Sunday 28th April better known as the UK wide ‘Drive It Day’, a dedicated day of the year to celebrate and raise awareness of the extensive and important ownership of classic vehicles within the UK.
Enthusiasts up and down the country take to the tarmac in their pride and joys, either to simply enjoy a blast around their favourite roads or to join up with their chosen club and head to one of the countless events that are held on this special Sunday.
Once again I returned to Bicester Heritage for their quarterly Sunday Scramble event fittingly re-named for the occasion. This incredible venue and renowned event has only gone upwards from its inception and April’s event was no exception, becoming the first Scramble event to entirely sell out of tickets! The technical site grounds saw 1,500 historic vehicles line the road ways and grass verges with stand out examples at every turn, the spirit of the Scramble saw competition spec Porsche 911’s nestle in alongside immaculate MK1 Golfs, as well as hundreds more head turning greats of the motoring world.
The event certainly represented the true nature of Drive It Day with such an eclectic array of cars. And it wasn’t just in the grounds that the eye was drawn, 28 different car clubs attended the event, filling the outer courtyards and the airstrip with the most astonishing pick and mix of vehicles you could imagine. A veritable pack of beastly Detomaso Pantera’s were a personal highlight with the most unlikely of neighbours, the Fiat 500 club. It is only when you put all of these enthusiasts and manufacturers together that you really begin to see the scope of classic car ownership.
For this Scramble I wanted to see more than just the public view of the event so I got in contact with a number of the specialist business’ that make their home in the heritage site. With so many different companies in the site, ranging from classic car sales to vintage tyre sales it comes as no surprise that the Scramble events hold different meanings for each. I spoke with Harry Fraser of Harry Fraser’s Vehicle Upholstery, a truly wonderful leap back in time. A workshop brimming with stacks of the finest leather giving off its distinctive rich aroma conjures up memories of smokey bars and comfy chesterfield sofas. Harry utilises historic techniques and tools to guarantee a period accurate finish. When I ask Harry about what the Sunday Scramble means to him and the business he laughs gently before saying, “after getting over the initial panic and need to tidy up, as well as the getting up early on a Sunday morning, I start to look over the new products that I can put out and demonstrate to the visitors.” he then goes on to say that the most important thing about the event for him is the exposure that it brings. Because he has been on the site for 5 and a half years now means that he “always wants to show something new and interesting, showing a product and technique on the day that really shows my skill set.” Harry has been happy to see an increasing number of his customers contact him to ask to display their cars and his craftsmanship outside the shop on the day, although he did add that, “the opportunity for a prime parking space also sweetens the deal.”
Pendine Classics is a specialist in the sale of historic road and track cars and can be guaranteed to put on a mouth watering and wallet twitching selection of some of the finest post war to 70’s vehicles. Notable of late being the infamous ‘Hairy Canary’ and the exquisite 1952 Jaguar C-Type both now sadly sold. I spoke with James Mitchell about what the Scramble means to Pendine Classics.
“It’s two fold really” he begins, “firstly it is a great way for us to share our passion for these rare cars as well giving the visitors the chance to see them, seeing as they are usually hidden away.” of course these cars aren’t just there for their aesthetic value although I always consider it a privilege to get to witness these machines. They’re all for sale and James goes on to tell me what a fantastic opportunity the events offer. “The Sunday Scramble gives a great opportunity for a kind of open day, if we have people interested in the cars we can give them tickets and they can come and see the cars in person.” However, the event isn’t just business for the team at Pendine Classics, they all have a love for cars and always enjoy the opportunity to explore and see the wide breadth of owners and machines that the Sunday Scramble brings out.
An interesting angle was brought to light when talking to Ewen Getley who operates Kingsbury Racing Shop Ltd, a workshop for all vintage Bentley restoration, preparation and servicing. Ewen is located in building 99 which sits near the centre of the grounds and attracts hundreds of visitors during the Scramble. Ewen tells me much like Harry Fraser that the biggest thing about the event is the publicity but Ewen also explains that it’s more than that, “I’m here most days but I’m on site for the event for 7 hours and I spend most of that time just talking to people that come into the workshop.” he continues by saying, “it’s a very intelligent crowd, it’s not just the same old questions, people have a genuine interest and as an engineer it’s nice to have conversation with those people.”
I ask Ewen if he sees an increase in interest or work from the events to which he responds, “it’s impossible to judge, with such a broad church of people visiting some people might buys cars but most just want to talk” and this is where Ewen really sums up why the Sunday Scramble and for that matter Bicester Heritage is so important. He explains that “I’ve never liked museums, they’re so dull. People get to see a living museum here, a hidden industry that is still very much alive.” “It’s introducing people to the world of classic cars, one chap visited on a Scramble who had never owned a classic car, he went away interested by the idea. Next time I saw him he had bought a Gullwing Mercedes!” Not bad for a first foray into classic cars! Although Ewen remarks, “he did sell a very good business for it!” Of that I certainly have no doubt. Finally Ewen finishes up by saying that, “there’s a real importance of seeing working workshops and that kids get to see the process, then they can go and see the heritage skills academy courses and away they go.”
What chatting to Ewen really cemented for me was what these specialists mean for the classic car community and to the UK. Having places like Bicester Heritage and events like the Sunday Scramble shines a light on an industry that has been forgotten by many, it shows people the extent of what being passionate about cars is all about and what a fantastic community it is to be a part of. Not to mention the fact that we are fortunate in the UK to be blessed with some of the finest engineers, craftsmen and women that all strive to keep our automotive history alive and kicking.
If you want to get in contact with any of the specialist business at Bicester Heritage a full directory can be found on their website with all the relevant contact information. Don’t forget to check out their social media feeds to keep you up to date on whats on when, there’s certainly some incredible events still to come! Follow the individual business’ for the latest news and updates on their work as well as pictures of beautiful cars, and that’s something we can all enjoy!
Words and photos: Thomas Jukes