The Fast and the Curious - SAS Dreams
I’ll start with a confession – I’ve never really got the obsession with old cars and find it hard to understand why someone would sell a house to buy one. So it was with an open and inquisitive mind that I joined up with 22 SAS Pandion and Gold members on the British Classic Car weekend, one of many unforgettable trips that make up the SAS Dreams concept.
“SAS Dreams has just started to open some unique doors for our true travelers, to explore the interest they have in specific themes. we want to be able to fulfill all of our members' dreams to make possibilities come true,” says Oddrun Cecilie Svegaarden, Head of SAS Dreams.
On arrival at our first hotel, near Birmingham, the wonderful collection of 11 cars, including several Morgans, a Jaguar E-Type, (described by Enzo Ferrari in 1961 as "the most beautiful car ever made”), MGs and two TVRs, (nicknamed “Widowmakers” for reasons that become apparent when you put your foot on the accelerator) were a feast on the eyes. This is as far as it gets from the modern, robot-manufactured, production line automobiles that are just a small step away from even driving themselves.
And for the first time, as I watched the group circle around them excitedly, I began to get an idea of their passion for these magnificent machines. From a polite uncomfortable hum, suddenly the room was buzzing and camera phones clicking.
“You can see why people love cars like this. It’s a flashback to a time when they were different and driving really was a pleasure. This is ‘proper’ driving, if you like,” says Miles Garner, one of the event organizers.
Each car had its own particular quirk, from hard-to-find handbrakes, heavy clutches, even improbably small windscreen wipers. And that was just in the car park – a drive in these cars is an experience itself, the challenging nature of it is all part of the fun.
The route took us across the Warwickshire countryside taking us through Shakespeare country to Stratford, with a stop at the British Motor Museum before heading on to picture-postcard towns such as Moreton-on-Marsh and Burford. To maximize the number of cars everyone could try out, each stop saw a well-organized changeover, and selfie opportunities galore. A longer stop at the majestic Blenheim Palace, provided a perfect opportunity for a photo-call with the house forming a fitting, almost regal, backdrop for the convoy.
The longer I drove, the more I started to love these automobiles – it’s almost impossible to avoid pretending you’re starring in a movie – one minute I was Michael Caine in the Italian Job, the next, Roger Moore in The Persuaders – corny and over-romanticized maybe, but it’s quite a buzz, and much more strenuous than I had imagined.
“It's great trying out old fashioned cars without power steering. You need more muscles to cope with the handling and you have to drive slower and brake earlier, so it’s a completely different way to handle a car,” says John Helge Fjellheim, who brought his son along for what they both describe as some welcome quality time together.
Unfortunately, the hoped-for spring weather didn’t materialize on day one but the group made light of the clouds as we rolled through the small towns and villages that make the Cotswolds so popular, towards spa town Cheltenham. The sunshine didn’t deliver, but the English countryside did so in its glorious pomp on a well thought-through route that showed Britain at its best.
“For me, a large part of the excitement of this trip was the area we were driving through,” says another participant Ingebjørg Monsen. “I’ve always had a special warmth for the Cotswolds. It’s so typically English – I’ve been here before and it’s a beautiful area, perfect for this kind of trip.”
Thankfully, day two began in bright sunlight, for our remaining breath of British air. The tops came off the cars and the relatively empty roads gave us the chance to put the foot down a bit more on the open roads. This was my personal “lightbulb moment” – hunched low to the ground I felt more than just the driver of the car, I felt almost a part of it.
I still have pangs of conscience about the damage I may have done to some of the gearboxes trying to find the biting point, and the large Inspector Morse Jaguar in particular left me with aching arms and legs as I fought with the weight of the steering, but that’s all part of the experience. And despite the pain, it was with a heavy heart that I climbed out of the Morgan for the final time and prepared for my trip home.
With the help of the group, I am converted – I just need to explain to my wife why I want to sell the house!
Text: Geoff Mortimore