The year the Mayans chose for the world ending turned out to be perhaps our best ever here at Great Escape towers. Sure, it had its downs as well as its ups (we’ll cover those in a separate post) but for now, as we celebrate the last working day of the year (and possibly the end of the world, no coincidence we hope), here are my 10 top moments from our year of classic car hire.
1. Our Classic Car Driving Days
Cold blooded marketing man that I may be, this is not a plug. If you can’t do what you love, don’t do it and it is our customer Driving Days that prove to me that I’m doing the right thing. I really enjoy them, and I don’t even get to drive the cars. We ran several Driving Days during 2012, plus many more corporate events, but the Dales Dash in August and the Break for the Border trip in July stand out. I get a kick out of customers really enjoying the cars and even in a Jeep with a trailer the scenery and roads we went on were spectacular. Oh, and by the way you can come along on one in 2012 for £199…
2. Driving a DeLorean
A DeLorean was one of the five dream hire cars I had on my list when I set up Great Escape in 2006. Back then the plan was to concentrate on off-beat and unusual classic cars for hire – we still aim to do that but today we also offer more mainstream classics. It took me until 2012 to find and add a DeLorean to the fleet, still the only one in the world that you can hire and drive yourself. Adding the DeLorean was a personal as well as business goal because I’m a child of the 80s and I love them. Sure, it looks better than it drives but when it looks like that, who cares? Driving it was a box ticked.
3. Meeting the Marquis of Blandford Posh people and hob-nobbing don’t do it for me. But it was a genuine pleasure to have a chance meeting with the Duke of Marlborough’s wayward son at Blenheim Palace when we ran a customer event there. Attracted by the array of classic cars parked on the grass outside the palace he stopped in his car for a chat and proved to be a disarmingly down to earth and knowledgeable classic car fan. With a BMW CSL ‘Batmobile’ and a Ferrari Daytona in the garage. Respect.
4. Getting rid of a heap of junk
I won’t lie, I hate this car. Finally getting rid of it after 2 years was one of the greatest days of my life. Sure, this car and its owner cost me £7,500 that I’ll never see again, plus untold stress, time and hassle, but sometimes life is about bigger things. Which is never a bad lesson to learn. You can read the full, honest sorry story elsewhere on this blog. Meanwhile, always keep your eye on the big prize.
5. Happy customers In the rush and stress of running a small business it is sometimes easy to forget quite why you’re doing it. Obviously money is one motivation, but there are far, far easier ways to earn it. I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t for the customers. You can’t please all the people all the time but most of the people most of the time will do for me. My team puts a huge amount of effort into making each hire run smoothly, which is no easy task when you’re managing 80 old cars and 11 locations. But we are privileged to be making dreams for people who have often spent decades wanting a drive in a particular car.
6. My Alfasud
The irony of running a classic car hire company is that you very rarely actually drive classic cars for relaxation and pleasure. We don’t even drive them that much in the course of business, except for regular short test and assessment drives. I love the other cars, particular the Jensen, but my Alfa Romeo Alfasud Ti is my one true driving pleasure because it’s mine all mine. It isn’t a hire car, it’s mine. Except I hardly ever drive it. In 2012 I managed two decent trips in it, through the Cotswolds and over to the Welsh Borders. But I don’t need to go far to fall in love with it again – it’s illogical, irrational and hard to defend, but for me it’s my favourite classic car of all time.
7. Twitter 2012 is the year I discovered Twitter and turned from a tweeting Philistine to a tweeting Evangelist. Like running Great Escape, Twitter is something I do because I like doing it and I’ve hooked up with some great and interesting people that I would never otherwise have known.
8. Blackpool in the Morning
Blackpool is not, and never will be I have to confess, one of my favourite places on earth. But there is something about arriving by the sea early in the morning before the rest of the world is awake and having it all to yourself. That’s how it was when I dropped this Morris Minor van in Blackpool as part of a TV film shoot back in October. The air was crisp, the sea was calm and there was a street cleaner eating leftover food out of one of his bins. All, or at least most of it, was right with the world.
9. My wife, my holiday (and my trusty old Saab)
Running Great Escape is pretty much a 7 days a week job between March and November. I couldn’t do that without these three things – well, two of them at least, my wife and a holiday. Thank you to the former, thank goodness for the latter. And I had to squeeze in the old barge here too – my 2001 Saab 9-5 Griffin. Bought for £500, this 200 bhp super estate has covered 15,000 faultless miles in 2012, including a 3,000 mile trip down to Amalfi in Italy. Here it is in its favourite place (a petrol station) with Vesuvius in the background. Thank you all three, but especially my wife Janine.
10. The Great Escape team
In time honoured fashion, this roll call of all that was great about 2012 has to end with the people that make it happen – Shelle, Jamie and Alison (and Russ too of course). We’ve had some ups and downs along the way but we’ve finished 2012 with a flourish. Keeping a small business on the right track can be tough and stressful work at times but the Great Escape team have supported me all the way and I really appreciate their commitment, dedication and loyalty. If you’ve hired from us in 2012 and loved it, it’s all about them. Cheers.
You can find out more about what we do at http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733. Our round up of what was less spectacular will be posted shortly…..