Your Five Favourite Classic Hire Cars
Running a classic car hire business can be like owning a sweet shop: a golden ticket to buy and drive whatever you want.
Well, sort of. Eventually, if you want to stay in business for more than a few months, you have to give the people what the people want. At Great Driving Days we've worked through around 100 different cars to create the 20-strong fleet we have now. Time, experience and customer feedback mean that it represents the best of what customers really, really want. Oh, and a few we just really, really like. That bit never dies.
But there is a caveat: some cars, like DeLoreans and Cobra kit cars are very, very popular. But rubbish hire cars because they're just very unreliable. Others, like the Audi Quattro, are reliable but fixing them is a pain.
Here then, are the five classic cars that have stood the test of time: the ones that you like and we like, because they're easy to own (well, relatively).
5. Jaguar XJS
Just nudging its way into this list is the car that, for a very long time, Jaguar wished it could forget. But the XJS is experiencing something of a rebirth right now, as enthusiasts begin to acknowledge just how very, very good the former ugly duckling really is.
A big part of our car's draw is that silken V12, the world's only mass production 12 cylinder engine. And it is quite something, delivering turbine-like performance. But the rest of the XJS deserves credit too - it rides brilliantly, thanks to all those XJ saloon bits, and handles neatly too. The XJS is popular with those increasingly in the know, and with sceptics too - no other car on our fleet converts as many people to its multifold charms. Once driven, forever smitten etc.
And those looks are really beginning to age nicely, particularly on the mid-period 80s cars.
4. HMC Healey
It may not be a classic Austin Healey 3000, but in our book that's definitely a good thing. Beautiful and grunty as they are, a classic Healey is a pig to drive with heavy steering and an uncomfortable driving position.
Thankfully, when the Healey family decided to start making cars again, they addressed those problems. Out went the hefty old 3 litre Austin engine, in came a lightweight Rover V8. A five speed box, power steering, more cabin space and even heated seats completed the makeover. Thankfully the designers kept the original's looks pretty much intact - just a few choice touches to beef up the visuals.
And unlike the original, the HMC drives superbly. A TVR-esque space frame chassis and low body weight mean excellent performance and handling.
For many years the HMC has consistently ranked alongside the E Type as the star of our road trips. But sterling work by other cars on this list mean it's dropped a couple of places in the popularity stakes.
3. Jaguar Mk2
Producing just one of the world's most beautiful cars would be enough for most car makers. But within the space of 2 years in the late 1950s and early 1960s Jaguar gave us two: the E Type, of course, and this saloon - the Mk2.
Jaguar would go on to produce another beautiful saloon car, the XJ6, but unlike that car the Mk2 has it all: it looks amazing, it drives really well and the interior is mesmerizingly beautiful. All that and well sorted 3.4s and 3.8s, like the cars on our fleet, go like stink.
Just like the E Type, the Mk2 delivers a real sense of occasion on any drive: that's partly due to that wonderful interior, but also the sense that this is a saloon car built to be driven, not just to drive.
2. Ford Capri
It's the task of the humble car you always promised yourself to keep this list from being a Jaguar slam dunk. Which shouldn't really be much of a surprise - the Capri presses the nostalgia button because it was such a beloved part of growing up for so many people. For the team at Great Driving Days that's a joy to see - people often brought to tears by the chance to drive one of Ford's best ever cars.
It may not be the last word in sophistication but, for the Capri, that doesn't matter: it entertains. From its burbly exhaust to its long, long bonnet, this is a car that makes memories.
The Capri has steady become more popular since we put the first one on our fleet about 10 years ago. Today it is very popular, fuelled no doubt by nostalgia and the skyrocketing cost of buying one.
1. Jaguar E Type
It's not going to surprise anyone that the most popular car on our hire fleet, by a country mile, is the car Enzo Ferrari drooled over way back when.
The E Type has it all: the looks, the performance. The sheer presence. Unlike some classic cars, it doesn't disappoint from behind the wheel either: whether you're pootling along admiring the view or putting the 4.2 litre straight six to work, thanks to that superlative bonnet view few cars are quite as exhilarating.
It also makes sense for us too. You can get most E Type bits off the shelf, the XK engine is virtually bulletproof and the rest of the car is fairly simple and straightforward. The big problem is rust - fixing an E Type is not for the faint hearted.
We don't rest on our laurels (whatever those are). We are constantly looking for new cars to improve our fleet and give customers new choices. In the last 12 months we've added 6 new cars to our fleet, including several that you simply can't hire anywhere else. Click here to see our latest classic car hire fleet.
Graham Eason, Great Driving Days. 01527 893733