Elena Mills from Witney, Oxfordshire has broken into a traditionally male-dominated industry sector, by setting up her own classic car hire company after finding that no one in the UK seemed to be renting classic cars that women want to drive. Cotswold 500 has just opened for business in Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire and is the only place in the UK where you can hire a classic Fiat 500 for self-drive tours.
Elena wanted to hire a classic Fiat 500 for her 30th birthday but couldn’t find one anywhere. E-type Jaguars and Aston Martins can be hired in abundance in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but she was unable to find anything as small or as quirky as a classic Fiat 500. She was sure she couldn’t be the only girl who thinks these little cars are fabulous so decided to fix the problem by setting up her own company renting out this diminutive Italian icon.
The first baby Fiat in the Cotswold 500 fleet (more cars coming soon!) is a white 1971 Fiat 500 nicknamed ‘Bella’. Bella has more than just good looks however, she also has an enviable pedigree, as she used to belong to The new Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha. Quentin Wilson christened it ‘a little Cam belter!’ in his Daily Mirror Blog (23/03/2008), saying that ‘David Cameron knows a cool car where he sees one’.
“I’d always been a big fan of the 500” says Elena “I used to walk past one every day on my way to work and fell head-over-heels in love with it!“
Self-drive hire of a classic Fiat 500 through Cotswold 500 costs £150 per day, which includes comprehensive insurance, petrol, and suggested touring routes. Locally-sourced fresh picnics and cream tea hampers are also available. “You’ll feel like a bit of a celebrity when you’re driving around in Bella” says Elena “people always wave when they see her. She attracts a lot of attention!”
When you hire Bella for the day, you can be independent and plan your own routes or try one of Cotswold 500’s pre-planned driving tours that showcase the very best of the Cotswolds. Whether you’re after historic houses and gardens, traditional Cotswold towns and villages or fabulous food, Cotswold 500 have a tour that will suit. For drivers who are nervous about navigating on British roads, each of their driving tours are also available as guided follow-the-leader style tours with ‘Luigi’ their new Fiat 500 leading the way. Bella can also be hired for weddings from £225 per day on either a self-drive or chauffeured hire basis. Don’t worry about leg room though, Cotswold 500 take the front passenger seat out, so there’s plenty of room for the bride!
“Moreton-in-Marsh is the perfect base for Cotswold 500” explains Elena, “we’re incredibly lucky to have the Cotswolds on our doorstep here. Our premises are only 5 minutes down the road from Moreton-in-Marsh train station which has a direct train service to London Paddington. Customers who’ve hired Bella say it’s the perfect way to escape the big smoke for a day.”
So while those E-type Jags and Aston Martins fly past in a blur of high-speed adrenalin, Bella will be taking it easy around the quiet country lanes of the Cotswolds, turning heads and making people smile and wave as she goes by.
The Fiat 500 or ‘Bambino’ as it is affectionately known, was launched in 1957 as one of the first ‘city cars’. It was affordable and practical and during the 1960s, it put Italy on wheels, giving people the freedom to enjoy their leisure time. Over the years, the little Fiat developed an iconic status throughout Europe and its cute good looks continue to win the hearts of motorists all over the world. In 2006 it was crowned ‘the sexiest car of all time’ by British driving magazine ‘Top Gear’. It seems you can take the car out of Italy, but you can’t take Italy out of the car!
If you would like to hire Bella and take her out for a spin, please phone 0121 288 8845, email [email protected] or go to www.cotswold500.com