The Model way to take a vintage tour of Cambridge
The historic sites of Cambridge have received an added vintage feel this summer.
As the tourists slowly return from the lockdown restrictions, there is a new way to explore the city centre which is the fulfilment of a dream for Lee Cave.
His replica 1910 Model T Ford could become a regular sight around the city after the launch of Cambridge Vintage Tours.
A former locksmith, bodyguard and chauffeur, Lee had long pondered how to offer an alternative way of seeing his home town.
“Being from Cambridge, I always wanted to do something in Cambridge a little bit special, but I was just waiting for the right thing to come along and was brainstorming all the time what I was going to do,” says the 43-year-old.
It was on a summer holiday that the idea which was to become Cambridge Vintage Tours was conceived.
He had seen a land train showing tourists around, and says: “I was a bit tunnel-visioned, I wasn’t thinking about fitting in to Cambridge but thought the city needs something like this.”
It quite literally set the wheels in motion on journeys to Belgium, China and Croatia – and the purchase of an electric equivalent of a 1900s steamer bus – to find what would be the perfect vehicle that would earn a licence to operate from both the South Cambs District Council and the DVLA.
The outcome was the replica electric Model T, which was custom-built to create Cambridge’s first officially licensed fully electric tour service.
“Even though it’s an old vehicle concept, it’s futuristic technology so we’re not hurting the planet like a normal petrol or diesel vehicle is,” says Lee.
“We wanted to give people a totally unique experience, and I think we’ve achieved that.”
Before it could hit the streets, the vehicle had a final set of red tape to break through in order to get its licence, which was confirmed last autumn.
It was first taken out on Remembrance Day, and the intention was to do a full launch of the company earlier this year, at Easter. However, the pandemic brought a halt to those plans.
“Instead, at Easter, rather than officially opening our tour service, there was me dressed in my full top hat in the vehicle delivering people’s shopping for them – people couldn’t get delivery slots due to Covid,” says Lee. “That was my official opening.”
But Lee has been given permission to take to the streets since lockdown restrictions eased, and it is proving popular.
“Now the sun’s out, the restrictions have lifted a little bit and we’ve spoken to the council and because of the open nature of our vehicle, they are happy for us to operate so that’s how we’re now here doing it,” he says.
“As soon as we go out, people are seeing it on the streets and the bookings are coming.
“The tourism in Cambridge is probably 15 per cent of what it would be normally, and the fact that we’re busy I think speaks volumes and it’s nice to see it’s all working.”
For more information, visit cambridgevintagetours.uk.