Bicester Heritage: the past drives the future

W2L BICESTER HERITAGE

Bicester Heritage is the UK’s first dedicated park for the restoration, storage and enjoyment of vintage and classic cars, motorcycles at aeroplanes.

It’s the vision of Managing Director Dan Geoghegan, who’s love of historic cars, and successful career in private investment and venture capital, has helped him turn a beautiful former RAF bomber station into the UK’s (and maybe even the world’s) first centre of excellence for historic vehicles.

The site opened four years’ ago. Now it’s home to 30 businesses, from historic vehicle dealerships to car restorers and servicing, upholsterers and Historit, a company which currently stores around 300 historic cars on site). It exists in a ‘cluster’ just as life science companies, aerospace, cyber and automotive manufacturers do across the region.

Is there a demand for old tech?

“The historic car industry is worth around £5.5 billion a year to the UK economy. It employs 35,000 people, but it didn’t have a centre,” says Dan.

“The industry is growing at the same time as skills are dying out. The vast majority of practitioners are in low grade accommodation across the UK, yet customers expect a buying experience befitting the 21st century.

“Few have the time to travel aroud the country to find what they’re seeking, and few garage mechanics have the knowledge to care properly for an historic car,” he added.

RAF Bicester, built in 1926, is now home to around 50 restored buildings across 348 acres, including a runway. It feels like a country club when you drive in (by appointment only, except on open days) and is an authentic period setting for the historic vehicle specialists who have located their businesses here.

But Dan’s ambitions for Bicester Heritage go further.

“We want to grow the site to be for new car technology as well as being a centre of excellence for historic cars.”

Bicester Heritage’s aspirations include exhibitions halls, festivals and permanent exhibitions, a leisure facility and home to a major UK brand centre. Plans for a hotel and conference centre are also being submitted for planning.

Ideas for motor lodges are also ongoing. Imagine buying your own historic vehicle, storing it at Bicester Heritage, serviced and cared for by experts, who will deliver it to your motor lodge: a first-floor apartment above a garage close to the site’s private, two-mile ‘exercise track’.

Bicester Heritage is also helping to revive old skills. “Many historic car experts are one man bands, and there was no infrastructure to pass their skills on.” explains Dan.

The answer was an apprenticeship scheme, in association with Banbury and Bicester College. “Three years’ ago, we had 8 apprentices. Now we have 65 with another scheme launching,” says Dan. “Lots of the students work on site and we’re helping the industry think about the future.

“But really it’s all about the customer. If you can’t satisfy the customer – there will be no industry.”

Discover Bicester Heritage for yourself. The next open day is the Sunday Scramble on October 1. Visit www.bicesterheritage.co.uk for more information and to book.