always want a Jensen Interceptor over a DB6 and always regret that 'passion investors' pick on certain marques over others. But perhaps their success in pushing classic Astons out of the reach of us humble commoners and ignoring better, more capable motors is ultimately our win. We get to enjoy great cars at reasonable prices and know that the cars most of us will never have a chance to drive are really not worth driving at all. 

Great Escape Cars has several Aston-beating classics on its fleet, including Jensen Interceptor, Porsche 911, Ford Mustang< Jaguar XJS and Jaguar E Type. To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit www.greatescapecars.co.uk.


Graham Eason

Does the 90s have any future classics?

My 1990s began driving a Vauxhall Nova and ended driving a diesel Peugeot 306, with lots of Mondeos in between. So I'm not sure I'm well equipped to devise a list of future classics of the 1990s. But I did live through it in all its baggy, trip-hopping nineties-ness. And I did oggle much more desirable machinery from the beige on beige interior of that grandma-friendly Vauxhall. 
The 90s was a strange time for car makers, representing the dying embers of British car manufacturing - we all saw it coming, BL didn't - and the hangover of the hot hatch and coupe phenomenons that budgets and safety legislation were slowly killing off. 
Cars were also getting more complicated, which means fewer have survived. 
But enough of my yakkin', here's my list of the cars that should be classics. The rule is simple though; they must have started life in the 90s and they must be 'real world.'

Of course you may disagree with this list. You may even laugh or possibly scoff. So may I remind you that in the last month people have paid £55,000 and £25,000 respectively for a Ford Capri and a 205 GTI. In the world of classics, time is the winner and anything can and does go. 

1.  Peugeot 306 GTI, Rallye & convertible

The 80s had the 205, the 90s had the 306. Perhaps the last neatly styled Pug for many years, the 306 looked right, handled brilliantly and in overlooked convertible form was a fitting successor to the lovely 304. The 306 can lay fair claim to being the best hot hatch of the 90s and once it drags itself out of the McDonalds Custom Car Club scene, we'll all want one.

2. Fiat Coupe 20v Turbo

Possibly the best Fiat of the last 25 years, the Coupe relived the company's bygone era of distinctive and brilliant drivers' cars. I've owned one and it was very good indeed.

3. Aston DB7

The DB7 is as obvious a future classic as obvious gets. Like most pre-noughties Astons it doesn't do anything very well except Be An Aston, but when flawed genius looks this good, perhaps that hardly matters. 

4. BMW M5

I don't like BMWs so I have no idea which M5 'e' model I mean, but it's the one they made in the 90s. It pains me to admit that in standard guise it was almost perfect, as a M5 it was awesome. From a time when BMWs were great to drive and looked pretty good too, before branding and niche marketing took over. 

6. Renault Clio Williams

Fitting snugly into the shoes vacated by the 205 GTI, the Clio did it all arguably better and with more panache. Rarity and understated looks surely push this pocket rocket into future classic territory. 

7. Jaguar XJR

In the 90s Jaguar worked wonders with very little. The XJR may have been designed on a photocopier and is to handling what Donald Trump is to compromise, but the simple decision to bolt on a supercharger renders all that redundant. The XJR put the pace back in Jaguar's 60s motto and plotted the path for the company's current Renaissance. 

8. VW Corrado VR6

As a new decade dawned, manufacturers persisted in the belief that we still wanted coupes, so we got the Calibra, Probe and Corrado. Only the Corrado put it all together into a complete package, the VR6 and earlier G60 out-GTI-ing the Mark 3 Golf. A classic you can genuinely use daily. 

9. Alfa 916 GTV/Spider

Nobody, with the notable exception of Aston Martin, does Flawed Genius quite as effectively as Alfa. Since the Alfa SZ and RZ originated in the 80s it falls to the 916 to shoulder the company's classic legacy for the 90s. Humble underpinnings were heavily Alfa'd to create a neat-handling coupe clothed in drop-dead Pininfarina styling. The V6 is a thing of unparalleled four-wheeled joy although the 2 litre is better balanced. 

10. TVR Tuscan

Bllackpool's TVR churned out a bewildering array of models in the 90s but it is the Tuscan that makes this list. It just edges into the 90s but its combination of quirky styling, quirky switchgear and TVR engine give it all the ingredients of a bonafide classic. 

11. MGF

10, as Nigel Tufnel knows, is not enough. So the MGF sneaks in, a car that will surely one day assume the place in classic motoring currently taken by the MGB. Although that may well be a few years off - there are still a lot around and values are on the floor. The MX5, of course, did most F-related things better but it was launched in the 80s. 

We are always evolving our classic hire fleet and some of these cars have already nibbled around our unit. To view our current fleet visit www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733.



How to combat the scourge of Trip Advisor

Like many things, including 'barista' coffee, Cliff Richard and Volkswagen, Trip Advisor started out as a Good Thing. A place where customers could post real reviews. And then, like Starbucks, Mistletoe & Wine and Dieselgate, it stopped being good and became very bad indeed. 
For any consumer-facing small business, Trip Advisor is a pain in the backside. If you deal with a lot of customers then it is highly likely that your business review profile will be the usual mix of fair and unfair reviews. Very few firms escape the ire of disgruntled customers using Trip Advisor as a weapon. 
All of which, you may feel, is democracy at work. As the company is able to post a management response to any review you may feel this is balanced. Sadly, it isn't: most Trip Advisor visitors tend to be on the customer's side and view the management responses with scepticism, even though the responses tend to be factual rather than emotional, unlike the review.
 If you subscribe to the view that the customer is always right then we'll have to part company here. Because anyone who deals with The General Public knows that Marshall Field's customer-friendly slogan is a load of old tosh. 

I know from bitter experience that Trip Advisor is not always an honest and fair reflection of customer experience.  We have a handful of bad reviews and, with one exception, I can honestly say they are all nonsense. Each one is the final step in a failed campaign of blackmail against my business. After two more similar threats this month I've decided enough is enough.
I have been in business long enough to know that keeping customers happy is key. I am not blasé to the relationship between a successful business and happy customers. But there are some customers that simply can't be pleased, whose motivation in complaining goes beyond rectifying a perceived wrong and veers into blackmail. 
It would be easy to get stuck in a vortex of moaning and complaining about this state of affairs and Trip Advisor in particular.  But this is the world we live in and it won't change, at least not while Trip Advisor's review and policing is so catastrophically weak. We have decided to fight back. If you run a small business or if you just wonder what the hell is going on on Trip Advisor, I hope this is of interest.

The Fightback 

Firstly, we have significantly improved our post-hire feedback process. We've created in-car feedback forms and post-hire emails to capture hirers' immediate thoughts on their experience. We have also strengthened our customer fault reporting systems so that any defects with the cars are rectified faster. I don't just want the positive, glowing reports - although they're great - but the scathing and constructive too. The latter help me improve my business, which is the real purpose of the exercise, and also nip any problems in the bud immediately, before they escalate into screaming emails and Trip Advisor reviews. 
The risk with this process, which one customer has already demonstrated, is that a certain type of customer seizes on the opportunity to use a problem or issue to extract some benefit. They see you take reputation seriously and that you've made it easy for them to feed back. This usually involves exacerbating a minor issue, requesting some form of recompense and, during the course of various emails, threatening a negative Trip Advisor review unless their demands are met. 
This, plain and simple, is blackmail. We investigate every complaint and address them honestly. But If we don't find in the customer's favour then we shouldn't be blackmailed. Equally, if you are genuinely unhappy with the experience you should post a review, irrespective of what financial recompense you receive. 
Since this small minority of aggrieved and outraged customers will always be there, we clearly needed a second line of defence. Where a customer threatens to post a poor review unless they receive compensation, we refer the matter to our solicitor when the review appears. We also provide a full management response on Trip Advisor including exerts from the customer's emails. 

All companies make mistakes, but very few deliberately provide a poor service. I know how hard my team works to deliver quality hire cars and a great experience. That is their job and they do it well. We value constructive feedback and, where we're wrong, we hold our hands up and admit it. We rectify. But we won't be blackmailed. 
I hope that our new approach helps us improve what we do - by creating a stronger feedback loop with customers - but also protects us from the morally questionable minority who feel it is their right to extract the maximum from any situation. 

It would be great to hear your experiences of Trip Advisor, customer service and Great Escape Cars. 


Graham Eason

5 classic cars that don't float my boat

I've been lucky. I've driven a lot of different classic cars, including icons of the scene that I never dreamt I'd ever get behind the wheel of. It might seem churlish, blasé even, but I hope this little blog piece gives some small comfort to anyone who hasn't had the chance to drive the cars below. Put simply: don't meet your heroes.
Here are the five cars that have most disappointed me.

1. Aston DB6

Calling out the Aston as a disappointing drive is, I admit, a little like calling Bo Derek a bad actress. It sort of misses the point. You sit, sort of, where Bond sat facing a beautiful array of dials but the DB6 is just a very pretty Foden truck. It's heavy, slow, handles badly and, in short, is a long way from Special. I'm not even sure it looks that good. A Jensen Interceptor is 10 times better. 

2. DeLorean

It will be a surprise to nobody to learn that the DMC-12 is hardly the last word in on-road finesse. What may be surprising is that it actually isn't That Bad to drive. Instead the DeLorean is here because living with it is such a chore. No matter how amazing it looks, you can't live with a car whose wheels fall off and whose interior features sundry BL cast-offs nailed together in a manner that redefines Haphazard. The DeLorean will always be brilliant because it looks good, but always stop there. 

3. Porsche 928

Classic car magazines wax lyrical about the under-valued 928. So much so that I bought one. There is quite a lot to like - it's practical and the looks are distinctive - but the driving experience is so disengaged. The 928 will munch miles extremely fast and go round corners brilliantly, but none of that has much to do with the person behind the wheel. 

4. Aston DB7

It's a shame to find two Astons on this list but it's unavoidable: too many of the marque's models are completely over-rated. The DB7 looks amazing but the interior is a shocker, a headache-inducing mix of IKEA-esque timber, Ford Fiesta switchgear and erratically stitched leather. It goes passably well but a XJS or XKR does it all much, much better for much, much less. 

5. VW Golf GTI Mk1 

I bought a Golf GTI 1.6 and spent a lot of money restoring it. It took years, so when I finally got the chance to drive it I was, understandably, rather excited. And, sadly, disappointed. The Golf GTI does handle well and it is passably quick. But like the 928 it's so unengaging. It's like the boring school prefect who does everything well but has zero personality. I've owned other hot hatches like the 205 GTI and Alfasud, both flawed compared to the Golf. But somehow, greater. 

Feel free to kick me. 



New classic road trips film

Our unique classic road trips put you behind the wheel of five classic cars over a 100-180 mile route through some of Britain's best countryside.  We run 30 every year, using different cars, different routes and different themes.  They book up fast. Click on the video to discover why.


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What Peter Kay's Car Share Tells Event Managers

Peter Kay may not be the most obvious inspiration when you're casting around for new event ideas, but bear with me. His popular Car Share series, which follows two colleagues on their journey to and from work, might just be the inspiration you need.
In Car Share we see Peter and co-star Sian Gibson travel to and from their work with Kay extracting warm humour from the forcing two people to share a small space. 
The series thrives on the fact that two people slung together in a car have to communicate. Anything can happen but only one thing is certain: neither will emerge unchanged from the experience. Car Share is enlightening, funny and heart warming precisely because two strangers are forced to communicate because they are travelling in a car together.

No other form of travel delivers this quite as effectively as a car trip. And it's the secret behind the success of Great Escape Cars' corporate road trip events. We put drivers together in cars, give them maps and route books (no modern satnav conveniences here) and send them off on into the beautiful British countryside. The result: strangers bond over navigational challenges and the unique wonder of classic cars. Colleagues discover something in each other that sitting side by side at desks never quite reveals.

We began running classic car events for corporate clients in 2011 and now run over 30 every year. The format is broadly the same - the chance to drive several different cars over a pre-planned route - but we vary it considerably to suit different requirements, budgets and timescales.  We also run them anywhere - with our own transport and crews.
To find out more about how a corporate road trip can work for you, call 01527 893733 or click here to view our case studies