Currently reading: Blast in the past: How to rent a classic car
If you want a slice of British automotive history without the cost of upkeep or the time commitment, we know just the place to go…
John Evans
News
5 mins read
23 November 2019

Sunbeam Way, Siddeley Avenue, Armstrong Avenue… the street names on the approach to Revival Cars, a classic-car rental company based in Coventry, are just the thing to get you into the mood for some olde worlde motoring thrills.

Your journey back in time continues as you turn into Humber Avenue, beneath its original and now much weathered street sign, and past the old red-brick Humber Hotel. Turn left and you’re on Bilton Industrial Estate, former location of the Humber car factory (many of the old production buildings remain). Revival is halfway down on the right. Unfortunately, the company hasn’t got a Humber on its fleet, although there is an old Sceptre rotting in the car park. No matter – the cars it does have represent a fascinating period of British automotive history and are perfect for the experienced and inexperienced motoring enthusiast alike.

“The average age of our customers is 55 and many of them want to drive a car they admired when they were younger or that their parents owned,” says Miles Garner, a director of Revival Cars. “It may be something they’re happy to do just once or they may be planning to buy a classic and want to feel how one in good condition feels. Other customers include couples just wanting to spend a day or so driving in the countryside in something special.”

For which, I assume, the company’s Morgan 4/4 is much in demand. In fact, Garner says it’s Revival’s most popular hire. Given that the other vehicles on the fleet are a 1964 Jaguar Mk2, a 1959 MGA 1500, a 1964 MGB roadster (an early car with pull handles) and a 1968 Morris Minor convertible, that’s quite something. There’s also a 1972 MGB V8 coupé and, interestingly, a 1994 MG RV8 convertible. In fact, these two are for sale but only half-heartedly, so available to rent if someone insists.

Half-heartedly? It’s one of the attractive aspects of Revival Cars. The thing is, although it’s a business, it’s really just a way for Garner and his co-directors to keep their own classics on the road and in good fettle.

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That’s right: the cars are their personal property collected over the years. Pressures of work (their other jobs are running the diverse and rapidly expanding RDM Group of automotive companies of which Revival is a member) meant their cars were being driven only occasionally, which is why one of them suggested forming Revival Cars and hiring them out all year round as a way to keep them running and cover their maintenance costs. On that point, the company is well served since RDM has skilled engineers, its own parts supply companies, a spray booth and a trim shop (see 'The RDM trim shop', below). Basically, keeping the fleet on the road is a piece of cake.

All that said, you’d imagine that, given their personal stake in the cars, Garner and his mates would be loath to let their cars out in anything but perfect weather. In fact, they’re available all year round but, if it’s really wet or icy, most customers tend to cry off anyway.

“Put it this way, given the choice between anti-lock brakes in their own cars and drum brakes in ours, they tend to choose the former,” says Garner.

Not that the cars are inherently dangerous or unreliable. They’re regularly serviced and thoroughly checked over between hires. However, just as range anxiety is a feature of electric cars, so arrival anxiety is an authentic feature of Revival’s classic ones.

“We tell people they are hiring a classic car and the risk of breakdown is inevitably higher than with a modern car,” says Garner. “However, we do everything we can to ensure our cars are reliable.”

In the event of a breakdown, an AA patrol will turn up (sadly not in a classic Hillman Imp patrol van or BSA sidecar outfit) and, if it can’t get you back on the road, ferry you back to Revival where they will endeavour to put you in another classic car.

After reliability, another subject customers are keen to discuss is how easy the cars are to drive. Inasmuch as they have a steering wheel and pedals, they’re not that different from a modern car but, even so, Garner offers them a few words of advice.

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“I tell them the most challenging part is their slower response times: slower braking, slower steering and slower performance. It’s all about planning and anticipation so that, if something happens, you’re prepared and have time to react.”

I’m reminded of what he means when I take the wheel of the Morgan for a quick – make that, gentle – spin. Brakes that require a hefty shove of the pedal, a gearlever somewhere under the dash and with a loose action, steering that’s upset by road bumps… It’s all part of the experience, of course, and, if nothing else, makes me appreciate my MX-5 even more. And yes, in case you’re wondering, insurance is included, covering drivers aged 25 to 75.

How much does a Revival hire car cost? A day’s hire from 9.30am to 5pm including insurance, AA breakdown and unlimited mileage costs from £150 to £175 depending on the vehicle, and a long weekend (5.30pm on Friday to 9am on Monday) from £300 to £350. For lovers of classic motoring without the tears, an old Moggy soft-top or Morse Jag from Revival could be just the job.

The RDM trim shop

Up a flight of stairs in the same building as Revival Cars is the trim shop, also owned by RDM. Rolls of leather, half-completed seats and large cutting tables fill the room. Like other parts of RDM’s business, it’s quietly successful, being supplier to Morgan of its cars’ hoods and interior trims. In fact, the day we visit, trim supervisor Tina Lenaghan is deftly putting the finishing touches to a transmission tunnel, seats and door cards for a 3 Wheeler. Other customers include Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin.

It also produces the interior trim for RDM’s range of low-speed autonomous passenger vehicles, while a recent project was trimming and converting a mini Land Rover Defender EV for Prince George (with a remote control for Dad).

In addition to new vehicles, the trim shop also does restoration work for classic cars belonging to private customers as well as trimming continuation models produced by major car makers. The point is, if it’s torn, ripped or frayed, the trim shop can fix it.

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Comments
1

23 November 2019

Wondering if the hire motors come with nostalgiac tool kits and gloves for the bits you'll certainly have to repair on your mototring sojourn into the Scottish Highlands or the ButterTubs? Or will the motors come with or without the "nostalgiac" rust?? 

Doff your cap Bob! 

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