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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.

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.

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.

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

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:

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.

My Motoring Week

I continue to run in “Dinky” my Austin Seven in preparation for the Pre-War Austin Seven Club Cumbrian tour in two week’s time and so far… so good. Dinky’s former owner has also been in touch, and as a result, I am now the proud owner of my third Reliant; a wonderful 1962 Regal Mk V1.  This is the third car I have bought from Eric Taylor who I met at the Ashover Show several years ago when I bought Dinky from him.

My second purchase was also a Reliant but one with four wheels; a 1987 Scimitar SS1. I drove the Scimitar this week and decided that an MOT was needed so we could do some road miles. Reliant had great plans to build 1000 of these a year but the hot hatch ruled the roads in the 1980s, so just over 1000 of these little two seaters left Tamworth in an eight year production run. It’s perhaps not one of Michelotti’s greatest designs but it’s light, nippy and a lot of fun to drive. MOT passed but a few jobs for Luke and Doc Lawrence before we buy the road tax…

The Regal has been fully restored and was a great success for Reliant in the early 60s with well over 10,000 being produced. We need a new fuel pump for mine and then we will report on the driving experience!!

I also gave my Mk 4/5 Cortina a spin as we have put this on the Drive Dads Car fleet and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by how well it drives. I then jumped in our Mk 1 Granada with its silky smooth 2.5 litre Six cylinder engine for the early 70s luxury car experience! This is also now available to drive on the fleet.

Good to see so many Great British Car Club members for Breakfast on Sunday including this wonderful convertible Citroen Traction Avant which completed the Peking to Paris run back in 2007. Also this lovely S1 Bentley… surely the most elegant of the standard bodied Bentley and Rolls-Royce models. 

Finally, I was very excited to get the Eight track stereo in our Mk3 Cortina playing T Rex yesterday. Find the video on Facebook here!!

Stay safe and enjoy the Sun whilst it lasts… we are on holiday in Norfolk next week so its probably going to rain!

My Motoring Week…

Mini and Austin 7

A busy week at Great British Car Journey finished off with Father’s Day and hundreds of cars and visitors.

My daily commute has been in my 2000 Mini Cooper Sport which has covered only 10600 miles from new. The classic Mini is a work of pure genius and reconnects you with the road like nothing else. A huge “Thank you” must go to Sir Alec Issigonis for his creation, although as I turned 66 last Thursday, I realised that my springs aren’t quite what they were!

Dutton Surf

Much of the middle of the week was committed to familiarisation in the Dutton, as we finally braved the slipway and took to the Derwent. On Friday, my old friend Rob Gill who is the motoring editor of The Sun came to get aquatic. See what he thought in this Thursday’s paper or read and watch it here.

In preparation for Austin Day on Saturday, I drove our A70 Hereford and our beautiful Austin 16 Woodie, the latter in preparation for a reunion with the family who rebuilt her over 40 years ago. These big post war Austins have so much to recommend them; comfort and serenity on wheels.

Austin Day was well attended on Saturday with another fine Paralanian Camper stealing my heart – truly the Rolls Royce of camper vans! Thanks to the Austin Counties crowd for providing such an array of Devons, Dorsets, Herefords, Hampshires and Somersets.

Doc Lawrence our resident mechanical genius has also changed the bearings in Dinky, my Austin 7 in preparation for the Pre War Austin 7 Cumbrian run in July. She has never run so sweetly but I am under pain of death to run her in carefully.

Mini and Austin 7

A truly wonderful selection of Jowetts joined us for Father’s day so we had to get our Bradford Lorry (on loan from Joe Stocks) out to meet a friend. Thank you Jowetteers for joining us and happy 100th birthday to the oldest one make car club in the world!

Find our full list of upcoming events here or book your tickets to experience Great British Car Journey here.

Rover Day – 14 May 2023

Rover Day 2023 at Great British Car Journey

Hopefully watching from above, John Kemp Starley, would have observed the car park at Great British Car Journey largely populated by Rovers on Sunday 14th May 2023 as we celebrated the great British institution that was Rover cars. Of course, Starley made his considerable reputation with his Rover ‘safety’ bicycle and it was not until 1904 that the first Rover car took to the road, preceded by some motorbikes and an ingenious electric tricycle.

Over the next 100 years, Rover concentrated on cars and although Starley died in 1901, his legacy was more than present in our car park for our Rover themed day.

I would like to thank all the owners of the cars who made our first Rover Day so memorable. In particular, the enthusiastic Rover 200 and 400 Owners Club and their events co-ordinator Iain Turner for putting on a great display of some of the last high volume Rovers ever made. Iain has a pristine Rover 200vi which was one of the last really hot hatches to carry the Rover name.

The famous Viking Ship logo was visible on virtually all the significant post-war models on display with a number of P6 and SD1s present representing an era when Rover lost its rather staid image with some truly inspirational models. Sadly, the Rover car story ended in 2005, when the closure of Longbridge ended production of the 75.

Rover Day however, was a celebration of the greatness of Rover and I look forward to celebrating again next year with even more cars!

Our themed events programme continues this weekend with a 75th birthday celebration of Alec Issigonis’ first great success, the Morris Minor. If you own one or just love them, join us next Sunday!

Richard Usher
Found and CEO, Great British Car Journey

Founder’s Classic Week of Driving

Despite having a rather busy weekend, I managed to squeeze a little bit of Classic motoring into my week.

It started with a familiarisation drive in one of the latest cars donated to the museum – a 1997 Rover 820 kindly donated by Stephen Yates, having been in long term family ownership. These luxury Rovers benefitted from the British Leyland collaboration with Honda and sold well, replacing the ageing SD1. This particular car has been cherished by Stephen and his parents and drives very sweetly providing a very comfortable ride.

On Monday, I briefly drove another car donated to us by Peter Mathers, a 2007 Ford Ka 1.3. making it a late version of the car launched in 1996 and substantially changed in 2008. I owned a SportKa back in 2004 which I used as a runaround and thought back then that it was a fun drive which could definitely have handled more power. The styling was not to everyone’s taste but it was distinctive which I think has really stood the test of time. Sadly in my view the last iteration of the Ka which was discontinued in 2019 looked like just another small euro-box and had lost the distinctive character of the original car. We would like to thank Peter for this ‘modern classic’ and one of the last Fords to have a really distinctive shape.

On Thursday I drove home in my A40 Farina which is always guaranteed to raise a smile. This car was supplied new by Kennings in Loscoe in 1963 and I am only the second owner. It has covered 250,000 miles and now has a 1275cc engine with twin carbs. Needless to say it is a sprightly little thing. The reg number is original as in 1963 before going to the A suffix , Derbyshire County Council decided to use up some old numbers. My Mum learned to drive in an A40 so I have early memories of listening to her instructor, Mrs Parker, giving her lessons as I stayed quiet in the back!

Finally, I am delighted to announce that we have bought a really rare HB Viva from Great British Car Club member Paul Simpson. This SL variant has a 1600 OHC engine with 83 bhp on tap. It’s in great condition and drives really well. This was a real alternative to an Escort GT and I think drives rather better with its coil sprung back axle with trailing arms. I have driven it round the site but can’t wait for an open road trip!

So… another varied week of motoring down at Great British Car Journey and we personally have a Porsche Cayenne on loan at the moment as Mrs Usher’s Macan is in for some work. The Cayenne is all that’s wrong with modern cars, its huge bulk makes it feel really heavy (which it is) and if you drive with any enthusiasm, it’s actually quite hard work and very hard on the wallet. Does anyone really need such a big lumbering thing to take the kids to school? I cant wait to get our diesel Macan back.

Richard Usher,
Founder and CEO, Great British Car Journey

April goes out with a bang and May starts with one!

May Day Great British Car Meet

We enjoyed a fantastic weekend at Great British Car Journey as April moved into May last week. Both Saturday, Sunday and Monday (May Day) were really busy and I would like to thank all the team for their hard work and dedication. Thanks also to all the organisers from Jaguar Drivers Club, Morgan Sports Car Club, The Imp Club and Aston Martin Owners Club for visiting and being so complimentary about our venue.

A belated Happy 60th Birthday to the Hillman Imp – that clever little car built by the Rootes Group in Scotland which deserved to be a bigger success back in the 1960s. I was particularly impressed by the variety of different Jaguars which attended the Breakfast Club and was pleased to hear from the Club Chairman, Roger Kemp, that the club is enjoying good growth with plenty of owners of current cars signing up too. The Club magazine edited by the indefatigable, Gaynor Cauter, is a very well-produced publication which I would say is worth the club membership fee in its own right.

Similarly, Roy Blunt, Chairman of The Imp Club affirmed that interest in the Imp and all its variants remained strong and they had enjoyed a good weekend celebrating this significant anniversary.

The winning Austin Paralanian Camper Van
The winning Austin Paralanian Camper Van – Image courtesy of Carly Staton

On Monday, we entered a new month with our second Great British Car Meet in three days and a fantastic turnout saw the car park full and the café as busy as ever. My absolute favourite car of the day was the pristine Austin Paralanian Camper Van. The name Paralanian came from the fact that they were coach-built in Parry Lane, Bradford, so not quite as exotic as it sounds. However, it was a very luxurious Motor Home by the standards of post-war Britain and this particular example was a real credit to its owner. I hope we will see it again.

Visit our calendar for the full list of future classic car events at Great British Car Journey.

Richard Usher
Founder and CEO of Great British Car Journey.

An ‘Eggcellent’ Easter Monday Car Meet

It was great to see so many cars at the latest event at Ambergate yesterday for our Easter Monday Great British Car Meet. Although the weather was very April, it didn’t stop people and cars turning up in their droves! The sun even made one or two brief appearances.

I absolutely love the diversity of classic cars at these events: a beautiful 1947 Rolls-Royce, a sweet little Gilbern GT, an immaculate and immensely rare Mk 3 Cortina 1.3 L,  a couple of Morgan three-wheelers, a Saab 96, alongside the Minis, Metros, Maestros and Maxis (Remember: the four Ms are available to drive on our Drive Dad’s Car fleet).

Every time I went out in the car park, there was another car that caught my eye. I loved having great conversations with you, the owners about the history, the memories and why the car is special to you.

I was often accompanied by film maker extraordinaire Paul Woodford and, when I could prize her away from the Ital complete with roof rack and vintage luggage, the marvellous Sarah Crabtree. Speaking of which, have you seen the episode of Great British Car Share over on our YouTube channel in which Sarah drives (or attempts to drive) our Maxi? Watch it here if you haven’t.

Finally it was great to see road tester par excellence  John Barker and his sons. Many moons ago, John and colleagues started a magazine called EVO for which he still writes. 

I would like to thank everyone who came along to our Easter Monday Great British Car Meet and helped make it such a success.

If you missed out on this or are hungry for more, we also have an evening Car Meet on Friday 28th April and another Bank Holiday Car Meet on Monday 1st May.

Our Car Meets cost just £5 to enter with your car but if you are a member of our fantastic Great British Car Club, then entry to all our Meets is free. For an annual membership fee of just £39 you can come into the Great British Car Journey exhibition as often as you like and also attend a load of Members’ events, as well as get discounts on Drive Dad’s Car drives, in the café, gift shop and a dedicated insurance offer.

The Club is friendly and very inclusive; any car, any make or model and just a passion for classics. See the section on our website for more details on how to join.

Finally, it’s Drive it Day on Sunday 23rd April and the Club has put together a lovely 40 mile drive through the White Peak courtesy of my old friend Steve White whose Model A Ford is the oldest licensed taxi in the UK. If you want to join the run, please give us a call on 01773 317243.

A big thank you to everyone who came along to this event for your enthusiasm and support. I hope to see you again very soon.

Richard Usher

CEO and Founder, Great British Car Journey.

Founder’s Blog – January 2023

Well Done Spireites!!

Twenty five years ago, when I was responsible for Sales and Marketing at Chesterfield-based Auto Windscreens, I was very involved in British football. Auto Windscreens was the shirt sponsor of Derby County, Birmingham City, Bristol City,  Dunfermline Athletic and one or two more UK clubs as well as sponsoring the Auto Windscreens Shield (previously sponsored by arch-rivals Autoglass), which culminated in a final at Wembley which I attended on at least three occasions.

The Shield was a knockout competition for teams playing in what were then League Divisions Three and Four and I went to the old Saltergate ground a few times to see Chesterfield play in the early rounds.

I have never played football in my life and, until yesterday (Saturday 7th January), I had not been to a match for well over 20 years…but what a match!

An early goal from “The Baggies” (West Bromwich Albion), who play in “The Championship” so are ranked way ahead of non-League Chesterfield, looked ominous but Chesterfield were soon level and with only a few minutes to go they were ahead by three goals to two. There was sustained pressure WBA and in the end a mistake in defence (one of very few) allowed them to equalise so there will be a replay which I think will be at The Hawthorns in West Bromwich.

It was a thrilling encounter and my heartiest congratulations to Town who played brilliantly and were never over-awed by their very strong opponents. I am seriously thinking that I need a ticket for the replay!!   Go you Spireites!!!

Watch the match highlights here

A tribute to Her Majesty The Queen

On Thursday (8th September) It seemed entirely appropriate that by chance I had parked our Daimler Majestic Major Limousine outside the entrance to Great British Car Journey for our Great British Car Club monthly meeting.

As the sad news from Balmoral percolated through the members, I could not help but reflect on how the Daimler marque mirrored the boundless qualities of the monarch who has presided over the UK for the whole of my life.

Her Majesty the Queen‘s first state car was a Daimler DE27 and in the following eight decades there was always a Daimler somewhere in the royal car store. Classic in the true sense of the word, dependable, under-stated, reliable and ever-ready to serve are just a few of the qualities I associate with both the car and with Queen Elizabeth II.

Powerful, solid, but with immense magisterial presence…the list is long and encompasses unglamorous but dutiful virtues which lie at the very heart of greatness.

Virtually all the cars on display and stored at Ambergate are Elizabethan in the temporal sense but few, if any, could aspire to the values espoused by our late Queen.

Today will be a day for quiet reflection on a life undeniably well-lived tinged with sadness that an era has passed.

Richard Usher

CEO and founder, Great British Car Journey