I was privileged to be invited to the official opening of a fascinating new classic car museum experience in Derbyshire this week, ahead of its public opening at the weekend.
The Great British Car Journey, in Ambergate aims to bring the story of the British motor industry to life, through a collection of stunning classic cars, some clever technology and an extremely well thought out narrative.
I was joined by some famous faces from the world of classic motoring, including the Gadget Show’s Jon Bentley and Sarah Crabtree from classic car auction TV show Bangers & Cash.
It seemed like the perfect excuse to give the Clan Crusader its first long journey since I brought it back to Lincolnshire, putting to the test all the work I’ve done to improve the mechanical aspects of the car.
Join me for a blog-style video – different to my usual style – complete with a cameo from Ms Crabtree, who was wearing her Clan Crusader t-shirt with style!
The Clan Crusader documentary, “Blades of Glory” and a newly produced short film about classic British getaway cars, starring the Mk2 Jaguar have been submitted to two prestigious International Film Festivals.
Blades of Glory tells the story of the charismatic Whitley Bay tailor, Johnny Blades and his Northern Mod Sports title-winning season of 1973 in the works racing Clan Crusader. The film has received positive feedback from all corners of classic motoring and motorsport.
The film has been submitted for two awards – ‘Best Documentary Feature’ and ‘Best Independent Film’ in the prestigious International Motor Film Awards, judged by a high profile panel which includes former Top Gear and Fifth Gear Presenter Tiff Needell, and Gumball 3000’s Maximillion Cooper.
Flawed Hero is a short story which visually depicts the plight of the archetypal 1960s movie getaway car, the Mk2 Jaguar and cars like it. The film has been entered in the Depict! short film festival for short films of 90 seconds and less. Telling any story in a film this short is a challenge enough, but Flawed Hero also attempts to tell this story without words or dialogue.
Ahead of both festivals, you can watch both films here…
Tonight, at 7PM “Blades of Glory”, a feature-length documentary film about Johnny Blades and the works racing Clan Crusader premieres on Facebook and YouTube. Here’s how you can tune in live for the showing.
Following the success of “Mull 1972: The Clan’s Crusade”, the story of Alan Conley’s victory on the Tour of Mull in the Clan works rally car, “Blades of Glory” is a feature-length documentary, moving from the rally stage to the race track.
The premiere is schedule for Facebook and YouTube tonight at 7pm, CLICK HERE to register for the Facebook showing, or CLICK HERE to watch live on YouTube.
This is the story of a fairytale rally victory on the formidable Tour of Mull, a gruelling day and night rally that in 1972 would see Alan Conley and Crawford Dunn emerge victorious in the litte-known Clan Crusader despite fierce competition.
What made Conley’s victory even more remarkable, was that the Clan had made its competition debut just a month earlier, before the factory development car took an impressive second overall on the Manx International Trophy Rally behind Roger Clark’s works Escort three weeks ahead of Conley lining up in this – the first of the ‘factory’ Clan rally cars – in Tobermory.
Victory on Mull changed everything.
CLICK HERE for more Clan Crusader content and merchandise
Paul Woodford’s classic car channel, Classics Driven has launched a series of original pieces of graphic and video content, together with a range of t-shirt designs themed around the Clan Crusader.
The project aims to raise the profile of this little-known and underrated seventies low volume British sports car by telling the car’s stories to a modern media audience.
Paul said: “I’ve always been fascinated by the Clan Crusader. I appreciate a beautiful classic car like the next person, but for me to put heart and soul into owning and producing content for a car, it has to have a good story. The Clan Motor Company’s plight in the early seventies, together with the car’s famous rally victories is one of the most under-told stories in the motoring world.”
Enthusiasts of the Clan Crusader can now enjoy a series of video content, including a lap of Cadwell Park onboard a 1971 example, and an upcoming series of stories about the car’s giant killing motorsport exploits.
In addition, a set of three t-shirts are now available to order, featuring original designs that celebrate the Clan Crusader’s fascinating heritage.
I love classic motoring; the cars, the theatre, the motor industry stories through the various eras, and the people I’m lucky to meet through filming cars.
But there are two parts of the classic motoring experience I realised that I miss out on, in doing what I do.
One is simply driving the cars – when you’re filming, you’re wholly focused on the production. Spending a day with one eye on the script and the other on the clock is hugely satisfying don’t get me wrong, but you forget to actually be there in the moment.
The second thing I miss out on is just enjoying a drive out with my wife – it’s something we’d do all the time when we were dating; enjoying the cars and each other’s company. But these days, with a two-seater classic car and three children, we enjoy a very different kind of motoring life.
So I booked the ‘Break for the Border’ Classic Road Trip with Great Escape Cars, and Vikki booked the Grandparents – we were going to drive five completely different classic cars on some of the country’s best driving roads. No filming, no parent duties – just drive.
On arrival we were given a friendly, fun, socially distanced briefing by the Great Escape Team, who then introduced the line-up of cars we were about to drive.
We started with the XJS, a V12-powered ‘80s armchair. Time sappingly smooth, and gloriously British and refined, it was a great way to introduce Vikki to the classic car driving experience, which if you’ve never done it is an art that you’ll have a lot of fun perfecting!
Time sappingly smooth, and gloriously British
Next up, forget any notions about peaking too soon, the Series 2 E Type beckoned for a drive across the Welsh border. If there’s a more iconic sports car, it’s escaped every one of my 36 years on this planet. And as Enzo Ferrari said when he first saw one, it’s the most beautiful car in the world.
The E-Type is a car I’ve always wanted to drive, and goodness me do you need to drive it! The 4.2 litre straight six engine barks at you, the gearbox takes real finesse to get on top of, and that fantastic long bulging bonnet lurches around in front of you.
All of a sudden, it clicked – I began to understand the car, and each gear change and squeeze of the throttle invited me to turn to Mrs W and say “god I love this car!”
Vikki enjoyed the power, and the experience of getting used to driving the car smoothly seemed to give her a real sense of accomplishment.
A quick stop for lunch followed; a chance to get to know our fellow road trippers and swap stories of the cars we’d driven to that point, all socially distanced of course.
These moments are important – perhaps more so than ever right now. While we talked cars, the hard working road trip crew sanitised and refuelled the cars ready for the next ‘stage’.
The Mk2 Jaguar was up next, with its 1960s elegance and surprisingly raucous engine. It’s a car that really needs to be grabbed by the scruff of its neck to drive smoothly – every ounce of the driving experience fascinates me. By now we were on some fantastic, scenic roads on the way to Newtown, Powys – perfect for us to find the flow of the Mk2.
Next, we hot-footed it back across the border into England in the good old MG BGT, and were both reminded why it’s remained firmly one of the most popular classic cars to own and drive for generations. The Great Escape example is tight and positive, and is so rewarding to drive in a spirited fashion. So we did!
The BGT is a really accessible classic, and despite me boring Vikki about the oily ins and outs of the ‘over drive’ switch, this was hands down her favourite car to drive on the trip.
After a scenic final handover, we set the flux capacitor for the nineties and dropped the top on the first generation Porsche Boxster, a hugely underrated modern classic.
It sounds and goes like a Porsche should, you’ve got those famous interlocked gauges staring back at you, and it added a fabulously stark contrast to the rest of the cars on the trip. I wasn’t sure on paper how a Boxster fitted in, but I do now – and I really mean that.
It rained heavily, and a hurried stop to put the roof up, only for the rain to stop and the sun come out as it had for most of the day led to a lot of laughs – I’ll never make a hairdresser joke about a Boxster again.
As we pulled back up to the private industrial estate where the road trips run from, Vikki pointed out how fun it had been to follow a route book, rather than a sat nav. And she’s right – it’s also clear how much work goes in to making sure they’re clear to follow and work intuitively.
What I mean by that is, rather than puzzling over following them, there‘s just the right amount of information and it’s presented in such a way that it becomes part of the adventure, not clunky and distracting as it surely would be on such a long trip, without the effort that’s gone in.
I’m writing this as we head back up North on the M42; sat nav back on, the theatre of motoring fading back into the monotone drone we ridiculously accept – even when you’re driving a sporty modern car, which we are.
Gratefully, there’s something less monotone about this particularly journey back – we’re still talking about the cars, laughing about the funny things that happened, and calling home to tell the kids all about it.
We drove, we laughed, we loved and stopped to take photos to keep the moment forever. For all of those reasons, I urge you to try one of these days, or even one of the 60 minute classic car tasters.
We drove, we laughed, we loved
Great Escape Cars still offers a totally unrivalled way to experience classic cars. It’s affordable, accessible, and it’s got people like you and me written all over it.
The only question remains, who do you want to experience it with?
You can watch some of the cars I drove today in action HERE.
So far on the new motorsport podcast series that I’m hosting with racing driver Guy Smith, we’ve covered sports cars, Le Mans and V8 Supercars, and we’ve gone behind the scenes of Amazon car show, The Grand Tour.
Now we’re Switching the focus to Formula One, IndyCar, the BTCC and World Rally.
The adventure continues with F1 and IndyCar legend Mark Blundell in episode 3, and WRC star Elfyn Evans in episode 4.
Listen to the series on iTunes (and all other podcast places), or watch on YouTube.