Celebrities have it easy: ‘never work with children or animals’ they’re told. Advice that various radio DJs of the 1970s perhaps ought to have paid a little more heed to. No such sage advice exists for anyone with a penchant for old cars. And yet building your daily life, not to mention your financial security, around a fleet of classic cars is, frankly, insane. I know, because I’ve done it. Old cars are quite like children: temperamental, unpredictable, prone to regular but erratic breakdowns and expensive to keep. Unlike children they can’t communicate and don’t respond to verbal abuse. Just ask Basil Fawlty. At Great Escape Cars we’ve made our bed in the classic car gutter but I like to think we’re looking at the stars. Whether it be masochism, the love of a challenge or the simple fact that we just love these old cars, we love what we do. And here, for your delectation, is what we’re up to right now.
Why We Have a Workshop Most classic car hire companies make do with outside suppliers. Until 2011, we did the same. But it wasn’t working. With over 20 cars to maintain the costs and logistical challenges involved in moving cars between our base and various suppliers was enormous. And I wasn’t best pleased with most of the work that was being done: we were paying premium prices because we needed a quick turnaround (which usually we didn’t get), and the garages simply didn’t get the concept of customer service. In particular, having to return the same car for the same fault several times, and paying for its repair over and over again, just didn’t seem right. So we set up our own workshop, met with a few challenges but achieved a faster turnaround on more durable repairs. Crucially the workshop team gets to know the cars and this makes a massive difference to how faults are diagnosed and rectified. Today we have four full time mechanics, two ramps – with a third planned – and we maintain our own 30+ fleet plus customer cars. The key to our success is how the workshop is run – which is down to my fellow Director Julian Mills.
Painting the Forth Road Bridge One of the main frustrations of running a classic car hire company is the cars. No matter how much money and time you put into them they will never be reliable. This is particularly frustrating for our customers, who occasionally suffer faults and breakdowns. I do understand that. Although this is surprisingly rare (we had just 10 RAC call outs in 2015), customer expectations have risen dramatically in recent years: those who have modern cars are used to impeccable reliability while those with classic cars tend to do very low mileages, which doesn’t stress components. Our cars are subjected to 15,000 miles in an 8 month season in the hands of hundreds of different drivers. With 160 man hours going into fleet maintenance every week of the year and over £50,000 spent on parts I don’t think we can be accused of cutting corners. But every time a car develops a fault we are still immensely disappointed – and always do what we can to fix it quickly and minimise inconvenience.
Winter is for restoration not resting We take our cars off hire from early November and put them back on for Valentine’s Day in February. This gives our workshop a clear window to do the jobs that pile up over the summer. Not that we put off essential repairs, but this is the time for mechanical and bodywork overhauls. Over the summer our four mechanics are flat out keeping our classic cars running over the demand high mileages they rack up with customers. We have four full time mechanics and here are a few of the projects they’re currently working on.
1964 Ford Mustang Convertible
1965 Jaguar Mk2
1974 Jensen Interceptor
Can we help you?
We don’t just work on our own hire fleet, we repair and restore customer cars too. Although we specialise in MG and Jaguar we can handle virtually any classic car repair job.
Of course, if you own a classic car you have a lot of choices when it comes to repairing it. Why choose us? Well I’d like to think we can back up the usual claims about transparency, quality and honesty by the fact that we sit on both sides of the fence: we are our own customer and supplier. Plus the workshop was set up precisely to avoid the pitfalls associated with many classic car specialists – we’ve seen that, lived to regret sampling it and decided it’s not for us.
The final advantage is cost. Because we have a ready stream of work on our own classic cars we don’t need to charge vast sums to cover our overheads – they’re already covered. So we can do your job at a genuinely competitive price.
We price all of our work up in advance and, where possible, we work to a fixed price: what we tell you it will be will be what it will be when you come to pay.
You can find out more about our workshop facilities, and download our case studies, by clicking here. Or call 01527 893733 and ask for Graham or Julian. __________________
www.greatescapecars.co.uk 01527 893733