The Worst of BL Advertising

In the 1970s and 1980s British Leyland were, as we all know, in a bad way.  The products were rubbish, the quality abysmal and the new Common Market was introducing us all to exotica like the Renault 14.  And yet it is when things look bleaker than bleak that The Marketing Men very often come into their own.  Think Hoover in the 1990s (free flights for all!).  Or, as it turned out, BL in the 70s.

Back in those simpler times BL's marketing men were drunk on the new world of mass media and communications.  This was an era when it was far more important - and fun - to separate the facts from the joy of words and images. And so they did.  I grudgingly admire the BL marketing men for their ability to put a positive spin on such mediocrity. So here are their worst - or best efforts from that bygone era.

However bad some of these adverts were, it hasn't stopped us putting BL products on our classic hire fleet.  Over the years we've had several of them and right now 70% of our fleet is BL-derived.  Not bad for a bad company.

1. Austin Allegro: It's British

It's hard to believe now but Allegro was initially pitched as a sophisticated car for Europe.  It wasn't even a sophisticated car for Longbridge let alone Loret de Mar.

And so the marketing men set to work, seemingly oblivious to what everyone else in Europe knew, including the British - that even before the Allegro arrived British cars were woeful compared to their European counterparts.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this advert is that the marketeers decided the best way to show the car was actually in Europe was by setting it beside a fruit and veg market.  Fresh fruit and veg being anathema to most 70s British homes.  With good reason of course.

2. Austin Maestro: The Miracle 

By the time the Maestro arrived, British Leyland needed a miracle.  That the word was being in-canted around Grosvenor House and Longbridge in frenzied tones can be the only explanation for the bizarre launch of the Maestro. There was nothing miraculous about the Maestro, except that it seemed to have arrived from another era, specifically 1974. Dated, ugly and about as me-too a car as any manufacturer has dared to produce, it took Runner Up as its raison d'etre. 

3. Morris Marina: the workhorse

Instead of being honest and telling the world that the Marina was a simple, basic saloon with all the style of a Maris Piper potato, British Leyland tried to convince us that it was beautiful and durable. Hence this advert, which attempted to take the sting out of having to trawl Britain's fledgling motorway network in pursuit of photocopier sales by suggesting that, from the wheel of a Morris Marina, this forlorn prospect looked much more enticing.  It didn't.  It looked less enticing.  If that's possible.

4. Jaguar E Type: the saloon car

Nine inches is not a lot.  It's certainly a lot less space than the average person needs to sit down.  And yet, when Jaguar dropped an extra 9 inches into the wheelbase of the Jaguar E Type to create the 2+2 it seemed convince it was. Because the 2+2 E Type was meant to seat four in comfort.  The bench seat's low back, narrow squab and non-existent legroom certainly stretched the concept of 'comfort'. And yet it didn't stop BL's eagle-eyed marketeers spotting an opportunity and, as here, suggesting that the E Type was now a 'sedan'.  

5. Triumph TR7: the budget Ferrari

For a time in the 70s and 80s car marketeers latched onto the idea that they could sell cheap cars more easily by pretending they were cut price versions of much more expensive ones.  Virtually every car maker south of Porsche tried it, but BL turned it into an art form. As here, where the not-so-subtle implication is that a red sports car with the 4 cylinder engine out of a Triumph Dolomite, is comparable in all but price to a low volume V12 Ferrari, which is also red. This ploy of course cleverly avoided having to compare cars like the TR7 against their actual rivals.  Which might not have played quite so well.


You can hire our 20-strong classic car fleet by the hour or day or on one of our classic road trips.  Find out more at or call 01527 893733. 

Black Friday Driving Deals

Like most things in life, what started as a simple idea has quickly become, well, less simple.  I'm talking about Black Friday.  The name is fairly definitive - it's about Friday. Except, a couple of years after this American institution crossed the Atlantic, it's now about a more than just Friday.  In fact, most Black Friday sales in 2017 are running for a week.

At Great Escape Cars we like nothing better than a bandwagon to jump on.  And so we have. We've launched our own Black Friday Deals today. They run until Sunday 26th November (of course they do) and they represent our best discounts of 2017. 

Although we miss the simple days of Black Fridays that were actually only held on Fridays, specifically the one after Thanksgiving (you know, the American holiday we don't have here), we have to admit that if extending the deal period means more people can save more money, then really it can;t actually be that bad.  Certainly not as bad as starting Christmas promotions in, say, September.

Our Black Friday Deals give you 25% off our Jaguar Driving Day, Morgan Factory Tour and Half Day Road Trips - a saving of up to £100.

So, bandwagon or not, you can now save on our most popular products for longer.  You can do that by clicking here and buying online or by phone on 01527 893733.

01527 893733

Driven by you: your favourite classic hire cars of 2017

We think we've found Britain's most popular classic cars of 2017.  Because we've continuously refined our classic hire fleet to only include the most popular classic cars, we think their utilisation is a fairly accurate reflection of the UK's favourite classics. 

We've ranked the five most popular cars based on mileage - the more miles, the more popular they must surely be.  All figures are based on our normal hire season of March to October 2017.  

5. Ford Capri - 7,500 miles per year

When we first put a Capri on our fleet in 2010 we could hardly give hires away.  Not so now - the car you always promised yourself is enjoying its golden period.  What was once a £1,000 car is now a £10,000 car and understandably so - the warbly V6 is a joy, the looks are great and it's an Old Skool rear wheel drive Ford.  We love it.

Hire it from £39 for 60 minutes. 

4. Jaguar Mk2 - average 9,000 miles per car

Whether your introduction to the Mk2 was via the Great Train Robbery or Inspector Morse, it remains one of the most charismatic and stylish saloon cars of the last 50 years.  Its enduring popularity is down to that style and heritage, plus its practicality and performance.

Hire it from £49 for 60 minutes.

3. Jaguar XJS - average 9,400 miles per car

It may surprise many to see the ugly duckling Jaguar right up near the top of this list, but not us at Great Escape Cars.  We've watched demand for this smooth GT escalate over the past couple of years - not only in our hire business but also through our workshop too. The XJS is a brilliant long distance cruiser and well deserves the love it is beginning to receive. 

2. Jensen Interceptor - 12,000 miles

Who knew that West Bromwich's finest could actually deliver 1,500 miles a month reliably and regularly?  It turns out that, if maintained and sorted correctly, the big GT with a reputation for catastrophic unreliability can do exactly that.  It achieves second spot here on its looks, burbling V8 and jet-set 70s image.

Hire it from £49 for 60 minutes.

1. Jaguar E Type - average 15,000 miles per car

It's hardly a surprise to discover the E Type tops the list - it's regularly voted Britain's best loved classic.  But when you discover we need three E Types to meet demand  - and each one has racked up around 15,000 miles in 8 months, you begin to see how far ahead of the competition it is.  The E Type is a true icon - beautiful, fast and still a real experience to drive.

Hire it from £69 for 60 minutes. 

Our fleet of 20 classic cars are available to hire by the hour, day or on one of our popular road trips.  To find out more visit or call 01527 893733.

01527 893733

Put some bandit in your life

We envy Burt Reynolds, racing across the country in his Trans Am without a care in the world. The trouble is, modern life isn't quite so carefree anymore - today Burt would be completing his road trip in a Prius and all references to Smokey would be removed.

And yet, we all need a bit of Burt's joie de vivre in our lives, even in today's straightened times.  Hence our road trips.  They've been hugely popular because they're all about hitting the road for the sheer fun of it. And, you'll be glad to learn, no moustache is required. So popular have they proved, in fact, that we're now introducing a half day version.  The same simple idea - hit the road in a range of classics - but over four hours instead of the full eight.

Our half day road trips are designed to suit enthusiasts who have less time to spare and want to spend less money on the experience.  Prices start at just £149 for drivers and £225 for our popular Driver+Passenger combination, which are ideal gifts to share. That includes the chance to drive three classic cars - including Jaguar E Type and Mk2, Triumph TR6 and Austin Healey - plus refreshments, fuel and insurance are all included.  Places are strictly limited to 10 people per event.

There are two new half day routes available - the Cotswolds Circuit and the Malvern Loop. You can book online or call 01527 893733 to find out more.  Vouchers are available for our half day tours online or by phone and are valid for a full 12 months.

To find out more click here or call 01527 893733.

01527 893733

New event film: a classic Cotswolds tour

This summer we worked with a corporate client to create a two day tour of the Cotswolds in 11 of our cars.  Here's the story. 

We run corporate events for groups from 4 to 140.  To find out more click here.

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Christmas is a time to share

Given the choice, all of us - with the obvious exception of Ranulph Fiennes or Ellen McArthur - like to take the easy route.  So when you've got the chance to buy one Christmas gift that can be shared between two, obviously that feels like a win-win.  Because, of course, it is.

The trouble with this 'one size fits two' philosophy is that the gifts on offer for sharing often stretch the concept of sharing.  Like a spa weekend - lovely if lounging in a sauna is your thing, less so if you prefer watching football.  Likewise, the perennial Christmas sharing backstop - the hamper.  Lots to enjoy for one person, never quite enough to satisfy two.  Unless one person has a penchant for quince jelly and coffee creams.

At Great Escape Cars we don't think anyone should be left with the orange creme of life.  So when we devised Christmas gifts to share we wanted them to be enjoyed equally by both people.  Say hello to our classic road trips.

Since we hire out classic cars the fundamental 'car-based' nature of our road trips is hard to avoid.  So if someone you know loves driving and cars, consider that a box ticked.  But we haven't just stopped there.  For the less car orientated partner or friend we've developed the format to give them a great day out too.  Because each of our road trip routes involves stunning scenery, open top cars, lunch and great company.  We think that works for both people - but don't just take our word for it, watch our film to see what our customers say.

There are six unique road trips and they're all available for drivers and passengers as two-person packages. You can choose a voucher for any one of them or a general voucher covering them all.  All vouchers are valid for 12 months.  Prices are just £399 for two people.  Click on the logo below to find out more.

You can buy all of our vouchers online or call 01527 893733 for more details. 


01527 893733

Say no to festive jumpers this year

Christmas, a time of rejoicing, eating and trying to find something to buy someone who says they don't want anything.  

A whole industry has developed around the thorny issue of trying to buy something for someone - and it's usually a man - who has no obvious need for it.  The answer, it would seem, is either a festive pyjama set, a hand-tooled business card holder or a hat that also serves beer through a straw.  It's not exactly the stuff of dreams.

Into that industry of gifts for those who are very hard to buy for rides Great Escape Cars.  We don't do 'things' we do 'experiences.'  If the words experience conjurs up a 20 minute session in a clapped out Ferrari around a windswept race track somewhere in Nottinghamshire, then we hope we can surprise you.  Our classic car driving experiences put the person you know and love behind the wheel of their dream car on proper roads.  And they can enjoy it with you, their family or friends.

Great Escape Cars provides four ways to get behind the wheel, with prices starting at just £29.  They're all available as vouchers and all valid for 12 months.

All of our vouchers are available to buy online - or by calling 01527 893733. 

Drive 5 Cars on 1 Great Day

Get behind the wheel of 5 classics on a road trip through the Cotswolds, Wales, Forest of Dean or Welsh Borders - or visit the Morgan Factory en route.  Our road trips can be enjoyed singly or as a couple.  Prices start at £249pp. Find out more

Get a Taster

Let someone you know enjoy their favourite classic car without breaking the bank.  Our Classic Tasters start at £29 and provide 60 minutes driving time on open roads, which can be enjoyed with family and friends. 

Drive it for the Day

If only one car will do then our 20 strong hire fleet is available to hire by the day.  Prices start at just £95 and there is a choice of everything from Minis to E Types, 1950s classics to 1980s coupes. 

Two Day Driving Tours

Turn a driving experience gift into a short break with our unique Two Day Tours.  Choose between the Black Mountain Run and Destination Evo.  Places are strictly limited but we promise a trip to remember. 


Graham Eason
01527 893733

It's time to say XJ Yes

History has not been kind to the Jaguar XJS.  Rather like Bryan Adam's earworm Everything I Do, I Do It For You, its very success - it easily outsold the E Type for example - has done nothing to bring it in from the classic car cold.

For a lot of enthusiasts the car represents all that was wrong with Jaguar in the 70s.  As a replacement for the E Type, the XJS suffers by comparison. Where the earlier car has a hewn-from-stone, fully realised simplicity, the XJS, at least initially, seemed to be less than the sum of its disparate parts.  The buttresses, borrowed from the Ferrari Dino, the low rent XJ saloon-derived interior and the bulbous headlamps all suggested a car developed by too many people over too long a time.  And, in fairness, that was the reality.

And yet, look past all that and the XJS was and is a highly competent grand tourer.  Where the Mercedes SL was heavy, squat, stripped out and bland, the XJS had a magic carpet ride, decent handling, distinctive styling and practicality.  Plus that superlative V12 engine.  Those qualities are what I think make the XJS perhaps one of the best classic cars you can buy - and they're bargains.

Launch & Development

The XJS' development was delayed due to the usual British Leyland machinations, finally appearing a full 9 years after the XJ6, on which it is heavily based. The aim was to create a proper GT car for the American market that would be relatively cheap to produce - using shared components - but sold at a high price. Where the E Type was a car in search of a market, the XJS was the result of market research, focus groups and bean counting.

Despite all that, and the inclusion of the brilliant V12 engine, sales were poor. By the mid-70s Jaguar's reputation was on the floor and the XJS' looks, price and standard auto gearbox alienated customers hoping to trade in their E Types. By the late 70s it was virtually dead in the water, with a mere trickle of sales - in 1980 just over 1,000 XJS' left the factory.

An inspired rethink by Jaguar saved the car from the gallows.  Keen to fatten the company up for sale, Jaguar took its meagre war chest and titivated the XJS.  Quality improvements and the introduction of the (relatively) fuel efficient V12 HE engine were followed by a 3.6 litre straight six version then a cabriolet and finally a full convertible.  By the late 1980s the XJS had been made over, a dusting of chrome and wood veneer finishing off the showroom tinsel.

Repositioning the XJS for the golf club and gin-n-tonic set was a masterstroke.  So much so that when Ford bought Jaguar in 1989 it quickly shelved the well-advanced plans for the car's replacement. Under the Blue Oval's ownership the car received another shot of adrenaline with a well-executed facelift that saw it receive new engines and survive until 1996. After 21 years and 115,413 cars, the XJS had significantly outsold and outlived the E Type (72,515 sales and 12 years).

The fundamental 'rightness' of the XJS probably explains why its basic architecture underpins the later XK8, even surviving two iterations of its successor.


The XJS has a contrary place in Jaguar's history. It doesn't look like a traditional Jaguar in the MK2, XJ or E Type mould, and yet arguably it is the last 'proper' Jaguar before Ford took over. As such it drives superbly, the balance of ride and handling rarely surpassed by contemporary or even modern cars. Smooth is the word.

The XJS' V12 engine is often overlooked despite this being the only mass produced 12 cylinder engine of modern times. If it was under the bonnet of a Ferrari it would be held up as a national treasure.  Because this really is one of the world's greatest engines - ultra smooth, effortlessly quick and a revelation to anyone who has previously made do with 4, 6 or 8 cylinders. The straight six engines are impressive but it is the V12 that pushes the XJS into a class of its own.

There is real sense of occasion with a XJS - it's long and low and you sit in it rather than on it, the view our along the bonnet not quite E-Type-esque but not far off. This is an extremely relaxing and quiet car to drive and one that effortlessly munches miles. 1980s cars are well equipped, with cruise control and heated seats alongside the obligatory 'trip computer.'

The XJS' demerits are chiefly around the interior, which never really improved throughout the car's life.  The dashboard is slim to the point of invisibility and the instrument cowl on all but the final cars is about as low rent as they come.  That aside, the three speed auto is probably the car's biggest failing - it is a poor match for any of the engines, particularly the V12, and blunts what would otherwise be a fine drivers car.

Which One To Choose

There are essentially three periods of XJS - early, mid-period and late models. The early cars are getting rare and are prized for their purity and scarcity.  But lined up alongside later cars, this really is the only reason to love them - the Federalised bumpers are ungainly and the interiors spartan.

Mid period cars gain wood, chrome and significant improvements in build quality, plus the choice of cabriolet or convertible bodies. 1990s cars have the best build quality and many prefer the smoothed off styling to the earlier cars - it has certainly stood the test of time.  The interiors are also better, with more wood and proper dials replacing the earlier vacuum-operated gauges.

Which era you choose will be down to personal preference and your priorities - straight six cars are more economical and just as quick as the V12 - but obviously less refined - while later cars are better built and more luxurious.

There were three body styles - coupe, convertible and cabriolet.  The cabriolet was made between 1982 and 1987 - less than 5,000 were sold - and available as a V12 or 3.6 straight six.  Although the roof is targa-style rather than a proper convertible, this does mean the car is a proper four seater. The convertible, launched in 1987, is a fully realised drop top with excellent electric hood.  Both inevitably suffer from scuttle shake that detracts from the XJS' otherwise excellent road manners.

Five XJS engine variants were available - 5.3 litre V12, 5.3 litre V12 HE, 3.6 straight six, 4 litre straight six and 6 litre V12. The 3.6 is relatively unrefined for a Jaguar engine and so the least loved.  The 4 litre is an excellent and long-lived unit and the V12 is superlative.


Jaguar made a lot of XJS' and a lot have survived. The car's long production run means that the first cars qualify for the MOT exemption while the last ones aren't even rated as classics yet. So there should be a car out there for virtually any budget or preference.

A word of caution, however.  The XJS, like the Jensen Interceptor before it, has languished in the budget classic arena for a long time.  It's only just beginning to surface.  This means that there are still a lot of unloved and under-invested cars out there - these are complicated cars that need love and attention.  Due to their low values, they haven't always got it.

Here's our quick buying checklist:

  • Look at lots of cars before committing  
  • Get a feel for condition and common problems by talking to owners
  • The V12 is bulletproof but requires pin-sharp servicing so make sure it's happened. Two of the spark plugs are hard to reach so often don't get replaced
  • Jaguar made lots of paint and trim combinations, not all of them pleasant to modern eyes
  • XJS' rust - check the sills, wheel arches and floors in particular; but the later the car, the better the rustproofing
  • The electrics are notorious - not everything will work but check that what you want to work does
  • Wood veneers delaminate and are expensive to replace
  • Avoid modified cars
  • Manual cars are rare and sought after but the shift is not good and replacing the clutch can be expensive
  • These are heavy cars so the suspension can suffer - the car should ride smoothly and sharply, if not it will need attention
  • The handbrake is inboard and prone to wear - replacement is an expensive task so check it works
The XJS' marmite looks are definitely mellowing with age and its unique position as an affordable, high performance grand tourer is finally nudging up values.  Few other classic coupes or convertibles deliver its combination of sheer usability for the same price.


Even an early XJS is the sort of car you can enjoy all year round, rather than just as a Sunday morning tourer. They're reliable and spares are generally plentiful - but that is changing rapidly as more cars are restored.

Parts prices are increasingly going the way of all Jaguar parts - namely upwards - and some new parts are hard to source.  For parts suppliers the XJS is still in no-man's-land with not all having woken up to the latent demand.  This will change but means certain items that are unique to the XJS are not always readily available or only available second hand.  The car's longevity and regular changes in specification don't help here because it makes some parts uneconomic to remanufacture.  For example, there were at least two types of bonnet gas struts used - one pair costs £15, the other £200.

The XJS' usability probably determines which one you choose - the V12s are inevitably thirsty while the later cars are better built and more economical. But they all deliver the unique Jaguar experience - smooth, svelte and effortless.

Our Experience

At Great Escape Cars we run two XJS' V12s on our hire fleet - both 1980s cars, a coupe and a convertible.  We've restored both cars at various times - experience that we've begun to put to use for customers - we're seeing increasing numbers of XJS' come to us for restoration work.

Our hire cars cover 5,000-10,000 miles a year and these are the main issues we've experienced:

  • The V12 is very reliable but needs regular servicing and careful attention to the coolant mix
  • They rot - arches, sills, rainwater channels, even the chrome bumpers
  • Headlights discolour and can be expensive to replace
  • The electrics are notorious - cruise control,. trip computer, wing mirrors, windows, seats, dashboard lights, all play up
  • Handbrakes need constant attention - they are fiddly to operate and can burn out within 100 yards if inadvertently left on
  • Wood veneer trim deteriorates quickly
  • Headlinings sag and are expensive and complicated to fix - usually require the windscreen to be removed
  • The auto boxes are very robust but not well suited to the V12
  • Lattice effect alloy wheels easily discolour
  • Suspension suffers - ball joints and wheel bearings
  • Steering rack has failed plus associated power steering issues
  • Head gasket failure at 110,000 miles on one car - replacement engine sourced for £1,500
Our cars are maintained by our workshop -  For more advice on buying a XJS or to discuss restoring one call 01527 893733 or email


01527 893733