A Morgan is such a wonderful way to travel the byways

Naturally, it helps to understand the mentality of the typical classic car buff. While these people might be renowned for their pipes and slippers approach to a subject that far too many of us take for granted and, yes, they are dyed-in-thewool enthusiasts, a great number of them are so confident in the integrity of their old motors that they club together, have them listed and made available for rental to people, who might otherwise simply not have a clue!

I know that, were I to have a classic car squirreled away in some part of the Chez Robertson estate, I can assure you that the last thing I would be doing is allowing somebody that I scarcely know from Adam to be set free in my chosen mode of collectible transport, regardless of receiving heaps of cash and comprehensive insurance by the bucket-load. Yet, far from harbouring a ‘death-wish’ (towards their wondrously renovated and revitalised machinery), a great many of them are only too delighted to allow strangers to tackle the full-onclassic car experience.

It does not matter, whether you desire a one-day jaunt, a week, or longer excursion, to celebrate a birthday, or just to enjoy that aforementioned trip back in time, there is a car rental programme that will meet your demands and that need not cost a bomb. For what it is worth, a lot of classic cars are owned by major corporations. They have perceived the investment benefits and also appreciate that getting some additional use from the vehicles also ensures that they last longer (far better rolling along than rotting in a barn). Therefore, rather than cotton-wool balling them, or keeping them in a climate controlled, secret environment, away from public glare, they allow them to be managed by responsible companies and made available to the likes of you and me.

The English lakes by Jaguar, by jingo

Sampling the prospects of classic motoring, I took to the Lake District in a gorgeous Jaguar XK150, which I rented privately from a Yorkshire-based classic car owner and not one of the reputable rental establishments. It could have been a mistake but actually worked out fine. My plan was simple. The spree would occupy a day, from departing the chap’s Keighley driveway at 8.30am, followed by a surprisingly speedy trek up the A65 to Windermere, to enjoy the daffodils, visit a few places of interest and zap
back down to Yorkshire by supper time.

To be frank, apart from the attention the fire engine red Jag generated, as much for its rorty engine and exhaust, as its top-down-in-this-weather (lunatic) approach, for a cool £200 and a useful note from my insurance company (‘no extra charge but do take extreme care!’), I could not have made a more satisfying investment. I visited Coniston Water and the Sun Hotel, where Donald Campbell’s team meetings used to take place for his (ultimately) ill-fated water speed record attempts (50th anniversary of his land speed alternative in July 2014). However, I also took in a visit to the William Wordsworth Museum and to see where Beatrix
Potter obtained her inspiration for Jemima Puddleduck.

Truth be known, the prospect of driving a classic car filled me with dread, it needs to be said. While the rarity of even being blighted by a puncture, these days, in a modern car, seems somewhat more likely in one that is some fifty years older and has the unavailability of ready-to-use service items adding to its potential run of ailments, I was actually amazed how reliable the 120,000 mile Jaguar was. I checked the oil every 50 miles or so, almost as much to show off the immaculate gold and polished alloy under-bonnet, as a need to dip the sump. However, it neither burned, nor dripped lubricant, which was a measure of how well kept it was. With a smidgen over 200 miles added to its odometer, my North Yorkshire chum was not the only person relieved that his
beloved XK had been returned scratch-free and purring as sweetly as it ever had done so.

From classic hobby to business venture

Elaine and Tony Merrygold acquired their first Jaguar E-Type in 1990 and used it on several classic car events before deciding to start The Open Road, in 1997, a company that is instrumental in introducing classic motoring to a growing number of people. They
concentrate on British models and currently run a fleet of nine, although a 1965 Ford Mustang GT was added to the line-up just a few years ago. As a result of Tony’s efforts and feedback received from contented customers, he also created the first international portal (Classic Car Hire World) that lists the majority of similar rental firms in Norway, Spain, USA, South Africa and Australia, as well as many other countries.

The range of motorcars extends from ACs and Alfas, to Bentleys, Bugattis, Maseratis, Rileys, Triumphs and VWs. The Open Road’s UK prices are all surprisingly reasonable, with an MGB Roadster starting at £150 per day, although there are three and seven day deals. Remember that insurance is extra and can add to the costs considerably. An additional driver factors in a £20 extra fee, while the company will even provide you with a decent picnic hamper for two at just £35. The aforementioned E-Type starts at £330 per day. However, when you realise that an immaculate example in a collection could be worth upwards of £75,000, it does
seem a small price to pay to boast finally that you have driven the ‘car of your dreams’.

The Open Road’s location is around a half-mile from junction 15 of the M40, in the heart of England, which makes it accessible to a large market. Local accommodation is plentiful and inexpensive and you might contemplate a day’s driving into Shakespeare country, or perhaps a footle around the peaceful and highly attractive Cotswolds. Alternatively, for the utter car-nut in the family,
Gaydon Motor Museum, Coventry Motor Museum and even Silverstone Racing Circuit are all within easy reach of the starting point and do-able within a day.

Ideal motoring territory

What would you expect from a Scotsman? I believe that my homeland offers some of the finest driving routes in the world, across roads uncluttered by traffic and unspoiled by excesses of street furniture, with some of the most spectacular scenery (allied to a near guarantee of rain, sadly). Caledonian Classic Car Hire, owned by Alex Stewart, offers a range of models and tariffs that
include a two-day tour of Scotland, which can be carried out in the company of others, or indulged in solo. £150 will get you a VW Beetle convertible, or MGB, for a day, although more exotic models, like a Morgan, an E-Type, or an Austin Healey 3000, will cost up to £220 per day. If your fancy is tickled by an Austin 7, a Rover 75 ‘cyclops’, a Morris Minor or even a motorbike and sidecar, then Classic Car Hire Scotland, based in the south-west of the country, near Dumfries, offers some cute alternatives to the more customary Triumphs and MGs, although the company has them too. Its rates start from a lowly £105 per day and, with a range of pleasant borders tours on tap, classic motoring seems highly accessible (bearing in mind the customary insurance and other overheads that will weigh in).

Flitting down to the popular south-west of England, Cornwall and Devon has its own specialist classic car hire company, in the shape of Classic Escapes Ltd (although its web-site is confusingly www.cornwallclassiccarhire.co.uk). In addition to a delightful Morris 1000 convertible that carries the nickname ‘Poppy’ (how could you not be entranced?), Classic Escapes also offers a Bentley Continental Convertible, a choice of Aston Martins that will give you that ‘person-of-mystery-for-a-day’ appeal and even a Jaguar XKR convertible in its more modern prestige fleet. Prices start at £187 per day for ‘Poppy’, rising to £543 per day for a classic Aston Martin DB6 (perfect for Bond fans). The more modern prestige models are priced upwards of £1,058 per 48 hours rental.

Naturally, you might prefer something a little closer to home that neither involves as much travel, nor extra accommodation costs, and HCHG Associates can offer you a national network of potential hirers, one of which members, Vanilla Classics, is based at Goodwood, Sussex. As such, it is an ideal starting point for a day’s drive into the New Forest, or for partaking of a picnic
somewhere along the South Downs.

Regardless of what your motoring dreams might be made of, whether the desire to drive a classic is deeprooted, or just a passing fancy, a wealth of exciting, sporting, luxurious and even remarkably pedestrian motorcars awaits your attentions. The prices vary, as do the range of services from the various companies, but you can take your pick and investigate them on-line, should you so desire. A classic trip in the British countryside is not badge-dependent and, whether topdown in a Moggy-Thou, or burbling along in a old Ferrari, the same end result occurs and removing the smile might take several weeks.

Classic motoring facts

Rates: vary according to location and comprehensive nature of back-up services.

Insurance: can be expensive and not all rental firms will allow you to put their precious cars on your insurance. distances: ironically, the majority of hirers do not place limits on mileage covered but it is always worth checking.

Some useful web-sites:

www.classiccarhireworld.com, www.theopenroad.co.uk, www.caledonianclassics.co.uk, www.classiccarhire.co.uk, www.classic-vintage-car-rental.com, www.cornwallclassiccarhire.co.uk, www.vanillaclassics.com