Wind & Rain Don't Stop Our Classic Cars

Britain and its weather, a combination sometimes apparently designed to conspire against the best laid plans.  But at Great Escape Cars the show must go on.  So when one of our clients asked us to arrange a corporate event for 16 guests on 8th September we obviously went ahead anyway despite the rain.

The rain didn't dampen the day for any of the guests who delivered 100% positive verdicts on the experience and our organisation.  Here's the story of the day.  You can find out more about our corporate event work by clicking here. 



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Great Escape Cars
01527 893733



Car fans turn out for Classics & Coffee

Hundreds of classic car fans turned up for the last Classics & Coffee event of 2017, run by Great Escape Cars.

The free-entry event is for all types of car enthusiasts and attracts a hugely eclectic range of cars, from modern hot hatches to vintage Rolls Royces. It's run in aid of Acorns Hospice and has so far raised thousands for the local charity.

Great Escape Cars provides hot drinks for visitors as well as the chance to talk to its workshop team and view the classic car repair facilities.

For 2018 Classics & Coffee is going monthly, with the first event on 25th March 2018. To view the full list of 2018 Classics & Coffee events, click here or call 01527 893733.


40 Year MOT Exemption

The inevitable has come to pass: despite the vast majority of classic car owners being against it, and the Government's own consultation also finding against it, the Department for Transport has decided to introduce a rolling 40 year MOT exemption for classic cars.

Forget about the chance to save £54 every year.  It's not good news.



What's Happening

From May 2018 all classic cars registered over 40 years ago will be exempt from the annual MOT test.  Currently only cars built pre-1960s are exempted, itself a relatively new rule.  Owners still have a duty to maintain their cars to a roadworthy standard, but the requirement to have them independently tested is removed.

Why It's Happening

Roll back a year or so to when we were sailing merrily on the good ship European Union.  The EU wanted to introduce a 30 year exemption to the annual roadworthiness test for older cars. This was driven by the admittedly yawning gulf between old cars and new, which was making a single test for all vehicles virtually impossible to maintain.  With new cars becoming more complex a solution needed to be found - exempting older cars, which cover relative few miles and are therefore less risky, seemed on the face of it a solid idea.

The UK went along with this, driven by the Commons classic car group and its bedfellow the Federation of British Historic Vehicles Clubs (FBHVC), which claims to represent the largest group of classic car owners in the UK.  These two feared the removal of classic cars from our roads unless a pragmatic solution was found - excluding classics, for them, made sense when faced with the alternative.

To justify their position, the FBHVC and DfT argued that classic car owners are more fastidious than most car drivers and don't use their cars much anyway.

What It Means

The removal of the MOT test does not remove the owner's obligation to keep their vehicle roadworthy and safe. The police still have the right to stop cars they deem unroadworthy and issue penalties - similarly, in an accident the vehicle's roadworthiness would be assessed.

This is critical stuff for owners.  The advantage of a MOT is that it provided an annual 'heads up' on your car's condition.  Although only a moment in time, it did indicate the general state and possibly deterioration of the car over the previous 12 months.  It also provided information on what might become unroadworthy in the future. Whether you are a mechanically dexterous owner or clueless, the MOT test provided that crucial piece of independent assessment to wave in the event of problems.  It demonstrated reasonable care and attention.

Owners can still choose to have their cars tested to a MOT type of standard if their local test station will oblige. Or they can check their cars themselves.  Either way, the onus is on you to show you've checked your car is roadworthy.

Why The Exemption Is Silly

For as long as the MOT has existed the Government and DVLA has drummed into us that every car needs a MOT.  Hefty fines and penalties have been exacted.  Now, apparently, no more.  George Orwell called it Doublethink - the ability to hold two contradictory ideas at once.  This is that.

Removal of the MOT puts more pressure on classic car owners to maintain their cars to a roadworthy standard, not less. In the event of an accident or police check, without a MOT it will be harder to show that reasonable steps have been taken to maintain this standard.

The justification for exempting classic cars - that owners are fastidious and don't use them much - doesn't really stand up to scrutiny.  Like the great mass of people generally, classic car owners are not Of One Type - they're all sorts of people with all sorts of skills and economic means. And many do use their cars a lot - at Great Escape Cars our hire vehicles typically cover several hundred miles a week.

The exemption is also a sledgehammer to crack a nut.  There would be a sort of logic to it if it was accompanied by a programme of education or a parallel system of informal checks, perhaps managed by the FBHVC via the network of classic car specialists. But that hasn't happened.

It's also bad news for classic car garages, something that the FBHVC and Commons committee seem to have entirely missed.  The MOT drives owners to arrange annual servicing and maintenance. Undoubtedly some enterprising specialists will develop their own pseudo-MOT annual package for owners - but not all will have the time or resources to do this.

Ultimately, the MOT is a proven, sound method of checking and maintaining older cars.  If we didn't have it, we'd need to invent it.  So taking it away feels like a retrograde step.

What's The Answer?

Last year, when the exemption was first discussed, we proposed an alternative solution - which you can read about here.  We believe the classic car sector needs to devise it's own historic vehicle test exclusively for older vehicles.  Devised by classic car specialists and backed by insurers, this scheme would provide a uniform standard for owners and the confidence provided by an independent assessment.

Without this approach we risk a highly fragmented system of checks devised by individual garages. While better than nothing, these would inevitably rely on the knowledge and equipment available to each business.  And also their willingness to take on some of the liability of proving roadworthiness.

At Great Escape Cars we're developing an independent test for our workshop customers in conjunction with our local MOT station. This will give owners an independent test similar to the MOT but tailored to classic cars. Until one of the industry's representative bodies develops something better, we feel we need to help our customers.

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Great Escape Cars
www.wefixclassiccars.co.uk
01527 893733


















New Advice Films for Classic Car Hirers

Hiring a classic car means anticipation and, for some, not a little nervousness.  As new cars get newer, old cars get older - and, inevitably, less familiar.

At Great Escape Cars we want to take the fear out of hiring - because fear gets in the way of enjoyment.  So, besides offering four unique ways to hire plus an exclusive Insurance Waiver policy, we've created a series of 24 films that explain what hiring a classic car is all about.

The new films cover the main points to be aware of when hiring a classic car - from the brakes to the steering to the visibility.  They help hirers prepare for what to expect.  We've created them to be humorous but informative - they're all about providing help and advice, not about putting the fear of death into anyone.  Click on the link to see how we got on...


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Great Escape Cars
01527 893733


The Great MOT Stitch Up



You may have heard that the Government is proposing to extend the current MOT exemption scheme.  But you probably haven't.  Because it's not exactly been highly publicised.
On September 22nd the Department of Transport announced that it was considering extending the current exemption for cars made before 1960 to most cars made more than 40 years ago, with an option to reduce this to 30 years.  This was in response to the EU Directive on Roadworthiness. The 'consultation' process' closed on 22nd November.

Government Consultation

The Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs knew nothing of the proposal in advance, which raises a few questions about the DoT's general market engagement as well as the FBHVC lobbying skills. And its relationship with the Parliamentary Historic Vehicles Group, which supposedly represents the Federation and lobbied early on for the original 1960 exemption. But is nowhere to be seen this time around...
Irrespective, it caught the Federation off guard, the timing preventing it publicising the proposal through its quarterly newsletter and limiting its engagement with its members, the classic and vintage car clubs of Britain.  Namely, classic car enthusiasts.
If you weren't aware of the proposal then you may be aware that the UK is planning to leave the EU. And so you may wonder why the DoT is responding to an EU Directive that won't matter a jot in a year or so.

The EU
According to the DoT because Britain is currently a member of the EU it has an obligation to respond to legislation, even if it won't apply in the long term.  And perhaps that's true.  Another way of looking at it might be to suggest that the DoT seems the exemption as a convenient way to save money and is using the legislation to deliver that objective.
Save money, how? The idea behind the roll back of the MOT is that training MOT testers and updating MOT testing procedures to accommodate older cars will be expensive and complex. It might place an undue burden on MOT testers, potentially leading to the network contracting. Against that backdrop reducing the scope of cars covered by the MOT makes a sort of sense.
It doesn't, I suggest, make any sort of sense against any other backdrop.  Which makes the Federation's support all the harder to understand. The Club supported the original rollback, arguing that it was less risky than the alternative, which was that old cars could have been taken off the road UIKeyInputDownArrowby legislation.  This pragmatism was bolstered by the suggestion that old car owners are fastidious, so  will address any known faults, and don't use their cars much, so the risk is minimal.

White Flag
This may be 'real world' to some but is the argument equivalent of waving a white flag. It's also misguided - only 10% of pre-1960s cars are submitted for the voluntary test, which means 90% of owners have no annual independent assessment of their car's condition.
The classic car scene in Britain is big - there are lots of owners, they all vote and lots of companies depend on their enthusiasm. When the original proposal to create an exemption was muted, the Federation could have formed a decent argument that this was dangerous and dredged up facts and figures from its regular industry survey to justify the economic argument. It didn't do any of that.
This time around the Federation has capitulated again, arguing that a limited consultation with its members indicates that pragmatism is the best game to play. It argues that there is no 'valid test' to demonstrate the safety risk of untested cars. If, as this suggests, there is no demonstrable link between MOT tests and safety, why are we bothering to test any cars? It makes a nonsense of a self evident truth.
My view, and that of many others, is that no car should be exempt from an annual independent test of roadworthiness.  The reasons are simple: not every car owner has the equipment or knowledge to assess how safe their car really is. Even those that do, I would argue, may choose not to do the work if it isn't legally required.
I do understand the DoT's economic challenges.  But the solution is not exemption. A two-tier test for pre and post-70s cars would enable the test for modern cars to move forward but provide a more suitable test for older cars. This could even be managed by a separate, dedicated test network. If the alternative is removing classic cars from the road then owners and the industry would surely suppport it.


I am very worried about the Goverment's latest proposal and in particular how it has interpreted 'democracy.' As with the original exemption there appears to have been a deliberate attempt to limit the scope of the 'consultation.' I can still recall attempting to engage with the Parliamentary Historic Vehicles Group back then and being rudely rebuffed.
It looks very likely that the exemption will rollback to at least 40 year old cars and probably 30 year old cars.  It needs to be emphasised that if we're leaving the EU there is no need to do this.  But if we do then I urge anyone who owns a car in these categories to put their car through the voluntary annual inspection.  Without an independent inspection you cannot be sure that your car is safe and roadworthy.  If you are involved in an accident, that reassurance could be very important to you.

At Great Escape Cars we will continue to test our cars annually, irrespective of what the Government decides to do. UIKEYINPUTUPARROW
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Graham Eason
Www.greatescapecars.co.uk
01527 893733










Fixing The MOT Roll Back



The Government's plans to extend the MOT exemption to 40 year old vehicles - and possibly those over 30 - has prompted a lot of anger and amazement. On our Twitter campaign @NoToNoMOT moat people express surprise that the Department of Transport is willing to allow some cars to be untested and on our roads.
A minority of classic car fans are pragmatic.  Like the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC), they recognise that the proposal is intended to prevent classic cars being taken off the road in response to European Union plans to tighten the roadworthiness regulations.
While I share the shock and disappointment at the proposals, I realise that just saying 'that's silly' doesn't move the argument on.  The real issue is the threat to classics remaining on UK roads.  Casting aside whether Brexit really makes any action necessary, the Government is planning to do something and, perhaps, even without the EU needs to do something.  Modern cars are immensely different from the 'analogue' cars of the 70s and 80s and the MOT is struggling to cope.
If the problem is keeping classic cars on the road, the answer does not have to be exemption.  It's a blunt tool to solve a complex problem.  Here's what we'd do if we ruled the world - it may not be perfect but we think it would secure the future for owners more safely and intelligently than exemption.

Historic Vehicle Test

Firstly, I don't accept the argument that exempting some cars from road tests is low risk. The fundamental nature of accidents is that they're random, relying on factors that cannot be controlled by individual drivers.  While old cars may be used less, they have an identical risk of accident each time they're used as any other vehicle.  That's how the laws of probability work.

Secondly, I agree that the MOT test is becoming too complex for old cars and that will only get worse. Without some action certain MOT testers may choose not to cover classics or may retire because the bureaucracy and administration becomes to onerous. This would put the roadworthiness of classic cars at risk and potentially drive them off the road by the back door.

Thirdly, I believe that all cars on the road need an independent test. Without an annual assessment by a trained or experienced technician no car should be on the road.  No owner, even with the relevant skills and equipment, should be judge and jury on the safety of their own car.

Fourthly, as a classic car owner I want an independent check on the condition of my cars to protect me.  If my cars are involved in an accident I want to know I am not at risk of prosecution for putting an unroadworthy car out there. An independent test passes that responsibility to someone else -
provided I continue to check and maintain my car in between.

So something needs to be done.  The clue to the solution, I believe, lies in a now-defunct scheme called Classics Friendly. This well-conceived idea set out an alternative 'roadworthiness' test for
classics.  It wasn't a MOT and wasn't intended to be.  But it gave owners of pre-1960 exempt vehicles some reassurance that their car was safe.  Alongside the current 'voluntary' test it provides a framework for solving the problem.

The UK has an excellent network of classic car workshops. These are generally small, unstructured businesses that provide a good personal service but don't offer the reminders and regular customer engagement that owners of new cars will be used to.  This is an opportunity missed. The Government should use this network to develop a classic car road test structured around the needs and usage levels of old cars and utilising the knowledge and experience of this group.

I see no reason why this system needs to be complicated or onerous.  Any alternative to exemption would surely be a step forward in the early days. It would also give these workshops the opportunity for regular engagement with customers, in turn bringing them more work. And it would help begin to regulate how this specialist industry operates.

I'm at a loss to understand why the Government favours exemption over a more considered and, frankly, safer alternative.  I similarly can't understand why the industry's representative bodies aren't doing the same.

I am concerned about the threat to the longevity of classic cars on our roads.  We need action now to address the gradual erosion of our liberties which I suspect may be a natural consequence of rolling back the MOT exemption. We need to operate within the system not outside of it.

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Graham Eason
www.greatescapecars.co.uk
01527 893733







Show Me The Door



The British car industry led the way in many things, not all of them entirely good.  Well, to be honest, many of them not good at all. Amongst its lasting legacy was a strange commitment to sharing doors between models.

Quite why British Leyland felt it necessary to compromise its new designs by forcing them to share doors is unclear.  Presumably the cost of making the doors was not a huge consideration when compared to the compromises it bestowed. And yet the idea persevered - from the monstrous Maxi and Landcrab to the Maestro and Montego, British Leyland continued to throw obstacles into its own path, presumably for the sheer joy of attempting - and failing - to overcome them.

Here, then are our favourite door-sharing designs.

1. Saab 9000 & Lancia Thema



Lancia wanted a saloon, Saab wanted a hatchback.  So of course when it came to seeking synergies in their shared design, they chose the doors.  Namely the items which, if shared, would work smoothly with one configuration but not the other. The result is a Thema that looks ok and a Saab that had to make do with a very 80s wraparound rear screen in order to look faintly normal.  Bizarrely, when Saab created a booted 9000 it looked awful, like a Kim Kardashian prototype. On wheels. From Sweden.





2. Peugeot 309 & 205



The Peugeot 309 was really a Talbot, until Talbot suddenly ceased to exit just before the car reached the market.  So it became the 205's bigger brother, except that quite a lot of it - and not just the doors - are from the smaller car.  Think running gear and suspension too. That most buyers overlooked is proof of the dowdy Pug's innate abilities. Even if quite a lot of those abilities really belong to another car.




3. Maestro & Montego


When this pair hit the showrooms, the company that invented badge engineering couldn't even decide what badge to put on them.  The orphaned Maestro and Montego should have been great, but the decision to launch them 10 years too late was never going to win new friends.  The boxy Maestro looked ok but donating its doors to the Montego gave the saloon no chance in the fleet market.  If the strange scalloped sides didn't put you off the oddly short wheelbase and semi-detached rear bay window certainly would.



4. Jaguar S-Type & Mk2


Whether you consider the Mk2 & S-Type and their lesser known spin-offs to be true 'door sharers' rather than low-cost evolutions of the same basic design depends on how pre-disposed you are to 60s Jaguars.  Suffice to say Browns Lane started with a superlative design - the Mk2 - and did a remarkable job of bolting a variety of 'updated' front and rear designs to it before the belated arrival of the XJ6. None of these really 'work' if you take the Mk2 as a starting point, but equally none are a travesty of Maestro/Montego proportions. But quite what was going on strategically at Jaguar in the mid 60s is anyone's guess.  It possibly involved drugs.


5. Maxi & Austin 1800


Strictly speaking door-sharing didn't begin with the Landcrab and Maxi, but it was certainly the start of the end. Before these two assaulted the eyes in the late 60s the British car industry had managed to share doors between models quite successfully.  On any objective assessment, the Austin 1800 and its myriad variants was to design what the Titanic was to flotation. In fact it was the antithesis of design, being too long, too wide and boxier than an Amazon warehouse. So of course BL used it as the basis for the Maxi, which is essentially a hatchback Austin 1800.  Both cars are awful, like the word Beige come to life.

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Great Escape Cars
www.greatescapecars.co.uk
01527 893733
Four ways to drive your dream - from £29









The Top Five Classic Car Fails

Perhaps it's a sign of age, or possibly old cars were always made that way.  Who knows. But like men of a certain age, classic cars have a remarkable habit of developing distinctive characters.  In short, like Victor Meldrew, they like to fight back.
At Great Escape Cars we've been hiring out classics for over 10 years.  Here are our favourite ways for old cars to bite back.  And remember: it's not the operator, it's the tools...






1. It never rain but it still floods

Modern cars start with a turn of a key.  In fact, increasingly they don't even need that.  You press start and a piece of electronics connects with another piece of electronics and says 'start'.  This is a long way from the analogue world of classic cars where the risk of flooding with fuel is ever-present. Care, patience and not a little luck are ever-present bedfellows when starting an old car in the morning.





2. Brake!

Remarkably, back when the world was essentially just a series of beige hues, stopping was really not such a big deal.  Because old cars of the 50s, 60s and 70s didn't actually stop in any meaningful sense, drivers drove accordingly. It wasn't the absence of Audis, BMWs or Mercedes that prevented tailgating, it was the very real risk that your brakes wouldn't actually prevent anything.





3. The Heat Isn't On

Before The Little Man put his foot down, The Man decreed that supplying a cheap car with a heater was, frankly, too much to ask. For some British car makers, it was too much hassle to even supply cars with four wheels.  Even if you worked hard and bought a car where a heater was a standard feature, you'd derive more satisfaction from telling people this than the heat it actually generated. Old cars and heaters don't mix, despite the fact that as a general rule they tend to overheat.



4. Fuel for Thought

Old cars, like grandparents, smell. Classic car enthusiasts like to turn this into a source of reverie ("Ah! Do I detect the delicate scent of Mobil 20/50!?") but that's putting a positive spin on an unavoidable fact. The faint whiff off fuel and oil is part of the classic car experience - just be glad most of us have stopped smoking.






5. More Leaks Than WikiLeaks

There's a good reason why classic car enthusiasts judge fellow fans on their attitude towards top up/top down motoring.  The rule states that a Proper Enthusiast always drives top down.  It's not masochism, it's practical sense: top up or top down, in most British classic cars you'll get just as wet.







We spend 120 hours a week maintaining our classic car hire fleet so that they'll deliver over 1,000 miles a week of reliable motoring.  But there are some innate old car characteristics that we'll never quite overcome.  To find out more visit www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733.

To help customers make the most of their classic car experiences, Great Escape Cars has produced a series of films explaining the characteristics of old cars.  Click on the link below to view them.



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Great Escape Cars - four exclusive ways to drive your dream from just £29.








A Very British Day Out


Britain doesn't really get more British than Blenheim Palace and Oxford's dreaming spires. Although perhaps adding eight British classic cars to the mix does up the Anglophile ante somewhat.  Risking a Blighty Burnout, that is exactly what we did when a client asked us to put together a road trip for some American customers.
The high end event started in Oxford city centre at rush hour and travelling to Blenheim Palace for a tour of the grounds. Despite the short drive, the event's logistics were complex - it's not possible to load or unload cars in Oxford city centre and parking restrictions are severe.  So we used our trucks to deliver the cars outside the city limits and our staff shuttled them into a nearby car park on the evening before the event.  We then moved them into position just in time for the start.
Here's the story of the day....

Oh, and the Saab? Not exactly British but the client made a special request...




We run more classic car corporate events than anyone else.  To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit www.greatescapecars.co.uk. 






The roads less travelled

Driving used to be a lot of fun.  Perhaps that was because cars were slower and smaller.  Or, more likely, there were a lot less of them. At Great Escape Cars, where celebrating old cars seems to go hand in hand with rediscovering the fun in driving, we make it our job to find the roads less travelled. The highways and byways where adventure begins.

Redditch, our home, may not seem like the most obvious place to begin a quest for great driving roads.  But, strangely, it really is.  We're on the edge of the Cotswolds and within sight of the Welsh Borders.  So we've been doing quite a lot of this road-finding thing, which has resulted in our very popular one-day Road Trips. But temptation has beckoned and we feel the need to go further, for longer...

Say hello, therefore, to our Driving Tours. Take the proven formula from our Road Trips and stretch it over 2 days and twice the distance - up to 400 miles.  With more time we're able to take customers much further off the beaten track and further away from the traffic.  It feels like a winning formula.

We've created two Driving Tours - the contrasting Hills & Villages Tour through the Cotswolds and Welsh Borders and Destination Evo, our quest to find and drive the legendary Evo Triangle.  You can find out more here.  

Each Driving Tour puts you and your passenger behind the wheel of 5 classic cars over a long two-day route.  Refreshments, lunch, breakfast, fuel and insurance are all included, together with the usual back up from our support crew. The routes are hand-picked to show you some great scenery and brilliant driving roads - and we supply in-car maps and programmed satnavs.

Places on the new tours are very limited and likely to book up fast.  To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit www.greatescapecars.co.uk.

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Great Escape Cars
www.greatescapecars.co.uk
01527 893733