HERO (the Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation) has a new addition to complement its current list of award winning rallies, designed for people who just want the experience of driving a classic car without the added pressure of being on a rally.
The HERO Classic Driving Day runs out of either their South Wales base or The Manor Country House Hotel, Weston-on-the-Green, Oxfordshire and gives you the chance to sample four of their ‘Arrive and Drive’ fleet in one day in a stress free environment with full mechanical assistance if the worse was to happen. I recently went along to The Manor to have a small insight to how these days run and to try some of the cars myself.
The day can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be. You can choose minimal navigation with a simple convoy run, where you only have to follow the car in front to allow you enjoy fully the car and the surround countryside, or you can follow the supplied tulip route book, which gives you a simple diagrams of each junction with a ball indicating where you come from and the arrow indicating where you are going to along with the distances between each junction.
When I arrived at The Manor I was greeted by the ever smiling face of Kev Haworth, the HERO media co-ordinator, and a selection of the arrive and drive fleet, including an MG A, a Jaguar E Type, a BMW 2002 and Porsche 911.
After a brief and safety talk from Peter Nedin, the HERO Bespoke events director, we were handed our route packs including the tulip road book and a map book just in case we were to get lost.
When we headed back outside, four cars had been lined up ready and waiting for us. Our cars for the afternoon were a Ford Cortina 1500GT, a Triumph TR4A, a Jaguar XK 150 and an MG A. Being a Ford man, I opted to start in the Cortina.
All of the cars are built for competition use, but still retain their interior. Some have the addition of competition seats, harnesses and a roll cage, but all were fitted with a Brantz trip meter.
I took a few minutes to familiarise myself where all the switches and knobs were in the Cortina, but they were all clearly labelled. One by one the cars were started and the unforgettable sound of side-draught carbs filled the ear as everyone blipped the throttle to warm up the engines.
The route took us from Oxfordshire into the Cotswolds, with three stops to give us the chance to swap cars and compare notes. As with HERO rallies the stops were local places of interest- Rye Hill Golf Club and Hook Norton Brewery.
The red Cortina with its gold flash in the style of Alan Mann Racing had a very similar feel to my own Ford Escort Mexico. With its punchy 1500cc engine and quick-rack steering it turned in just how you wanted it to when the twisty bits came along. The route took us along A and B roads, so plenty of chances to give the car a full work-out. The competition seats and harnesses really made you feel one with the car. I was just getting into things when we turned into the first stop.
I was really impressed with the little Cortina and I can see why it is always out on events, such a brilliant car for novices to learn their rallycraft in and for a more experienced crew to get good results and upset some of the bigger-engined cars.
Next up for me was the TR4A. Thankfully it was a nice sunny afternoon as the roof was down. It took a bit of getting used to as it’s been a few years since I last drove a LHD car but you soon forget you’re on the wrong side of the car and enjoy the sights and sounds of open top motoring. Plus you get to hear the lovely popping and banging from the exhaust on the overrun.
The TR had a few more creature comforts inside compared to the Cortina- with standard seats and a wooden steering wheel, it was a lovely comfortable car, just right for a long event in Southern France or Italy.
The third car was meant to be the XK150 but a faulty fuel gauge had side lined it. The backup car was a Triumph TR4 but straight away you could see this was a bit more purposeful than the TR4A, with its Surrey hard top, roll cage and period bucket seats. This TR has been a regular on Historic Rally Car Register (HCRC) events this year in the clubman series at the hands on the talented Whyte sisters.
Behind the wheel I really felt part of the car, and it was so much fun I could have driven it all day long; I have even been looking for TR4s on eBay! It had power in all of the right places and the steering was on the heaver side, but that you could feel everything that was going on. I was disappointed when we got to the third and final stop point as I knew I was going to be driving something different next.
The fourth car was the MG A and it had a tall order to follow, but I had heard good things about it. With its MG B engine it had a bit more power than a standard A and because of its age, it was missing seat belts which added to the experience.
The MG A was the car that surprised me the most. I really had to work at the wood rimmed steering wheel but I soon got use to how the car handled. There were a few hairy moments when my size 10 caught two pedals at once in the small footwell but with the mix of topless motoring and no seat belts I really did see, feel and hear every bit of the driving experience.
For me, the highlight of the whole day was when I looked in my rear view mirror and saw I was being followed by two iconic cars- a Jaguar E-Type and a Porsche 911, both HERO Arrive and Drive cars. Seeing the roll cage through the window of the 911 showed the intentions of this car- it meant business.
We soon arrived back at The Manor, and with the rest of the Arrive and Drive cars lined up, it was like driving into a classic car show.
The HERO Classic Driving Day would be perfect for anyone wanting to sample the experience a day of classic car motoring, and the first step towards entering one of the many HERO events which are all coloured coded to help you find one that meets your level of abilities, which along with the fleet of Arrive and Drive cars you can do without even owning your own classic. They even fill them with petrol and give you pens and pencils- everything you need to start rallying!
To find out more information about HERO events, the Arrive and Drive fleet and their Classic Driving Days go to www.heroevents.eu. Everyone from HERO are always more than happy to help with any enquires and will make you feel very welcome on events.
Tim Sawyer is a Hagerty Client Service Adviser and is the lead contact for car clubs. Insurance for the day was, you will not be surprised to hear, provided by Hagerty. We not only support HERO but are also partners with the Historic Rally Car Register (HRCR). Read more about our classic rally insurance cover here.