Retirement, I’m told, is something to look forward to. No more work just long lazy days wondering why the neighbours don’t cut their hedge, wash their car or cut their grass often enough. Bliss. So it must be for many elderly old cars, removed from the daily commute to be polished and mended and enjoyed on occasional sunny weekends.
Not so, however, for the age-defying classics on the Great Escape Cars fleet. When I casually browsed our hire data recently I was staggered to discover that our cars are covering 10,000 to 15,000 miles during a hire season. On Average. With an average age of 40 years old and a typical hire season of eight months, these old cars are working at a monthly mileage that is twice that of a modern car. To put that into more acute perspective, they cover in two weeks what most classic cars do in a year. Wow. As proof, I’ve included a few photos of our cars’ recent MOTs on this page.
All of which may explain why I have just spent £60,000 (and counting) on improving the fleet over winter. It also keeps a team of four full time Great Escape Cars mechanics busy ensuring our cars are reliable and roadworthy for each hire. The result is a frankly remarkable 97% reliability record across our fleet in 2015.
I am, I think justifiably, proud of this achievement, particularly because I know for a fact that it is not typical of this hire sector. I’m also pleased in an irritatingly self-satisfied way because it means we deliver a better service for our customers. We are the only classic car hire company with our own full service workshop and therefore with this commitment to vehicle quality and reliability. Making classic cars reliable enough to withstand very high mileages in the hands of hundreds of different drivers every year is not easy. It doesn’t help that in many cases the starting point is a car that wasn’t much cop when it was new. Most of our classic hire fleet comprises classic British cars built, allegedly, by British Leyland such as MGs, Jaguars, Triumphs and Morrises. They date from the early 60s to the mid 80s, a period of 25 years during which BL learnt nothing except perfecting how to make cars badly.
Any car that survives for 40 years has to be one of the better examples, which helps us, but sadly the fundamental design flaws and the poor quality of parts still affect them.
We overcome these problems through very careful maintenance and sympathetic improvements, such as electronic ignition. As a general rule, any new car to our fleet will take 12-18 months to reach a standard of reliability that we’re happy with. This happens irrespective of how well maintained the car has been or how reassuring the previous owner is: when you suddenly subject a car to a massive increase in use it will throw up its foibles. Another key to making our cars successful is knowing them inside out. Our workshop has spent a lot of time working on our fleet so when a problem occurs, they can generally address it quickly. We keep good maitnenance records, so we know what we’ve done.
Generally our cars fail now because of poor quality replacement parts. This is extremely frustrating because we source them from well known marque specialists – and when a fault occurs blaming a new part is not the most immediate thought. Despite a hefty investment in reliability, sometimes cars still break down. They’re old and it’s inevitable. It’s also annoying and frustrating for the customer. But, after eight years hiring out classic cars I know that we have done everything we can to minimise the risk. But we can’t eradicate it. When you’re looking to hire a classic car here are a few pointers to help ensure you get a reliable car:
1. Check how long the car has been on the fleet 2. Find out what the maintenance regime is 3. Ask about the car’s condition and when it was last mechanically and bodily overhauled 4. Ask what mileage it typically covers in a month 5. Ask what problems there have been recently 6. Find out how often the breakdown service has been called out to this car 7. What percentage of the cost of your hire goes back into maintenance (ours is 35%)
To find out more about the maintenance and improvement regime for our hire fleet call 01527 893733 or click here.
Graham Eason www.greatescapecars.co.uk 01527 893733