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Bicester Heritage – the revival of a once lost cause

17 December 2016

Bicester Heritage – the UK’s only business campus dedicated to the restoration, storage, maintenance and enjoyment of vintage cars, motorcycles and aeroplanes – is celebrating a ground-breaking 2016.

When the 348-acre former RAF Bomber Command Station in Oxfordshire was purchased from the Ministry of Defence by the Bicester Heritage team in April 2013 it had been placed on Historic England’s ‘at risk’ register and designated the most at risk of all defence estates in Britain in 2008. Now, after some 100 years of being off limits to the public and being mothballed by the RAF in 1976, the base has been returned to its former glory and reopened as the best-preserved WW2 RAF Bomber Station in the UK.

Over the past 12 months, it has even further enhanced its reputation as a centre of excellence, with over 30 specialist businesses now operating from the 348-acre Oxfordshire site. In fact, more employees than ever before are currently based at Bicester Heritage, with as many as 100 skilled professionals plying their crafts alongside each other every day in the very heart of England.

As such, it’s no surprise that business well and truly boomed over the course of 2016; aided by the cluster effect and Bicester Heritage’s critical mass providing a destination in its own right, specialists recorded a staggering annual turnover estimated at more than £20 million. The skilled craftspeople based on the site Heritage range from historic Grand Prix car preparers and magneto specialists, to dealers and exhaust manufacturers. Together they provide a supportive ecosystem that seeks to revolutionise historic car ownership.

Over 22,000 visitors made their way through the Bicester Heritage gates throughout the year, as exciting events gave the public several days to savour the atmosphere and motoring cluster.

Bicester Heritage hosts regular Sunday Scramble brunch events and even celebrated a landmark 10th Scramble in 2016. Attracting a truly unique spread of vehicles, the celebration of all things automotive spans more than 100 years of history and delights over 3,000 visitors.

The annual Flywheel Festival went one better, with more than 12,000 touching down in Oxfordshire to celebrate historic motoring, aviation and military endeavour. More Sunday Scrambles and the third Flywheel Festival will return in 2017, with even more expected through the gates to meet like-minded enthusiasts and the specialists.

Such dedication to the historic motoring community over the course of the year didn’t go unnoticed, either. Back in November, Bicester Heritage saw off very stiff competition and achieved global recognition by picking up the Industry Supporter of the Year Award at the International Historic Motoring Awards.

The company was commended for providing invaluable practical and financial support to the industry, in addition to a passion and enthusiasm. Understandably, it was deemed richly deserved.

Bicester Heritage is constructed as a supportive ecosystem of business, skills, and events and provides a one-stop shop for motoring enthusiasts. From vehicle storage to specialist dealers, upholsterer, vintage car radiator manufacturer, fabricators, classic car service centre, grand-prix car preparation and more, it’s the true home of the classic car.

New for 2017 will be the association with Brightwells Auctioneers & Valuers as its official auction partner for 2017. The auction house will host three dedicated auction days during 2017 to bring under-the-hammer buying and selling to Bicester for the very first time.

Next year is set to be an ever busier and more successful one than 2016 for Bicester Heritage, as it rolls out the fourth phase of its restoration. The site will benefit from an extra 30,000 square feet and will plan wider development, including the possibility of a hotel and motoring lodges.

Daniel Geoghegan, managing director at Bicester Heritage, said: “It’s been a phenomenal year; since inception in 2013, Bicester Heritage has developed a unique pulse of its own. Having to keep pace with demand from specialist businesses requiring premises, and enthusiasts wanting the best customer experience, are the best problems to have:  we start Phase 4 in the New Year, providing an additional 30,000 square feet to include workshops and a car-club administration centre.

“Having picked up the Savills Property Award in the summer, an International Historic Motoring Awards win rounded the year off perfectly.  Expansion plans on the 348-acre site to create a dynamic destination for motoring past, present and future continue unabated.”

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