National Motor Museum – Beaulieu (GB)

Faced with a whole weekend at home in the UK, and a very unpropitious weather forecast, it was clear that an indoor activity was called for. That ruled out the Goodwood Breakfast Club (not that “souped up” or whatever the theme was, really appealed) and meant that the London-Brighton run also scheduled for the same day was going to be worse than a wash out. Then I had a flash of inspiration. A quick text to Dan ascertained that he was available for a whole day out, and he duly presented himself at Chateau Colin at the appointed hour on Sunday morning for what started off as a mystery tour. Needless to say, as we headed down the A34 towards the South Coast, he guessed that the destination was Beaulieu, in the New Forest, home of the National Motor Museum It is many years since either of us had been there, and so a visit was overdue.
World of Top Gear

One of the first attractions that you come to, having passed the Gift Shop, the entrance turnstiles and the Cafe, is a large tented area, which is called the “Top Gear Enormodrome”. Parked up outside is one of the Reasonably Priced Cars.

Inside the marquee and there are some display boards, before you get to a pair of double doors, through which you are ushered every 10 minutes into an area where you encounter a few of the stars of shows from over the years, including the indestructible Hi-Lux and the Mini that went downhill skiing, and then you are directed to the screens in the middle for a short video presentation, by the 3 famous presenters.
After watching this light-hearted show, you can pass through to the rest of the marquee where a number of the engineering marvels produced on the show can be inspected. Trust me, close up, they really are crude!
Later on, we spotted another familiar looking vehicle parked up. Closer inspection suggested that this was not quite what it seems. No escape hatch in the roof, and some different plates on the rear seats suggested it had been “made up” to look like the real North Pole expedition Toyota.
James Bond
Another marquee area, somewhat smaller this time, had some of the cars and other artefacts from various Bond films from over the years.

Jaguar Jamboree
The entrance area to the main museum contains a temporary exhibition, which at present comprises a number of Jaguar cars.

Jaguar XJ220

One of the first “Jaguars”, a Swallow based on the Austin Seven
Jaguar XK120 and XK140
Jaguar 3.8 litre Mark 2
Jaguar Mark IX
Jaguar “D” type – property of one Nick Mason
The very first production XF SV8
The Museum
Split over 2 levels, there is much to see in here. Almost too much. In places, the cars are crammed in next to each other, making it fully to appreciate them. Some are displayed on plinths, which is better, and there are some diarama scenes on the lower level, and most strikingly, a number of sports and racing cars are well secured on some rails that run at an angle high above the main exhibits, but positioned  so that photography was surprisingly difficult. The range of exhibits is wide, from the earliest days of motoring, though a number of former land speed record holders, to more contemporary offerings.

A replica of what is widely believed to be the first car, the 1886 Benz.

1895 Knight
This Type A Renault dates from 1899 and is an example of the first Renault car ever made.
1896 Daimler Cannstatt
Some other early cars
1909 Rolls Royce – this is a very famous car indeed
An early 1899 Fiat with a 1903 Cadillac Type A in the left hand picture. The blue car on the right is the first Fiat Tipo Zero.
1914 Prince Henry Vauxhall – a fast sports tourer of its day
Type 15 Bugatti
The amazing Leyat. We have seen this car in action at Prescott. Quite an incredible device!
An early, 1922 Austin Seven
“Bullnose” Morris from 1913
“Famous” Cars

One of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang cars

Reliant Regal Van, a la “Only Fools and Horses”
A “Mr Bean” style Mini
Two of the Top Gear cars that competed in the recent Mallorca rally. Unlike the rather battered specimens in the Top Gear marquee, these appeared to be in rather nice condition.
Post Second World War Cars
A grouping of family cars from the 1960s, though oddly this part of the display included this fabulous 1937 Cord 810

Morris Minor Traveller
“Auntie” Rover P4
Ford Capri – the “car you always promised yourself”
1962 Ford Consul Cortina
Tirumph Herald
An early Hillman Imp
An early Mini
A trio of micro cars, made to look all the smaller thanks to their juxta-position next to a Phantom VI. The Peel is very small indeed, it has to be said. The other cars are a BMW Isetta and a 1953 Reliant Regal.
The quartet of Rolls Royce cars included that Phantom VI, which dwarfed even the Silver Shadow next to it.
Alongside these were pre-war cars including this Talbot 105, a 1934 Riley Falcon, and a 1939 Vauxhall Ten.  
Up on the plinths, were some medium priced cars from the 1950s.
Standard Vanguard Mark 1 – one of the first new designs to emerge after the end of WW2 hostlities

Sunbeam Talbot 90
Jowett Javelin
Ford Consul Convertible
Austin A90 Atlantic
Austin A40 Somerset
An early Morris Minor
Ford Popular
Jaguar “E” Type Series 1
VW 1200 “Beetle”
This 1986 Citroen 2CV has covered just 24 miles, having been purchased and immediately put into storage

The Garage
A splendid period setting of a fuel station, with 1930s Hillman Minx

Inside, there was a recreation of the typical blacksmith’s shop that had mutated into the local garage, with a Calcot in for “attention”.
Land Speed Record Cars

An impressive display of 4 cars that have been at the heart of the collection for some time.
This 350 bhp Sunbeam was the early 1920s record holder

In 1927, Sir Henry Seagrave took the land speed record, at 207 mph  with this monster 1000 bhp machine.
A couple of years later, and the record fell to the Golden Arrow.
Bluebird was finished in 1960, but it took until 1964, and a trip to Australia, following abortive efforts on Daytona Beach, to take the record again.
Rally Cars
Some true icons here:

Audi Quattro

Citroen Xsara, as competed so successfully in the WRC
Ford Escort

Racing Cars
Sports Cars
1932 Frazer Nash Colmore

AC Cobra
Ford GT
Mini Cooper
TVR Vixen
Racing Ford Anglia
Austin Healey 100
Lotus Europa
Triumph TR2
Ferrari F40, and lurking behind it one of the TVR Speed 12 cars that was built before the project was aborted for fear that the cars were simply too powerful
Ferrari 246 GTB Dino
1954 Trials Special
Napier – one of the most powerful cars ever made, at the time
1907 Itala 120HP
1950 BRM
The very lovely Maserati 250F
“Bloody Mary” a famous hill climb car built by the late John Bolster
1930 Bentley 4.5 litre
1928 Mercedes 38/225
A couple of early  Morgans, representing the marque that celebrated its centenary earlier this year.
One of my absolute favourites of the whole museum, a 1932 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Zagato. Just lovely.
Motor Bikes
An upstairs gallery contains a fascinating array of all manner of bikes, ranging from a Penny Farthing, to recent Ducatis.

I was amazed to discover that this one dated from 1954.
Commercial Vehicles
A Harrods delivery van. This famour London store used these electric vehicles for many years, and this is one from the last batch of 60 delivered in 1939.

Period AA Patrol and a mobile ice cream service
1933 Morris Commercial fitted out as a mobile shop. We did wonder what would happen to all the goods in the back the first time the driver went round a corner!
The three wheel Reliant formed the basis for the news delivery van
Regular cars were converted into commercial trucks like this recovery vehicle from the 1920s.
1914 Ford Model T Van
Some lovely period shop fronts, too, though we did wonder if J Sainsburys would really have been selling Gorgonzola back in the 1920s!
A Maxwell Charabanc
Tucked in among this lot was a 1930 MG Midget. A tiny car complete with its canvas bodywork
A 1947 Milk Float – called a Brush (famous for making some long lasting diesel-electric locomotives) Pony
1950 AEC Regent bus, one of a series of 4700 such buses which were on the streets of London until 1979.

Some vehicles were built for special publicity purposes, like these brewery vehicles, based on a Daimler chassis and the “Outspan” oranges based on a 1970s Mini

Series 1 Land Rover
A caravan presented to Prince Charles and Princess Anne
Eccles Caravan
An early 1960s Commer campervan.
This 1935 Datsun is an example of the first car made in Japan. It was brought to the UK when new and studied by Herbert Austin for possible patent infringement
Rover 14
A pre-war Morris 8, with the hoods over the lights that were required during war time
Alvis Speed Six
The area under the upper gallery is saved for a quick trip through motoring history. You sit in 2 seater chairs, the safety bar comes over your thighs, the cart then spins around through 180 degrees and off you go……. nicely done, though rather high level summary of motoring: 110 years in a few minutes, with some diaramas to reinforce the learning points.

In case that lot was not enough, the entrance ticket also allows you to wander the extensive grounds, visit the Palace and the ruins of the Abbey. We just about had time to do all these as well, before heading back for roast dinner. Soggy wet autumnal Sundays need not always be dull, then!
2009-11-02 21:31:54

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