Keeping The Classic Divas Happy
Running a fleet of classic cars up to 60 years old can, at times, feel like herding sheep. Or painting the Forth Road Bridge. Or managing particularly petulant showbiz devas. Because no matter how hard the team at Great Driving Days works, there's always more to do.
One upside of the lockdown - and there aren't many - is that it has given us a little more time to titivate our fleet for the 2021 season. During the 2020/2021 winter lockdown we've invested over £20,000 to improve the classic cars you can drive. And we're continuing to spend.
Here's what we've been doing to what cars. If you don't see an update on a particular car it's because we're still working on it.
Jaguar E Type
Our E Type covers around 1,500 miles a week during the season, so it has to be running sweet. The 2020 lockdown gave us a chance to undertake some big jobs including a full rear axle and suspension rebuild and significant engine and carburettor work. The workshop hours ran into the hundreds.
With the mechanicals sorted, the 2021 lockdown has enabled us to get the seats completely refurbished in the original red leather and to fit new carpets and some internal trim.
Our V12 XJS has been a dependable trooper since we bought it eight years ago. In that time it's nearly doubled its mileage to 100,000 miles and completely belied the model's reputation for truculence and unreliability.
We undertook a restoration of the car in 2019, which addressed a few cosmetic bodywork issues, and at the same time reconditioned the seats and fitted a new headlining. Over the 2020/2021 winter break the car hasn't needed much, the work limited to a full service and fresh MOT. The biggest job turned out to be a small but niggling one. XJS' from this era suffer badly with deterioration of the headlamp reflectors. This shouldn't be troublesome, except that new UK-spec trapezoidal lights are not available new and - as a result - almost impossible to find second hand. The standard solution is to convert the car to US-spec quad round lamps. But we prefer the standard style and we think customers do too, so after a lengthy search we managed to track down a pair of good replacements. Which cost roughly half what we paid for the car back in 2012.
Interest in the XJS has picked up significantly in the last couple of years. We hope that parts support will follow suit because many new parts are still not available for this fantastic car.
Alfa Romeo Spider
The Spider is the longest-serving car on our hire fleet - it was with us from day one in 2006 - and, until recently, was also the most reliable. Quite remarkable for a car that has covered over 100,000 kilometres in that time and was never known for its durability and reliability.
The problems started when we got the gearbox reconditioned in 2018. Since it was refitted the box never operated correctly, even when removed, inspected and refitted twice. This meant the Spider was consigned to back up duties for most of 2019 and 2020 seasons.
It took a new mechanic to identify the problem - the clutch master cylinder had been fitted the wrong way round when the gearbox was put back in. As it turns out, twice.
Alongside curing this problem the Alfa has had a full service, fresh MOT and both seats fully re-upholstered. We are hoping to replace the carpets in the cabin and boot too, provided time and parts supply allows.
The Fiat was a new addition to the fleet in 2020 and only managed one outing thanks to some ongoing mechanical issues. Thankfully these are now sorted, but the work has been extensive. The mini Ferrari has had new cambelts, full service, fresh MOT, new clutch, new radiator pipes (which run the length of the car) and various ancillaries have been replaced to improve its reliability.
Our plan is to run the Fiat for 2021 so that customers can get a chance to drive it. Then it we'll be reupholstering the interior and treating it to a respray. The special 'Grand Finale' seat trim is notoriously poor wearing and extremely difficult to replace, requiring material to be specially made - so it's not a quick job we can fit in before the season restarts.
Our 1965 Mk2 Jaguar has been off hire for 18 months due to bodywork repairs that were unavoidably delayed due to the lockdown. But it will be back in time for the start of the 2021 season having had major repairs to its sills and front arches and its braking system renovated.
We're looking forward to getting this back on the road - it drives extremely well for a Mk2 and constantly delights customers.
Our low mileage XJR joined the fleet in 2019 and has proved popular thanks to its blend of louche style and supercharged performance. Unfortunately the downside of 1990s Jaguar ownership is rust. Lots of it.
During lockdown the XJR has received new rear arches and a full back and front end respray to rectify mismatched paintwork. It'll be ready for some supercharged wafting in May 2021.
You can drive these cars from just £49 with our exclusive range of classic car driving experience. Find out more at www.greatdrivingdays.co.uk.
Graham Eason, Great Driving Days, 01527 893733