When it comes to classic cars there are some undisputed greats, there are some remarkable duds and there is a lot inbetween. At Great Escape we love them all. But we have a bit of a bee in our bonnet about the duff versions of great cars. Everyone has a different opinion about what constitutes a great car. We just define it as a classic car that our customers love. But a duff version of a great car is, I think, something we can all generally agree on. A duff version is the model in the range that undermines the inherent greatness of the rest of the range. Think Porsche 911 Targa, the ugly scuttle-shaking duck of the iconic 911 range. Or the E Type Series 1 2+2 – all that beauty and brilliance destroyed by the equivalent of a stove pipe hat plonked on top. These cars, and others, are the chinks in the armour, the signs of fallibility that all car companies inevitably suffer from as they cater to the vagaries of the market. As a classic car hire company we don’t want the lemons, but they are very tempting because generally they’re cheap. Our customers want to drive their perfect image of their dream car, in the right colour. Anything else is a compromise. We’ve learnt this by trial and error and I’ll admit we’ve had a few duffers. Sometimes you don’t realise they are duffers until you drive one or see it up close. Take that 911 Targa for example – like discovering a third ear on Elle Macpherson. It just ain’t right. So here is our list of duff classic cars, the great cars that snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Jaguar E Type Series 1 2+2
This is our number one travesty. Take a beautiful car with brilliantly cohesive lines and make it longer and higher. The long wheelbase Series 1 is truly bad mainly because the Series 1 is so pure and beautiful in standard form. The higher roofline looks like an awful last minute add on and the extra length wrecks the lines, without even making the car a proper 4 seater. Nobody can sit in the back of a 2+2 E Type and survive.
Conventional wisdom runs that 6 cylinders are better than 4, 3 litres better than 1.8. Hence the MGC. The MGC is not a bad car, it’s just not a hire car. Conventional wisdom has it that the C doesn’t offer many advantages over the B and there is some merit in that view, although a MGB with more power and a sweet 6 cylinder engine can never be a bad thing. The C’s issues are really about classic car hire – customers have a set view about MGs and they know what they should pay to hire one. A B is reasonably priced and cheap to run, a C much less so. And yet when you’re hiring it, you can’t really charge more for it. Far better, we think, to go for a V8 conversion and enjoy what a big engined MGB should have been like, with lightness at the front and plenty of poke.
Some great cars take a little time to get going, others fade away slowly. The 911 falls into the first camp. For the first five years of production Porsche only made a diminutive version if the 911 with a short wheelbase, commonly known as the A Series. It’s rubbish. Slow, ponderous and with squat looks its erratic handling earned the 911 its end-swapping reputation. Later cars are much better and the pedals, thankfully, won’t murder your ankles.
Daimler 250 V8
Now this is a tough one. The small capacity Daimler v8 is a very, very good car. The v8 Turner engine is far superior to the straight 6 Jaguar engines and it had power steering as standard. It also looks exactly like a mk2. But it isn’t a Mk2 is it? Lured by the undeniable advantages of te Daimler version we put one in our hire fleet. It looked great and we organised some nice photos to reflect that. But despite all that, it hired twice in 12 months, roughly 2% of what we expect from a mk2. Why? Well there’s one big fat reason – it’s not a mk2. And unvariably the Daimler is automatic. To really enjoy the spirited driving that is a mk2 trademark you need a manual box. Otherwise you might as well be a passenger. So, Daimler v8, better than a mk2 but not, ultimately, as good. To the power of 2%.
Over the last 7 years we’ve learned by trial and error what customers want when they choose a classic car to hire. In some cases, like the Daimler, we’ve had to put personal opinion to one side. The result is a fleet of cars that we are proud to offer – we aren’t cutting corners and we aren’t fobbing customers off with the duff version of a great car. To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk