& # 39; I think the desire will always be there & # 39 ;. These are the reassuring words of the founder of Bicester Heritage, Dan Geoghegan, for lovers of classic cars, who fear that their passion might one day be driven off the road.
Then the past five years have seen a growing number of car enthusiasts as well as non-believers & # 39; welcomed in the former RAF base from the years & # 39; 20 of the last century, which he and his team have transformed into a hub and destination for classic car & # 39; s.
The success is so great that in recent months a building permit has been granted to expand with new buildings and even a hotel, on the 348-hectare site where new life has been revived in the red brick buildings once empty.
For those who want to look around for themselves, Bicester Heritage regularly opens its doors to its Sunday Scramble events – with the first of the year last weekend, with a record number of 7,000 visitors.
Bicester Heritage has transformed a dilapidated RAF base from the 1920s into a hub for classic car companies, such as Classic Performance Engineering
It was the biggest so far, with guests walking around the campsite and owners bringing their classic and special cars to show off – it delivered a glorious eclectic mix where you could enjoy Italian exotica alongside the best of British Leyland. find.
One of the virtues of Bicester Heritage that Dan evokes is that he is not only for the rich, or traditional classic cars, but also that a Ferrari from the 60s and a Citroen BX GTI 4 × 4 from the eighties can be cherished.
The business community is booming for the classic car workshops, dealers and parts specialists at Bicester Heritage. A collegial atmosphere has brought them together to serve a classic car industry worth £ 5.5 billion a year to the UK, according to the Federation of British Historic Vehicles Clubs, and to show what's best.
But the desire of the government to get petrol and diesel cars off our roads is looming for everyone who loves special engines, whether they are from the 1920s, 1960s or 1980s.
Driving around in old cars seems to be even less sensible, but that should not take time for driving for pleasure if electric and cars without a driver become the norm, thinks Dan.
& # 39; It is not exactly logical to jump over a hedge on a horse, but people do it and they love to do it and it has been happening for hundreds of years.
The possibility with the change of technology is now that the old way of driving will be attractive because it fills our senses, it is more exciting, it is more interesting, fascinating. & # 39;
The Sunday Scramble events of Bicester Heritage see it open three times a year for visitors, bringing owners a selection of classics and special cars that deliver an eclectic mix where a Ferrari and Citroen 2CV can go from nose to tail end
Bicester Heritage welcomes new companies on the site, including Porsche Classic Life
Then adds: We often place people who are not interested in cars and have never driven a classic car in an open pre-war car, and a hundred times in a hundred – ten out of ten – everyone comes smiling back, want to do it again.
& # 39; So there is a sufficient factor, which I think will always mean asking for something that is not available by default. & # 39;
Of course, the big practical issue remains – and fans of classic cars are also increasingly concerned about legality.
There is a sufficient factor, which I think will always mean asking for something that is not available by default
& # 39; Will the roads be fit? Can we get the fuel? Will the legislation allow us to do that? "Asks Dan.
& # 39; I think it goes. I think that we will always be able to enjoy that excitement, at least in the near future, because the research shows that there is enormous interest and pride in our heritage and our nostalgia.
& # 39; There will be a public will and a political will to make it happen and make it happen. I think there is probably a third part, because the classic car industry is worth £ 5.5 billion worth of the British economy and is growing.
& # 39; 35,000 people work there, so there are good economic reasons to see that it goes far into the future. & # 39;
One of the specialists at Bicester Heritage is dealer Pendine, who has his showroom in the beautiful Blast House building – known for its powerful second exterior wall and interior tiling. Visitors on Sunday could see the Hairy Canary, a yellow AC Cobra from 1963 with race family
At Auto Wax Works, visitors can view rare and cherished cars while expanding while enjoying a cup of coffee and a sandwich in the cafe next door
I visited Bicester Heritage two and a half years ago for the first time when there were 30 companies on the site and it started to get serious traction as a center for excellence in vintage cars.
There has been no shortage of business uncertainty in Britain since the summer of 2016 – then we also had the Brexit vote – but it was great to see how Bicester Heritage moved forward on my recent return there.
Dan and his management team have moved from small offices in the former Parachute Store building to the recently restored Station Armory, where a clubhouse-style lounge has been built.
More important than their new offices for those running Bicester Heritage, however, is the success of the companies on site.
Then: & # 39; Reports we get here from the specialists are that their companies double, triple and in one case increase tenfold in three years time. & # 39;
Bicester Heritage now works on capacity, with 40 different companies, ranging from the showroom of dealer Pendine to Blast House, to various old-timer workshops, specialists such as the Vintage Car Radiator Company and Vintage Magnetos, Olliminium & # 39; s tailor-made metalwork and Auto Wax. Works, where Visitors can grab a cup of coffee and a sandwich in the café next door and view rare and special cars.
One of the more recent companies to become a member of Bicester Heritage is the Wriggly Monkey brewery, which has a tap room on site. It even has a mobile & # 39; Racing Bar & # 39; – the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire depicting the history of Goodwood racing, which contains six barrels of beer
A Renault 5 Turbo is a very rare site on the British roads, but Sunday Scramble visitors were treated to this hero from the eighties last weekend
Those who run Bicester Heritage are now in the right position to have a waiting list of companies that want to enter and the demand for buildings has led to plans to expand the technical site, the current area consisting of the original RAF base buildings.
Walk around the beehive of activity and it is hard to believe that this elegant collection of red-brick buildings on tree-lined avenues laid out in the classic RAF base trident formation has been decayed until relatively recently.
The airport was first occupied in 1916 by the Royal Flying Corps, which became part of the newly formed Royal Air Force, in 1918. In the mid-1920s it was transformed into a state-of-the-art Bomber Station and then extended in 1936, later on home to famous World War II planes.
However, its use declined in the post-war years and it was shut down in 1976. The site fell into disrepair, but remained special and became a protected area with 19 monumental buildings. In the nineties the local population fought a plan to build houses there and in 2008 it was described as the biggest risk of all defense companies in Great Britain.
The Ministry of Defense had to sell the former RAF base in Bicester, with its small test track and park, but wanted to keep it in one way or another. When Dan – whose background is in the real estate sector – was fortunate to be aware, he realized that this was the ideal place to try to create his dream of a hub for old-timer companies.
The Sunday Scramble of Bicester Heritage has become a runaway success with 7,000 visitors in the first of 2019
A rare Abarth version of Fiat's X19 sports car in Bicester Heritage was ready for the rally phase
Only five years after the start of the work on the site, a building permit was granted at the end of last year for sympathetic buildings to expand the technical site and welcome more classic car companies. In October, a separate application was also approved for a hotel with 344 rooms, a conference and leisure center on another part of the site.
We have very careful to manage those skills … instead of organizing a dinner party, you want 10 people around the table who are going to go
The ultimate goal of Dan is to build what he describes as & # 39; an automotive resort & # 39 ;, but he wants to emphasize that this is not an extension because of himself.
He is pleased that his idea for a & # 39; cluster & # 39; to create old-timer companies has paid off, but says they have been carefully chosen.
We are very careful to curate those skills so that they are complementary & # 39 ;, says Dan. & # 39; And since we have had 400 requests for 40 units, we have been able to choose. Not only excellence, but also ambition, values - and rather as organizing a dinner party, you want 10 people around the table who like it.
& # 39; And I really think we've created a sense of community here, probably just like it was in the days of the RAF. & # 39;
The planned hotel in Bicester Heritage will be in line with the redbrick looks of the existing technical site. It will be web-shaped and adjacent to a raised ground bank with a starting row of the Mille Miglia style for future events. A four-story atrium presents exhibitions and displays with an automotive theme
Look through a door to Bicester Heritage and a vintage car enthusiast will probably get a treat
Learning their profession among all of these are students, both from Banbury & Bicester College and as part of the Heritage Skills Academy, who are taught how to work on classic and vintage cars and gaining hugely valuable experience from the do, with skills ranging from engineering, to coaching and trimming.
You get the feeling that Dan is just as proud of contributing to producing the next generation that keeps classic cars alive, just like the success of his company.
There is not only love for cars, but also a passion to share this, to bring classic car enthusiasts together and to invite those who would not normally be interested in the herd – suitable for those who have the & # 39; non-believers & # 39; calls that are tempted by the sights, the sounds and the fun, rather than & # 39; discussing chassis numbers & # 39 ;.
While we hoped that we would become that hub, it really got a life of its own
That has translated into the runaway success of the Sunday Scramble events, an open morning where thousands of people come together to explore the site, the cars that are brought there by owners and maybe treat themselves to a coffee and a sandwich bacon.
& # 39; While we were hoping that we would become that hub, that community, everyone's club, three times a year in a Scramble, it really built a life of its own & # 39 ;, says Dan.
"Four years ago, when we had the first blow, we had a few hundred cars and a few hundred people. We thought, "Well, this is fantastic, we did a great job." And now we have a few thousand cars and a few thousand people.
& # 39; It is great to see that everyone just has a fun time – almost the buzz of the site – the trees, the beautiful buildings. The technical site is home on such a day for five or six hundred vehicles. We do not ask anyone to park anywhere, so you never know what's around.
I think that feeling of travel, that sense of travel, that feeling of interest on the site, has really created a unique liveliness, a unique atmosphere, and I regularly meet people who have been to all 16 and they keep coming back . It has been a phenomenon. & # 39;
One of the cars that drew attention on last Sunday's Scramble was a former Gilles Villeneuve FW19 F1 car, shown at Sport Purpose
Those wandering Bicester Heritage on the Sunday Scramble were also attracted to this Rover SD1 Vitesse of 1984
A tour through Bicester Heritage brings you in contact with many special and expensive cars. Many of the cars that come to the specialists will be worth tens of thousands of pounds, while some will wander the hundreds or thousands.
For those who can not afford a Jaguar E-Type, the Porsche 911 from the 1970s, or just do not feel like an old MG from the sixties or Triumph, the world of old-timers can feel strange and closed. But Dan says that for him special cars are not about value – or 40 years old – and he would like to stand by all the cherished engines.
You can have fun in something that does not cost a lot of money
His Twitter handle could be @alvisracer and Dan took me for a joyride in a pre-war Riley during my first trip to Bicester Heritage, but he is also the proud owner of a Peugeot 505 from the 80s and delighted in the thriving modern classic scene.
He says: & # 39; I think it is our responsibility to consider that if you like it, we will love it. Beauty is in the eye of the spectator. Classical is a very subjective definition – what I find classic is perhaps not so.
I think there is what I call the democratization of classic cars and that everyone, regardless of the wallet, can try it. I saw the young guy here three days ago, absolutely radiant from ear to ear because his girlfriend had bought him a Fiat Panda from 1990 and he had the time of his life.
& # 39; You can have fun in something that does not cost a lot of money. & # 39;
Visitors to the Sunday Scramble of Bicester Heritage are also attracted to a daily car, such as a Vauxhall Astra or Ford Cortina, as they are for the exotics that are exhibited
The growing modern classic car scene has seen engines from the eighties and nineties to join older vehicles to be cherished
Then adds: "It is a budding scene, we see it through the students, they dive into their Volkswagen Jettas, which we remember from the 90s and the late 80s, and they are really proud of that – 80s BMW & # 39; s, 90s BMW & # 39; s – they have a commitment that is really interesting and fantastic.
Maybe they were the cars that, on their 16th or 18th, some sort of lock up and always wanted to own.
"I think the biggest demonstration of this is the Sunday scramble and the range of vehicles, from a 250 GT Ferrari with short wheelbase to a Citron BX GTI 4 × 4 from 1991, which I still remember drove – were the knees of the bee – and they were parked side by side.
I think that the broad church really came from the base, and that is genuine interest, and if there is genuine interest, let's celebrate it. & # 39;