Sunday, May 26, 2013

Top 10 British Auto Museums

The Ten Best Automotive Museums in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom auto industry is more than just double decker buses and Mini Coopers, you know! 

Well… it’s that, too, but step into one of the automobile museums listed below and you may come away with a new appreciation of British automotive craftsmanship. 

This is the land of the Daimler, the Rolls Royce, the BlueBird, the Aston Martin, the Morgan and an almost National Obsession with breaking the Land Speed record. 

And yes, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Says it all, doesn't it?

10. Commercial Auto Museum - British Commercial Vehicle Museum – Leyland, Nr Preston, Lancashire

The British Commercial Vehicle Museum is, as the name suggests, devoted to the history of commercial transportation within the UK. So while you may be a bit disappointed if you were hoping for some F1 racers and roadsters, the museum does provide a wealth of British automotive history. 

The collection has everything from an 1896 Horse Drawn Bus to a 1956 Foden Double Decker, and a wealth of the transport trucks that have formed the backbone of British industry since the early twentieth century.
9. Famous Automotive Museum - Cars of the Stars Motor Museum – Keswick, Cumbria, England

The Cars of the Stars Motor Museum has plenty of great pieces on display, like the various vehicles used for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but what you really want to do is make a beeline straight for the part of the collection referred to as the James Bond Museum.

This is probably the biggest collection of Bond vehicles in the world, and includes everything from Sean Connery's 1964 Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger with gadgets and all, to Scaramanga's AMC Matador... You know, the one with the goofy wing contraption on top. You'll recall the scene where Scaramanga defies all laws of probability by dashing into a barn and coming out with a flying car to escape the pursuing authorities. 

Scaramanga's golden pistol is on display, as well, along with several other props and costumes to celebrate not only the cars, but the entire 007 mythos.
8. Vintage Automobile Museum - Pembrokeshire Motor Museum – Pembrokeshire, West Wales

With an impressive collection of restored vintage cars, the Pembrokeshire Motor Museum is comprised of equal part antique and modern classics. Some early sports cars, like a fifties MG L Type, a rare four seater sports car, are on display right alongside the Jaguar E Type Series II, produced between 1969 and 1970.

The museum also buys and sells classic cars, so if you're a serious vintage collector, you may want to visit the Pembrokeshire to do a little window shopping.
7. F1 Car Museum - Donington Grand Prix Exhibition – Castle Donington, North Leicestershire, England

All you need to know about the Donington Grand Prix Exhibition is that it is the largest single collection of F1s on the planet. With more than one hundred thirty exhibits across five halls, the entire history of the Grand Prix is on display here, from the classics of the 1930s to the modern titans of the sport.

One of the coolest on display would have to be the 1936 twin engine 500 bhp Alfa Romeo Bimotore. With a top speed of two hundred miles an hour, this car is one of only two ever produced by Scuderia Ferrari in hopes of toppling the German Silver Arrows. In terms of performance, this car could hardly be beaten in its heyday, but it had a fatal flaw in that it would eat tires like they were candy, leaving racing legend Tavio Nuvolari practically skidding into the pit on rims.

And if the cars don't take your fancy, there's also the world's largest collection of drivers' helmets!
6. Automobile Museum - Lakeland Motor Museum – Holker Hall, Grange-over-Sands, England

The most impressive thing about the Lakeland Motor Museum is the sheer range of automobiles on display, from a Bluebird K7 speedboat to classic Alfa Romeos, this is a truly eclectic collection of unique and fascinating vehicles.

Make sure to check out the Pelland Steam Car, built in 1991 in an attempt to break the speed record for cars of its type.
5. 20th Century Automotive Museum - Myreton Motor Museum – Alberlady, East Lothian, Scotland

The Myreton Motor Museum is largely focused on early automobiles, with several models dating back to 1899 and the early Twentieth Century, but with all eras over the last hundred years being represented.

Definitely check out the early "Horseless Carriages", but if you love sports cars, make sure you don't miss out on the 1989 Jaguar XJS, donated to the museum by British Parliament Member Sir Menzies Campbell.
4. Automotive Museum - National Motor Museum – Beaulieu, Hampshire, England

Beaulieu's National Motor Museum is one of those great combination amusement park/automobile museums, with plenty of gorgeous rare cars on display, alongside a go-kart track and a monorail.

Those are fun, but what it really comes down to is the cars. With four land-speed record breakers, a number of custom built vehicles from the auto show Top Gear, and the aero-engineered Sunbeam 350HP, you won't leave disappointed.
3. Automobile Museum - Heritage Motor Centre – Gaydon, Warwickshire, England

With hundreds of vehicles on display, the Heritage Motor Centre is one of the most significant collections of automobiles in the entire country. Representing all embodiments of the automobile, from the rally car racers to the mass production street cars, HMC is devoted to engineering excellence in all its forms.

Let your own interests lead you through the exhibitions. No matter what you're into, you're going to find it here. That said, don't leave without checking out the FAB1 from the Thunderbirds movie. Normally, a movie car isn't really the centrepiece, as most movie cars are just a Chevy Impala or a Porsche 911 with a custom body, but the FAB1 was an original six wheeled car created by Ford specifically for the movie. The one on display at the Heritage Motor Centre is actually full functional, even including the skis that popped out for travelling on snow. 

The FAB1 may be the most impractical car ever produced, but it's interesting to see what carmakers can come up with when not restricted by common sense and pragmatism!
2. Auto Museum - Coventry Transport Museum – Coventry City Centre, England

The Coventry Transport Museum is one of the most interesting automobile museums in the UK, featuring an incredible variety of vehicles. It is quite possibly the most successful car museum when it comes to representing all important cultural aspects of the European automobile.

One of the primary exhibits of the car museum is actually devoted to conventional mass production cars, such as the Peugeot 206, exemplifying the reliability of European craftsmanship. The more tantalizing exhibits, however, are most certainly the ones dedicated to Jaguars, the DeLorean and even an Alvis Tank. There's even a Doctor Who exhibit on display. Including an interdimensional phone booth may be taking the term "Transport Museum" a bit liberally, but it's a fun exhibit nonetheless.
1. Auto Museum - Haynes International Motor Museum – Sparkford, Somerset, England

One of the most impressive collections of rare and powerful automotives in the UK, Somerset's Haynes International Motor Museum showcases engineering excellence from around the world. Everything from Cadillac’s to Bugattis are on display here, with over three hundred fifty total vehicles.

One of the most interesting vehicles on display would have to be the Bricklin SV-1. This gull-winged sports car was actually made in Canada, predating the similar DeLorean by a decade or so, having been manufactured between 1974 and 76. The Bricklins were a pretty cool car, but the company was working with a blatantly absurd business model:

The cars were created at a cost of sixteen thousand Canadian dollars each, but were sold to dealers at a mere five thousand. Let this be a lesson if you ever want to found your own automobile brand; don't sell the cars for a third of their factory cost!

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