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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