classic car weekly

I’ll admit it – driving in Scotland is fun

David was able to enjoy Scotland safely in his Mazda MX-5

IT’S BEEN a while since I’ve had a pen pal but I seem to have picked one up at Classic Car Weekly. He doesn’t write often but the topic’s always the same – I’m apparently guilty of glamorising driving dangerously on rural roads.

So he’ll no doubt be writing in when he discovers I’ve just spent a weekend driving around the Scottish Highlands, not to visit a distant aunt in Fort William, but for fun. I’ll admit it; I did nearly 1000 miles over four days for no good reason other than to drive on great roads simply because I enjoy doing it.

We’ll start with the location. Pick up any of the glossy travel mags and they’ll tell you that the A82 between Glasgow and Glencoe is Europe’s best stretch of road but this simply isn’t true – you can’t enjoy driving it because you’ll be stuck behind a lorry winding its way up to Inverness, and you can’t stop to admire the view because all the laybys are full of Dutch motorhomes. But the A87 and the A887 are utterly wonderful. Set off from Southport tomorrow morning and you’ll be there by mid-afternoon, and because you’ll want to stay overnight you’ll be giving the Scottish economy a helping hand, too.

But the real joy is you can do all of this without going anywhere remotely near a speed limit. Yes, I’ll freely admit that there were far too many people up in the Highlands driving dangerously in BMW X5s and doing silly overtakes in Honda Civic Type-Rs, but that’s something you’re as likely to see in Parbold as you are in Pitlochry. The trick is to drive around in a car that thrills at real world speeds.

I spent the weekend up there in my Mazda MX-5 but you’d be just as happy in any MG, Caterham, Lotus or Alfa Spider – and if you do need something with an extra set of seats, anything vaguely old with a Peugeot, Ford or BMW badge up front should suit the bill. Some of the best drives I’ve ever done have been at the helm of a derv-driven Peugeot 306 and a 15-year-old Ford Mondeo, so don’t knock ‘em until you’ve tried them!

But the end result is always the same; you emerge with a smile on your face, the Highlands economy gets a boost, and – unless you really do drive like a berk – Police Scotland don’t have to deal with unnecessary paperwork. Drive sensibly of course, but freely admit that it’s something you enjoy, like playing a piano or going fishing.

I might even arrange for my pen pal to go up there and for there to be an Austin-Healey 3000 waiting at the other end. Chances are, I suspect he’ll enjoy it…

These are the ten cars that made my 2016, and why

IT’S been a whirlwind year of motoring adventures. Over the past 12 months I’ve driven 88 different cars and been to 34 classic shows, but a couple have left particularly big impressions, and for very different reasons.

These are the automotive memories that’ll stick out more than most…


Porsche 928


Where: Southport, Merseyside

Confession time. I’ve had my fair share of Ferraris, Astons, Jaguars and TVRs, but until 2016 I’d never driven any kind of Porsche. No 911s, no Boxsters, nothing. But what a car to start with. Wonderful looks that have barely aged in four decades, a thumping great V8 soundtrack, plenty of straight line shove and handling to die for.


Vauxhall 6hp


Where: Luton, Bedfordshire

How can a car that only does 18mph be so tricky – and a bit frightening – to drive?  This 112-year-old is one of the stars of Vauxhall’s heritage collection, and for one morning its custodians were brave enough to let me have a go. The steering’s by tillar, none of the pedals do what you expect them to do and it has just two gears – but boy is it rewarding when you finally get it right.


Wolseley Hornet Crayford ‘Heinz 57’


Where: Swanley, Kent

Regular readers will already know I love Minis. I’ve owned two and over the years sampled many a Cooper, van, Moke and just about every other derivative besides, but this just about tops the lot. It’s one of only 50 convertible versions of the Wolseley Hornet created by Crayford as prizes to give away to the winners of a Heinz competition back in 1966. It’s Half a century on it’s still bloody brilliant to drive.


Ferrari Testarossa


Where: North York Moors, somewhere near Whitby

It’s one of my favourite Ferraris and it was in the North York Moors – home to some of the best roads you’ll find anywhere in the UK. You might think the Miami Vice poser might not be the best car for this sort of territory, but the Testarossa handled more deftly than any of the armchair critics would have you believe. It didn’t disappoint.



Ford Mustang


Where: Birkenhead, Merseyside

It’s a blisteringly hot summer afternoon, you have a bright red Ford Mustang convertible at your disposal – oh, and it has a V8 for good measure. It didn’t matter a jot that the summer afternoon in question was in Birkenhead rather than Beverley Hills. Everybody loved the ‘stang, including the guy grinning behind the wheel.



Volkswagen Up!


Where: Stelvio Pass, Italy

I have longstanding affection for the Up!, honed after many weekends using a company-owned one on Classic Car Weekly adventures. What turned out to be jolly good fun on the Cat and Fiddle road in the Peak District translates into equally smile-inducing motoring on the Stelvio Pass in the Italian Alps. It might have only had 60bhp at its disposal but its size and agility made it a perfect partner, embarrassing plenty of quicker cars up there. Hire car motoring at its best.


Messerschmitt KR200


Where: Scarisbrick, Lancashire

Until 2016 I’d never driven a bubble car – and then I got to drive three in one day! The BMW Isetta and Trojan 200 were huge fun but for ultimate kicks the Messerschmitt KR200 is in a different league. Super-sharp, yoke-operated steering, a tiny engine that thrived on revs and a centrally-mounted driving position made this a drive quite unlike any other. Utterly exhilerating.



TVR Chimaera


Where: The Golden Mile, Blackpool

Over three wonderful days I fell just a little bit in love with a TVR Chimaera I borrowed. It was very, very good on the roads criss-crossing the Trough of Bowland (keep an eye for the forthcoming feature in Modern Classics magazine) but the real highlight was cruising into Blackpool at the height of the Illuminations. It was a huge privilege to bring this piece of the resort’s motoring heritage home for the night.




Where: Glencoe, Scottish Highlands

Not just any MGB GT, but my MGB GT, and it was finally on the spectacular journey I’ve always wanted to do with it. Wonderful roads, spectacular scenery – and it actually got there AND BACK without breaking down!


Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow


Where: Southport, Merseyside

I wasn’t even behind the wheel – that job I left to Bryan Glazer, the car’s owner – but this was the most important journey of my motoring life. On 29 July a blushing bride hopped out of it – and she’s now my wife. Then I got to do a champagne-fuelled lap of my hometown of Southport in it. It was the motoring moment that left the biggest impression on me. Well it had to be, didn’t it?

Additional photography courtesy of Richard Gunn and Classic Car Weekly

The new editor of Classic Car Weekly? That’d be me

AT THE END of this week I’ll be taking on the biggest and most exciting challenge of my career – I’ve been appointed as the new editor of Classic Car Weekly.
It’s been three-and-a-bit years since I arrived at CCW‘s offices and passed what I’m still sure was some sort of unspoken initiation test on only my second day – handling the stress of breaking down rather conspicuously in an E-type in Southampton’s rush hour. Since then I’ve worked as both its news editor and features editor and loved every minute of it.

Obviously the drive up Blackpool’s seafront in a Corvette Stingray, lapping the Nürburgring in my Mazda MX-5 and a wonderful afternoon with a Ferrari Testarossa on the North Yorkshire Moors stick out in the grey matter, but more importantly I really enjoy just chatting to people who love old cars and immersing myself in a world of chrome bumpers, tail fins, Bakelite steering wheels, GTI badges, go-faster stripes, chokes, evocative exhaust notes and folding chairs in the grounds of stately homes. Always have, always will.

What an exciting time it is to take over the reins at my favourite motoring publication. You only have to look at the findings of the latest National Historic Vehicle Survey in today’s issue to see how important Britain’s classic car owners – and the jobs and shows they support – are to the nation’s heritage.

There’ll be more of the cars and events you love in CCW’s pages, and more news stories on the issues that affect them. I’d also like to thank outgoing editor Keith Adams (yes, him of the not-at-all-addictive AROnline) for the hard work he’s put into Classic Car Weekly over the past two years, and wish him all the best in his new role as editor of used car bible Parkers.

And Life On Cars? That’ll continue as always – and feel free to share your thoughts and ideas about Classic Car Weekly in the comments.
For more see today’s issue of Classic Car Weekly (19 October, 2016)

Ormskirk MotorFest 2016 – in pictures

IMG_2494MASSIVELY enjoyed this weekend’s Ormskirk MotorFest – and so did you, if the number of petrolheads lining the Lancashire market town’s streets was anything to go by.

There’ll be more on this year’s event in this Wednesday’s edition of The Champion and in Classic Car Weekly, but for now here are few snaps from the classic car parades around the one-way system:







Keep an eye on Life On Cars later this week for a full report on the 2016 Ormskirk MotorFest.


The big journey – and the wrong car – behind an epic Drive-It Day

ccw cover 27 aprilI’M ALMOST ashamed to admit it. Drive-It Day is all about getting your classic car out of the garage and taking it for a spin – yet I spent 350 miles of it at the helm of a borrowed Skoda Yeti.

As much as I’d have loved to have used the MGB GT over the weekend I felt it would’ve been verging on cruel to put it through my latest mission for Classic Car Weekly – going to not one, but three of the many events taking place across the North of England on a single day. Oh, and a long motorway slog back to the offices in Peterborough just for good measure.

lancsauto-HEADER SHOT

After a (very) early start the first Drive-It Day calling point was Blackburn’s Northern Sports Club, which the Lancashire Automobile Club was using as the start point of its St George’s Day run. It’s a superb event that takes in some of the best country lanes cris-crossing the Lancashire/Yorkshire border, but Classic Car Weekly’s mission of getting as many of your photos as possible meant all the legwork went into making sure as many of the E-types, Austin-Healeys and their smiling owners were getting their pictures sent off for today’s paper. Even Steve Berry of Top Gear fame got his snap sent off – he wasn’t taking part, but he’d come along anyway in his Alfa 156 to see all the congregated classics.

As the 75 cars headed off towards the Lancashire countryside I was heading the other way – up the M6 to another Drive-It Day gathering, this time at the Lakeland Motor Museum. It didn’t feel as busy as last week’s similarly named Drive-In gathering but as the museum’s management rightly point out, last Sunday was all about classic car owners using the venue as a stopping point during tours rather than it being an event venue in its own right. That’s why it ended up being the sort of event to reward car nuts who hang around – the cast of cars would change completely by the hour!


But the best Drive-It Day gathering involved getting back on the M6 and venturing even further north; a lot of the classic owners who’d brought their cars to the Lakeland museum mentioned they were heading on to Dalemain, a Georgian mansion on the other side of the Lake District. After deciding on a hunch to follow them up this is what I was treated to when I got there:


It was a superb event, organised by Wigton Motor Club, and with just about every size and shape of classic imaginable on show. The 170 cars at Dalemain ranged from Ford Escort MkIs to 1950s specials, Rileys and Austin Sevens – and even though Drive-It Day technically caters for pre-1985 cars there were plenty of Mazda MX-5s, TVR Chimaera and Porsche 911 GT3s to look at too.

As I hit the road on the long slog back to Peterborough, I realised the sheer variety of cars at these three events across the northern England isn’t the whole Drive-It Day picture. Even the 500 pictures we’ve printed in today’s Classic Car Weekly only scratches the surface of just how many old cars go out on what surely must be Britain’s biggest petrolhead event, with shows, runs and gatherings taking place in every corner of the United Kingdom.

Drive-It Day is us showing the wider public what makes classic cars so brilliant (even if you do have to use a borrowed Skoda to see them). Hope your picture got into today’s Classic Car Weekly!

The Drive-It Day special issue of Classic Car Weekly is out now, with more than 500 pictures from across the UK inside.

How to get YOUR classic car into a newspaper

140427 DID H & H6TAKING your classic car out tomorrow? Then take a picture of it – and get it printed in Classic Car Weekly.

Drive-It Day is the nation’s biggest classic car event, with the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs reckoning something in the region of 250,000 historic vehicles taking part each year. It’s not one individual show, but lots of gatherings, runs, tours and rallies all taking place on the same day – this Sunday, 24 April.

Classic Car Weekly wants to show its support by printing pictures of you enjoying your old car when you take it out this Sunday – so if you send it to us by Monday morning, chances are it’ll appear in next Wednesday’s paper.

All you need to do is send us a picture of you with your car – and tell us your name, the year, make and model of your car, and where you’re from, and we’ll sort the rest.

Send an email to, tweet me and my colleagues a pic at @ClassicCarWkly or share it on Classic Car Weekly‘s Facebook page.

It’s not often you get a chance to see your pride and joy in print, but this is definitely one of them!

MGB vs MX-5 – which would YOU take to Scotland?

IMG_8310THE MGB’s fresh MoT has just made one of my big motoring calls of 2016 that little bit harder.

In a few weeks’ time I’m going on a stag do with a petrolhead twist; driving around the glorious roads of the Scottish Highlands for three days. There’s an odd assortment of automotive gems going on the trip, ranging from a Hillman Imp and an MGB GT V8 to a Saab 9000 Turbo, a Mercedes W123 and a Mazda MX-5.

But – and most of the fellow stag weekend attendees already know this – I’m having a genuine dilemma over which of my two classics to take. MGB GT or MX-5?

Until this morning the Mazda had it in the bag. Drive any early MX-5 and you’ll know instantly why it’s such a masterclass in steering and handling – it genuinely is one of the great driver’s cars of the past 30 years, and yet you can pick ’em for under a grand. If I took mine up it’d be big fun on Scotland’s wonderful country lanes, and if the sun makes a rare appearance it takes all of two seconds to drop the roof down. It’s endlessly reliable too and it’ll easily eke 35 miles out of a gallon on the M6 on the way up there. The only slight snag is that my import-spec one’s been fitted with a three-speed auto rather than the snickety five-speed manual, but that’s a small price to pay for it being such a brilliant companion every day I’m not barrelling down a B-road.

Mazda Eunos Roadster - David Simister

But then last weekend I took the MGB out for a 250-mile trip to the Lakes and back for a Classic Car Weekly gig last weekend. And it was brilliant.

Yes it’s noisy, you have to work with the heavy steering to manhandle it through corners and it’ll do 25mpg on a good day, but it’s so much more of an event to drive. It involves you so much in the experience, and while it’s more tiring to drive on long motorway slogs it’ll happily pound along with the Audis and BMWs in the outside lane if it needs to.

I just assumed the MGB would be too unreliable to turn up and it’d fail its MoT – but having just done a faultless return flight to Cumbria and earned itself another 12 months’ ticket it’s time to think again. I love both cars and would happily take either up to the Highlands – but until I work out how to drive two cars at once, I’m going to have to make a tough choice.

Which would you go for?