Travel in style
10 Feb 2014
Travel in style
Michael Shoobridge, owner of Shooffeur in Whitstable tells us about his love of classic cars – perfect for your wedding
Q: Tell us a bit about you, your background, Kent connections and where you live now
I’m an architect with over 25 years experience and have designed buildings in the UK and Europe and also as far afield as Abu Dhabi, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and China. I’m married to Elaine who is an events producer who has worked on many varied and exciting projects such as Live 8, The Perth Arts Festival in Australia, as well as West End shows and Conferences. I used to live in Frankfurt, Germany and often preferred to drive when coming to visit family and friends in England. My favourite part of the journey was seeing the white cliffs of Dover (which today never fails to evoke a sense of pride and excitement), and then enjoying the drive through the Kent countryside. As a child, my family often used to take holidays in Whitstable, and the coastal town has always held special memories for me since then. Moving here several years ago with Elaine after seeking a calmer, less hectic life, from London seemed such a natural choice.
Q: Tell us about your business, where are you based, when did you set it up - and why?
Our classic car wedding service is called Shooffeur, we’re based in Whitstable and has evolved from a real passion and nostalgia for cars. I’ve always seemed to have classic cars around me, we’ve certainly had some beauties (E Type Jaguar, Porsche 911 S, AC Cobra, Lotus Elan, Sunbeam Alpine, Austin Healey 3000 to name a few) and our 1953 Citroen Traction Avant Light 15 and 1962 Mercedes Benz 220S are our latest loves. We set up Shooffeur in 2012 so that we could share the joy of these incredible cars with others – whether this is for their wedding or any other special occasion.
Q: What makes Shooffeur different from other wedding car services – what do you offer that makes you stand out from the crowd?
We think that the cars themselves offer couples a more characterful and fun way to travel and find that they tend to reflect the character and attitude of the people who hire them. The Citroen, whom we call Lottie, has very stylish sweeping lines that carry an air of graceful individuality about her, while the Mercedes (named Gus) is a very cool sixties car with fintails and loads of chrome that would turn heads when arriving at the church. Our personal service and attention to detail begins from the get go. The details include planning your journey with you from start to finish, stylish cushions and rugs for your comfort (we have choices), ivory umbrellas and even a cloak for puddles should the need arise. Not forgetting the complimentary chilled champagne for those thrilling early moments alone together as a married couple as you journey to your reception. We want you to arrive and depart in style, feeling like a film star!
Q: We are in the midst of tough economic times – has the take up for your vintage car service dropped at all or are weddings still reasonably recession-proof?
We’re finding that weddings are pretty much recession-proof as interest is very strong. I do think though that a lot of couples seem to be planning early for their big day – one to two years ahead on average – and are looking for something very special for their big day.
Q: Do you mainly get your business from Kent or is it from further afield as well?
We focus on Kent and Surrey but often receive requests from London and occasionally further afield. Our latest request is from a bomb disposal officer who is getting married in Oxfordshire.
Q: Do you have any plans for future expansion in Kent or new business initiatives/ideas based around the wedding industry?
We’ve just introduced a fabulous new picnic service where you can have a picnic on the beach, in a meadow, or by a brook, for example. We would organise the finer details for you, all with a vintage touch to it – the gourmet hamper filled with locally sourced goodies, the champagne, the chocolates, vintage radio, we even have a list of secret locations. We’ll set everything up for you, discreetly disappear...and then pick you up later.
Q: Do you have time for hobbies/other interests or are cars your passion in work and out?
Cars and motorsport are a big passion for me. I used to race classic cars as well as take part in historic rallies up and down the country, but I also make time for painting and drawing and I love rummaging around antique and flea markets with Elaine.
Q: What do you love best about Kent and where you live in particular?
I was born in Cyprus and have always loved living by the sea. We live a moments walk from the harbour and beach which we find so uplifting and invigorating. Whitstable has a real vibrancy and creativity about it and we find it such a friendly place to live. I love how there is simply so much coastline around Kent – over two-thirds of the county is bordered by water and a third of the population lives on the coast – and each coastal community has its own character and history. Explore further inland and there are so many gorgeous villages, hamlets and wildlife sites which are linked by the most serene country lanes that it’s encouraged me to begin working on an illustrated Kent travel guide. It will be aimed at the classic car owner to help them explore and enjoy our beautiful county by more nostalgic and unconventional means at a slower pace.
Q: Any funny wedding stories you can share from your Shooffeuring world?
Elaine and I were out in Lottie enjoying a sunny drive out together when I spotted a 1959 Series 1 Bentley parked up ahead. It’s one of my little jokes with Elaine that I can spot and name any classic car from a glimpse as far as half a mile away. As we approached, sure enough there was the S1 Bentley, off the road, bonnet up, with two worried looking passengers in the back, one of them a bride, gorgeous in her dress. I looked at Elaine and pulled over to see how we could help. The driver was in a panic as the Bentley had lost all its coolant and overheated. I immediately offered to drive them in our car if the bride was willing. She was and was soon sitting pretty in Lottie while Elaine had tied the ribbon that we borrowed from the Bentley. We got her to the church without further delay feeling great knowing that we saved the day. We now carry a roll of emergency ribbon in the car whenever she’s off duty!
Q: Finally, did you have a vintage car on your own wedding day?
Yes, I arrived in our beautiful Austin Healey, which was very much a part of the wedding party and took pride of place posing in the courtyard at our wedding venue ready to whisk us away later.