A Stroll Through Bicester Heritage Is An Experience In Time Travel
Parked in front of me is a Bentley Speed Six, and as I drove down the tree-lined avenues a moment ago, I passed countless other classic British marques. I feel decidedly out of place pulling up in my little Japanese hatchback—the only car in visible distance that was built not only in the past half century, but by robots, in a factory, half the planet away.
The first thing I say to Dan Geoghegan, the managing director of Bicester Heritage is, “I’m sorry, I feel like I’m spoiling the scene”. Luckily, Dan is a very welcoming chap, and it wasn’t long before I felt totally at home here.
Bicester Heritage has been on my radar for quite some time, but this is my very first visit, and I was lucky enough to be getting a tour of the place by head of marketing, Philip. He was still off at another meeting, so in the meantime, I sat down for a cup of tea with Dan and we talked about the site, which he’s been running since he bought the WWI airfield and accompanying buildings a few years back. His vision: to turn it into a one-stop-shop for classic car and aviation enthusiasts; currently with on-site restorers, specialists, and sales, there’s not much that can’t be done—except paint (for now).
We head outside to meet Philip and find ourselves standing in front of Dan’s deep red Alvis, parked just outside of the main office. This is a car that’s followed him through the years, belonging to his father, as well as being the car he learned to drive in. After his father sold it, he thought it lost to the winds, until he happened to chance across it years later. He bought it there and then. After some time admiring it, Philip whisks me off to see the rest of the site, as I’d only covered a tiny sliver with Dan.
With it being a WWI and WWII airbase, Bicester Heritage huge facility, complete with aircraft hangars, administrative buildings, and even its own power station—now converted into a beautiful teal-tiled car showroom.
Many of the buildings are serving similar purposes to their original intent, with the building used to store lubricants still doing so, as the headquarters of a classic car lubricant company. The vast hangars, once storing bombers and fighter planes, are storing hundreds upon hundreds of historic vehicles. Most of these businesses are small, ran by masters of their craft, whether it’s fabrication, or upholstery. The depth of the place from the perspective of an enthusiast is incredible.
We stop by a lot of the businesses, and besides the countless funny stories, what’s really apparent is the love and dedication to the craft and culture of classic cars and aviation. It would be so easy for a place like this to be unwelcoming to the average enthusiast, catering solely to those who can afford to pull up here in a vehicle as extravagant as the place itself, but with people as passionate and welcoming as this, it’s impossible to feel out of place.