lakeland motor museum

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.

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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!

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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:

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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.

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Why grass and classic cars don’t mix

grassy eventFACEBOOK is a wonderful thing sometimes. Everyone had asked me whether I’d be taking my MGB over to the Leisure Lakes this weekend – but if I hadn’t checked the other night I’d have taken it to a postponed show in a waterlogged field.

No harm done; I stuck the show’s new dates in my diary and pointed the MGB’s nose up the M6 instead, and had a top day out at the Lakeland Motor Museum’s classic car gathering. Spare a thought though for the poor souls – and I know some of them came from right here in the North West – who headed off to Birmingham for an event called Pride of Longbridge.

It’s a brilliant event where you can see Austins, Rovers and so on in their thousands, but a combination of torrential weather the night before and a local authority rightly worried about ‘elf ‘n’ safety meant the park was out of the question. All this about three hours before the show was due to open. Months of hard work quite literally got washed away overnight.

The last thing I want to do is turn Life On Cars into a forum about global warming, but it’s the third time in the last 12 months I’ve encountered a car show that’s been canned due to the rain wreaking havoc the night before. In one instance the event was pulled just an hour before it was due to start – by which point I was already halfway down the M6. Nobody likes a show being shelved by the weather, but it does seem to be happening more often.

Blaming the show organisers clearly isn’t the answer – if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have all these brilliant events to take our cars to in the first place. Nope, I reckon the problem is right beneath us, it’s green and about three inches long.

Apologies if you’re a green-fingered type, but I’ll just come out with it. Grass is a rubbish material to hold events on.

For starters it makes every car show look the same. Whether you’re in Ormskirk or Inverness a field full of old cars is just that; a field full of old cars, with nothing to distinguish what part of the world you’re in. It’s also difficult to divvy up between all the various Triumph clubs taking part in an event without either spraying lines all over it or whacking wooden posts into it, and when you do it inevitably rains and then all your hard work is ruined.

Why aren’t we using town centres more? Ormskirk does a cracking job at drawing in shoppers with its MotorFest and I know Burscough Wharf’s hosted car displays to great effect – and if it rains on either, the show goes on. Why aren’t more empty car parks being freed up for car events? The costs and the public liability are the roughly the same – but you don’t get your shoes muddy.

It’s Britain, for goodness’ sake. We know it rains here every other day. Freddie Mercury was right when he said the show must go on – would he have cancelled because the grass was a bit soggy?