We sample Great Escape’s Break for the Border Road Trip to see if driving a varied range of classic cars makes the perfect antidote to dealing with the winter blues.
Let’s face it, the UK winter of 2016-17 wasn’t the best and seemed to drag on forever with an endless combination of grey skies and perpetual rainfall. Even at the time of writing in March only one day of blue skies and sunshine had been enjoyed for what seemed like an eternity. On the day of our Break for the Border Road Trip the early signs weren’t great either with the forecast indicating rain all day. Not what you want, particularly with some of the powerful and potentially tail happy rear wheel drive machinery on offer. All without any driver aids of course, no DSC here for instance. Still some comfort came from paying the optional £30.00 Damage Waiver that reduced any financial risk from one thousand pounds to zero.
The idea behind the Break for the Border Road Trip is to drive five different cars over a 160-180 mile route. The 2017 price for this road trip is £249 for drivers and £99 for passengers which includes a light breakfast, cafe lunch, fuel, insurance (not the waiver at £30.00) and full event support. Places are always strictly limited to 14 people and there is an opportunity afterwards to have a quick spin in any car not driven during the day itself.
Peering out from Great Escape’s Redditch workshop facility early in the morning, with a welcome bacon roll in one hand and coffee in the other, the view that greeted was very pleasant indeed. Several classic cars appearing even more bright and shiny than normal as their paint got a lift from the seasonal precipitation. It might have been a cold and wet start to the day but the warmth felt inside went well beyond the intake of caffeine, carbs and (ahem) some protein. No this was the result of a building excitement in anticipation of our Break for the Border Road Trip.
From Redditch, the route, which is navigated retro-style using maps and a road book no less, would take us west across Worcestershire and Herefordshire before breaking across the border of Wales and lunch at Cross Gates on the A44. From there we would head north initially on the A483 to zig-zag our way to Clun before climbing up into the stunning Shropshire Hills. Changeover this time would be from a well-chosen scenic viewing point. A similar mix of A and B roads would then bring us back down into Worcestershire and finally Redditch once again.
The choice of route proved to be excellent with no motorway or dual carriageway sections, only winding single track roads set in stunning countryside that at times were completely devoid of any other road users. A top tip is to reset the trip meter at each section start as the road books provided describe key junctions as a cumulative mileage from each of the changeover points. Worth also saying, in allaying any fears for anyone who feels a bit exposed using a more traditional form of navigation. That the road books were very easy to follow, came with a number to call if a problem arose and postcodes to enter into your mobile’s SatNav if you got completely lost.
The day itself began with blindly selecting keys from a hub cap that ultimately decided which car each pair would drive for the first thirty to forty mile section. Giving plenty of wheel time to enjoy each classic even after, in our case, dividing piloting duties fairly and squarely in half. First up was Great Escape’s Ford Capri 280 ‘Brooklands’, a car that is far better than its individual component parts should ever allow. It’s simply amazing how planted a live rear axle setup can feel, especially one hung from archaic cart springs. But planted it does feel and with a limited slip diff, punchy 2.8i Cologne V6 up front and brilliant steering feel we confidently set off into the slowly easing rain.
Things were already beginning to look up, our Break for the Border Road Trip was underway and the weather was improving. In-fact the further west we travelled the better things got, the gods appeared to be shining down on us and soon the sun broke through. Wow. At the first stop, Holden Vintage and Classic in Bromyard, Herefordshire and with our Capri keys safely in others hands next out of the hub cap were a set to a rather striking yellow Jaguar E-Type V12 Coupe.
We were about to travel back some sixteen years in time from 1987 to 1971, although given the origins of the latter you could argue much further back in time than that. After all the difference between the roll-out Capri and Series 3 E-Type are stark indeed. A key feature of the Break for the Border Road Trip experience, variation. Get out of one car and climb into something completely different. We did and loved the brilliant 5.3 litre V12 engine and stunning classic looks of this timeless and beautiful Jaguar Coupe.
After lunch at the half way point and with by now dry roads and sunshine all the way we leapt into Birmingham’s answer to 1970s fast continental road travel, the Jensen Interceptor. A truly amazing car that handles far better than it has any right to given its portly mass and large external dimensions. This car is an absolute joy to drive and be a passenger in and the next forty miles were superb as we listened to the hum of the Chrysler 7.2 litre big block V8. An engine with so much torque that it causes the auto box to select third gear almost immediately after every standing start. The Jensen bridged the gap nicely between the Ford and Jaguar Coupe, being much closer in looks to the equally angled Capri, rather than earlier and curvier D-Type successor.
Following a third changeover and self-elected second B-road blast in the 280 ‘Brooklands’ we reached the summit of the Shropshire hills and, somewhat cheekily, immediately sped off in the spare car, an Austin Mini Cooper Evocation. This to make our way back to Redditch. However, the dark looming clouds in the background soon let go of the large quantity of water they had thus far held onto and soon our little Mini was getting very wet indeed. Something it didn’t enjoy very much at all.
Still we made it back by 5:00pm, having set off originally at 9:00am, after a really enjoyable Break for the Border Road Trip courtesy of Great Escape Classic Car Hire. The combination of the route, traditional navigation method and variation in cars make it a truly memorable day. Whether a gift for someone else or a bit of self-indulgence surely there can be no better value classic car driving package. It certainly cured us of any remaining effects of seasonal disorder and made life feel like spring had finally sprung.
Great Escape’s Break for the Border Road Trip comes Highly Recommended.