Hit the road on a classic weekend - Steve Keenan
You'll find an Aston Martin DB6 for hire in Suffolk or a 1972 Alfa Romeo GTV in Wiltshire. If it's a VW convertible that you hanker after for the weekend, there's one to rent in Clackmannanshire, Scotland.
The range of classic cars for hire is growing hugely - next summer, you will be able to hire George Formby's 1936 Alvis Speed 20. Right now, it's being restored in a Kent garage.
An estimated 5,000 enthusiasts now hire a classic car from a network of specialist rental firms around the country, a figure that has quadrupled in the past three years.
But most are not "petrol heads" booking a burn-out in an E-type or Jensen Healey. According to Tony Merrygold, who runs The Open Road rental firm in Warwick, 70 per cent of hirers are women buying surprise anniversary or birthday gifts for their partners - who are immensely respectful of the cars.
Another renter, David Sloane from Classic Touring in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, adds: "If you do more than 250 miles a day in one of these classics, you'll be more knackered than the car."
There are nine specialist companies in the Historic and Classic Car Hirers' Guild (HCHG), regionally spread across Britain, and with around 70 cars to hire between them. The geographical spread means the nine are non-competitive, with the Guild actively looking for new members to set up rentals in Wales and North Yorkshire.
Most rentals are for the weekend, but Sloane has recently had customers driving to Le Mans, the Dordogne and Monte Carlo. Honeymooners have hired for a week, a common rental period for visitors to Caledonian Classics in Clackmannashire, near Perth in Scotland, who then tend to drive off to the Highlands.
The most popular cars to hire are the E-Type Jaguar, MGB, Jaguar Mk 2 (the Morse car), Triumph TR4A and the Aston DB6 (the James Bond car). But with dozens of different classics (how about a 1926 Rolls or 1933 MG J2 convertible?), the HCHG has relaunched its website with individual details of each car and where they can be found.
Prices vary from car to car but The Open Road charges from £130 a day for an MGB to £270 for the E-Type. Taking a car to the continent with Classic Touring would cost up to £725 including all insurances.
Have they had any cars stolen? No, touch wood, says Caledonian, Classic Touring and Cornwall Classic Car Hire - two of which photograph customers (but present them as souvenir photos). Neither will they take drivers with more than six penalty points on their licence.
For more information: www.hchg.co.uk.
The nine members are based in Clackmannanshire, Dumfries, Warwick, Cornwall, Bury St Edmunds, Wiltshire, Kent, Poole (Dorset) and Lancashire.
Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.