As summer fades to memory, our resident road tripper Ben Coombs looks ahead to the coming winter, with a smile.
As I write, a storm rages outside. The weather warnings have been issued, and the wind and rain is pummelling the windows, seemingly intent on entry. The clocks have already gone back, making for dark evenings, and it’s only a matter of time before the salt hits the road, focussing the mind of even the most carefree classic car owner.
Winter is here, cars are being laid up for the winter, and the springtime return to the daffodil-lined roads of the UK seems a very long way away.
But this hobby of ours is nothing if not broad and actually driving forms only a part of it. And this means that for many of us, the onset of winter doesn’t stop the fun; it merely changes its nature.
In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that for us car enthusiasts, winter is the season of dreams.
Because what better backdrop is there for dreaming up road trip ideas than a dark winter’s evening, tracing ideas in guidebooks and maps, ideally with an open fire nearby and a whisky in hand. In such a situation dreams can run free. As you trace your finger across the map, linking places of interest and visualising a journey, anything seems possible – every fireside dream has the potential to become a reality in the future. These are the times when the tiny acorns are planted, which grow into those big driving adventures further down the line. And let’s face it, winters are always better when there’s a driving adventure to look forward to when the sun returns.
And it’s not just the drives and destinations which fill the dreams. The short winter evenings are also purpose-made for browsing the classifieds, in search of that classic you always promised yourself, to enjoy when spring arrives. Thoughts of seasonal bargains add to the urge to splash out on a new machine – or parts for your current one – and the knowledge that you’ll have months to hide away in the workshop, getting it ready for its first spring outing, is most persuasive too.
Ah yes, the workshop. Another place in which time spent on a sunny day can feel wasted, while time spent during a dark and rain-strafed evening makes perfect sense. Winter is not only the time for seeking out new projects in the classifieds; it’s also the time for getting to grips with current ones. Servicing, repairs, improvements and modifications, it’s the season for spannering. It’s the season for which project cars were invented. And it’s the season for getting your existing classic into tip-top shape, all ready for the return of the sun a few months down the line.
And maybe, if you’ve also spent some evenings with the maps and a dram of whisky as suggested earlier, you’ll have plotted some adventure on which to take your newly-fettled classic, too.
But that adventure doesn’t strictly have to wait until spring. If you’re feeling bold, there’s something truly special about hitting the road when the landscape is white and the roads are empty. When the weather is on your side, anywhere from Scotland to Scandinavia can make for a perfect backdrop to your drives, and you’ll have a completely different experience to that of the midge-and-tourist-
crowded summer months. Or alternatively, you can always head south, as the sun is always shining somewhere in the world. Southern Spain, for instance, or maybe Morocco. Or perhaps even further.
Taking the concept to its extremes, the coming months are the perfect time in which to ship your car overseas, perhaps for that long South American road trip you’ve long dreamed of – stranger things have happened.
From surfing the classifieds to planning a trip, from quality time in the workshop to taking a drive less ordinary, these dark months shouldn’t be viewed as a negative. Rather, they’re a time when this game of classics which we all love to play takes on a new, less obvious form.
I, for one, don’t intend to waste the coming months. I implore you not to either.