Blog : Hello, from Richard Usher

Richard Usher

My name is Richard Usher, I was born in North Birmingham in 1957, and I’ve been car obsessed for nearly 60 years. Educated at Oundle School and Oxford University, my first car like so many of my generation was a Mini, and it started a lifelong love of the diminutive masterpiece that eventually led me to founding Great British Car Journey, and ultimately buying AROnline to secure it for the future.

Mine was a Clubman Estate, but my Father had a 1965 Mini Cooper S, so I was in no doubt what a Mini could do. My father was a also lifelong car nut and my mum also enjoyed her cars so it was almost inevitable that I’d be similarly afflicted.

The original family business was in Birmingham’s Jewelley Quarter, but they diversified into distribution of car components and eventually concentrated on vehicle glass. In the 1990s, my older brother and I bought AutoWindscreens from the Plc which owned it before selling the company to the RAC in 2001.

During these years I owned a considerable number of cars from a brand new De Tomaso Pantera to an eclectic selection of classics including a Daimler Majestic Major and a Lamborghini Espada. Variety really is the spice of life and my catalogue of car ownership has been a suitably colourful one.

After I quit the car glass business, I began a new chapter in life by creating and running Blyton Park circuit near Gainsborough. I wanted a track for people like me with more enthusiasm than skill. In the last 12 years, thousands of people have been able to find and exceed the limit on a track where skill is rewarded but where ineptitude does not result in a hefty impact with Armco or concrete.

Blyton introduced me to a whole new world of cars. I was amazed at the variety, and everything from historic F1 cars to BTCC racers would use the circuit, as would just about every road car from Allard to Pagani and beyond. In 2019, Blyton Park was bought by Ginetta and I returned home to my beloved Peak District – and another idea was born.

A dear old fella in Blyton village told me he had an Austin Maestro with 9000 miles on his drive, and although I didn’t get instantly excited, I was intrigued! Then I thought: when did I last see a Maestro? This was the first volume production car to have the windscreen glued in place – it changed the replacement glass business forever.

But it got me thinking. This wasn’t just the about the Maestro. Where had the Austin Allegros, Hillman Avengers, Ford Cortinas and Vauxhall Cavaliers all gone? I bought the immaculate Maestro and it is of course on display at Great British Car Journey along with Avengers, Cavaliers, Cortinas and Marinas, many of which can be driven, at my unique tribute to the Great British Car Industry.

I read History at Oxford almost half a century ago and never dreamt I would have the opportunity to create a historical saga of my own. I am now as excited by a rare 1950s saloon as by any supercar. In these days of AI , anodyne electric SUVs and frankly weird looking vehicles, we should all get behind the wheel of a Classic Mini or a Frogeye Sprite to experience what cars with modest power outputs but huge reserves of character can deliver.

Richard Usher

Richard Usher
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8 Comments

  1. Hello Richard,

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article and it was interesting to hear your automotive history. I was working at Istel at the time of the Maestro launch so had Y-reg 1.3 as a company car. We were all fascinated by the glued in windscreen.

    My favourite part of your article is “anodyne electric SUV”. I wholeheartedly agree and cannot understand why anyone would want an SUV. Being electric makes them even worse. I also wonder why did cars get so ugly – when and why did this happen?

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Hi Richard thanks for your blog. Love you owned a Majestic Major, the most bizarre Q car ever. My friend owned one, and it was so quick for what looked like an upright limo it was scary. Though he didn’t drive that fast much due to it’s horrendous mpg.

  3. Thanks Richard for the blog but especially for Blyton and The Great British Car Journey both of which I have visited and enjoyed. Blyton is my favourite track and GBCJ is an amazing collection of special cars. The information and layout is the most engaging of the motor collections I have been to. As the same age as you and with a father who worked in a garage I sympathise with your views on modern cars. Keep up the good work it is appreciated by many.

  4. An excellent article by someone who is an enthusiast and while The Great British Car Journey is quite far from me, I can receommend The Riverside Museum in Glasgow for anyone who wants to see old and often little seen cars. I visited on Tuesday and saw my first Renault 8 since about 1980, a Talbot Avenger that was a daily driver into the noughties and a Chrysler Sunbeam, another car that is almost extinct now.

    • They certainly have a nice collection but I think they are really badly displayed with most of the car difficult to see other than at a distance.

  5. Hi Richard… great to hear you have secured the future of ARonline – my favourite motoring website. I visited Great British Car Journey last year while on holiday in the Peak district and it was an excellent day out!

    I stayed there longer than I expected and enjoyed the cafeteria too. Many of the cars were owned or driven by my family & me and some as company cars. Great times in retrospect and I will recommend a visit to everyone! Good luck with your ventures.

  6. Great to have you on board AROnline, Richard. I was one of AutoWindscreens’ major fleet customers during the 80s and 90s and always had the feeling you and your team were real car guys. Good luck with this new venture.

  7. This is amazing news.

    Loved your blog and will be making a pilgrimage to the experience in the very near future.

    Great work!

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