Friday 30 July 2021

A Great British attraction

During the pandemic, so many things that were once normal have become rare or even vanished. Car shows, meets, races and more have all felt the force of social distancing and mitigation measures. Fortunately, things are now a little better, with more and bigger events now becoming a reality.

So now is the perfect time to introduce you to a great new visitor attraction. These are never a common event, even outside of the pandemic, so we were very excited to see not only a brand-new attraction opening, but one themed entirely around British cars.

The Great British Car Journey (GBCJ) is the brainchild of Richard Usher. If Richard's name is familiar to Veloce subscribers, it could be from his role as owner of Auto Windscreens, which he sold in 2001 to the RAC. If you're a track day fan, or take part in motorsports, you'll likely know him as the founder of Blyton Park circuit.

Richard has created an attraction with a unique aim: rather than showcasing the kind of rare and exotic cars that adorned the posters of our childhood bedrooms, GBCJ focusses on the everyday heroes that our Dads and Mums owned – the cars that heralded a revolution in personal transport worldwide. 

Situated in a former Derbyshire factory, Great British Car Journey has over 100 cars, spanning 100 years, and covering marques including Morris, Hillman, Austin, and Ford, to name a few. Each has been carefully chosen to illustrate how British-made cars changed the world for good, and among them you'll find gems such as the last ever MG Metro, and one of the 360 Morris Minor 'Millions,' of which an example of each was sent to every Morris dealer in the UK. 

For many of us, the cars at GBCJ stir memories of our childhoods, our first drives, and a myriad other personal milestones, and that’s the beauty of the GBCJ. These real-world workhorses are the stars, and their importance in the social and economic fabric of the UK and beyond, as well as the places in our hearts, is the cause of celebration. 


As with most attractions, the cars on display aren't for prodding or poking. But a unique – and brilliant – feature of GBCJ, is Drive Dad’s Car. Want to know what it felt like to drive your Dad’s Capri, or a Morris Minor Convertible? What about Mum's MG Midget, or your uncle's TR7, or even a Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, or a Jaguar XJS? Well, now you can! From just £49, Drive Dad’s Car lets you drive a car from three collections; Classic, Premium, and Luxury, with over 30 models to choose from. Each car has a digital camera onboard, and you’ll be accompanied by an instructor – plus you get free entry to the GBCJ Experience. You can even buy 'bundles' that let you drive a selection of cars across categories.

The pandemic isn't over yet, but safety is paramount at the GBCJ, so you can still visit and enjoy the experience while staying safe (get all the details here). We can’t wait to make a visit ourselves, but in the meantime, book your Drive Dad's Car, and let us know what you think.

GBCJ has only been open for a short time, and we know it's already proving highly popular; we think this is one to watch, and we cannot wait to make a trip in person. We wish Richard and his team great success with the Experience, and we will, of course, be supporting Richard and the GBCJ as it cements its own place in British automotive history: in fact, you’ll very soon be able to choose from a great selection of Veloce books in the GBCJ shop, so you can drive the cars, then read all about their history and importance in British and world motoring.

The GBCJ is a fantastic idea, and we will be supporting Richard and all his team however we can. Even more books covering even more models and marques are planned, so don't be surprised to see them in the GBCJ shop – if you're planning a visit to this great attraction, you can pickup a great book while you're there!

The Great British Cars … of the Velocisti

Unsurprisingly, all this talk of great British cars has created a little reminiscing among the Velocisti, and you'll be even less surprised to hear that British cars feature prominently in our motoring histories. So how does the Velocisti's British Car Journeys stack-up? Let's hear from a few of them … I'll go first:

Kevin Atkins

My Dad didn't drive, so Mum's the word when it comes to my introduction to British cars and motoring. My mother's first car was pre-me (a 1963 Vauxhall Victor saloon with bench seats – still her favourite car). The first car on my radar, was Mum's Mk 1 Ford Cortina, in classic Lagoon and white livery, and with those wonderful 'Ban the Bomb' taillights, that for a '70s kid, were straight out of a science fiction comic. 

A fine example of a Mk1 Cortina, sci-fi taillights shown inset.

Technically, my own motoring adventures began with a 500cc Weslake speedway bike, which was a bit of a handful for an 11 year old,. My road and driving career began proper with a pale brown Morris Marina, purchased from my then-girlfriend's brother for a few hundred quid, and complete with a sports steering wheel. I drove it just twice, and there was a decade gap before my next car; an MG Metro, which was given to me by my then boss; a great little go-kart of a car, albeit with a tendency to occasionally lose its suspension on one side … but I can at least add an MG to my list of owned cars *ahem*.

Jude Brooks, Publisher

"I was gonna say that our first family car was a pale blue Ford Pop, and here’s a pic of us about to set off on our happy hols – only this obviously isn’t a pale blue Ford Pop: it's an Austin Somerset

Jude and family, posing with the pale blue Austin Somerset.

"It was this car that overturned when someone hit us – we had to crawl out of the windows! My own first car was a Hillman Imp – dark green – which overheated on a drive from Portsmouth to Yeovil, and my dad had to tow me from Salisbury."

Rod Grainger, Publisher

"My first British car (following several German BMW 3-wheeler Isettas) was a powder blue/rust brown 1959 Ford 100E which I welded back together using steel cut from a scrapped car’s roof! I then resprayed the car in two-tone royal blue and white.


Rod's 100E. 

"Performance from the tired 1172cc side-valve engine was pretty poor, but the car’s party-piece was a vacuum-driven wiper system: meaning the harder the engine was working the slower the wipers moved, almost stopping on steep hills!"

Matt Bassett 

"A Rover P6 3500. The spare tyre mounted on the boot when luggage space was needed. I remember a couple of holidays getting the train via Motorail, from Brokenhurst to Inverness, then driving around Sutherland and the Eastern Highlands, where the country roads weren’t so much tarmaced, but consisted of two strips of fur from from the many, many crushed rabbits. 

Rover P6 3500, ram skeleton NOT included.

"The car struggled with the gradients, so frequent stops because of overheating were needed. The highlight for the seven or eight year old me, was finding a ram’s skeleton that had been picked clean by ants, but I wasn’t allowed to keep the skull."

Emma Shanes

"The first car I bought was a Ford KA. I have a Vauxhall Adam now; I wanted a newer car, as my go-to mechanics (my Dad and my brother) would often be away racing (Editor: Emma's brother is motorcycle racer James Shane, #ShamelessNameDrop) and wouldn’t always be around should I have a problem. Plus it looked nice and I wanted cruise control after a long journey home one night, where I had to pull over because my ankle and foot were hurting. 

Ford KA – that's 'Kaa' not 'Kay-Ay', BTW.

"Before the Adam, I was insured to drive a one-mirrored, 4 speed 1989 Nissan Micra (called Poppy), so to be honest, all I wanted for my first car was a blue car that had 2 mirrors, a rev-counter (I was shocking at hill starts), and a CD player. I wasn’t fussy or anything!"  

Kevin Quinn

"My Dad never actually owned a car, but occasionally (very occasionally) he would borrow his brother’s. The first car I ever remember being in was my uncle’s Austin A35 (a tiny, cream-coloured thing). 

An Austin A35 – not-so-happy motoring memories.

"My overriding memory is being squeezed into the back seat next to my cousin, with my Dad and uncle in the front, windows steamed up, and feeling dreadfully car sick the whole journey, as it lurched, rattled and struggled to even move. Hated having to go anywhere in that thing."

Becky Martin

"My first car was a lovely yellow Vauxhall Viva with brown vinyl seats. I seem to remember lots of jokes about the ‘Yellow Peril.’ I bought it very cheaply from a friend of my uncle, while I was learning to drive, and although it wasn’t the prettiest of cars, it helped me get some experience and pass my test.

A Vauxhall Viva – not the 'Yellow Peril' Becky remembers, but close.
Photo credit: SG2012, CC BY 2.0.

"It didn’t last long though – it broke down in the middle of nowhere late one night, and I had to hitch a ride to a phone box to call out someone to rescue me (pre-mobile phone days!)."

Becky's current daily driver … usually.

It seems Becky may have form in this respect; she currently enjoys driving an MGB GT … which has just broken down with a fuel pump issue. Perhaps a copy of Your expert guide to MGB & MGB GT problems and how to fix them will help?

A different kind of family album

Whilst all of us here have strong memories of our childhood car experiences, finding photos of the actual cars our families owned is tricky. Fortunately, we have a 'family album' of a different kind, in the shape of our current and back-catalogue, so we took photos from some of our British marque books.

The perfect books for British car nerds.

The colours and trim may vary a bit, but these are essentially the cars we recognise from our own personal great British car journeys. With books like our A Pictorial History series, or The Cars of the BMC (coming soon) to name just a few, finding the model was surprisingly easy …

… although

Whilst our catalogue covers dozens of marques and hundreds of models, it still has a few gaps that we'd love to fill. One such gap is Vauxhall, another great British marque. If you have next-level knowledge of Vauxhall cars, or know someone who does, and think you can author a book on the subject – whether it's a buyer's guide, a marque history, or something else entirely – get in touch to discuss. Email us at and tell us your idea; we'll take a look, and you could see your book in print with Veloce!