A MOTHBALLED RAF base in Bicester which was commandeered by a group of motoring and aviation enthusiasts three years ago has had 70 per cent of its historic buildings restored.

Bicester Heritage, as the base is now known, is the UK's first dedicated park for the restoration and display of vintage and classic cars, motorcycles and aeroplanes.

It is all a far cry from the bleak future RAF Bicester faced in 2013.

The restored base is no longer on the at risk register of housing development and boasts great historic significance, with 80 per cent of the site listed by English Heritage.

Bicester Heritage managing director Dan Geoghegan said: "When we took on the challenge of bringing the RAF site at Bicester back to life, we knew it was a huge undertaking.

"There is no denying that it has been tricky at times, but the team has performed wonderful achievements to get us to where we are today."

The group is this month celebrating three years of renovating the 48-acre air base which has even seen the site take a starring role in the big screen.

In 2014 the base played a period backdrop in The Imitation Game, the Second World War drama staring Benedict Cumberbatch as code-breaking genius Alan Turing.

And last year Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, toured the site and officially opened the engineering quarter.

Continuing the royal theme, Bicester Heritage will host the town's royal birthday celebrations this summer, with Oxfordshire's County Youth Orchestra playing to a 1,000-strong crowd inside one of the hangars.

In the 1960s, RAF Bicester was a hub of aviation, but as government cutbacks were made it became vacant and eventually mothballed by the RAF by 1976.

In 2008 it was most at risk of all the defence estates in Britain, and in 2013 Bicester Heritage bought the site from the Ministry of Defence.

It is now home to 35 motoring and aviation related businesses and holds annual open days.

Around 70 per cent of 50 outbuildings have been brought back to their former glory, where possible using original materials and techniques to keep the historic character.

Bicester Heritage described the site as a "marina-like environment for classic cars, with specialists able to take car of all areas of buying, restoring, running, storing and enjoying".

Mr Geoghegan added: "We are not taking our foot off the accelerator: phase four of our plan will see the reactivation of the remaining buildings on the technical site within the next 12 months."

Later this month Bicester Heritage will play host to its ninth Sunday Scramble, with the theme of 'Super Cars Through The Ages', celebrating powerful speed machines from every era. The event is on May 22 and more information can be found at bicesterheritage.co.uk