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New chapter in Britain’s motoring history unveiled at GBCJ

Toyota BTCC car in the museum exhibition

A new chapter in Britain’s motoring history has been launched at Great British Car Journey.

Chapter 9.5 charts the regrowth of car manufacturing in Britain following investment by Toyota in Derbyshire 32 years ago.

Marking Great British Car Journey’s third anniversary, Toyota UK has lent some of its historic cars to the classic car visitor attraction. The new chapter features the first car to roll off the Burnaston production line on 16 December 1992– a Toyota Carina.

Chapter 9.5 also features a Toyota Avensis Wagon, Corolla, and the race winning BTCC Toyota Avensis. Since investing in Derbyshire, Toyota has made more than 4 million cars.

Members of the Great British Car Club were the first to see the new chapter at a special members breakfast.

Richard Usher, founder of the museum explained: “I have always felt that the story we tell through nine chapters at Great British Car Journey ended on a low. Britain’s car manufacturing sector went from strength to strength from the 1920s to 70s until it fell into decline with many world-famous marques, like Austin and Morris being lost.

“Thanks to Toyota we now have the opportunity to finish the story on a more positive note, one that shows that the investment by the world’s biggest car maker in Derbyshire, enabled the county to become a significant centre of volume car production.”

Tim Freeman, Deputy Managing Director of Toyota Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd, said: “We welcomed the kind invitation to be included in the Great British Car Journey display, a display that allows our employees and visitors from all over the UK, and wider, the opportunity to see some of the vehicles that have been produced here in Derbyshire over the past 30 years.

“Great British Car Journey is a fantastic record of automotive manufacturing here in the UK and a great testament to the skills and innovations that have been developed here through the years.  Toyota have been part of the UK automotive landscape for over 30 years, with engines built in North Wales and over five million vehicles built right here in Derbyshire which has established us as a major manufacturer exporting over 80% of our output to the EU.”

The new chapter in the exhibition sits alongside another example of Derbyshire’s renowned names in motoring – Rolls-Royce. Lord Baden Powell’s Rolls Royce (Jam Roll), which is on display at Great British Car Journey, was manufactured at the Derby plant in 1929 ahead of car production moving to Crewe in 1946.

Explaining why the new chapter is called 9.5 rather than a round 10, Richard added: “Fortunately, and rather belatedly, we have recognised that we cannot continue to abuse our planet. The next chapter in Britain’s motoring history has to be that of greener motoring, whether that is hydrogen, electric or something else. Chapter 10 will tell that story when we are confident what it is.”

Toyota Mirai in the Great British Car Journey warehouse
Toyota Mirai

In addition to the four historic Toyota cars, Toyota’s hydrogen car – the Mirai – is also on display in the new chapter within the main exhibition hall. It is one of the world’s first mass produced Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Toyota began development of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles in 1992, successfully introducing the Mirai sedan to world markets in 2014. To date, more than 26,000 have been sold worldwide.

Tim added: “With our targets set on reducing carbon emissions across all of our activities, we are now in the process of transitioning from being a traditional vehicle manufacturer to becoming a mobility company.  Our state-of-the-art facility based in Burnaston, Derbyshire is providing a full range of services from manufacturing, customisation, refurbishment through to EoL parts reuse and recycling creating a complete Circular Economy.  As a global manufacturer, our entire range is focussed on providing mobility for all, whilst driving down emissions.”

Book discounted tickets for Great British Car Journey here. For year-round access to Great British Car Journey, exclusive events and discounts, become a member of the Great British Car Club here.

eBike Tours Now Available from Ambergate

As part of our vision to turn the Great British Car Journey site into a tourism hub for the Peak District we have now teamed up with PeakePedals to offer eBike tours departing from Ambergate everyday.

Our site at Ambergate is an ideal spot for exploring the Derbyshire countryside as it is next to the Cromford Canal, Shining Cliff Woods, Crich Chase & the Derwent Valley Heritage Way so it is the perfect gateway for eBike tours into the Derbyshire Dales & Peak District National Park

These tours will help you discover the real Peak District by taking you down hidden trails, quiet country roads and popular cycle routes to uncover the best views, countryside, villages, attractions, pubs, cafes and historic sites so you can combine your visit to Great British Car Journey with a unique tour. There is also 10% off for all GBCJ visitors if you use this coupon code GBCJ10 at the checkout

Example Tours from Ambergate

Beginners Circuit

Custom Designed Circuit to let Novice eBikers Practice their skills on different terrains to see how they get on. A 90 minute experience which covers multiple laps of a 3 mile circuit

Wirksworth Loop

Explore the Derbyshire Countryside en route to Wirksworth from our Ambergate hub in an easy 3 hour circular tour with plenty of time for refreshment stops and to enjoy the spectacular scenery

Derwent Heights Loop

Explore both sides of the Derwent Valley in comfort harnessing the power of the eBike. Which landmark is highest? An exhilarating 3 hour 20 mile adventure on minor roads, canal paths & bike tracks

Why Book An eBike Tour?

If you have not tried an eBike before then these tours are a great way to try out this new form of transport and add an extra element to your time at the Great British Car Journey 

Founder’s Blog: June 2024

I spent a very enjoyable and interesting afternoon last week with Keith Adams, erstwhile creator of AR Online and contributor to numerous publications over the last 20 years.

Keith’s latest AR Online article is his top ten of the BMC/ BL models which never made it into production.  What this fascinating article reveals, is that there was no shortage of talent or ideas within the organisation, even in the dark days, but once Michael Edwardes had gone, there was just not enough management talent and grit to identify and produce exciting new models and facelifts.

I am a huge fan of the Metro which is a classic for the generation that wants a Mini but now can’t afford one and I think Keith (not surprisingly) is spot on with his number one slot for the R6 Metro. I am lucky enough to own a number of Metros, including a late five door Rio Special Edition. This drives really well with its K series engine and five speed gear box, but alongside the equivalent Fiesta, it just looks very ordinary. The Metro had been a really good seller but it badly needed to look more contemporary in the 90s and the R6 absolutely fits the bill.

My number two would have to be the Pininfarina Aerodynamica 1800, not least because I vividly remember picking up my Matchbox model of the car from the local toy shop at the age of 12 and thinking: WOW!  It was unusual for Matchbox to make models of prototypes but to my already car mad eyes, Pininfarina’s creation made the ‘ordinary’ 1800 look – well, ordinary. My Uncle Roy had an 1800 and I was ever hopeful that it would be replaced by this outlandish new version. Sadly, despite the fact that Alec Issigonis and Battista Pininfarina got on famously, my Matchbox toy was the nearest I ever got to this wonderful creation and it was only when I saw my first Citroen CX that I realised the scale of our loss.

Issigonis could also have done with help from Pininfarina with the styling of the 9x which, like the 1800, was unbelievably clever but not the most stylish of shapes.

It’s a fascinating article as usual from Keith and bound to spark plenty of debate amongst AR afficionados.

Inevitably, Keith has now enjoyed a Drive Dad’s Car experience, choosing to drive a Mk4 Cortina, a Sierra Sapphire, an Austin 1300 GT and finally fell in love with my 1939 Austin Seven!

WARNING: Browsing the wealth of unique and expert opinion on AR Online can cause your partner to think that you are spending far too much time online!!

Richard Usher, Founder, Great British Car Journey

Celebrating Three Years of Great British Car Journey this Spring

Great British Car Journey celebrated its third birthday on May 22nd, and I wish to extend a heartfelt thank you to all our visitors, supporters, and followers who have been part of the ever evolving story of cars in the UK.

A special thanks to our dedicated team, many of whom have been with us since we first opened our doors when it was finally legal to welcome the public to a new visitor attraction, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their commitment has been incredible. A massive thank you to my amazing wife Jane, her work-husband and our Duracell man and general manager Ian, to Becky, Jane, Steve, Vic, Neil, and our dedicated army of volunteers. Those who have joined us more recently; Oliver, Riley, Cheryl, Dee, Peggy, Clare, and our small army of café weekend warriors, and to Doc Lawrence, and Luke, for keeping our classics running!

 This spring has been incredibly busy with some truly fantastic event days. Our Masters of the Marque events powered by Wera Tools, have been very well attended, featuring a diverse array of cars. Despite the generally gloomy and cool weather, our events have been blessed with dry and often warm conditions. Let’s hope this continues throughout the summer!

As usual, I’ve been fortunate enough to drive some fascinating cars recently, though my driving was briefly interrupted by an operation in April. I’ve been off the road, taking only short but therapeutic trips around the Drive Dad’s Car Route. Fortunately, I am now free to be back on the open road!

Some highlights include my faithful Frogeye Sprite, the hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai (stay tuned for more on this), our Austin Somerset with its quirky column gear change  (soon to be joining the Driving fleet), a Jeep for the very first time, and most recently, a 1966 Ford Zephyr 4, recently acquired by Steve, our ever-smiley front desk anchor-man.

GBCJ Sprite GBCJ Toyota MiraiGBCJ Austin Somerset GBCJ Jeep GBCJ Zephyr

As we all know, cars are such a strong source of memories, and the combination of driving the Sprite and Zephyr took me back almost 60 years to the suburbs of North Birmingham, where I was born. We lived in a newly built estate of identical three-bedroom semis. Our neighbours, the Bunn family, had twin boys who went to the same school as me. In an era before car sharing, I often went to school with them in Mr Bunn’s Zephyr, which I believe was a Zephyr 6. Mrs Bunn, like my mum, enjoyed her cars and owned a Frogeye Sprite much admired by my dad. Though I never rode in the Frogeye, my brother and I owned numerous Sprites before graduating to Big Healeys, which we could buy in a fairly ropey state for around a grand. The best source of cheap cars back then was Exchange and Mart which we scoured every week for local four-wheeled temptations!

And so, as I lurched around the car park this week when Steve generously gave me the keys to his Zephyr, memories of our neighbours came flooding back. Sadly, the Bunn family moved “down South” in the late 60s and we lost touch. Hopefully, the twins are still here and remember their family’s interesting car history.

As I write this, it’s raining again, so don’t forget, whatever the weather, you can escape and rekindle those memories by visiting us at Great British Car Journey. Stay safe, and I hope to see you again soon.

Founder’s Blog – Spring 2024

It’s been another strange year for weather with a very wet and miserable Winter giving way to a Spring where long spells of cool and damp have given way to the odd few days of warm sunshine.
Writing this on May 20th, we are back to cool and grey with little promise of anything better this week. However, the sun shone yesterday as our fourth Masters of the Marque powered by Wera tools event welcomed a full car park of well over 100 cars made in La Belle France.

Amongst the plethora of 2 CVs of every vintage and hue, numerous Peugeot 205s and a smattering of Simcas, lurked a Renault 9, a 17 , a couple of Avantimes, a Citroen GS and of course DS : it still seems incredible to me that cars that were once so common should have become so extraordinarily rare.
Award winners ( courtesy of Wera Tools) were a Talbot Matra Murena, a Renault 5 GT Turbo and a Citroen BX. A huge thankyou to all the owners of all the wonderful Gallic machines which forced anything British into the overflow car park!

You can find out more about Wera Tools at their website:  https://www-de.wera.de/en/
 
Unfortunately, for health reasons I have been unable to drive on the public highway for the last few weeks and have only done a few miles around the estate at Ambergate. I am sure like most enthusiasts, I am hoping that Summer will eventually arrive and I can enjoy the odd outing in my Frogeye Sprite or MGB. I would also like to give the miraculous Lagonda Wedge a proper drive as well as the rather cute little Dutton Melos generously donated to the collection by Andrew Tunnicliffe. Finally, I did get to briefly drive our Milk Float a couple of weeks ago and if anyone has any knowledge of the workings of this Smiths Electric Vehicle, we would love to hear from you!!

A Trip Down Memory Lane for Father’s Day

If you’re searching for a unique and unforgettable gift for Dad this Father’s Day, why not take him on a nostalgic trip down memory lane? At our museum, the Great British Car Journey, we boast an impressive collection of over 150 cars, with more than 50 available on the Drive Dad’s Car driving fleet for Dad to actually get behind the wheel and drive! Each car is a piece of automotive history, ready to reignite cherished memories and create new ones.
 
Whether you’re planning to visit us on Father’s Day itself or prefer the flexibility of a voucher for a future adventure, we believe this is the perfect opportunity to give Dad a truly nostalgic gift that he’ll treasure for years to come
 
So why settle for the ordinary when you can gift him an extraordinary journey through time?

Special Offer to Drive 2 Cars for just £99

This Father’s Day, make memories that will last a lifetime with this very special Drive Dad’s Car offer! Treat your dad to an unforgettable nostalgic experience with our Double the Memories special and enjoy the ultimate trip down memory lane together!

He can drive any 2 cars: Let Dad choose from our prestigious driving fleet of over 50 classic cars. Once purchased the voucher is valid for 12 months so can be used any time 

Share the excitement together! Dad can take you along for the ride as a passenger in both drives for free and you both get free museum entry too.

Sold separately this would normally cost £156, but for Father’s Day, it’s yours for just £99!. So don’t miss out and order today as offer ends midnight on the 15th June 2024

WARNING – we cannot be held responsible for your Dad’s actions if the following words are uttered during the drive:  “Are we nearly there yet?!” Or “I need a wee!”

All Dads Get Free Admission on Sunday 16th June

Make this Father’s Day truly memorable with our exclusive online only offer! 

Our special Father’s Day Family Ticket admits up to 4 adults and 3 children for just £38! so you can all enjoy a day filled with nostalgia as you all reminisce over old family cars and days gone by. We even have a child-friendly tour to keep younger members of the family entertained. The Filling Station Cafe is open too providing meals & snacks

Dads Go FREE: Show your appreciation for Dad with this special offer! Save £32 on the normal price as up to two 2 Dads can enjoy complimentary admission on Father’s Day with every family ticket.

This offer is valid only for pre-booked family tickets booked for admission on Father’s Day – 16th June 2024.

Give Dad the gift of a memorable experience this Father’s Day with Great British Car Journey. Book your tickets now and embark on a fun trip down memory lane

This fun video might bring back some memories and explain why we think a drive in one of our cars might make the perfect Father’s Day gift 

We also have an online shop with other great gift ideas for Father’s Day 

  • Gifts for over 100 different makes of car
  • 25+ different types of product available
  • Vouchers & Gift Cards
  • Fathers Day Cards 
  • Posters from the Museum
  • Upload your own car photo gifts 
  • Personalised signs & gifts

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.

What Are Our Hero Cars?

We have produced so many great cars in the UK that are on display at the Great British Car Journey but we often get asked what are the top cars and why? we call these are hero cars and detail them below. You will be able to see and drive these Great British Car Hero’s when you visit our attraction   

Mini

Perhaps the greatest of them all : The Mini 1959-2000

Like the Morris Minor the Mini was designed by Alec Issigonis and becane the most popular car ever produced in the UK. Some 5.4 Million Minis were made between 1959 and 2000

The Mini is a masterpiece: despite being only ten feet long, it will accommodate four adults and a reasonable amount of luggage and transport them at a very reasonable pace.

75% of the Mini’s footprint is devoted to passengers and luggage with the engine, gearbox and all the mechanical bits only taking up 25%. Everything about the mechanical package is clever and innovative and the result is a tiny car that delivers on every front.

The Mini also performed David-like on the Monte Carlo Rally and on race tracks around the world slaying the Goliaths from Ford and almost everyone else.

Supposedly replaced by the Metro in 1980 , the Mini refused to die and long after the Metro had been killed off the last Mini was driven off the line in Birmingham by Lulu on October 4th 2000.

Austin Seven

The Austin Seven was produced between 1922-1939 and pioneered car ownership for the common man and his family. Hitherto condemned to a motorbike possibly tethered to a side-car, Austin’s little car offered the tantalising prospect of being able to take the family for days out and even holidays at the coast : it offered freedom to explore a world away from cramped and dirty towns and cities by taking to Britain’s network of winding country roads.

By the mid 1930s despite the economic traumas earlier in the decade, a second-hand Austin 7 could be had for similar money to a motor bike combination and Britain’s Motorcycle industry would never be the same again.

By the outbreak of war in 1939, more than 300,000 Sevens had been built and as Morris and Ford joined the small car party, the hard-working couple could give their family a freedom of mobility that transformed the way we live.The Seven’s little engine produced less than 20 horsepower and fully laden it would struggle to reach 40mph,

The Seven was alsoproduced under license in France, Germany, the USA and Japan

Escort

The launch of the Ford Escort in 1968 was a seminal moment in British motoring history: For the next half century Escorts would be everywhere : on every street of every city ,town and village there would be an Escort…and then they started to disappear until now in 2024, you might go a week or even a month without even seeing one.

Unlike some of our other heroes, the Escort was able to completely reinvent itself over the years so that the last cars bore no resemblance at all to the Mk1 s of the 60s and 70s. The Escort of 2000 was a marketing creation and could be given a new name at any time whereas the Austin Seven, Morris Minor and the Mini were fundamentally the same cars for all the years that they were produced.

Morris Minor

After the Second World War, car production was slow to restart anywhere in the world and many manufacturers just dusted off their pre-war models in the hope that they would do.

Herbert Austin was dead but his great rival William Morris was still at the helm of his company and employing a young expatriate by the name of Alec Issigonis. Issigonis was to design the next great family car to occupy suburban drives all over the UK : the Morris Minor. Launched at the 1948 London Motor Show, the Minor was a quantum leap forward from the Austin Seven 

Morris himself didn’t like the Minor and continued to drive a pre-war model but the public loved it and in 1960 the millionth Minor rolled off the production line at Crowley being the first British car to reach this considerable milestone.

Rolls Royce

Henry Royce started making cars in 1904 and Rolls Royce was founded in 1906 when he was introduced to car dealership owner Charles Rolls. They increased their portfolio by purchasing potential competitor Bentley in 1931 Rolls-Royce Motors Limited was incorporated 1971 after the companies diversification into aircraft engines went wrong and it fell into receivership Perhaps the most famous Rolls Royce the iconic Silver Shadow was produced between 1965 and 1980. A Bentley version of the Silver Shadow, known as the Bentley T was also produced A marketing survey in 1987 showed that only Coca-Cola was a more widely known brand than Rolls-Royce, confirming its status as one of the most iconic cars ever to be made in the UK

Whats Going on in April at Great British Car Journey – Happy Easter!

Spring Is In The Air At Ambergate

– We are now finally open 7 days a week!

– Drive Dads Car on for eight days in April

– Back by popular demand, we are running our DeLorean rides on selected days in April

– Kids go absolutely FREE March 29th – April 14th

– A Fun easter egg hunt for the Kids, find all 9 spots where Riley the Rabbit’s hiding

TWO New Additions to our Driving Fleet!

appearing in april socials

Hop into 2 ultra rare and super cool classics this easter! Brand new to our driving fleet for April!

The first is our stunning 1958 Austin Healey 100/6, which is a reminder of an era of the Great British Sports Car. You can find this in our Luxury collection!

And the second is our 1994 Ford Granada MK3. King of the company car park, for the man who made it in sales. You can find this in our Classic collection!

DeLorean Rides In April

  • Back by popular demand, we are brining back our DeLorean rides on the 30th March and the 3rd, 6th, 10th and 13th April! Come and have a ride in our 1980s DeLorean DMC 12 for just £10 a lap.

Kids In The Holidays

  • From the 29th March to the 14th April kids go absolutely FREE
  • They can see a real F1 car, A Delorean, James Bond-style Lotus, Bentley once owned by Sir Elton John and Princess Annes Reliant Scimitar.
  • See cars being driven on selected days and even take a ride/drive yourself
  • Along with the free entry, from the 29th to the 31st of March we have a fab easter egg hunt for your kids to enjoy. Find all 9 spots where Riley The Rabbit is hiding in the attraction, jot down the numberplates of the cars he’s hiding in, and hand the form into reception and you can receive your reward.

What Else Is Going On In April?

Along with running the Drive Dads Car days, we have some great meet ups for you to enjoy too:

For April we have some fantastic events:

  • CHESTERFIELD MG GROUP VISIT Sunday 7th April

  • COFFEES & CARS with Takona Hosting – Sunday 14th April

  • AUSTIN EXTRAVAGANZASunday 14th April

  • PAN CLAN VISIT – HONDA PAN EUROPEAN BIKES – Sunday 14th April
  • DRIVE IT DAY – Sunday 21st April
  • GBCM GREAT BRITISH CAR MEET – Friday 26th April
  • SWEDISH TAKEOVER WITH NORDIK RIDES VOLVO CLUB – Saturday 27th April
  • AUTO ITALIANE – Sunday 28th April

Great British Car Meet - 1st April!

Finally, this month we are having our first Great British Car Meet of the year!

Come down on the 1st of April 10am – 4pm for just £5 per car (free for members)

EVENT DETAILS

10am – 4pm

Book your tickets for the Great British Car Meet here

All makes and models welcome (classic cars, vintage cars or modern cars)…with their owners!

Entrance to the Great British Car Meet is £5 per car.

Whats Going on in March at Great British Car Journey

This Month we Have Plenty to Keep You Interested

March is shaping up to be a fantastic month here at the Great British Car Journey, especially as all the winter weather starts to make way for spring. From Friday 15th March we will be back open 7 days a week 

So if you have children or grandchildren to entertain, why not bring them to our interactive museum featuring iconic cars made in Britain. See a real F1 racer and a car made more than 120 years ago.

We are also running our Drive Dad’s Car driving experiences   on the 2nd, 10th, 16th, 20th, 24th, 27th, and 30th March and we have two exciting new additions to the fleet to wet your appetite (see below)

On the 10th of March bring down your mum for Mothers Day, or how about checking out the events we are holding throughout March…

TWO New Additions to our Driving Fleet!

Introducing two ultra-rare and uber-cool 1980s British Sports Saloons to our driving fleet!

The first is our stunning 1986 Rover SD1 Vitesse Twin Plenum, with its 3500 V8 and manual gearbox this legendary car is certain to put a smile on anyone’s face

And the second is our 1989 MG Montego 2.0 EFi. This sporty saloon makes a perfect addition to our MG Maestro also on our fleet, especially with 115hp under the bonnet

WHY NOT BRING MUM FOR A TRIP DOWN
MEMORY LANE ON SUNDAY 10th MARCH

Mum’s car was probably just as important as Dad’s in your early life. It was probably Mum who took you to school, dragged you to the shops and acted as a taxi to all those teenage parties. It was probably Mum’s car in which you learned to drive and from which on that joyful day, the L plates were removed. Before you bought your first car, it was probably Mum’s that you borrowed?

So why not buy Mum a slice of nostalgia for Mother’s Day and bring her to Great British Car Journey? She will almost certainly see some of the cars she has owned and you can book her a ride or drive in one of her favourites.

Mother’s Day is all about the memories of all the great things Mum has done for you. For most of us, Mum’s cars were a large part of that rich tapestry of love.

Share your Mum’s car memories with us on Facebook: our favourite three will win a £10 voucher for use in our “Filling Station” café.

THE FILLING STATION CAFE IS ALSO OPEN ON MOTHERING SUNDAY FOR CREAM TEAS & MEALS

WHATS ELSE GOING ON IN MARCH?

Along with running the Drive Dads Car days, we have some great meet ups for you to enjoy too:

For March we have some fantastic events:

  • COFFEES & CARS with Takona Hosting – Sunday 10th March

  • BRITISH MINI CLUB BREAKFAST VISIT – Sunday 17th March

  • SOUTH MIDLANDS ALFA ROMEO OWNERS CLUB – Sunday 24th March

 

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

Great British Car Share Series 2 Now Available

After the success of Series 1 of the Great British Car Share the deadly duo Paul and Sarah are back together for Series 2 to continue their automotive journey down memory lane in some more of the Drive Dads Car fleet of classic British Cars available to drive. We are sure you will enjoy watching them try out the same cars that are available for our classic British Car driving experience. Cars driven include some real classic 60s & 70s cars including a Land Rover MK1, Triumph Stag and Ford Capri 

You can view our full You Tube Channel by clicking the red button below or click on the individual video thumbnails to watch different episodes

You will also be able to see all episodes from Series 1 here too

If you are interested in driving some of these cars yourself (or giving as a gift to someone else) then you can click on the blue button below to see the full fleet of cars available 

We hope you enjoy The Great British Car Share and it inspires you to visit Drive Dads Car or the Great British Car Journey for a very personal trip down memory lane where you will find many of the cars you grew up with

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.