There comes a point almost every time I’m travelling to an event where I question why I’m doing it. Sometimes it’s standing at a service station staring at rows of gross-looking sandwiches, wondering which is going to poison me the least, or maybe driving through a rainstorm on the edge of aquaplaning into the central reservation. Most often though, it’s that alarm going off at some ungodly hour on the weekend, and it makes me wonder why. Why am I even doing this?
So I went to Bicester Heritage’s Spring Scramble.
The Scramble is an event of diversity, from unobtainable classics to the more everyday; exclusive showcase cars inside to a field of whatever has turned up outside. But for this particular take, it’s home to both beauties and beasts.
Mitsubishi Starion: Beauty
Of course, everyone’s definition of ‘beauty’ is slightly different, but for me this Starion is a beautiful car. Sure, it doesn’t have the swooping, curvy lines of a Ferrari 250 or the like, but it has character and cheek bones to die for. The origami angularity is its beauty. It even has the audacity to be under appreciated, not exactly forgotten, but in a world of Skylines and Supras, the Starion is a bit of a wallflower.
This particular wide-body example in seductive ’80s lipstick red stood out in all the right ways next to a collection of 1960s and ’70s classics. It seemed like it was from the future – which I guess it was – but somehow it still has that look, like we never really caught up with the designer’s vision of what tomorrow would be.
There are very few cars that can attract the word ‘beast’ like a pre-war Brooklands racer. This Hotchkiss is an imposing thing – huge body, huge wheels, all the mechanics right there in front of you. Pure, raw and purposeful. Notice how the driver is sat to one side? Not only was this because Brooklands was a big old left-turning loop at the time, it also allowed the driver to sit lower with the drive shaft travelling next to him.
Driving this at speed must have been hair-raising. It’s almost trite to point out how dangerous racing was back then, but it bears repeating as a reminder of how far we’ve come in motorsport.
Škoda 1100 OHC: Beauty
Now, this beautiful race car is a Škoda 1100 OHC, or Type 968 depending on how official you want to be. This prototype is not only a beauty to look at, but the story behind it is also lovely. When money was tight in the late ’50s, a dedicated group of engineers at the Škoda factory effectively volunteered their time to create this prototype from their sheer enthusiasm for racing, when no official motorsport division existed. It really is a joy to see Škoda UK bring it out for crowds (the other example is in a museum). As Škoda is a brand much maligned in the UK for a certain generation, it surprised many.
Like many ’50s racers, it looks vaguely terrifying to be in at speed, being as it is small, light and thin skinned. With this particular car we’ll admire its lines and leave the physical enjoyment to those a bit braver.
VW High Top: Beast
Out in the parking area I came across this ratty VW splitscreen. Unusually for one of these high tops, the windows have been retained and moved up with the roof line. I’m not sure I’ve seen another done like this. Despite looking like you’d need a tetanus shot if you got too close, it was actually pretty clean. Some debate was had as to whether the patina was truly original or if the paint had an encounter with some sanding discs at some point.
Parked next to a very finely presented E-Type, it shows the range of stuff at the Sunday Scramble. Although if we’re crass and talk monetary value, they could well be in the same ball park.
BMW 2002: Beauty
Have you ever seen a car that is so perfectly put together but also so perfectly understated that you’d be forgiven for skipping over it and moving on. However, you keep coming back to look at it a little more. Each extra detail dragging you in to its world, and every car of the same type you see after is a little bit less because of the comparison? No? Me either…
Anyway, this is Rob Richardson’s BMW 2002, and no, he isn’t going to tell you his wheel spec. It really wouldn’t help you if he did, because despite looking like just some wheels and a bit of lowering, it’s far more. Rob is a man who knows precisely how he wants his cars to sit and will do all the engineering required to get there. He also has an eye for the little details that make something a complete build, rather than procession of parts just added to a car. For what is essentially a little silver three box Beemer, it’s surprising how many people’s photo galleries this car turned up in. Or maybe it isn’t; it’s absolutely perfect.
Jaguar XJR-15: Beast
Is this a beauty or a beast? It’s elegant to look at underneath that livery, but at its heart it’s a Group C machine built for the road. The Jaguar XJR-15 is a pretty raw car – no storage space, no creature comforts, almost no sound deadening. In fact, the car comes with a headset for you and your passenger so you can talk to each other. This car is however fast, faster than its contemporaries. Quicker to 60mph than its XJ220 successor. It was the first all carbon fibre and Kevlar road-going car built. It is a race car that is barely a road car.
The example here is taxed and tested for the UK roads and must be an absolute hoot to be out and about in. You’re certainly unlikely to have someone coming up to you at the petrol station to say ‘I used to have one of those’, but if they did, well, that would certainly be a conversation worth having.
Lamborghini Urraco: Beauty
The Lamborghini Urraco shares some traits with the Starion earlier. An angular wedge design, and a vehicle very much in tune with its decade and under appreciated in a sea of other cars. It’s arguable that the bull brand has gone off the rails in recent years with its designs; its stock in trade now seems to be the sort of cars various YouTube influencers buy in order to shout louder than the guy next to them that not only do they have success, but they also have very dubious taste.
There is something quite brilliant about this design. Sat in a field of other classics – including its famous Countach sibling – it was quietly striking. It didn’t jump up and shout for attention, but you couldn’t help looking at it every time you passed. A car of quiet confidence is always a beautiful thing.
Toyota Century: Beast
It’s odd to think of such a refined vehicle as the Toyota Century as a beast, but to me this is. It may waft around the place carrying dignitaries and statesmen, but underneath this veneer of elegance there is a 5.0L V12 just ready for someone to get a bit spicy. Not only that, but just take a second to look at it. No smooth lines or nods to civility in this body shape. It’s slab sided and unapologetic. It makes a statement. A bold statement. If you don’t like it, well, you can’t be heard through the thickly-glazed windows anyway.
This particular example had all the refinement on display and some rather excellent Hokusai ‘Great Wave’ cushions in the back. I would have very much liked to have been ferried home in this after a long day of walking, talking and taking photographs.
For what is effectively a breakfast club or cars and coffee-type meet with sprinkles on top, the Bicester Heritage Sunday Scramble really has grown into something special. The car parks are full of interesting things, as well as lots of Porsches. The main site seems to always turn up an unexpected highlight. It has also become the place where you can reliably guarantee you’ll see some friends, although which ones is always a surprise.
Next time I’m setting my alarm for a time when it is still dark in the summer, I just need to remind myself of what waits on the other end of the journey. Because in this instance, it’s the destination not the journey that matters.