Quick. Someone Pass Me My Paddy Hopkirk String-Backed Driving Gloves!

Previously on DriveWrite we have discussed the simple joys of owning low-cost cars. Cars, in fact, not unlike the models older members of your family used to drive. Remarkably, it is still possible to experience those motors but first let’s go back; back in time to days of yore when men wore serious hats.

One morning, sometime prior to 1959, a fabled automotive engineer called Alec Issigonis had an epiphany; he suddenly sat up in bed and said “D’you know what? If we could just turn the engine sideways…”. Mrs Issigonis obviously couldn’t have cared less, she just grumbled and turned over but later, when he got the office, the Mini was designed and the rest is history. I can’t say that it actually happened exactly like that because I wasn’t there – the Issigonis’s were not that sort of people – but it’s probably the gist of it.

Not long after that, in 1964 to be precise, a successful rally driver named Paddy Hopkirk won the Monte Carlo Rally in a Mini Cooper S, alongside co-driver Henry Liddon. Hopkirk’s name was to become a legend amongst the burgeoning Mini-owning community and no self-respecting lad would be seen without a tuning kit – or some improving part or other on his Mini – that boasted the Paddy Hopkirk name. Why, the chap almost single-handedly invented the words ‘car accessory’.

Those magic motoring moments are long gone and all that’s left are memories. Around the country, grown mature men are weeping quietly even as they read this because when it comes to cars, those really were the days. Younger readers might witness their ageing misty-eyed dads and granddads fondly flicking through illicit dog-eared, yellowing copies of Cars and Car Conversions secretly stashed amongst the piles of old Razzle and Rustler mags lurking at the back of the shed and wish that they too had experienced those halcyon days. Well, they can.

And it’s all thanks to a company called Great Escape Classic Car Hire. The cheap cars we mentioned are one way to get back to the simple joys of driving and it is also possible to buy original Mini’s (not the upstart German jobs) as many, many enthusiasts do, although the decent ones are beginning to fetch big money. Doesn’t have to be a Mini of course as any budget classic car will fit the bill.

But if you can’t afford to do that, or don’t want all the hassle, then what those cunning chaps at Great Escape Cars have done is to build a Cooper replica that customers can hire for a day or for a weekend. A replica is a good idea because users won’t feel they are driving a precious relic of the past and can enjoy that original Mini experience without breaking the bank. This little treat probably costs less money than you’d pay for a track day. They’ve got plenty of other classics as well (there’s a couple in my photos) and you can find out more here. Why not treat yourself to a blast from the past. Find out what got your Dad’s pulse racing back in the day – and I don’t mean your Mum.Geoff Maxted