For many, the Bicester Heritage’s Scramble offered a welcome return to something that resembles a hint of normality. With near-perfect temperatures, all under The Simpson’s type fluffy clouds, the scene was set for the first Scramble for 18 months. For those unfamiliar with the venue and the significance of the former RAF base, we’ll quickly scan through the basics, before your delirious reporter delves into a guided car tour of the weekend.
The former WW2 RAF Bomber Training Station was left in near dereliction for many years, but had fortunately been spared from inevitable land development. In 2013, the site was sold off to accommodate a business campus dedicated to historic motoring and aviation. With noticeable ongoing developments and the promise of some fascinating expansion plans, the venue is now fully established as a hub for promoting skills and expertise set within an evocative environment.
Normally held on a Sunday, the organisers opened up the Scramble for the weekend of the 5th and 6th of June. There were limitations, as car clubs were not organised to participate in the event and the vast iconic hangers remained shut as a reminder of the current restrictions. Doors opened at 9.00 am sharp, with a bunch of early risers offering a glimpse of the weekend’s proceedings.
The venue can be broken up into two distinct areas, the internal technical areas within the perimeter fencing containing WW2 architecture. Interspersed with leafy avenues, 1930s red-brick architecture and industrial sheds, it is this section that contains the numerous businesses. The second attractions are outside the fences on the airfield which displays the bulk of the cars on display. With a host of motoring specialists setting up stalls and car displays, it wasn’t quite back to normal but the many workshop doors remained open for those wanting to have a quick peek.
Exotica and high-end sports cars are the main draw of the event, with dealers, restorers, auction houses or the fabulously wealthy often using the venue to generate interest in their cars. Typically, the event is Porsche heavy, with several on-site specialists having a vested interest in the brand, so it was a pleasant alternative to see a couple of Bulls enter the arena.
While the core of the event is dedicated to combustion engines, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the future lays in amps and ohms. Electrogenic had a prime spot to display a variety of converted classics, displaying a selection of their demo cars. Motivated by a mini replica of a Bugatti Type 35 built for Bugatti’s son, three 75% scale electric versions were displayed by The Little Car Company, with just 500 examples being produced.
A new arrival to Bicester, Morgan has set up a base at the venue to allow potential buyers to experience the cars on a private closed-road circuit. This allows you to drive one of a fleet of Plus Four or Plus Six models, under the guidance of a professional performance driving instructor. A long-term tenant to the venue is Sports Purpose, who source the absolute best in Porsches and continue to maintain a high profile utilising a former Special Repair Workshop as their focal point.
In between the workshops and businesses are these lush green areas, which allows visitors to stop and take stock and absorb the surroundings. It’s near impossible to predict what might turn up on the day. So, this 1965 Ford Zodiac made a perfect photo opportunity in an apt setting. The car has been used in several period TV dramas over the years. The avenues and rural settings always provide multiple opportunities for photographs.
Over-zealous Covid protection? Actually, authentic use of forest camouflage was deployed by the home guard, as a reminder of the venues illustrious past. The base retained its RAF status until 1976, with the USAF using it into the ’90s. It’s the RAF presence that resonates with the base’s sense of occasion, with a real sense of time-travel with the unmodified pre-war buildings, which includes the ‘Fort’ type control tower which is currently being restored.
The event attracts petrolhead from all over the UK and beyond, as its reputation and unique setting encourage a wide variety of people and families to attend. It’s not the type of event you can rock up and attend on the day, as it requires a little forward planning via booking tickets on their website but is ultimately worth the effort.
The owner of this Bentley consoles his dog, as the raucous clatter of a vintage race car breaks up the serene calm of the avenues. Just on the other side of the Bentley is a selection of original Ford GT40’s line-up in front of the Classic Oils building.
Startermotor is a Bicester Heritage-based charity with the sole intention of helping to place young car enthusiasts into the industry. Whether it is a technical, communications or creative pursuit, their cars and projects dominate the site and sums up perfectly what Bicester Heritage is all about.
Plenty of facilities and catering available but government restrictions, unfortunately, meant that the excellent mobile cinema Bedford coach, known affectionately known as Audrey, was not open for business on this occasion. It was one of seven vehicles used in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, with this example being the sole survivor.
Let’s take an excursion onto the field, where a display of around 400 pre-1990 cars was causing a sensation. We’ve picked a handful of cars that caught our eye.
Parked deep amongst the classic car parking was this wonderful Spanish built Renault 7, which was built specifically for domestic markets. Based on the original Renault 5, this example is a recent import to the UK.
Benny’s RA28 Toyota Celica. Attracting the usual ‘it’s a Mustang copy innit?’ comments, the already restored car was imported from Japan personally by Benny and styled on his love of the Japanese Classic Car Association endurance race series. Tom bought this Datsun Fairlady from an auction house in the UK a few years ago and is one of a fleet of interesting JDM cars he owns. Fun fact: The car was developed at the same time but is completely independently of the MGB and was actually released before the British car.
Proving to draw more attention than the numerous classic sports cars around it at Bicester, this magnificent 1971 Range Rover has spent much of its life on a farm, and seemingly pick up the odd battle scar. Owner Duncan has managed to keep it both running and road legal.
Two Latin thoroughbreds from different stables. There was a time when the Italians were expected to launch coupe versions of their saloons, sharing the same characteristics and ability of their 4 door counterparts, the styling elevated the talents to another level. It is a real shame that modern market trends no longer allow the styling extravagance of a compact coupe to grace our roads anymore.
Two generations of the Ford Galaxie, both models are the top trim 500 versions. The car despite its weight was competitively raced in the early ’60s which has helped to maintain a presence in the UK. By the time the third-generation model (in white) replaced the ’64 model, it had established itself as a police car in its native country. Built for the presence of arrival rather than outright ability, these head-turning cars are typically comfortable and effortless to drive.
The Gordon Keeble is one of the rarest post-war British GT cars produced, with just 100 examples built, so it was a thrill to see one at Bicester. The Giugiaro styled, 300bhp Corvette engined coupe has a high survival rate, with around 90% still believed to exist. A car with a far less survival percentage rate is the maligned Morris Marina. In rare 1.8 TC coupe form, these early models have become sought after and you might just be surprised how much they can sell for.
Two examples from the Citroen stable represents the brand making concession to the market, but never compromising their ethics. The GSA was an evolution of the award-winning GS and allowed the model to stretch over a 15-year production run. The Dyane is often overlooked, as buyers tend to choose to buy, import and restore the 2CV, yet the Dyane is an easier car to live with.
The low mileage single-slot grill Manta 2.0 SR has seen several long-term owners in the past which has gone some way to help preserve the car. The SR models had plusher trim and some tempting bolt-ons which gave the car lots of showroom appeal. The Audi 200 Quattro was ahead of its time in most respects, the ground-breaking aerodynamics and galvanised body was one thing, but an estate car capable of beating a Porsche 944 to 60mph from rest was its unique selling point.
In many respects, the Swedes build the perfect classic car. Often well-made using quality materials, properly engineered to last, with strong bodies and driver comfort. It’s no wonder that so many are treasured by their owners. A row of impressive Volvo Amazons in the classic car parking, while a charming 96 holds its own in the main arena.
The next Scramble at Bicester has yet to be announced, so we would advise you to keep an eye on their website. Bicester Heritage is going to see continuous upgrades and expansion in the next few years, with new businesses and incentives propping up each new development but hopefully will not remove the Scramble event from its calendar. It encompasses everything about cars we love, and we have to be grateful that such a place exists.