SHINE SQUAD MEMBER COURTNEY CUTCHEN TALKS CARS, CULTURE AND THE CHARACTERS OF THE UK
It is safe to say that London is much unlike anywhere I’ve visited before. However, the one constant that I manage to find in most places I travel to is the car culture. Unique to every country and city are the automotive communities that can be found within, and London is no exception.
Coming from California, I am accustomed to a certain automotive lifestyle that is known worldwide for being one of the best. Factors like the weather, economy, and overall allure of California make up part of the story. While England’s weather plays a large role in the ownership of cars—classics specifically—it’s also the availability and condition of the vehicles that can make finding and owning them a task.
Over the course of my trip, I met a group of classic car owners who were all different in their own ways. Each person had their own unique story of how they came to love classics and why. Ultimately, they were all connected by this sense of community, even though none of them had ever met. I feel that the following selection of individuals and their cars represent a wonderfully colorful look into the life of classic car enthusiasts in London.
Chapter I: James’ Porsche 911T
I met James the same way I meet a majority of my fellow gear heads: social media. When I posted that I would be visiting London, he reached out and offered to show me around the Sevenoaks area in his lovely Porsche. A bonus was that he also brought along a couple of his Porsche friends (one of which he had literally just met at a gas station earlier that day).
James is a soft spoken, friendly conversationalist who genuinely loves connecting with people about cars. Growing up as the child of a military family, he did not often stay in the same place for long. Thus, cars remained a constant in his life. “I used to memorize things from classic car magazines,” he said as we drove through the countryside. “It’s practically how I learned to read English.”
As an ex Army Captain, the trend of traveling continued through most of his life, until his most recent years. “I survived Afghanistan, so I figured, why not treat myself?” he said, explaining how he came to buy his Porsche. These days, he’s busy growing his automotive technology business, and it seems he has the perfect car and the perfect community to do so.
Chapter II: Bicester Heritage and The Toms
My next venture was to a wondrous place called Bicester Heritage. It’s something like a paradise for vintage vehicles—everything from airplanes to motorcycles to prewar cars. The sprawling complex covers all of 348 acres, and is housed in a World War II British air base. It’s safe to say that I don’t think there is another place quite like this anywhere in the world. The facility, which is still in the process of being fully restored, is cared for remarkably well. The colors, materials, and aesthetics are all period correct, and each garage holds something incredible.
I traveled to Bicester Heritage with two extremely talented automotive photographers, known as The Toms. They were kind enough to introduce me to this place, which I otherwise would have never known about. Their work can be found on DriveTribe, here
We had a fantastic time photographing some of the resident vehicles and workshops, learning about the history of the base, and even driving some classics out on track!
Chapter III: Becky’s BMW E21
If you’re familiar with classic BMWs on Instagram, you likely already know who Becky Evans is. Known as @queenb_uk, Becky’s channel is usually filled with swoon worthy snapshots of her travels, her life as a freelancer and Youtuber, and of course, her absolutely stellar BMW E21.
Becky breaks the mould in more ways than one. She’s bright, witty, and downright thrilling to hang out with. Her outlook on life and the classic car scene is refreshing. Women in this community are somewhat rare, and although the number seems to be slowly growing, there still are not as many females who immerse themselves in this lifestyle like Becky does.
“The most popular question I get asked is probably, ‘Is that your car?’” she said, lips curled in a smirk. More often than not, her car is mistaken for that of her boyfriend’s, or her father’s, or any other male figure in her life. It’s a disappointing (and often automatic) first impression that a nicely built, custom vehicle cannot simply be owned by the woman driving it, but over time, I truly hope to see this change.
We spent some time with Becky putting around in the little, red BMW, and met plenty of interesting people along the way. One group of bar hoppers walking down the street stopped to gawk at the car, and asked exactly the question that Becky hears so often: Is that your car?
Chapter IV: Peter and Angela Coradine
The last of our London automotive expeditions landed us in the back seat of Peter and Angela’s Audi estate. Let me start by saying that even meeting for the first time, I felt like I had known Pete and Ange for years. The two are the definition of a power couple, and seem like they could not be more perfect for one another. Both have wildly fun personalities, are simply head over heels for cars, and have taste that is impressively vast. They enjoy collecting cars that suit their individual styles, and their automotive bucket list is enough to make a feature length film (or two) about. It would be easy to listen to their stories for hours on end, as they recalled fond memories in their motorsport ventures and travel experiences.
For this photo session, Pete and Ange brought out two cars: a custom color Dino 246GT and a white BMW M635CSi. We drove into the countryside to retrieve the vehicles, then set out to find a good location. We stumbled upon a beautiful estate, at which the owner was happy to let us photograph. She particularly liked the Dino, and remarked that it was “quite posh.”
Once we were finished at the location, we set out to visit the Ace Cafe, which is a rather famous diner where cars and motorcycles of all kinds gather nightly. We ate, relaxed, and enjoyed great company well into the late night. It was almost bittersweet to say goodbye, but I have a feeling that it won’t be the last time we see Pete and Ange.
As I continue to travel and meet new people, there’s always a sense of familiarity that I feel. All of the stories, the smiles, the love of cars; it’s all universal. Even those who don’t necessarily know much about classic cars get excited when they see one. It’s this global sense of community that I think is one of the most exciting parts about classic cars. London was very kind to us in this sense. Each of these individuals gave us a creative, personal look into their own lives, and how they perceive car culture. Getting to hear and document their stories is the most fulfilling part of my job, and I am always eager for what’s next.