Classic cars don’t just look cool, they can put the soul into a journey. Put your favourite music on and fasten your seatbelts – it’s roadrunner time.
Volkswagen Camper, UK
The Volkswagen Type Two campervan was the hippy traveller’s favourite vehicle: even cartoon stoners the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers had one. Now the ‘Veedub’ campervan has found a new role in Britain’s glamping (‘glamorous camping’) sector, and you can’t deny that cheery ‘drop life and drive’ charm. All providers share certain rules: Veedubs must have a name and they must be in bright colours. Cornwall Campers’ Ella, for instance, is pea-green and has calor gas, a fridge and a sink. Pack a surfboard, wave to fellow ‘dubbers’ and you’ll have a ball.
You can find Cornwall Campers at www.cornwallcampers.co.uk.
With a two-stroke engine, fibreglass body and an instantly likeable car-face, the ‘Trabi’ was the great East German workhorse. Citizens would wait for years to buy one, then keep it going with string if need be – and with just three million produced, owning one made you an Eastern Bloc aristocrat. There are Trabi hire places in Eastern Europe, all trading on various shades of ‘Ostalgie’ – the jokey nostalgia for Communist-era style – but Berlin’s Trabi Safari leads the way, letting you drive a Trabi around this uncongested capital city, with an affectionate commentary that hits the mood. It’s a great way to see Berlin – but you won’t burn off any Audis at the lights.
Try Trabi Safari in Berlin or Dresden, www.trabi-safari.de.
Citroën 2CV, France
The Citroën 2CV – that’s two ‘chevaux’, as in horsepower – ceased production in 1990 after 42 years, its corrugated-steel body and low speed (‘0 to 60 in one day’, went the joke) loveable but obsolete. Now this car makes the French weep bittersweet tears, for it mobilised the peasantry in the postwar years. Put simply, they love it. Drive a 2CV in France and you’ll get smiles from other French drivers (a hard-won treat); you’ll find them for hire across France. Memo: if you’re thinking about a long 2CV road trip, consider that the suspension is not kind to backsides – and that you’ll have to prise nostalgic farmers off it in villages.
Fiat 500, Italy
There are few cars that make you go ‘aww’ – as you would at a cute animal. The classic Fiat 500 is one of them. The earliest model was nicknamed the ‘Topolino’ or ‘grey mouse’ and was the original small car; between 1957 and 1975 over three million Fiat 500 were produced. In those dolce vita years it was not uncommon to see whole families in them; now it’s more likely to be a cool designer type. Or you, as specialty Italian car-hire companies, like Rome500 in Rome, offer the chance to be elegantly chauffeured by Fiat 500 in Rome. You can also self-drive to Rome’s side trips, like Ostia Antica, Villa Adriana or Lake Bracciano. Tall drivers beware.
Rome500 has a range of packages with its Fiat 500 fleet at www.rome500exp.com.
Mustang on Route 66, USA
‘Take the highway that’s the best...’ Classic rhythm and blues song ‘Route 66’ is the best road song ever, and driving a classic American car is an event in itself. Also, inner cities aside, the US was made for driving. So any serious motorist will love the Mother Road, which famously ‘winds from Chicago to LA’. Hire a car from Blacktop Candy’s and you can choose from a range including a 1964 Corvette Stingray and a 1965 Mustang convertible. En route you’ll find vintage hotels and attractions serving drivers, including the El Rey Inn in Santa Fe and Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari. It’s a slice of true Americana.
Classic cars are hired by Blacktop Candy’s in North Carolina; www.blacktopcandys.com.
Aston Martin in Scotland
Despite reaching 50 last year, the appeal of top cinematic spook James Bond keeps growing. The half-Scottish Bond drove several cars, but it is the Aston Martin DB5 that has become indelibly linked with 007, and Scotland is the perfect place to drive an Aston. You’ll zip past Faslane Naval Base, featured in The Spy Who Loved Me, the loch by Crinan, which stood in for the Bosphorus in From Russia with Love, and the reeling landscape of Glencoe, setting for the finale of Skyfall. You’ll have speed, sexiness and (temporary) bragging rights. What you won’t have is pop-out gun barrels or a bullet shield behind the rear windscreen. So pretend.
See Scotland Differently hires its Aston Martin for weekends. See www.seescotlanddifferently.co.uk.
Mini Moke, Barbados
The Mini Moke is proof that the Mini and the Land Rover did have an affair in the 1960s. And this rugged little looker was the result, produced in small numbers in the UK between 1964 and ’68 before being made in Australia and Portugal. Sure, it didn’t set the world alight in rainy climes, but it is now the coolest and most covetable beach-hopping buggy in the world, which is why the Moke is mega in Barbados. Grab one of these open-sided micro-jeeps and you’ll have yourself an island adventure.
There’s a list of Moke hire outfits at www.funbarbados.com (be aware: they may be updated models).
The Ambassador, India
Some cars are so linked with their countries that it becomes a duty to ride. So it is with the Hindustan Ambassador: the first car to be made in India (in 1948) and the titan of that country’s incredible road system. It has real retro charm and is still made in West Bengal. The Amby has traversed mountains, deserts, plains and parks, taken on the monsoon, faced down roads full of people, carts, cows, elephants and yawning potholes. If you want to drive one, it’s possible – but be very careful and learn to honk your horn. Better to be driven; the back seat is extremely comfy and usually has natty antimacassars.
You can take an Amby taxi or a special tour, such as those organised by Road Trip India (www.roadtripindia.co.uk).
Mercedes 250, Germany
There’s something about the classic 1960s Mercedes 250 that really gets people going. Perhaps it’s that it brought that Mercedes coolness to a wider market, or that it’s one of the comfiest rides in the world. From that Greek temple radiator to the discreet tailfins of earlier models (between 1959 and 1968 is best), it’s a looker. Hire one in southern Germany, and you’ll soar past the mountains and the Black Forest. As hire provider Oldie Garage of Bavaria puts it, a key advantage is that you’ll ‘enjoy the admiring looks of your fellow men and ladies’. Can’t be bad.
Oldie Garage (www.oldie-garage.com) is one of several hirers in business.
Land Rovers in Africa
Once in everyone’s life, they should drive a 4WD Land Rover. In Namibia, you can pick up one of these Brit beauties in the capital, Windhoek, and self-drive into some of the most wonderful and weird terrain in the world: vast orange ergs, looming shipwrecks, avoiding meerkats in Damaraland. The operator Safari Drive makes sure that you have satnav and a satellite phone, and most importantly, full picnic gear. (You’ll stay in campsites and lodges, so don’t fret.)
Get the trip details at www.safaridrive.com.