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Bicester Scramble’s mix of machinery proves a hit – again

WORDS: DAVID LILLYWHITE | PHOTOGRAPHY : BICESTER HERITAGE

Location, location, location. Anywhere else in the UK in January, such a disparate collection of classics and supercars just wouldn’t have the same appeal. But amid the former RAF buildings and within the hangars of Bicester Heritage, it all comes alive – and kicked off 2024 with an atmosphere of fun and optimism.

This then was the first Scramble of the year. There will be two more, on April 21 and October 6. Much of the appeal is having no idea what you’ll find around the next corner, but knowing it will be fun and that you may find a friend or two with it. It’s a formula that has ensured the Scramble sells out every time, with a capacity crowd of 6500.

We were there, but did we see everything? No, no chance. Too busy chatting… But it was great to be reunited with two of the three finalists of the Royal Automobile Club Historic Awards Restoration class, for which I was one of the judges at Bicester a few months back. The eventual winner, the Bugatti Type 57S owned by Lord Bamford and restored by Clark & Carter Restorations and Ivan Dutton Ltd, was joined by the Amilcar restored by Walter Heale Historic Motor Car Workshop. 

In a perfect demonstration of the variety of machinery on show, two Gordon Murray Automotive T.50s took centre stage outside on-site Porsche specialist Sports Purpose, while Singer Vehicle Design presented the over-the-top Turbo Study at the Tanker Sheds. The Fiskens team brought long its Aston Martin Valkyrie, already social media famous for its tartan ‘stripe’ across its front, which was quite a contrast to the Model Ts, Austin Sevens and the pre-war Rileys of Blue Diamond Riley Services on site. 

The event’s central display was the High Smileage Club, centred around drivers’ cars of all ages, including a highly original 1929 Bentley 6½ Litre Sedanca De Ville, an early Lotus Elise, two original Land Rovers and a brace of Austin Sevens. They were accompanied by rally icons such as a Lancia Integrale and Subaru Impreza, an original Mini and Mazda MX-5, plus brand-new examples of the BMW M3 CS and Porsche 911 Dakar. 

Both the M3 and 911 Dakar were brought along by their manufacturers, another sign of the new-car industry’s increasing awareness of Bicester’s importance. Aston Martin has supported the Scramble for several years now, and was on hand again for this one, and now Alpine has joined the fray. Polestar even has a base at Bicester Heritage, and was showing off its Synergy design concept. Amusingly, opposite the Polestar HQ was a very different take on the EV theme – Frontline’s recently converted electric MGB.

On the apron outside the main hangar (itself populated by a Collecting Cars auction and a recreation of the latest Classic & Sportscar front cover) was a wide selection of modern supercars – extremely popular with the younger visitors in particular.

As ever with Scramble, by mid-afternoon visitors and cars started to dissipate, leaving just the hardcore wandering around to soak up the last of the atmosphere. It’s a simple, relaxed event, with something for everyone – but the downside of that is tickets sell fast. We’d advise getting in quickly for the April 21 Scramble.