What could be better than La Sarthe in a Scimitar? Going in the AC

| 12 Jul 2012

Le Mans Classic – my favourite event on the classic calendar without doubt and this year’s was no exception.

I’ve been fortunate to only miss one since the classic event at La Sarthe began in 2002 and none have disappointed.

Even this year’s mixed bag of baking sun and torrential downpours could be viewed in a positive light: at least I didn’t spend my time wandering around in the usual dehydrated haze attempting not to end up with third degree burns on the top of my ginger bonce.

However, the one thing that did cause me some degree of angst was my steed for the weekend. I’ve been to Le Mans twice in the MGB, once in my Porsche 912 and once in the SIIA Land-Rover.

After the sedate pace of the Landie in 2010 however, I was actually looking forward to a slightly more spirited drive by taking the Scimitar GTE. Even spending the hours before making my way to the ferry driving a 289 AC Cobra on a C&SC shoot couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm for my first European outing in the Reliant.

In fact, it was only when we reached Le Mans that my chosen classic started to cause me some trouble… and it wasn’t even anything to do with the car itself.

As I watched all sorts of wonderful and varied machinery enter the campsite – bona fide vintage tourers, bare-aluminium specials with spitting exhausts and classic icons from all decades – I began to yearn for something a bit older, which immediately brought my thoughts back to the AC Buckland sitting in my father-in-law’s garage awaiting my attention.

Wandering through the impressive display of AC-badged classics in the infield didn’t help – I could be fairly safe in the knowledge that mine would probably be the only Buckland in attendance had I brought it with me.

Yet it wasn’t that I craved attention from bringing a low-production oddball, I merely craved the challenge. Put simply, the biennial pilgrimage to La Sarthe was just too easy in the Scimitar – that’s how well it performed.

It never overheated, everything remained intact (apart from the ‘T’ from the Scimitar badging on the rear), I was comfortable and it would happily pootle along at low revs one minute then allow me to shift down a gear and ‘give it some beans’ when I so desired.

One could say that had it been fitted with air conditioning and power steering then I would be tempted to call it my ‘modern’, but happily that isn’t quite the case.

Once the weekend was over and I made my way off of the late night ferry, the GTE then came into its own. With little effort it sucked in the cooler air and headed for home through the darkness.

With the dash lights dimly glowing, the content of the campsite stuffed into the boot and the lengthy bonnet eating up the motorway ahead of me, I was glad of the Scimitar’s capability and thought how suitable the GTE acronym was: Grand Touring Estate.

Once home though, I immediately found myself looking back at photographs of the AC Buckland in its heyday. In the hands of Harold Day, PAR 419 competed at various circuits in the early 1950s and one of the pictures that seemed particularly apt showed Harold lining up for a Le Mans-style start at Silverstone.

The Buckland may not be the most beautiful or powerful of all the classics to wear an AC badge, but, after this year, I vowed that it will one day take me to Le Mans.

The next Classic in 2014 may come and go, but I’m already looking forward to the challenge of taking an older classic and ‘roughing it’ a bit – breakdowns and all.

I wonder if they sell driving goggles and leather gauntlets in duty free?