Another visit to the British Motor Museum

I last visited the British Motor Museum, Gaydon, Warwickshire in April 2016.

I was invited to join a group of fellow Warwickshire Record Office (owner of the Healey Motor Company archive) volunteers to visit the BMM and especially its archive facilities. The visit was organised for Tuesday 16th 2018.

There are many great car oriented museums around the World, I have been to a few of them myself; the BMM certainly ranks among the best in terms of its presentation style, facilities and friendliness/knowledge of its staff. There is one feature which some might think of as being either a weakness or a strength – it is dedicated to British made cars with a strong bias towards cars that are identified with BMC and British Leyland. Don’t go there expecting to see Ferraris, Lamborghinis or even Cadillacs but if you are interested in the history of British cars , especially Jaguars, this is the place for you.

Even better, if you are an automotive researcher, the Museum has an extensive archive of documents and photographs pertaining to the different marques that constituted the BMC and British Leyland companies.

Our visit began with a tour of the Archive facilities, our guide was Mollie and we were expertly ‘corralled’ by Liz. Mollie was a source of great knowledge as to how the archive system works and what was kept where and why. She had to field some searching (excuse the unintended pun) questions from our group and did so with aplomb. She was particularly helpful to me in guiding me to specific Austin Healey material.

On this occasion, we did not tour the exhibits in the main museum but after the tour of the Archive facilities we were taken by a guide, Dennis, straight to the Museum Collections building. This is a relatively new facility, opened about three years ago to house the Jaguar/Daimler Heritage Collection and the reserve BMM collection of cars. The Jaguar collection is on the ground floor and the ‘reserve’ collection is on a mezzanine floor. The lighting is superb, showing the cars off to their best advantage.

Dennis was an excellent, very genial, guide. I will always remember this visit for the story he told of the time he was working at Daimler’s Radford, Coventry, factory in the 1960’s: he told us of the time when management had introduce ‘day work’ payments to replace ‘piece work’ and the scams the workers got up to in order to maximise their pay. Such behaviour, lack of investment and poor management, laid the foundations for the demise of the British motor industry of the time. Fortunately lessons were learned, if a little belatedly and the U.K. once more has a motor industry to be proud of, even if most of it is foreign owned.

Here are some of the photos that I took –

1970 Jensen FF in “pride of place” in the foyer of the main building of the British Motor Museum. This car is on loan to the BMM from the Jensen Museum in Church Stretton, Shropshire.


Where it all began – a Swallow side car attached to a Brough Superior SS80 motor cycle.          ‘Bill’ Lyons (later Sir William) started out making Swallow side cars in Blackpool before moving to Coventry.
Moving on from motor cycle side cars Lyons started building cars. This is a ‘Swallow’ bodied Austin Seven.

A Swallow bodied Wolseley Hornet Special

SS 1 16 HP ‘Helmet wing’. The first complete car manufactured by ‘Swallow’or SS as it was now known.

SS100 This car was the first to carry the ‘Jaguar’ name.


SS1 Airline 20HP

F Type Project 7

2003 R-D6 Concept Car

XJ8 with Polished Aluminium bodywork

1956 D Type’Long Nose’

2004 Jaguar F1 driven by Mark Webber

The BMM ‘reserve ‘ collection

MGA Twin Cam Cut – Away show car

1950 Daimler 5.3Ltr. Straight eight DE 36 Drop-head 

MG PA Midget motor show display unit.

1932 Wolseley Hornet Special by Eustace Watkins

1989 MG DR2 Prototype

1951 Austin A40 Sport. This series production car was made by Jensen Motors for Austin. This put Jensen in a good position to win the contact for building the Austin Healey 100 bodies.

1968 Jensen C-V8 this was the last of the Jensen Bros/Eric Neale designed production cars but the chassis /Chrysler V8 6.3Ltr. engine was the basis for the Touring (Turin, Italy) designed Interceptor.

1952 Bentley ‘R Type’ Continental

1936 Rover 14 Speed Streamline

VAG W12 Twin Turbocharged engine used by Bentley


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