It’s never been more important to support local small businesses at the moment, so in a bid to do our part, we got in touch with Graham from Great Driving Days in the UK to learn more about his business.
Great Driving Days specialises in the hiring of classic cars, and classic car driving experiences. The team devotes their time to finding the best roads to drive, improving customer experience, all while maintaining their collection of cars, which includes a Jaguar E-Type, Alfa Romeo Spider, and a Ford Capri just to name a few.
Soon, pandemic allowing, we’ll be giving you a closer look at these legendary motors, but until then, we asked Graham a few questions about his day to day working life and how he goes about conducting business within the motoring industry.
1. Explain Great Driving Days and what the company does.
We run classic car driving experiences. They’re all based on a simple idea – that the first 60 minutes in a classic car are the most exhilarating and memorable. We call it ‘Zero to 60.’ We run single car and multi-car experiences but they all work on the same principle. Of course, if customers want to drive for longer then we do longer experiences too. But 95% of what we do is about ‘zero to 60’
2. Explain your own role in the company.
I set up the business in 2006 with two cars and have built it steadily from there. My job is to make sure we’re providing a great product and service – that’s all about having a good team and reliable cars – and reaching customers through marketing and social media. I am also constantly looking at new products and packages – new roads to drive and new cars to hire. I still get involved with the sharp end of meeting customers – I really, really love seeing how excited and happy people are to drive the cars
3. Where did your passion for cars begin?
Apparently, my first word was ‘car‘. I have always loved cars, but I don’t come from a family of petrolheads at all. For me they represent freedom and I love the scene associated with them – whatever they drive, car people have a shared passion and enthusiasm that really brings people together, no matter how different their lives might otherwise be.
4. What do you personally drive?
I have a few cars that I don’t hire out, like an Alfasud and Lancia Trevi. But my daily driver is an Audi RS6 C5 Avant
5.If you could only keep one of your cars, Great Driving Day cars included, which would you keep and why?
I won’t ever sell my Alfasud as it was the first car I ever wanted to own. Of the fleet, it’s a toss up between the V12 XJS, which is such a lovely car, and the 1969 E Type
6. How does a rental car company like yours differentiate itself from the competition?
There are a lot of companies who hire out classic cars – like a sort of old-world version of Hertz. We did that for many years. But I didn’t feel it gave people enough of a buzz and was underselling how great it is to experience a classic car for the first time. Our 60 Minute ‘taster’ experiences are a low-cost way to get the ‘zero to 60’ buzz while our full and half day multi-car Road Trips provide a longer, curated experience where customers can drive the cars on roads we have specially picked out. These experiences are harder to operate but much more rewarding for customers and I’m pleased that so far we are the only company doing it.
7. What are your thoughts on the future of EVs and their environmental impacts compared to buying a used car?
Cars need to lower their environmental impact, whether this is through EVs or hydrogen technology or something else. But I do worry that the drive to sell a new, lower polluting car doesn’t take into the full lifecycle cost of putting a new car on the road compared to eking out more life from a used car. I haven’t seen a reliable comparison that addresses that point. I hope that wherever we go there will always be a place for classic cars because they provide fun and enjoyment to so many people.
8. What is the most challenging part of your career?
Classic cars always create risk – these cars were never very reliable when they were new, so there is always the chance of disappointing customers who might have travelled a long way to drive them. Getting the cars to a level of reliability where those risks are minimal takes a lot of work and never ends. But I am really pleased we are able to hire cars out like our E Type that does 1,000 miles a week with many, many different drives. And despite that hard use, we have a failure rate of less than 1%.
9.What are you hoping to achieve in the future for Great Driving Days?
I am looking to develop the fleet with new cars, probably from the 80s and 90s, to appeal to people who are now approaching their 40s – they are our typical audience. At one point we had 60 cars – we now have 20, which is the level I am happy with as it enables me to enjoy running the business and lets me spend time with customers
10. What car haven’t you driven but would love to drive/own?
I’d love to drive an Iso Grifo – I like big-engined GT cars (I had a Jensen for a while) and I love the way the Iso looks.
11. What’s your advice for young people who want to start a business in the motoring industry?
Make sure you really have the passion – if it’s something you really feel you have to do, that drive will see you through the inevitable times when you feel like giving up. If you have, make sure you create something that is different and distinctive – look at what other people are doing and think about ways you can do it differently and better. That will give you a competitive edge and make it easier to promote yourself
12. How do you currently organise yourself on a day-to-day basis?
Due to COVID I am now based at home. We run experiences daily between March and October so I tend to be on-site most days. In the winter much less so – that’s when I work on the business: the marketing, new products, etc. I am quite organised – I keep two ‘To Do’ lists, one for longer-term projects and one for daily tasks. One feeds the other.
13. Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them?
I have two full time staff, one who manages the phones and bookings, and one who is on-site managing the cars – checking they are ready for hire, sorting customer paperwork, managing the workshops we use, that sort of thing. Our maintenance is carried out by third parties – we use a mix of people depending on whether it is something urgent or a longer-term restoration of the car or engine rebuild.
We’re really looking forward to digging into the cars of Great Driving Days in the future.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has been troubling for many small businesses, so if you fancy getting behind the wheel of a classic car you can trust on some incredible driving roads, please do get in touch with Graham at Great Driving Days. Follow this link to check out their large array of experiences.