And Making the Trip in an E-Type and Porsche 911
The Best Way to Travel Cross-Country Is in a Vintage Car
Driving across the country in a classic sports car is as romantic a daydream as they come. Taking scenic back roads, rowing through the gears, aromas of fresh pine and crisp air flooding the cabin and a delightful rumble and buzz resonating throughout the entire car — it’s a bucket list adventure. For brothers Giles and Nick English, it’s a bucket list item they’re in the middle of checking off.
As the founders of Bremont Watch Company, the English Brothers (who are, coincidentally, English) are utterly obsessed with anything involving intricate mechanical engineering and high-class craftsmanship. Naturally, that includes watches, and if you’ve ever seen an example of a Bremont timepiece, you’d know that adoration also falls on cars and airplanes. Peppered across the brand’s entire collection are direct, yet subtle influences to vintage motoring ranging from Spitfire altimeters to the speedometers of old Jaguars.
The hints of Jaguar are no coincidence either. Just before their father, Euan, tragically died in a plane crash, in 1995, he restored the family’s 1970 Jaguar E-Type. But after his untimely death, the car simply sat in a well-kept garage, loved, but not driven. The brothers decided to change that and embark on a multi-leg road trip across America whose first stint started at the Bremont boutique in Manhattan; all said and done, it will cover almost 3,000 miles and end in Texas. To make things interesting, Nick would drive the E-Type and Giles would take his own ‘73 Porsche 911T. When I spoke to them about the trip, they conveyed it the only way they knew how; passionately, with humbling wonderment, and rife with dry humor and wit. How typically English.
Photo by Bremont
Q: What was it like taking the cars on such a spectacular trip?
Nick: It’s more tiring than we thought it’d be. Because you’re driving for about five or six hours through the day. It’s a brilliant way to see the country.
We started off in New York, which was quite an experience in the heat. We tried to park the cars near the Bremont Boutique, but no car park would take our cars because they’re right-hand drive and stick shift, so they all confused by it. And, then when we set off we got caught in a bit of rain left over from the hurricane, so Nick got soaked in his car — which was very amusing.
Nick:But it is amazing. You just realize what a massive place America is. An inch on a map of the UK is across the whole of the country and in the US it’s only half a state. You just can not fathom the size of it.You stop at the traffic lights and the truck drivers sort of lean over, and they don’t mention that you’re driving this lovely old car, it’s the fact that you’re on the right side of the car with English [license] plates.
Q: I was going to ask, how did the cars hold up along the way?
Giles: The thing with these old cars is that you try not to do too many miles on them before a big trip like this. The Porsche I’ve used as a daily driver and have done many miles in it. Whereas the E-Type our dad restored 35 years ago and then after he died in a plane crash it sat in a garage — a well looked after garage; it looked perfect. It hadn’t done many miles. And that’s the problem with any old car: the worst thing you can do is not use them. Either way, the good thing about these cars is that you can get the part and you can fix it. Whereas these modern cars, you look at it, and you have no idea what’s happening. But that’s part of the adventure.
Nick: When we were back in the UK, we had the cars looked at in detail. So Jaguar Heritage had a look at my E-Type and then Giles had an outstanding regional 911 expert look at his. But what you don’t appreciate there’s still a lot of old parts on these cars and haven’t been replaced in 50 years. And when you do go through New York traffic things start to happen; I had a brake problem, pretty much immediately.
What was quite nice, though, was that Giles 911 broke down before mine. His starter motor broke before it even got off the ferry — so that felt good — the German engineering failed quicker than the British engineering. But that was the only problem Giles had for the whole trip. His 911 was pretty good the whole way. The E-Type didn’t burn a single drop of oil — which is amazing — so the engine was good, but there were a few ancillary issues with the clutch master cylinder, brake cylinders and things like that. Which, most of the time I managed to sort out.
What was amazing though, is that you’ll go into a town like Memphis and you might tweet or send a note out on social media: “does anybody know where we can find a clutch master cylinder for a 1970 Jaguar E-Type?” Then you have all these people getting in touch. It’s very, very special. You meet these car fanatics en route and it’s rather lovely.
Giles: What Nick fails to mention is that we spent many a night fixing his car before we could leave in the morning.
Nick: There’s sort of joke that my car is now more American than English because of all the spare parts.
Q: Were there any major delays or problems?
Nick: So the original route was going to be from New York and ending up in Houston, but we ended up in Dallas just because of the what was going on with Houston and what happened with Hurricane Harvey. So we actually did some work at this relief fund that our friend from Houston set up. So we had the Houston destination without actually making it there. We might start off from there, next time.
Q: How about the highlights, did you take any scenic back roads?
Nick: We took mostly the smaller back roads because the highways are quite boring. We wanted to go and see real America so, as much as we could, we got off the highways and did the backroads.
We hit the Blue Ridge Mountains. That is an incredible route, and anyone with an old car must do because you’ve got these extraordinary vistas either side of you and these amazing views. We managed to get to Charlotte and take the cars around the NASCAR circuit with a pace car which was quite something. Driving around on the banked turns — feeling a bit like Cole Trickle — with the pace car on one side and my brother in the car on the other side… it was definitely a bucket list item.
And then we had to get to Charleston for an early event the next day and did some exploring after that, around town. And that’s an amazing place. As a Brit, you wouldn’t naturally go off and stay at Charleston, just because it’s not an obvious place. You know, you do New York, L.A., and Florida, but when you go to Charleston, it’s an amazingly beautiful town.
Q: Did you a big difference in car culture from state-to-state?
Giles: Each state you go to has something to offer. What Nick and I realized is that America is like the whole of Europe. And each state you go to, there are very different people. But what’s lovely about the US is that everyone understands the road trip — it’s part of [the American] psyche — more so than any other country.
The modern car culture varies, but we found that the classic car enthusiasts, wherever you go, whether it’s in England or America or mainland Europe, everyone has a similar passion for their classic car. It opens up this joint love affair because we all share the same interests.
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