Is it just me, or has it perhaps gotten slightly out of hand with us dedicating a day to just about anything nowadays? Okay, so Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are no doubt a pleasant tradition. But what’s the deal with Dress up your Pet Day, Pancake Day, Pink Shirt Day and similar? Perhaps a tad hyped… But how about Drive-it Day? Now that of course is a totally different matter! What a thoroughly fabulous idea…
So, it is of course lucky for me and every other classic car enthusiast out there, that the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs host exactly such a day every spring. The main objective is quite frankly for all of us to get those wonderful classics out of our garages, barns and lock-ups, and drive them as they were meant to be. In doing so, a by-product of the day is of course sharing our classics with the rest of the world, and as such creating positive awareness of our hobby, and not least the vast industry which supports our hobby. This years Drive-it Day was planned on Sunday the 23rd of April, where a wide variety of car clubs throughout the UK had organised their own regional or local events. I found myself tempted by an invite from Hagerty Classic Car Insurance UK, and promptly signed up for their drive with my ’73 BMW 2002.
At 8am on the Sunday morning, the limited-to-100 participating classics assembled at Towcester Racecourse which was built in 1928 under direction of Lord Hesketh. There was great variety among the participating classics, with everything from a pre-war Alvis 12/50 with leather clad bodywork right through to a Chevrolet Corvair Corsa. We were treated to a rally-prepped Saab 96, the bizarre but oh-so-cool René Bonnet Djet, a breath-taking Lancia Flaminia 3c GTL, several of yesteryears daily hero’s such as Vauxhall Viva and Fiat 600, a Nippon icon in the form of a stunning Datsun 240Z, a minuscule Berkeley B95 and even the rare 80’s futuristic-concept-turned-production-roadster BMW Z1. Hagerty provided us all with a roadbook, and even a cup of coffee while each of us ensured our Drive-it Day 2017 rally plate was proudly fixed to the front of our classic.
None other than Barrie ‘Whizzo’ Williams was there to flag us off one at a time on the 80-mile tour along scenic and twisty country roads, passing several historic places of interest such as the impressive Stowe House and the mystic Rollright Stones. The wonderfully engaging backroads were a real joy as they lead us west into the gorgeous Cotswolds. Despite being sent off one at a time, small groups of three to six cars were quickly formed as we cruised through the landscape. We found ourselves constantly passing other classics too, which weren’t even on the Hagerty tour, as plenty of enthusiasts were out and about with their pride and joy on this beautifully sunny Sunday. Approximately half way through the drive, the Daylesford Farmshop & Café offered the perfect setting for a little pitstop. Their cosy courtyard was our resting place while we enjoyed a piece of cake with either a cup of coffee or tea, while we all exchanged automotive stories from the good old days. Back on the road, the route now turned southbound to the idyllic medieval town of Burford, and then east passing Blenheim Palace on our way to Bicester Heritage where the drive finished.
Bicester Heritage is a true cornucopia of all things vintage and classic cars! Set in the historic buildings and hangars of the 348 acre 1920’s RAF Bomber Station, the whole place just oozes history and authenticity. Filling those buildings and hangars with classic car dealers, restoration specialists, storage facilities and the like certainly only adds to the appeal. To further establish Bicester Heritage as an epicentre for all things classic cars, the charismatic surroundings are also used for a variety of meets and events. Among them are three annual Sunday Scrambles, of which their second one was very conveniently planned for this specific Sunday. The number of classics attending was quite frankly astonishing, as I struggled to comprehend the sensory overload I was experiencing. I’m unable to put an exact number on it, but I’m certainly not exaggerating if I say that there were more than a 1000 classics parked up on the grass field lining one side of the old runway. Rare and stunning classics everywhere for us to dream and drool over! Should I walk right first and then left? Or left first and then right? Or perhaps just in circles?
A blue Vauxhall Firenza 2300 with fetching 70’s stripes down the flanks was the first eyecandy which stopped me in my tracks. A Ginetta G21 is also not something you see particularly often. A big group of straight-6 Triumph saloons immediately sent me down Memory Lane, while eight sexy Lancia Beta Montecarlo’s next to them brutally yanked me away from memories of what had been and directly into dreams of what could be. As I weaved through small enclaves of enthusiasts picnicking between their cars, I was gob-smacked first as I came across an awe-inspiring Frazer Nash Targa Florio, and then again as I took in the exquisite lines of a light blue pre-war Lancia Augusta. It didn’t stop there either – Sunbeam Tiger, Corvette Stingray, Daimler SP250 and even a grand and very aeronautically-inspired Bristol 405 Saloon. As is always the case for me, I was ultimately unable to resist a huge group of BMW’s from the BMW Car Club, although there were really way too many modern BMW’s there for my liking. However, I quickly forgave them simply due to the presence of what was then the fastest 4-door production saloon in the world – the 330HP brutal Alpina B7S Turbo from ’81. Having three amazing 3.0 CSL’s parked up together was rather impressive too…
People started departing Bicester Heritage around 4pm, at which point I found myself deeply engaged in conversation about originality with Lee Morand, who had recently finished the restoration of his white BMW 2002tii. Eventually though my co-driver, Bill Douglas, and I got away and headed north in my red 2002. I dropped off Bill at his home, and then continued up through the picturesque Peak District as dusk came on. As I again – exhausted but also thoroughly delighted – parked up my classic BMW in the garage, we had managed to cover a respectable 400 miles since we had departed early that same day. If the objective of the day was to drive, well that’s certainly what we did! For me, these kinds of days represent the undiluted essence of classic car ownership.
But wherein do you find the most joy from classic car ownership? Is it like me when you are behind the steering wheel – be that a little local Sunday blast or a massive trans-European roadtrip? Is it when you’re getting oil under your nails while tinkering away and improving your classic in the garage? Or perhaps it’s when cotton buds, fibre cloths and carnauba wax are preparing your pride and joy for its next concours appearance? Luckily there are numerous ways of enjoying our mutual love and appreciation of classic cars. Share with us which is your favourite?