Emma Loughlin

A night at the museum for the 5th Dronfield Hilltop Cubs

Thirty-two 8-11 year-olds from the 5th Dronfield Hilltop Cubs had a sleepover with a difference recently. They had a night at the museum!

Thirty-two 8-11 year olds from the 5th Dronfield Hilltop Cubs had a sleepover with a difference recently. They had a night at the museum!

Great British Car Journey, the award-winning classic car museum in Ambergate, Derbyshire, hosted the pack for a very special, action-packed sleepover.

Assistant Cub Scout Leader and organiser Chris Smith explained: “Last September I appealed for Cub Sleepover ideas and got some great responses and Great British Car Journey came up trumps! The pack had an absolutely brilliant time. It was the perfect venue for a sleepover.”

Ahead of bedding down for the night amongst the museum’s classic cars, the Cubs enjoyed a range of activities, including rides in the Rolls-Royce (Jam Roll) which once belonged to Lord Baden Powell, the founder of the Scouting Movement.

The Cubs arrived at the museum with their sleeping bags once it had closed its doors to the public for the day and left the site before it reopened the next day.

General Manager Ian Gardecki who oversaw the sleepover said: “It was a great fun to host the 5th Dronfield Hilltop Cubs. Despite all the activities and pizza supper, the excitement meant there wasn’t much sleep. I heard reports that some of the Cubs were asleep on the backseat of their parents’ cars before they’d even left our car park the next morning!”

Chris added “The Cubs’ activities included driving an electric car, going out in Baden Powell’s Jam Roll, a 1930s Wolseley and a 1980s Bentley, several different activities in the museum and a workshop session. We finished with our own ‘Pinewood Derby’ races with cars made on a Cub and parent evening the week before and decorated at the sleepover. We couldn’t have asked for better.”

Following the successful event, Great British Car Journey is hoping to welcome other Scout, Girlguiding and Cubs groups who are looking for sleepover with a difference. To find out more, call the Great British Car Journey team on 01773 317243.

Founders Blog: My Missed Weekend of British Car Bliss – Reflections and Celebrations

Missing out on the most bustling weekend in the history of Great British Car Journey was a profound disappointment for me, especially as both days featured events showcasing cars from my home City about which I have become increasingly enthused.

Firstly, I wish to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the passionate Rover and MG owners who graced us with their presence on Saturday. The venue was brimming with the iconic and often overlooked vehicles built at Longbridge and Cowley before the tragic events of April 2005. The fact that so many of these cars have survived is a pretty fair indication of how good they actually were and their exceptional quality. While I cherish my trusty daily drive, a Diesel Rover 75, the allure of taking a spin in an MG ZT, particularly in its V6 iteration, is undeniable. Kudos to Pete Stevens for his outstanding restyling work, transforming these cars from timeless and safe (not a criticism) to hot and desirable. The enduring appeal of models like the ZR stands as a testament to their greatness.

However, despite my eagerness to partake, I found myself unavoidably detained in London due to a scheduled operation planned some months ago. Consequently, I missed out not only on Longships and Octagons but also our Austin Extravaganza, our inaugural “Masters of the Marque Awards Powered by Wera Tools“.

The idea behind this series of events promoted by Great British Car Journey in 2024 is to encourage owners of a single marque to gather together, enjoy the experience and facilities at Great British Car Journey, and celebrate the complete history of whatever marque is highlighted on the day. While predominantly focused on Great British Marques, there are also (in the spirit of the six nations Rugby) events for both French and Italian cars too.

Wera Tools who make some truly amazing, innovative hand tools have generously agreed to sponsor these events so as well as provide nice trophies for the winners. There are also valuable and useful tools to be won by those cars who catch the Judges’ eyes. With upcoming events tailored for both Rover and MG enthusiasts (with Rovers Return – 120 years of Rover on Sunday 12 May and MG Summer Festival on Sunday 14 July), we very much hope that many of Saturday’s guests will make a welcome return soon. Find the complete list of upcoming Master of the Marque events here.

Yesterday, we celebrated the cars which were fortunate to be born Austins including of course Austin Healey, Nash, Princess and other brands full of Austin DNA. A great turn out saw some very worthy winners and I think the great man would have been watching with some satisfaction from a lofty viewpoint. Congratulations to all the winners and I hope to meet and greet you in person as soon as possible. Find the winners here.

This coming Sunday 21 April 2024 marks Drive It Day, and Great British Car Club has planned a great drive out planned featuring a visit to Derbyshire’s only Doubly Thankful village on some amazingly tiny roads. If you don’t know what I am talking about, use Google to find out! It’s not too late to book a space and help raise funds for ChildLine and support the Federation of Historic British Vehicle Clubs who do a great job ensuring that we can go on enjoying our cars. If you are interested in joining us on Drive It Day, either on the drive or in the attraction, there’s plenty on offer – find out more here.

So, despite the decidedly chilly weather, the classic car season is well underway for us. Though unfortunately I won’t be able to drive for a few weeks but I eagerly anticipate my return to Ambergate very soon. 

Lastly, I extend my sincere gratitude to the staff at King Edward VII’s Hospital for their attentive care during my brief stay. To those reading, especially those over 50, I implore you to undergo the annual PSA blood test—it won’t cost you anything and it may just save your life.

Great British Car Journey launches Masters of the Marque Awards

Masters of the Marque powered by Wera Tools awards and prizes

Honouring people who cherish their classic cars, Great British Car Journey has launched its own Masters of the Marque Awards – the classic car industry’s alternative awards.

The awards have been launched in conjunction with Wera Tools UK Ltd, a specialist tool manufacturer based in Derbyshire. The company has been making high quality hand tools packed with innovative features since 1936. 

 “I am delighted to have fellow Derbyshire business Wera Tools UK onboard with our new Masters of the Marque Awards,” said Richard Usher, founder of the awards and the award-winning classic car museum in Ambergate, Derbyshire.

“These awards are purposefully quirky and quite different to anything else in the industry, very like our attraction. I wanted to recognise the thousands of classic car enthusiasts who love their cars, and have personally restored and maintain them at home,” he explained.

Winners of the awards will receive a glass trophy and items from the Wera Tools range worth up to £90. 

Additionally, all visitors to Masters of the Marque events who arrive in a vehicle corresponding with the event marque, will each receive a commemorative metal plaque.

Richard added: “We get such an array of vehicles at our marque-specific events so I was keen not to have specific categories that would limit entrants or, indeed winners. Myself or the team will personally judge all vehicles and decide on which vehicles and their owners stand out to me.”

With the exception of one, there are no set categories, and the awards can only be entered by attending one of Great British Car Journey’s Masters of the Marque events

One of the awards at each event will include the ‘Car We’d Like to Steal’ title. Richard explained: “Whenever we have events in the carpark, the Great British Car Journey team and I find ourselves wandering around the carpark and saying ‘crikey, we’d love to have that in the exhibition’ to each other.”

There are currently a number of Masters of the Marque events scheduled until the end of the year at Great British Car Journey.

14 April                Austin Extravaganza
28 April               Auto Italiane
06 May                Morgans in May (including all niche British sports car marques)
12 May                 Rovers Return – 120 Years of Rover
19 May                 Voitures Francaises
26 May                Spring Mini Day
02 June               A Fiesta of Fords
09 June               Morris Minor Day (open to all Morris’)
23 June               Reliant Regatta
14 July                 MG Summer Festival
18 August            Show Your Rootes  
26 August            Mini 65th Birthday
08 September     A Triumph of Triumphs

“I welcome owners of all cars related to their respective marques to attend. For instance, latterly produced Metros and Maestros don’t bear the Austin badge but they were definitely part of the marque and so are included in the awards,” added Richard.

Entry into the Great British Masters of the Marque in association with Wera Tools is simple; just turn up to the event in a corresponding marque of car. Winners from the above events will be invited to a Grand Celebration at the end of the year to crown an overall winner.

The cost to enter is just £10 per vehicle occupant, which also gives them full access to the museum and its facilities. 

Find out all the details on how to register to attend the Masters of the Marque events and buy discounted advance tickets here

Find out more about our inaugural Austin Extravaganza Masters of the Marque Event powered by Wera Tools here.

Please Vote for us in the Muddy Awards 2024

Great British Car Journey has made it through to the finals for the Best Family Attraction in the Muddy Awards 2024

Thank you to all who took the time and nominated us – we’re thrilled to learn that we’ve now made it through to the finals for the accolade of ‘Best Family Attraction’ in the Muddy Awards 2024.

It means the world to us to be recognised locally in this category. We have worked hard to develop our children’s interactive tour to keep them entertained and learning throughout the attraction. Plus our themed treasure hunts and recent kids go free offers during school holidays. Keep your eyes peeled for new initiatives and introductions specifically for our younger guests!

Now we need your help!

We’d love it if you could now take a moment to vote for us using the following link, before Thursday April 2024: https://nottsderbyshire.muddystilettos.co.uk/awards/vote

It takes just seconds to vote – you do need to remember to verify your vote by clicking the link in the email you will receive after you vote. Thank YOU in advance! 

Great British Car Journey acquires AROnline

Great British Car Journey has acquired the AROnline website from its founder Keith Adams.

AROnline was established in 2001 by Keith and has grown to become regarded as the ultimate resource for fans of British motoring history, boasting nearly 6,000 published articles.

Richard Usher, founder of the museum, commented: “As a classic car authority and renowned journalist, Keith was a terrific help to us four years ago when we were putting Great British Car Journey together. He has been a stalwart supporter of our vision.

“AROnline is a ready-made archive of the history behind the majority of our exhibits, and it is a site I have been visiting for more years than I care to admit. It made absolute sense to acquire the site and give our visitors and club members access to even more of the UK’s very rich automotive history.”

Keith Adams said: “I am delighted that the future of AROnline has been secured and I am pleased to be able to retain control of the past and future content by working with Richard and his team.

“There are no plans to change the website in any material way or introduce any form of subscription charge. It has always been a free resource and the intention is that it stays that way.”

The acquisition of AROnline follows the Autocar deal in 2022, which saw Great British Car Journey secure an agreement to reproduce articles and artwork from the 125-year Autocar magazine archive.

Richard added: “We want Great British Car Journey to become recognised as the authority and place to go for all British motoring history, whether that’s viewing cars, driving them, hanging pictures of them on their wall or, now, reading about them at AROnline.”

Great British Car Journey opened in May 2021 and is a celebration of cars built in Britain. Richard, a lifelong car enthusiast and being born in Birmingham, has a natural affinity with cars built in the Midlands and beyond.

Keith has been similarly car obsessed from a very early age and has had a long journalistic career during which he has written articles for all the leading classic car magazines and is currently editor of Parker’s Guide.

Between them, Richard and Keith have owned more than 500 cars and have an abiding interest in the cars that gave the ordinary family the freedom of the road.

AROnline can continue to be accessed at www.aronline.co.uk.

Great British Car Journey named as one of world’s best auto museums

Research by Auto Trader has revealed that Great British Car Journey is one of the best auto museums in the world.

New research by Auto Trader has revealed that Great British Car Journey is among the top twenty best auto museum experiences in the world.

The research analysed Google review scores and annual global Google searches for over 180 auto museums around the globe. Great British Car Journey in Ambergate and Brooklands Museum are the only two UK car museums to feature in the list.

With an impressive Google review score of 4.8 out of five stars, and 52,800 global searches made for the museum every single year, Great British Car Journey is the 17th most popular and most enjoyable auto museum in the world. 

Top of the list is Gilmore Car Museum in Michigan, USA. Considered to be the largest automobile museum in North America, the Gilmore Car Museum boasts over 400 vintage and collector vehicles. 

World’s Top 20 Best-Rated Auto Museums

RankMuseum NameLocationGoogle Review Score
1Gilmore Car MuseumMichigan, USA4.9
2Nethercutt CollectionCalifornia, USA4.9
3Țiriac CollectionOtopeni, Romania4.9
4Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile MuseumIndiana, USA4.9
5Revs InstituteFlorida, USA4.9
6Museum of American SpeedNebraska, USA4.9
7Automuziejus VilniusVilnius, Lithuania4.9
8The Henry Ford MuseumMichigan, USA4.8
9Brooklands MuseumWeybridge, England4.8
10Lane Motor MuseumTennessee, USA4.8
11Blackhawk Automotive MuseumCalifornia, USA4.8
12Don Garlits Museum of Drag RacingFlorida, USA4.8
13National Automobile MuseumNevada, USA4.8
14Ford Piquette Avenue PlantMichigan, USA4.8
15Malta Classic Car MuseumSt Paul’s Bay, Malta4.8
16Studebaker National MuseumIndiana, USA4.8
17Great British Car JourneyDerbyshire, England4.8
18Rahmi M. Koç MuseumIstanbul, Turkey4.8
19Riga Motor MuseumRiga, Latvia4.8
20Simeone Foundation Automotive MuseumPennsylvania, USA4.8

Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader, commented: “A love of cars can come in all shapes and sizes, whether it’s leasing your dream make and model or learning about the history of cars and specific brands. For those who enjoy delving into the design, engineering and people behind vehicles, we wanted to highlight the wonderful museums around the world offering car lovers the chance to immerse themselves in the automotive space. As a UK company, we are thrilled to see the likes of Brooklands Museum in Weybridge and Derbyshire’s Great British Car Journey putting Britain on the global map.”

As well as having a fantastic collection of more than 150 UK-designed and made classic cars, Great British Car Journey also offers a unique driving experience – Drive Dad’s Car, which recently won silver in the 2024 Visit Peak District and Derbyshire Tourism Awards.

Purchase discounted tickets and find details of opening times for Great British Car Journey here. Or book a Drive Dad’s Car experience here.

Help steer the future of Great British Car Club

If you’re a member of the Great British Car Club (GBCC), then we’d love you to help us steer its future.

Great British Car Club now has more than 600 members and we have decided that it is time to give our members more opportunities to be involved with the club.

At the club’s Annual General Meeting, which is being held at Great British Car Journey on Tuesday 26 March, we are inviting YOU, our members, to elect a committee of 12 who will steer GBCC into the future.

GBCC members can stand for any of the committee positions. As a GBCC committee member you will be required to meet quarterly at Ambergate to discuss club affairs.

Even if you don’t put yourself forward for a position, please do cast your vote at teh AGM. Your votes on the night will be vital to the future of our community.

A number of people have already put themselves forward for positions which are all detailed below:

President  

Role: To attend as many club events as possible and preserve our all inclusive ethos of the club. This means whatever you own and drive, you are welcome to become a member of GBCC. w

Nominee: Richard Usher

Chairman

Role: To steer the committee and build a team which will expand the activities and membership of the club.

Nominee: David Arme

Secretary

Role: To ensure regular communication with all club members and to coordinate all club events and activities. 

Nominee: Adrian Dale

Marketing and Publicity Officer

Role: To publicise the activities of the club to a wider audience with the aim of growing the club and its activities, managing the club website and social media channels.

Nominee: Oliver Hann

Treasurer 

Role: To account for income and expenditure

Nominee: Jane Usher

Events Secretary

To coordinate and organise GBCC presence at external events.

Nominee: Ian Barker

Social Secretary  

Role: To coordinate and organise social gatherings of Club Members away from Ambergate such as visits to local attractions and informal get togethers of Club members.

Nominee: Could this be you?

Touring Assembly Secretary

Role: To organise touring assemblies / weekends  featuring a prescribed route run to MSUK guidelines and permit exemption.

Nominee: Could this be you?

Classic Connections Editor

Role: To oversee and gather content from members for the club’s quarterly magazine Classic Connections.

Nominee: Could this be you?

Modern Classics Officer

Role: To engage with young members and encourage young people to join the classic car movement.  

Nominee: Riley Smith

2 x Committee members without portfolio

Role: To attend Committee meetings and help run club events.  

Nominees: Could this be you?

If you would like more information about the AGM or any of the new committee roles, please email adrian@greatbritishcarjourney.com or richard@greatbritishcarjourney.com or call us on 01773 317243 for a chat.

Introducing the Aston Martin Lagonda to the collection

Aston Martin Lagonda V8

The latest addition to the Great British Car Journey collection, is this amazing 1980 V8 Aston Martin Lagonda.

The launch of the Lagonda in 1976 saw Aston Martin take on Rolls Royce and Bentley in the fast four-seater luxury market.

When it was unveiled at the London Motor Show there was a real sense of excitement with its bold ‘folded paper’ styling being matched by a fully electronic dashboard and control panels which looked as if they had come from a spaceship. Despite a price tag 44 years ago of almost £50,000, the car caused a sensation with nearly 200 deposits were taken at launch. 

However, production was painfully slow as the electronics proved stubbornly unreliable. It was more than a year before Lady Tavistock took delivery of the first customer car, by which time King Charles had already taken a test drive. Some 640 of these cars were made between 1977 and 1990, many being exported to America and the Middle East.

Powered by a 5.4 litre V8 running on Weber carburettors, the Lagonda could reach 60mph in 8.5 seconds and achieve a top speed of 148mph. The Lagonda epitomised the optimism of the late 70s and early 80s – it looked like no other four-seater car and was guaranteed to pull a crowd.

This car was delivered to its first owner by Aston Martin agents: Donaldson and Evans on 1st October 1980. Its last owner loved and looked after the car for more than 30 years and it has only covered a mere 17,000 miles – in remarkable condition for its age.

Designed by William Towns, the distinctive shape divides opinion like Marmite as can be seen here.

One thing is certain – no British company will produce such a distinctive, dramatic and expensive four seater powered by petrol again.

We are grateful to Aston Engineering in Derby for finding this car and helping us recommission her.

Founder’s Blog – Making links with Toyota

As a Derbyshire resident, I have long been aware of Toyota’s presence in the county – since 1989 to be exact!

Recently, I was very privileged to be given a fascinating and enlightening tour of Toyota’s Burnaston Plant by Chris Barrow who has been with the company for many years and is a fellow car-nut. And what a fascinating tour it was.

It seems scarcely possible that it is well over 30 years since the first Carina E rolled off the Derbyshire production line on a site that opened in 1939 as Derby Municipal Airport.

Having been given a comprehensive overview of the environmental challenges facing all vehicle manufacturers, it became very clear that Toyota takes its responsibilities incredibly seriously. The focus on sustainability is relentless and the company’s investment in both electric and hydrogen technology is governed by a real desire to provide the best solution both for the consumer and the planet.

As we examined a cut away version of the Toyota Mirai which is the hydrogen powered executive car on sale in the UK, Chris and I were joined by Rob Gorton who is the senior manager for Corporate Planning and External Affairs.

Soon we boarded another Mirai for a drive around the site and a visit to the main assembly building where Corollas, in both hatch and estate form, come rolling off the line every 88 seconds. This is the longest production line in Europe, and watching the line move between all the work stations as autonomous vehicles deliver parts at the appropriate time was both mesmerising and astonishing in equal measure.

Toyota employs more than 2,500 people at its site in Burnaston, Derbyshire. With so many employees it’s no surprise that over the last four decades they have become very engaged with the Derbyshire community.

I am delighted that Great British Car Journey is now, thanks to Chris and Rob, properly engaged with Toyota and its story of Great British manufacturing success.

Watch this space for the appearance of cars built in Britain, in Derbyshire by a subsidiary of a Japanese company at a museum near you!

A sincere thank you to Chris and Rob.

Founder’s Almanack for 2023

January 2023:   
The year started brightly with a very busy Great British Car Meet on 2nd January.

‘The Mystery Car’ caused quite a stir! This beautiful and pristine example of a 1974 Vauxhall Victor FE that has less than 100 miles on the clock caught the imaginations of many.

February 2023: 
This wonderful Coleman Milne Granada joined the substantial list of cars donated to the museum. Huge thanks to all the donators.

Great British Car Share was launched with our wonderful brand ambassadors Sarah Crabtree and Paul Woodford. We are currently into series 3 ‘Rally Heroes’ – and you can catch up on all episodes over on our YouTube channel here.

Luke Henshaw, our Classic Vehicle Restoration Apprentice, was shortlisted in VisitEngland’s Tourism Superstar Awards 2023 in conjunction with The Mirror and our very own superstar finished in 2nd place in these national awards as runner-up!

March 2023: 
As usual we hoped that winter was behind us but as my picture shows… it wasn’t. This is my venerable snow-covered Rover 600 on 10th March. 

BBC Breakfast were back with us on 14th March and a lot of our cars featured on the cover of Practical Classics. 

We only went and won GOLD for the New Tourism Business of the Year Award in the Visit Peak District & Derbyshire Tourism Awards 2023!! 

The last week of March saw us with our good friends from the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs at another massive Practical Classics and Classic Car Show at the NEC. 

April 2023:  
Spring was slow to arrive as my picture of me arriving at Ambergate in ‘Dinky’ my beloved Austin 7 shows.  It didn’t stop us welcoming plenty of Imps on the 30th along with literally hundreds of Jaguars for their BIG Jaguar Breakfast Club.

May 2023: 
It was good to see Terry one of my marshalling stalwarts from Blyton Park in the middle of May and his choice of wheels didn’t disappoint… a very rare Metro convertible. 

It was a lovely day for Morris Minors 75th anniversary celebrations on the 21st

New tarmac for Drive Dad’s Car on May 23rd.

June 2023:  
A Fiesta of Fords and some summer sun as well as a lovely Bentley as summer finally arrived. How better to celebrate than to take the Dutton for a spin on the Derwent?  

I really do want an Austin Paralanian!     

Proud to have been awarded the Bronze Award for New Tourism Business of the Year at the VisitEngland Awards.

On Father’s Day we reunited our lovely Austin 16 Woodie with the owner who restored her 40 years ago. It was a lovely family affair as children and grandchildren went for a drive… 

And yes – I bought another Reliant… it’s a long story!

July 2023:  
We don’t see many Veteran cars but this was an absolute cracker!  

Took a little break with the Pre-war Austin 7 Club to the Lake District. The hood was up and down quite a lot! 

Dinky was also on display at ‘Secret Gardens’ in my home village of Winster… that’s not my garden by the way! 

Celebrated Summer by buying my own Metro Convertible…it’s a little pocket rocket!

August 2023:  
Was rather wet and cool, so we were pretty busy as the annual influx of visitors to our beautiful county sought refuge from the elements. 

The Westfield owners are a hardy lot though… not a hood in sight! 

Don’t often see both our Minor Millions together. 

September 2023: 
The weather was still mixed for the Chatsworth Country Fair. ‘Dinky’ and our lovely one owner Austin 14 made friends with some Morrises!  

Incredibly grateful that we were chosen to display the custom-built Middlebridge Scimitar, previously owned by HRH Princess Anne for 35 years, Not only is it an eighties classic, the car also has an illustrious history and Royal provenance. 

Mrs Usher finally bought an Aston – she absolutely deserves it!  

Autumn arrived early but it didn’t daunt the Minis for East Mids Minis National Day!!

October 2023: 
More rain and more Morris Minor Travellers for 70th Birthday celebrations!  

Another donation in the form of this magnificent Marina. 

Another car I could fall in love with; this lovely Lotus Europa – Colin Chapman’s genius in full flow. 

A special birthday was celebrated by a very special Austin 7… 

Just before a lot more rain arrived and we needed to keep those valuable cars up in the air… It’s really not that easy to get the Lola onto the ramp! 

Don’t run Buddy over Ian…and what are you driving? 

Danny Hopkins took my Mini on a terrific ‘Italian Job’ adventure and brought her back unscathed… 

November 2023: 
Back to the NEC for the Classic Motor Show and celebrating the wonder of the Mini. Thanks to Paul, John, Steve and Becky for all the hard work … and Oliver of course who visited more than 300 clubs! The ‘Woodie’ made a guest appearance with the Austin Counties Club and Danny was reunited with my Mini! Ray Newell announced another great book …in fact he has two new ones out and they are both superb.

The Jowetts were close by and this lovely example looks similar to a car that was about to come our way… The Paramount was just around the corner.  If you don’t know what I am talking about, we have bought a Paramount made in the wonderful County of Derbyshire in 1950.

December 2023:  
So much snow arrived on the 3rd that we were unable to open.  

The Great British Car Club Christmas Dinner was a jolly affair.

The weather continued to be stormy…cutting Winster off from Elton.

The last Great British Car Meet of the year was inevitably damp and so thanks to all our enthusiastic friends, it was extremely well attended.

Thanks to all our visitors in 2023…we hope to see you again soon.

Thanks to all my wonderful team including the volunteer army and of course my amazing other half.

Summary of 2023

Best Drive:  
In my Frogeye Sprite going home in September. 45 bhp shouldn’t be such fun.

Fastest Drive:  
Mrs Usher’s Aston Martin. Not that fast though, as she was in the passenger seat.

Slowest Drive: 
A ride in the 1902 James and Browne. Thanks so much to the students from Imperial College London who brought “Boanerges” (means Son of Thunder) to see us and for taking me for a drive.

Weirdest Drive: 
Fishing from the Dutton in the middle of the Derwent with the Sun’s Motoring Correspondent and old friend Rob Gill.

Most Extraordinary:  
My Mini’s adventure with Practical Classics’ Editor and friend Danny Hopkins on the 2023 Italian Job run. I would like to do this event!

Most Unexpected:  
Driving the Paramount – a car I had never heard of until it arrived at Ambergate.

Incredibly rare Derbyshire-made car returns home

Paramount

An incredibly rare piece of Derbyshire’s car making history has made a return to the county. 

Better known for the manufacture of Rolls-Royces and Toyotas, few people know that in the 1950s, Derbyshire was also home to the production of the now almost forgotten Paramount car.

And now, the fifth Paramount car ever made has gone on display at Great British Car Journey after being discovered at a classic car auction.

Richard Usher, founder and director of Great British Car Journey explained: “We consider ourselves experts in British classic cars but even the Paramount was a mystery to the team here. We had no idea this car even existed. It wasn’t until we were alerted to its local history that we knew we had to have it and bring it home. The Paramount really is a forgotten piece of Derbyshire’s motoring heritage.”

Only 10 Paramount cars were manufactured at the factory in Swadlincote and all of them bear the registration PNU, and were numbered 1 – 10. Great British Car Journey’s Paramount original number plate would have been PNU 4.

“We’d love to trace another of the Swadlincote Paramounts, but we think it’s highly unlikely any will be in existence which makes ours even more special,” said Richard.

Just 16 Paramounts were produced in Derbyshire; first at the Swadlincote factory and then later in Melbourne, until production moved to Buckinghamshire in 1953.  In total, just 76 Paramount cars were made until 1956 when production ceased.

“Our brilliant team at Great British Car Journey have already got the car running and looking a lot smarter than when she arrived,” he added.

According to an advert from 1950, the beautiful red, four seater convertible Paramount was ‘designed to provide a sports car of exceptional beauty whilst retaining the distinctive British character favoured by most sports drivers.’

The Paramount boasts Triumph running gear underneath its all-aluminium bodywork which is stretched over a wooden ash frame mounted on a tubular metal chassis.

Richard added: “The car is beautifully made. It is testament to the skills of the craftsmen who made her, as the bodywork is full of complex curves.” 

The Paramount now joins Great British Car Journey’s only other Derbyshire made car in the interactive classic car exhibition – a Rolls-Royce once owned by Scouts founder Lord Baden Powell.

To see the car on display at Great British Car Journey, purchase discounted tickets and find details of opening times here

Career route starts at Great British Car Journey for new apprentice

Another young, classic car enthusiast has kick-started their career at Great British Car Journey.

Riley Smith (19), from Underwood, has embarked on a Level Three Apprenticeship in Digital Marketing at the museum.

He joins from Ashfield School where he completed A Levels in Computer Studies, Physics, and Business Studies.

Keen to get his career started after school, Riley explained: “I didn’t want to go to university. I knew that I wanted to have a lived-experience of industry. Great British Car Journey has been a fantastic starting point for that to happen and I am looking forward to putting my Business Studies A Level into practice here.”

In his new role at the classic car visitor attraction, Riley will be helping to market Great British Car Journey’s new online range of merchandise.

Riley’s journey with Great British Car Journey began last year when he completed a work experience placement. Subsequently, the placement helped Riley secure a weekend job as a coordinator for our popular Drive Dad’s Car experience.

Richard Usher, Founder and CEO of Great British Car Journey explained: “Riley impressed us from the start. From a successful work experience week, through to his weekends working alongside members of the public; Riley has made an impact with his enthusiasm and willingness to learn.”   

Riley’s enthusiasm for his apprenticeship is evident: “I’m living the dream! I’m restoring my own classic 1275 Mini at home so working at Great British Car Journey is a perfect fit for my future career ambitions and interests.”

Riley is one of two apprentices now employed at the museum. Its heritage apprentice Luke Henshaw was named as the Tourism Young Achiever in 2022 in the Visit Peak District and Derbyshire Tourism Awards. Last year, the attraction was named as the best New Tourism Business in the Visit Peak District and Derbyshire Tourism Awards.

As the award-winning classic car attraction continues to go from strength-to strength, Richard reflects: “We are in a position to offer unique and meaningful apprenticeships and Riley is already making the most of his placement with us.

“The cars at Great British Car Journey here may have a rich history, but we are delighted to offer Riley a bright future with us.”

You can check out visiting times and book tickets to visit us here.

‘Molly’ motors towards milestone birthday at Great British Car Journey

The only unrestored early Austin Seven AB Tourer in existence has arrived at Great British Car Journey. She will be on public display throughout half term.

‘The Austin Seven ‘Chummy’ or Molly’ as she is known to her owner David Mawby, celebrated her 100th birthday at the award- winning classic car attraction in Ambergate, Derbyshire.

Despite being 100 years old, the car has just 19,000 miles on her clock and is in all original condition, including the paintwork, upholstery, engine and hood.

Molly was one of the very first Austin Sevens to roll off the production line in 1923 when the world’s first affordable mass-produced family car went into production. By 1939 when production finally ended, 290,000 Austin Seven cars and vans had been made.

A small handful of Austin Sevens remain to this day; however, Molly is the only one not to have been restored in any way. Although fragile, she can even still be driven.

First registered in 1923, Molly has had a fascinating history, including an appearance on TV, when she was awarded the prize for the most original Austin Seven by Top Gear in 1982.

She spent just three years on the road after being purchased from new before being laid up in 1926 when her first owner died. She remained hidden away until 1950 when his widow died, and the car was then sold.

The car was then purchased by a garage where it was mainly used for display purposes. The garage owner retained the car when he retired and only lightly used it. Molly has since had a couple of other owners, who have also resisted the temptation to restore her.

Current owner David explained how he acquired this unique piece of motoring history in 2007: “My interest in her began on my 21st birthday when I was given a copy of the ‘Original Austin Seven’ magazine featuring Molly as the main story. I had always admired original cars and had dreamt of owning this AB Tourer. I traced her owner, and he sold it to me under the strict condition that I would never sell her.”

Delighted to welcome Molly to the museum exhibition, Richard Usher, founder and CEO of Great British Car Journey who was treated to a ride in Molly, said; “It is always a pleasure to welcome significant historic cars to the museum, especially when they were made at Longbridge. As a Brummie boy myself, I am always overwhelmed by the magic of the Austin Seven and a ride in Molly was a real lifetime motoring highlight.

“The Austin Seven is one of the hero cars of Great British Car Journey so to have Molly with us for her 100th birthday is extraordinary, She’s a must-see for all Austin enthusiasts. But be quick, she’s not with us for long!”

This October half term (from Saturday 21st October until Sunday 5th November), kids go free at Great British Car Journey. Just use the code KGF23 when booking online and any child’s ticket you buy with a full price adult ticket will be free. Find out more here.

For details of all opening times, visit here.

A very big Italian Mini adventure for Practical Classics editor starts at Great British Car Journey

DAanny Hopkins, editor of Practical Classics with the Great British Car Journey Mini

Great British Car Journey friend and Practical Classics Editor Danny Hopkins has begun his own Mini adventure 23 years to the day after the classic Mini ceased production (4 October 2000).

Richard Usher, founder and CEO of GBCJ has lent Danny his own classic Mini Cooper Sport from the museum’s collection which he will use to take part in the legendary Italian Job run in aid of Buttle UK, a charity dedicated to helping children and young people in crisis.

When he heard about Danny’s epic adventure for charity, Richard was happy to lend his own Mini for the adventure. He explained: “I’ve known Danny for a number of years and share his enthusiasm for anything with four wheels (and some with three). When I heard what he wanted to do and all about the charity, I had no hesitation in lending him my personal Mini.”

Richard handed over the branded Mini to Danny at GBCJ ahead of him starting his epic Italian adventure. On Monday 9 October, Danny will join 30+ Minis in his specially branded Mini, for a 14-day blast to and through Italy. The journey starts with a run to Imola via Nurburgring and Munich.

During the 2,000 mile charity jaunt to Turin, the classic Mini convoy will then blast through Modena and Sienna to Turin, before heading back to the UK through the Alps. Along the way, Danny will be visiting Ferrari, the founder of which, Enzo Ferrari was known to be the owner of at least one Mini.

Most importantly of all, however, Danny will be raising cash for the charity during his travels.

“Raising cash for Buttle UK is what this is all about,’ said Danny.  “They are a wonderful charity, helping kids in difficult situations so, unlike Harry and the boys in the film, I aim to get back to the UK with a lot of cash.” 

The GBCJ Mini was registered on 18 October 2000. It boasts just 11,000 miles on the clock and is in fine running order after being serviced in the GBCJ workshop by our resident classic car technicians, Doc Lawrence and his able apprentice Luke Henshaw. Vintage Tyres have also supplied a full set of new rubber tyres.

Richard added: “The Mini is the hero car of Great British Car Journey and this little example is sure gonna have a story to tell when it returns from its travels. It will be going back on display with an extra 2,500 miles on the clock and all its decals!”

We’ll be following Danny’s Mini adventure on GBCJ social media channels each day as he sends us video diary updates. Follow our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram  

“It’s an amazing collaborative effort,” added Danny, “but I don’t want it to be in vain so feel free to dig deep… and walk tall having done a good thing. I’ll be doing regular updates as I go… it’s a long way in a little car. I promise I won’t blow the bloody doors off though.”

You can donate to Buttle UK via Danny’s JustGIving page here

A busy few weeks and Summer is finally here!

Wow! What a busy few weeks we’ve had and Summer is finally here!

Huge thanks to Tom Stoddart and Reg for chauffeuring my daughter-in-law on her wedding day, to my son Charles, on Saturday 26th August.

The utterly wonderful Baden Powell Rolls Royce, Jam Roll, was the beautiful car of choice. The car and the happy couple looked magnificent! Particularly, as Lauren and Charles met at Rolls Royce in Derby, there could not have been a more appropriate wedding car. The Bridesmaids looked lovely in their Minor Million, whilst Charles and his brother Peter (Best Man) arrived courtesy of the Frogeye Sprite!

So… of course I had to test drive all the wedding cars, as well as the Jaguar E Type which we had on parade for last Sunday’s Jaguar Enthusiasts meet! The Frogeye is a delight, especially as we now have a new clutch but I also enjoyed driving our Austin 14 Goodwood to Chatsworth for last weekend’s Country Fair. And then of course there was Princess Anne’s Scimitar! We are delighted to have taken delivery of this wonderful car and you can find out all about it here.

Yes, it’s been a mad few weeks of classic cars…and its been a huge pleasure to welcome so many visitors to see and admire them too!

Richard Usher, Founder, Great British Car Journey

Just one very royal lady owner for the latest Great British Car Journey exhibit

Princess Anne with Scimitar No 5 at Gatcombe Park

A car with one very special royal lady owner is the latest to arrive at the Great British Car Journey.

A custom-built Middlebridge Scimitar, which was previously owned by HRH Princess Anne for 35 years, is now on display.

L-R: Richard Usher, Kohji Nakauchi – former owner of Middlebridge Scimitar, Dennis Nursey – former CEO of Middlebridge Scimitar, and Mick Gaughran – Chairman of MESS

The dark green car is exactly as it was the day it left the Nottingham factory on 13 December 1988 and delivered to the Princess Royal. It was to be the last of eight Scimitars that she owned over 52 years.

Amongst its distinctive detailing, the car features a unique bonnet emblem – a silver female jockey on a horse. The unique mascot was presented to the Princess Royal following her performance in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games where she competed on the late Queen Elizabeth II’s horse ‘Goodwill’.

The historically significant car remained in the Princess Royal’s ownership until very recently. It was stored at her country estate Gatcombe Park. Despite having 114,000 miles on the clock, the car is in remarkable condition, even boasting its original exhaust system.

The unique bonnet mascot on Scimitar No 5

Unfortunately, due to personal security reasons, Her Royal Highness has been unable to drive her cherished Scimitar No 5 for a number of years. Keen to preserve the car, Princess Anne agreed to the purchase of it by Middlebridge Scimitar enthusiast and classic car collector.

Mick Gaughran, Chairman of the Middlebridge Enthusiasts Scimitar Set (MESS), explained: “Princess Anne loved the car.  She was incredibly sad to part with it, but agreed to it on condition that it would be sympathetically restored. The car had been incredibly well looked after and needed minimal work. It is simply stunning.”

The car was given its ‘minimalist’ restoration work by marque specialists with all conservation works agreed with Gatcombe Park.

“The cars have galvanised steel chassis and fibreglass bodies, so they don’t rot,” added Mick.

Following its conservation, Middlebridge Scimitar No 5 has been loaned to Great British Car Journey. It is now on display in the museum’s 150-strong collection of classic British cars, complete with its original personalised number plate – 1420 H, which was displayed on the car for 35 years. The number plate has since been returned to the 1420 Hussars, who originally gifted it to HRH on her twentieth birthday.

HRH Princess Anne with Scimitar No 5 at Gatcombe Park

“Great British Car Journey is the perfect place for Scimitar No 5. Both the car’s royal and British motoring heritage will be fully appreciated. Scimitar No 5 can now be enjoyed and appreciated by everyone,” added Mick.

The car was delivered to Great British Car Journey on Thursday 31 August. It is now one of a number of historically significant cars on display in the museum, including Lord Baden Powell’s Rolls-Royce.

Richard Usher, founder of Great British Car Journey, who took delivery of Scimitar No 5 said: “I am incredibly grateful that Great British Car Journey has been chosen to display this historically significant car. Not only is it an eighties classic, the car also has an illustrious history and Royal provenance and is a wonderful addition to our exhibition.

“It is an absolutely stunning example of a Middlebridge Scimitar and is testament to HRH the Princess Royal’s care for the vehicle that it is in such a good condition after 114,000 miles of, no doubt, enthusiastic driving!

“I have no doubt it will be much admired by the thousands of visitors who come here each year.”

The former owner of Middlebridge Scimitar Kohji Nakauchi, a huge classic car enthusiast and collector, was there for the handover of the Scimitar No 5 to Great British Car Journey. He said he was “very honoured” to see the car on display in the museum.

To view opening times and purchase discounted entry tickets to the attraction, visit here.

Another week flies by…

Phyl the Cavalier

When I was a youngster, August was always the month of the family holiday, which meant a long drive to Dorset in a car which was rarely fit for purpose! The Singer Gazelle Convertible was pretty cramped with five of us and the dog, particularly with the hood down. My Dad liked to personalise his cars but fitting wire wheels to the Corsair GT was eccentric and caused the wheels to wobble violently at 50 mph or more… the Ford dealer in Bournemouth was baffled which was fair enough! The horn stuck on the Cortina Estate in Castle Bromwich, and Dad ignored it until Mum went ballistic, at which point he stopped and grumpily yanked a wire off somewhere! You get the picture!

So August always went by in a flash and the family car almost always created drama and tension both on the way to Dorset and on the way back… A journey of more than 160 miles which took the best part of a day.

Back to this August and the weather has been a bit kinder and I am pleased to say that we have been blessed with plenty of visitors. I have been enjoying the little Metro Cabriolet. It goes well with its 1400cc engine and is a fun drive especially with the hood down. I can really recommend these late Metros / Rover 100s… The K series is a zippy engine, the five speed box is smooth and the handling is very much like a Mini. The only problem is finding one, as like so many cars of the 90s, they have become pretty rare.

MG ZS with friends at Ambergate

We are grateful to Liz Wilson and Helen Mosley for the donation of two remarkable cars. Liz has given us her MG ZS which she has cherished for many years, having bought it with only 10,000 miles on the clock. The ZS was another successful restyle by the multi-talented Pete Stevens, turning a rather humble Rover into a svelte looking performance MG. This car has been cherished and still good extremely well. You can drive the 2.5 litre V6 version on the Drive Dad’s Car fleet.

Helen has gifted us her Grandmother’s Vauxhall Cavalier Envoy 1.8 Auto Saloon. For many years, the Cavalier and Sierra were locked in a battle for supremacy in the big family car market and both were substantially remodelled over the years. This car has done under 50,000 miles and is in great mechanical and bodily condition thanks to Helen’s Grandfather who looked after it. I have taken a photo of a device on the dashboard – can anyone identify what it is?

Phyl the Cavalier
What is this device sitting above the air vent on the Cavalier?

Both these cars will be checked over by our technicians before joining the main collection and we are very pleased to be able to offer them a dignified retirement from their long service to their owners who have preserved them for so many years.

August – Founder’s Blog

As I write this, there is rain coming down in biblical proportions and sadly Cromford Steam Rally has been unable to open today. The Derwent is looking brown and soupy but our weir is keeping our precious cargo of cars safe, although the roof is ensuring a few cars slightly watered!

I taxed the Rover 100 Cabriolet this week and I am extremely impressed with my first experience of K series Metro Motoring. The 1400 cc engine gives about 85bhp so it has plenty of go along with a sweet five speed gear box. The steering is very well weighted and for a car with a cloth roof, there is only a hint of scuttle shake when you hit one of the many potholes on the Derbyshire back roads. Of course at over £12,000 when it was new, it was always going to be a minority choice and it was only ever made to special order on the line at Longbridge. However, with the electric hood in the up position, it is completely water tight and free from draughts and wind noise. It is not clear how many were made but almost certainly less than 2000 and only a handful are registered today.

On the subject of hoods, I also drove my trusty and much loved MGB roadster this week. The hood is a truly terrible affair and quite impossible to put up in a hurry. The hood on my Austin Seven is much, much easier and faster to put up and does not involve lots of pulling, pushing and profane language. It also leaves your finger nails intact. The final struggle with the B are the dreaded Tenax fasteners – I would like to meet the genius responsible for these and challenge him to get them all securely fastened! Maybe having a new hood a few years ago was not such a great move but compared to the hood on an MX 5, the hoods on Sprites, Midgets and Bs are a woeful effort which surely should have been improved?

Of course with the roof down on the MGB, you forgive this one fairly major fault. Although in winter I would also add the heater to the list of things that could have been improved. I suppose if I had a handbook, the mysteries of the two rotary controls might be solved but without one demisting or indeed cabin heater, it does seem to rely on a fairly random twirling of those two knobs conveniently located in front of the passenger!

Stop moaning Richard! The B is still a lovely thing to drive and when I parked it in a car park full of modern cars, I admired its great shape and how gracefully it has aged.  You certainly want one with overdrive if you intend to do many long journeys but on a warm sunny day (remember those?), a standard MGB or indeed GT is a very pleasant way to enjoy driving and admire the great British countryside, particularly the very green Derbyshire Dales.

Sneak peak – A sweet and rare little car

I am delighted to have purchased a Rover 114 Cabriolet which is probably the rarest variant of the car we all more commonly know as the Metro.

The car has been lovingly looked after by Joan Watson for the last 12 years and been garaged and serviced so that it belies its 28 years of age.

By the mid 1990s cabriolets were very much in fashion again and the Metro had been reborn as the Rover 100 series and at last had a modern OHC engine and a five speed gearbox. Sadly, BMW who had bought Rover Group in 1994 had no appetite for a total facelift. However, the car was substantially updated and the cabriolet was available as a very limited edition model built on the main production line at Longbridge.

It would appear that only around 2000 were made but with an electric roof and around 75bhp on tap this was a peppy little car. Unfortunately, with a list price of over £12,000, it was also very expensive.

My new car was first registered on 16 June 1995 to a Mrs Jeffery who bought it from Lookers in Southend. The sales invoice shows she paid £12,134.25 for it.

I am now the sixth owner and she has covered 72,000 miles in that time.

I am very grateful to Joan for giving us the opportunity to buy a much-loved little car and I look forward to giving you my road test in due course.

There are less than ten of these cars still taxed on the road in 2023.

Come and meet her (and Sarah Crabtree and Paul Woodford) at the Great British Car Meet on Friday between 4 and 8pm: https://greatbritishcarjourney.com/great-british-car-meets/

A huge privilege to have Boanerges / Bo visit

It was great to meet Ben and the enthusiastic team from Imperial College London and act as a dormitory for their very precious 1902 James & Browne car overnight stay.

A small group of students from the College maintain and run ‘Bo’ and have rebuilt this vintage car to an amazing standard recently. They are currently taking a ‘tour’ through the Peak District and then onwards to Snowdonia. Naturally, they thought the Great British Car Journey would make an excellent stop on the trip!

Visitors to Great British Car Journey will have seen ‘Bo’ being driven around the site today and I was lucky enough to enjoy a ride. ‘Bo’ is not dissimilar mechanically to our resident Arrol-Johnston in which I have also been a passenger. These are pioneering cars and for those lucky enough to have been able to afford them, they offered an adventure every day.  

The Imperial car is one of only two survivors of the James & Browne marque and was bought by three students at the City and Guilds College back in 1934. It completed the London to Brighton run in 1933 at an average speed of 19.61 mph and has done the run many times since then.

Very well done to all those responsible for preserving and using this wonderful car and thanks again for bringing ‘Bo’ along for us all to enjoy.