Private Guided Tours
of London in Classic Minis
Back in the day, just about
everybody had a Mini. Peter Sellers, John Lennon, George Best
-Twiggy even had one before she could drive!
Today, you can take a tour
around London (and shortly around Liverpool and New York) in
an iconic classic mini.
There are a large number of
tour formats and options available. Take in the wealth of
history and of popular culture London has to offer,
chauffeured in a nippy vehicle synonymous with the swinging
sixties and with an expert and friendly guide at the wheel.
Here Digger talks to
founder Robert Welch about the tours and his company.
Digger: It’s a great story
about how smallcarBIGCITY came about. So please tell us
something of your background and the background to
Robert: I was given a bright
red Mini Cooper for my 17th Birthday and immediately fell in
love with the car. When I drove around London in it when I
was at university, I noticed hundreds of tourists stopping to
take photos of my little car. I dreamt of one day running a
tour company that only used a fleet of classic Minis to take
tourists round London.
Despite identifying a potential
niche in the market, I wanted to cut my teeth in the City of
London. Little did I know, my dream was far closer than I
would have ever thought due to the economic instability at the
time. Securing a job in the financial industry in June 2008
was virtually impossible due to the recessive economic climate
at the time.
It wasn't until a fateful
interview for a less than desirable sales job when I met
Oliver Knight. Oliver also happened to own a classic Mini
Cooper and had also noticed the attention they created in
London. It was not long before we were creating business plans
and pitching for investment towards the very banks we were
applying for jobs in only months before. Upon seeking outside
investment, suitable premises to operate from and a welcome
third pair of hands, Alastair Bruton became the third
smallcarBIGCITY director in June 2009.
opened for business on the 26th August 2009 - exactly 50 years
to the day that the first ever classic Mini rolled off the
production line, bring the swinging little Mini back onto the
streets of London.
Since then things have been
moving thick and fast – buying Minis, setting up the website,
obtaining the required licences, acquiring premises and staff,
the list was endless! Despite the worsening economic
constraints, 2009 was the best possible time to launch a new
business in the tourist industry; the appreciation of foreign
currencies lead to a boom in visits to the capital.
Since our launch we have taken
over 3,000 clients around London. The company has since
evolved to incorporate, wedding hire, film and photo shoot
hire, and even out door media advertising campaigns. We have
been voted as one of the best things to do in London by the
Independent Review website TripAdvisor, going from 1,678th
place to 3rd in under 6 months! Our guides have been trained
to the highest standards and know the secret, undiscovered
We won New Business of the Year
in 2010 and have been lucky enough to work alongside The Queen
and The Prime Minister in 2011. We have worked with key brands
such as Aston Martin, Expedia, Last Minute and Red Letter Days
to name just a few.
Digger: As usual, the best businesses are born out of a
passion for the subject. What would you say is special about
the Mini and about London?
Robert: In the 1960s the Mini
was the vehicle of choice for celebrities across the world.
The rich and famous were instantly won over; everyone from
Paul McCartney, Twiggy and Peter Sellers to Kate Moss, Mr Bean
and King Hussein of Jordan had one! As a result, the Mini now
encapsulates a period of revolution – popular culture,
literature, music and politics all experienced transition and
would never be the same again. On the swinging streets of
London today, nothing turns more heads. The Mini is an
internationally recognised British design icon and the perfect
medium to get down London's twisty old back streets.
Digger: You have a variety of tours on offer. Can you tell us
more about the packages available?
Robert: Our tours vary from a
30 minute blast down the Mall to a fully tailored 8 hour
guided tour of the city. We also do themed tours such as
Valentines Day Tours, Harry Potter Tours, Beatles Tours,
Christmas Lights Tours and of course, Italian Job Tours!
Digger: What can people expect at a smallcarBIGCITY tour?
Robert: Highly knowledgeable
guides, tours tailored to your individual requirements, a
swinging 60s sound track, drivers dressed in period 60s
attire, great food and drink recommendations, bars of gold in
the boot, tweed flat caps and bright blue jump suits should
you do the Italian Job Tour!
Digger: Who are your ‘typical’ customers, where are they
coming from and what customer feedback/comments do you get?
Robert: When we
first started our main demographic was American Tourists, but
now we are getting slightly more established in our home
market we are taking more National tourists round and more
Londoners, which we are really happy about. We wanted to
create a product for Londoners. They are notoriously difficult
to please and hate anything remotely touristy! We have had
some really nice customers that have written rave reviews of
us on Trip Advisor. Without these reviews we would not have
been able to survive our first year of trading.
And why do you think that generally retro, vintage and
nostalgia is so increasingly popular with so many people these
Robert: I think
it provides people with a bit of escapism. If they can
remember the era first hand then they can reminisce about a
their own youth. (Most of the people that come on our tours
have had a Mini at some stage!) If they were not
fortunate enough to have experience the coolest decade for
themselves then they can briefly see what it might have been
like and get lost in a see of colour and a world not shrouded
by bureaucracy, but surrounded by opportunity.
Digger: Can you tell us about some of your favourite
smallcarBIGCITY experiences so far?
Robert: Meeting the Queen at
the Royal British Military Tournament was very surreal. We
sponsored the event with three cars that featured in the show.
There were 35 motor bikes jumping over the cars and flying the
rings of fire. It was a great feeling to be a part of
such big spectacle. We also meet the Prime Minister at the
launch of Start Up Britain. It was excellent to have the
support of someone I admire so much.
Digger: What are the best and most enjoyable aspects of
Robert: The most rewarding
aspect of running your own company is the fact that every
success is a direct result of your own efforts. When you get
it right, there is nothing more rewarding. Also, when things
get a bit much in the office, it is so nice to be able to step
away from it all, drive a classic car round in the sunshine
and meet new and interesting people.
Digger: What are your plans for smallcarBIGCITY in the future
Robert: We aim to franchise the
idea out in Liverpool within 12 months and New York within 18