The Muscarteers!

Hot rods are built for driving, right? These guys took their roofless roadsters and rodded pick-ups on a driving tour of Scotland and lived to tell the tale. And here it is!

Words: Dave Smith photography: Martin Drake and owner/drivers

The Seward twins are rightly celebrated on the hot rod scene for their beautiful road legal single-seat vintage sprint cars, and they’ve made plenty of friends along the way. So when Ray recently mentioned that he’d love to do a road trip around Scotland, one of his mates reckoned that was a great idea – a bunch of friends and their hot rods, some of the best driving roads in the UK, and perhaps a beer or two along the way. When you’re picking holiday destinations for cars with almost zero weather protection, Scotland might not be your first thought, but boy, did these guys strike lucky.

“Ray suggested a driving tour of Scotland,” says Richard Fairbairn, pilot of the #47 red and white car. “It sounded like a great idea. I’d just gone part-time at work, and my sister, Seonaid, and her husband, Bob, live in Lesmahagow, so between us we worked out a route that gave us the best driving tour whilst keeping it cheap – we didn’t stop at posh hotels; mostly walkers’ hostels. My brother, Scott, organises a breakfast meet at the Snak Shak in Lesmahagow, so we tied the beginning of the tour in with the meet on June 3rd.

“It started out with myself, Ray and Niall in our single-seaters, so we called ourselves the Three Muscarteers; then Ray’s son Damien wanted to come along, then Chris joined in!

“So, the Friday night, we all met at my house at Catterick for a barbecue and a few beers. The following morning, we met at McDonalds for breakfast, then set off for Lesmahagow. As we crossed the border, it absolutely belted down with rain – we needed paddles, not steering wheels – but fortunately it only lasted a few minutes. We got to Scott’s, and drank his beer while we fixed a leak on Ray’s car.

“The following morning we went to the Snak Shak meet (which is on the first Sunday of every month), had breakfast, and set off around Glasgow to Loch Lomond. We stopped at The Green Welly in Tyndrum for coffee, then took the A85 to Oban, then up the coast to the bunkhouse at Fort William. The weather was lovely and hot, but you daren’t open the window – one foreign girl didn’t know about Scottish midgies, opened the window, and we all got bitten rotten. Damien suggested that she and he go and sleep downstairs…

“Monday was a long day – we drove up the coast, left onto the A87 and over the bridge onto the Isle of Skye for coffee. Everywhere we stopped, we caused a bit of a spectacle, but on Skye we were treated like celebrities! Then we went back across the bridge and north to Applecross Pass. This is a single track road with passing places, 14 miles long, a phenomenal driving road – I remember coming here as a kid; I thought we were in the Alps – and at the end is the cheapest fuel in Scotland. We had lunch, then drove back along Applecross and across country towards Inverness. This was another wonderful, empty road, great driving, but we’re all old men so we had to stop for a pee every 20 minutes… We ended up at the Achilty Guest House at Contin, a lovely hotel with a huge car park, and the hotelier, Mwamba, had reserved us spaces right by the door. He then ran us into the next village to get some food, and said ‘Just call when you’re ready and I’ll come and pick you up.’ He couldn’t do enough for us.

“Tuesday, after a terrific breakfast at the hotel, we set off for the Black Isles, then down into Inverness, where Niall blew his head gasket between cylinders two and three. We drove down the side of Loch Ness, and everywhere we stopped, tourists of all nationalities wanted to take photos – we invited them to sit in the cars, and all sorts!

“At the next coffee and pee stop by Loch Lochy, Ray was complaining of a numb bum; Niall said he wasn’t surprised – one of Ray’s rear wishbones had split! We lashed it together with a breaker bar and a load of Jubilee clips, and drove carefully to Fort William, where we found a garage who directed us to another garage who might be able to help. A young lady, Jenny Macleod, ran her granddad’s garage, The Clansman Garage, and they all stopped what they were doing to help. We stripped the arm off, and one of the guys welded it up, then refused to take any payment – we had to force money on them! We carried on to the next bunkhouse in Ballachulish at the head of Glencoe, and all piled into the back of Chris’s pick-up to go to the pub.

“On Wednesday morning, we drove down Glencoe, with V8s reverberating down the valley, back to the Green Welly for coffee, then down through Callander on the A84. Chris was having an issue with his transmission – the exhaust runs under the trans, and the oil was boiling – so we stopped at an agricultural engineering place, who said sure, just go out the back and crack on, so Chris changed his gearbox oil in their yard! We carried on through Stirling, past Glasgow, then dived off the motorway down the Clyde Valley and back to Lesmahagow to drink more of Scott’s beer! There was a bit of a gathering, and I met Malcie, one the mechanics from the Flower Of Scotland alt flats racing team.

“On Thursday morning, we headed down to Ullswater for the Hot Rods & Hills weekend. At the guest house on Monday night, Chris had gone on eBay and bought a caravan, so we had to stop at Lockerbie on the way down to pick it up – we had to drag it out of a field! It does look good with his truck, but we had to stop again to put some new tyres on it. We spent four days at Hot Rods & Hills, did the cruises, then headed home. On the way home, it rained for the second time on the whole trip.

” We all had T-shirts and stickers made by Steve Smith at Eyecatching Signs in Richmond, and now those ‘You’ve Been Muscarteered’ stickers are all over Scotland. We covered 900 miles from Catterick, around Scotland, to Ullswater, plus more on the way home. The whole trip cost £180 per person. It was a phenomenal trip, and everything was superb – the roads, the weather… I’m so glad we did it. We couldn’t do it again because we’d never be that lucky twice.”