Thursday, July 24, 2014

Beaulieu Motoring Museum

Beautifully made Jack Tucker garage, a faithful copy of a typical garage in England in the 1930s
Courtesy of Beaulieu Garage who gave us 3 entry tickets, see previous post, we were able to visit the Beaulieu Motoring Museum. What a treat! Lord Montagu started it all, his son has continued the tradition and as a result the Beaulieu Motoring Museum, which is on the Montagu Estate, houses one of the finest collections. All aspects of motoring are on display, not just motorcars and motorcycles but also buses, racing cars, land speed record machines, accessories and a completely fitted out 1930s garage. It's huge too. Reserve at least a day to see and experience it all, because an experience it certainly is!

We arrived with rainy weather, a perfect day to visit a museum! We asked the friendly staff if we could leave our motorcycle gear in a locker somewhere, which wasn't a problem: they stored it with the staff costumes! I had seen they also have a TopGear section now, but hadn't really paid much attention as to what was on display. Anyone who has seen the shows knows Jeremy, Richard and James have made some weird contraptions over the years.
Ranging from amphibian vehicles to their version of the camping car, convertibles through Syria and a limo made from a Fiat Panda (to name but a few). So where did they go after the show? Back to the scrapheap you would think… not quite! They are all here in the Beaulieu Motoring Museum. Just imagine the logistics involved in getting them all there, some have come from as far as Africa. Even the rocket car and the flame throwing combine harvester, brought back from northern Scandinavia are on display. There are cars from movies on display next to the TopGear section and then it's on to the main hall…!

I honestly can't remember when I had been there last but it was a long time ago for sure and quite a lot had changed. The typical 1930s garage, one of my favourites, was still there and if anything even better than it was. The motorcycle section has expanded too with quite a few bikes on display. Rightfully so as the motorcycle played a major role in the motoring history prior to the Austin Mini arriving on the market. The number of classic cars, vintage cars and unique one-offs was nothing short of amazing. I found myself making a photo of one of only two Bugattis in the world.

Lord Montagu's first car is on display as well, a Dion Bouton. The staff at the museum know the history and specialities of all the vehicles too. A lady put on her velvet gloves and opened the bonnet of the Dion Bouton for instance and explained the vehicle and its mechanics. Fascinating stuff! Honestly, as beautifully made and incredibly fast as the latest Ducati on display may be, this Vintage period is to me much more interesting. That was the time when motoring was in its infancy and as a result the weirdest inventions were made… and put into production! The same thing applies for motorcycles, after the 1950s it becomes less interesting to me… well apart from a few exceptions like the Vincent for example.

Apart from hundreds of vehicles on display there is also a lot of information about life in those times. The before mentioned garage is the holy grail for me. Just imagine working in a place like that… belt driven lathe in the corner, stationary generator puffing away outside, working on real cars and motorcycles… If only we could go back in time! The accessories and spare parts collection on display is huge as well. Ranging from the biggest collection of spark plugs I've ever seen to acetylene lighting kits, some even in the original packaging. Who saves all this stuff I wonder. The British I suppose. There is after all a club for just about any vehicle in this country. A couple of years ago I found there is even a Double Decker club… and they go for rides in the country too! Imagine a group of 40 Double Deckers going for a spin through small villages!

Just like the Sammy Miller post, I'll let the photos do some of the 'talking' to give an impression of what there is to see in Beaulieu.

Even after having seen the Sammy Miller Museum, which is also a great museum in the same Hampshire area, Beaulieu is well worth visiting too. I can't say which one is better. They are very different so you have to see them both!

Unlike Sammy Miller, Beaulieu is very expensive though, especially considering the exchange rate, but thanks to Philip and Rory from Beaulieu Garage that wasn't an issue for us :-)