The Great British Car Journey, the brand-new Derbyshire based classic car visitor attraction, has opened its doors to the public. Born from an idea spawned by a 32-year-old Austin Maestro, the new automotive attraction was four years in the making and was originally scheduled to open in 2020.
Located at the former Wire Works site in Ambergate, Derbyshire, the Great British Car Journey is packed with British marques and models that dominated the roads for nearly a century. And it promises to make the once ordinary motor car, extraordinary.
Motors fixed in our memories, like the Morris Minor, Ford Capri, and everything before, after and in between, are cars that are now a rare sight on UK roads. And it is this rarity that spurned the founder of the Great British Car Journey, Richard Usher, into action.
More than 130 vehicles now fill a former wire works factory on the banks of the River Derwent in Ambergate, Derbyshire. Richard Usher, CEO of Great British Car Journey explained: “Four years ago, when I owned and managed Blyton Circuit, a gentleman approached me asking if I’d like to buy his 1989 Austin Maestro in mint condition with just 10,000 miles on the clock. My first thought was ‘no’, but it then got me thinking about when I last saw an Austin Allegro, Metro, original Mini, or even a Ford Cortina on the road. These were cars that were once on virtually every street in Britain and sold in their millions.”
So the seed was planted and Richard, together with four private investors, set about amassing one of the largest privately owned collections of British designed and manufactured cars in the country.
Visitors to Great British Car Journey will be guided round the exhibition with a unique handheld audio device which tells the fascinating story of individual vehicles as well as the development of the UK’s motor industry.
Starting with the Austin Seven in 1922, the Great British Car Journey chronicles car design and production in the UK through to the modern-day McLaren 650S, which has been lent to the attraction by the supercar manufacturer.
Mike Flewitt, CEO of McLaren Automotive said: “Richard and the team have done an amazing job bringing Great British Car Journey to life. I am delighted that McLaren is able to support the exhibition which celebrates Britain’s motoring history from Bruce McLaren’s Austin Seven, where our brand story began, through to modern day supercars such as our 650S.”
The collection of almost 150 cars has been brought together over the last four years. One of the most difficult cars to find for the exhibition was a Vauxhall Chevette. Only a handful of Chevettes in roadworthy condition are thought to exist in the world today, despite around half a million being sold in Britain between 1975 and 1984.
Explaining his vision in more detail, Mr Usher said: “I really wanted the cars to tell a story, so the journey charts the growth of car ownership from Austin’s Seven to the present day.”
“It has a motor show feel with cars grouped in the decades – or chapters – in which they were produced, with period adverts and graphics prominently displayed. The vehicles are easily accessible. We want people to smell the old car smell, marvel at the interiors and jog memories of trips in the family car, their first car or back seat fights with their siblings when they were growing up. Great British Car Journey is the ultimate trip down Memory Lane.”
And the cars aren’t purely for looking at; more than 30 of them can be driven. For an authentic, hands-on trip down Memory Lane 32 cars, including the Maestro that started it all, are available to drive on a private road as part of the Drive Dad’s Car experience.
All the vehicles in both the exhibition and Drive Dad’s Car experience are in working order and fully maintained by Great British Car Journey’s own time-served technician and apprentice. Visitors are welcome to watch them at work in the onsite workshop within the exhibition hall.
“Great British car journey is very much a working attraction. We have a large collection of well-thumbed Haynes manuals which are regularly consulted when we need to locate a bonnet catch or various engine parts to ensure the maintenance of the collection,” added Mr Usher.
Entry to Great British Car Journey costs just £15 for adults (concessions are also available). Tickets for Great British Car Journey and the Drive Dad’s Car experience can be booked online at www.greatbritishcarjourney.com and at www.drivedadscar.com.