Have you ever had one of those moments, where you take a glance at an old car and you think of all the memories that its human friends had back in the day? Maybe you were just a lad at the time, never really remembering the occasion as much as you want to. In my case, it’s a Ford Granada that my dad used to have. One which he sold off long before I was born.
Alas, even the younger generation like us are often curious to see what cars our parents and grandparents used to ride in. But rather than look at pictures on the internet, why not get to experience it for yourself in the metal? The Great British Car Journey is here to bring back all that happy and joyous nostalgia, with a slight whiff of petrol.
A Century Of Britannia
The CEO of Great British Car Journey, Richard Usher, told tells his own story:
Four years ago, when I owned and managed Blyton Circuit, a gentleman approached me asking if I’d like to buy his 1989 Austin Maestro in mint condition with just 10,000 miles on the clock. My first thought was ‘no’, but it then got me thinking about when I last saw an Austin Allegro, Metro, original Mini, or even a Ford Cortina on the road. These were cars that were once on virtually every street in Britain and sold in their millions.
Once a wire works factory on the banks of the River Derwent in Ambergate, Derbyshire, this museum boasts a collection of more than 130 vehicles. But more so than just any old museum, the Great British Car Journey is jam-packed with a diverse collection of British marques and models across the last century.
From the ordinary to the extraordinary, its collection starts off with the Austin Seven in 1922. This was no doubt a most revolutionary vehicle in its heyday, as it popularised the standard template for cars to this day. On the tail end of the collection, we have the seemingly space-age McLaren 650S. The latter was borrowed straight from McLaren themselves, a show of the progress that we’ve made over nearly 100 years.
Every Car, Both Ordinary And Extraordinary
The boss of McLaren, Mike Flewitt, was more than keen to lend a hand to help build the Great British Car Journey’s collection:
Richard and the team have done an amazing job bringing Great British Car Journey to life. I am delighted that McLaren is able to support the exhibition which celebrates Britain’s motoring history from Bruce McLaren’s Austin Seven, where our brand story began, through to modern day supercars such as our 650S.
But why, you might ask, is there even a need to look at these old cars anyway? It can be answered in one word – stories. Each of these cars, the old and relatively new, has a story to tell. These are more than machines, but companions that have been a part of people’s lives for decades. Unfortunately, it’s rare enough to see them driving around these days.
Even once mundane cars like the Morris Minor, Ford Capri, or that old 32-year old Austin Maestro are rarer than supercars are these days. This is what’s driven the folks behind the Great British Car Journey to provide an experience like nothing before. After four years of work, the endeavour was undertaken by Richard Usher was joined by four other investors.
More Than Just Machines
In all, they now have one of the largest privately-owned collections in the UK. Most especially so, when you consider that all of the cars are designed, engineered, manufactured, and well-loved in the UK. One of the most difficult cars to track down was the Vauxhall Chevette. Although more than half a million were sold in Britain between 1975 and 1984, only a handful exist today in a roadworthy condition.
Explaining more on the vision behind the Great British Car Journey, Mr. Usher added:
I really wanted the cars to tell a story, so the journey charts the growth of car ownership from Austin’s Seven to the present day. It has a motor show feel with cars grouped in the decades – or chapters – in which they were produced, with period adverts and graphics prominently displayed. The vehicles are easily accessible.
We want people to smell the old car smell, marvel at the interiors and jog memories of trips in the family car, their first car or back seat fights with their siblings when they were growing up. Everyone who has been on the journey, whether a car nut like myself or not, doesn’t fail to have a smile on their face remembering days gone by. Great British Car Journey is the ultimate trip down Memory Lane.
Have An Authentically Vintage Test Drive
Even better, these cars aren’t just static displays, either. For the authentic driving experience to be had, 32 cars can be driven out onto a private road as part of their Drive Dad’s Car programme. Though if you’d rather not get behind the wheel, strolling across the exhibition halls will be a treat, too. Each visitor will have a handheld audio device, and an army of volunteers to explain each car in great detail.
The Great British Car Journey even has its own technician and staff to look after the cars. That is evident by this very green Triumph Spitfire 1500 getting a last-minute polish. Visitors are also welcomed to the onsite workshop where these cars get cared for. All is well in the world when you have an old Haynes manual handy, as Mr. Usher adds:
Great British car journey is very much a working attraction. We have a large collection of well-thumbed Haynes manuals which are regularly consulted when we need to locate a bonnet catch or various engine parts to ensure the maintenance of the collection.
The Great British Car Journey opened its doors on May 22nd, 2021. Entry tickets cost just £15 for adults, and concessions are made available. If you’d like to book them, you can find these tickets online on its webpage. Either for reminiscing in the old times past, or if you’d like to have a go at cars that are three times your age, then the Great British Car Journey is the place to be.