Antony Ingram recently spent a rather lovely day testing some delightful classic cars on the Yorkshire Dales. Here he recounts the experience for PetrolBlog.
I don’t really mind sitting around on a sofa all day staring at my laptop screen, even when the cursor is blinking accusingly at me as I struggle to think of something to write.
But when compared to say, spending a day driving around the stunning Yorkshire Dales in a quintet of iconic classic cars, even my natural inclination to chill out on the sofa has to play second fiddle.
Thankfully, just such an event recently took place, and it was too much of an opportunity to pass up on.
Particularly seeing as the Dales Dash #autotweetup, hosted by Great Escape Classic Car Hire, took place virtually on my doorstep. Whenever I have a car for more than a few days, I spend at least a few hours in the Dales becoming familiar with the handling.
Knowing the roads takes a little of the apprehension out of driving unfamiliar classic cars, but excitement was still the overriding emotion as I settled behind the wheel of my first steed, co-driven by photographer Stephen Hall - @iShoot_cars on Twitter.
Jaguar E-Type Series II Convertible
If you were to rank dream car lists, I strongly suspect the Jaguar E-Type would be a consistent list-topper. Funnily enough it wouldn’t top mine. While I find the E-Type a beautiful car, it’s simply never grabbed me like some other classic vehicles.
I’d be lying if I said that’s changed following a drive in one, but I can now at least completely understand the appeal. Firstly, it really is a pretty beast, with an added dash of elegance in convertible format. Secondly, the engine is a masterpiece. In any gear from any revs it happily thrusts down the road, making a wonderful noise as it does so.
And the action of changing gears seems amazingly delicate and precise for something with a 4.2-litre engine under its vast bonnet. Steering too is accurate, and while there’s no power assistance it feels like a great honour to guide the E-Type through bends, wind zipping through your hair. An icon, and deservedly so.
We were warned that the Jensen was rather wide, and that the second leg of the Dash was the narrowest. Normally, this would be cause for concern, but pulling out of the car park in a picturesque village, I needn’t have worried.
First, the Jensen had power steering, unlike any of the other cars. Also unlike the others, it had an automatic gearbox. And brakes that appeared to fulfil their primary purpose. Were it not for the American grumblings of a 7.3-litre Chrysler V8 under the bonnet, the Interceptor would do a good impression of a modern car.
And it didn’t even feel that wide. Visibility is excellent and each corner of the car is well within view, making it a far easier steer than the equally-wide Peugeot RCZ I’d taken down similar roads a few months previous. Handling, even on this uprated car, was distinctly boat like, but d’you know what? Sometimes it’s nice to smoosh along roads, rather than attack them.
Jaguar MkII 3.4
Never meet your heroes. That’s what they tell you. They’ll tell you that it’ll only be a disappointment.
I know this to be hogwash as I’ve met Damon Hill before and he’s a lovely chap, someone I grew up idolising on the TV. But the Jaguar MkII is different. I’ve always preferred it to the E-Type for some reason, perhaps as I love the slightly dirty, geezery image. But sadly, this particular example wasn’t in the best of health.
A high biting point on the wildly slipping clutch manifested itself as a nightmarish struggle to do a hill start when traffic brought me to a halt on an incline. As did a handbrake that refused to hold the car, and a thoroughly vague gearshift. After finally getting going through blind luck and a bootful of throttle, I’d lost any enjoyment I may have had in the first hundred yards.
A pity, because it still looks stunning. One day I’ll try one with a working transmission, and my faith may be restored.
In contrast to the MkII, which I’d been led to believe was glorious before being thoroughly disappointed, everyone claimed the DMC-12 would be an atrocious pile of crap.
“It’s too wide”, they said, and “you’ll have to start in third as first and second are nowhere to be found”. In reality, I came away from the DeLorean grinning like a loon, as it was brilliant.
Okay, so it’s slow. An early MX-5 would show it a clean pair of heels in straight line acceleration, and that’s before you even get to a bend. But like the Jensen, I actually found visibility to be pretty good. The gearbox was a little obstructive but certainly not bad, and quick gearing made the heavy steering far less of a chore than it might have been. And the Renault/Peugeot/Volvo-sourced V6 engine sounded amazing - a proper popping and banging rally car soundtrack.
And everyone stares at the car. Even if you don’t give a damn about ‘that film’, the DeLorean is absolutely worth hiring for a few days.
I have a confession to make. I’ve never really cared for the MGB.
Blahdy-blah-blah-iconic roadster-blah-blah-back to basics-yadda-yadda. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just a less-pretty, slower MX-5 with a higher risk of breaking down or leaking when it rains.
But - what a brilliant car to drive. Now I get it. I get the appeal. The engine isn’t powerful but it’s torquey, and it’s connected to one of the best, snickiest gearboxes I’ve ever used. The steering is heavy but accurate and full of feel, and Great Escape’s early model, with steel wheels, even looks better than the slightly tarty wire-wheeled examples.
In fact, it was so good, it’s got me looking on eBay… for another MX-5. Yep, I still prefer the Japanese car, and they have the added benefit of being cheaper too. But the MGB has changed me - my ideal MX-5 now has no power steering, and steel wheels…
So my favourite of the day? Hard to say. The MGB was absolutely the most fun, and the DeLorean was the biggest surprise. The E-Type, despite still not ranking on my dream car list, is still one of the all-time greats.
But I couldn’t help liking the Jensen the most. It’s a GT and I love GTs. GTs are all about road trips, about seeing the world, and about exuding class, and I revel in all that stuff. I’m not sure I could daily drive something with the potential for single-figure mpg figures, but the styling, refinement and ease of use had me dreaming of long continental trips and cruising the streets of Monte Carlo. And it looks brilliant. It’s the one I’d pick.
Big thanks to Tim Hutton for organising all these #autotweetup meets, Graham and Jamie at Great Escape for letting us zip around in their amazing cars, and my co-driver Stephen for some great conversation and amusing sideways action in the MGB.
Thanks to Antony Ingram for the words and pictures. Follow him on twitter @antonyingram.