The National Motor Museum.
As motor museums are in the news at present we went to Beaulieu last month, to look at the National Motor Museum, in its second year of existence. Those who knew the Montagu Motor Museum, from which it stems, will find many changes, most of them very impressive. The former entrance is now closed, being Lord Montagu’s private way to Palace House on his 8,000-acre Beaulieu Manor Estate. The new Museum is reached before Beaulieu village, coming from Lyndhurst, at a wide turning off the main road. Here are spacious gravelled car-parks tastefully placed among the trees. A ‘bus route runs through the grounds and the 3/4-mile Pleasure-rail monorail will, we understand, be operating later this month. From the big entrance hall, where one passes through the turnstiles, a short walk leads past the new Brabazon restaurant to the Alcan Hall of Fame which abuts onto the new Museum building. The whole complex on its 110-acre site is reminiscent of a Wembley Exhibition in miniature—modern, well spaced-out and exciting, even though its purpose is history. The main building has an exhibition floor space of almost 70,000 sq. ft, in its 208-foot square. The Hall of Fame has all-British cars well displayed, apart from a Model-T Ford. They range from an 1899 Daimler to a Mini-Cooper and include a GP Vanwall, the Sunbeam “Cub”, and an Austin 7.
The main hall is impressive, too, with its lower floor for the taster cars and the galleried displays of older cars and the 55 motorcycles of from 1898 to 1962 which form a line tribute to the late Graham Walker. Most of the exhibits are old friends from the MMM days. There are some typically British cars which are absent, but it is by any count a great display. A Clyno might be better known to many visitors than the Calcott and there were many nicer children’s cars than the oddity on show, with its cut-down Bentley radiator shell. The eye naturally travels to the racing-car exhibits. The ground floor centre has that splendid trio, the 1927 200-m.p.h. Sunbeam, the 1929 Golden Arrow and Donald Campbell’s 1961 Bluebird. Towering above them on a special dais is the 1920 350-h.p. V12 Sunbeam—a pity that it wears a too-wide radiator cowl with a broken stay, and that the original-size tyres are said not to be available. We were told that the old Sunbeam is soon to join the other LSR cars on the ground floor, and that a coach drawn by two dummy horses will replace it. The racing cars are well known but may now be out-numbered elsewhere. The sports cars range from 1912 Alfonso Hispano-Suiza to Ford GT40. “That must have been a birdcatcher”, said Graham Hill, of the 1935 supercharged Auburn 851 two-seater. “It still is”, retorted Curator Michael Ware. As the new catalogue says, it is the policy of the National Motor Museum to have all its exhibits in working order and, as near as possible, in original condition, but Anthony Bird pointed out that the 1897 Bersey electric-cab would need a battery-box slung from its belly to achieve this high ideal. On a mildly critical note, it is unfortunate that although Segrave’s name is rendered correctly on the plaque on the Golden Arrow these days, the exhibition notice by the car still gives it as having been driven by “Seagrave”. . . .
The commercial-vehicle section has expanded to include some interesting military vehicles and tractor and the case of miscellaneous models is extremely fascinating. The latter contains a big scale-model of a B-type LGOC ‘bus, a quite magnificent AJS motorcycle combination, a Rogers’ “silver” replica of the 100-miles-in-the-hour 25-h.p. Talbot, and tin-plate versions of vintage Citroën tourer and P2 Alfa Romeo, etc. (The smaller tin-plate Model-T Ford is not quite as we remember buying very realistic spring-driven replicas of Ford tourer, coupé and Tudor saloon from Woolworth’s in our boyhood—does anyone recall these?)
The library, photographic section and a surprising number of offices form part of the John Montagu Building, there is now hardstanding for driving tests, etc., and some 11 acres of outdoor exhibition area with pavilion and 3/4-of-an-acre of ground for what are described as “summertime diversions”. The non-motoring attractions such as Palace House, the Abbey, gardens, model railway, etc., are reached beyond the Motor Museum area but we shall miss eating (other than medieval banquets) in the 13th-century Domus, once the Museum café.
Quite surprisingly, it seems that no Press hand-outs or regular news-letters are issued by the National Motor Museum, except on special occasions, so it is difficult to know what fresh exhibits have recently been added. However, these embrace the replica Birkin blower-4 1/2 Bentley, a “chopper” bicycle and a Bugatti re-imported from America. The National Motor Museum is always open (from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at present), except on Christmas Day, and, down the M3, it is within about 11 hours’ driving from London.
A new hill-climb course.—
We went the other day, as guests of A. H. Lindsay Eccles, the well-known Brooklands and Donington Bugatti driver, and his wife, to inspect the hill-climb course at Penrice Castle on the lovely Gower estuary near Swansea. First used for a co-promoted closed event last October, organised by the Swansea MC, with BARC classes, this course is just about 850 yards long. It is situated in the most pleasant parkland imaginable, the property of Mr. Christopher Methuen-Campbell, whose ancestral home, Penrice Castle, built in 1775, adjacent to the ruins of the older 13th-century castle, this is. Incidentally, he drives a Morgan Plus-8, as his fun car.
From the start the course rises in a more or less straight line, at a gentle gradient of 1 in 26, to a very acute right-hand hairpin, where much excitement takes place, because it is approached at high speed through some difficult slight bends. The course then rises more steeply, at 1 in 10, to the finish line, which is about an equal distance from the hairpin as the start. There is no return road, competitors congregating on the grass at the side of the run-out before returning down the bill. Last year’s meeting aroused much interest and attracted 84 entrants, the course record now standing at 30.05 sec., timed by light-ray timing apparatus. No doubt climbs of under the half-minute will soon be attained.
This year the Swansea Club plans to have a two-day meeting at Penrice Castle on May 26th/27th, and another one-day hill climb in September. They say they are learning fast and will offer better catering, improved loos, and possibly other amenities, this time. The May hill-climb forms part of the Esso Uniflow Welsh Speed Championship, and there will be over £600 in prize money. Entries close on May 20th and the Events Secretary is S. Collins, 84, Mansel Street, Swansea., Glam. The Clerk of the Course, who accompanied us on the visit to the hill, is Simon Shellard, a keen Ford Escort Mexico driver, who pointed out that at present the only other Welsh hill-climb is the Pontypool event. We agree with him that Penrice Castle, which is the Headquarters of the Gower Show and part of the grounds of which, beautifully sited, form a Nature Reserve, with herons nesting in the trees flanking the peaceful estuary, should be a great additional attraction for those visiting the speed hill-climbs. We met at dinner the President of the Swansea MC, Mr. Norman Atkinson, whose wife Ruth used to be active in local speed events and races until she felt her sons were becoming a shade competitive, after which she turned to her present interest, the MCC long-distance trials, in which she competes with a 1600 Ford cross-flow-powered Morgan 4/4. They have also recently bought a new Ford Escort, which may also find itself appearing in competition events.
Quite a few other sponsorship announcements have been made over the last few weeks although few of them in the same league as the Barclays arrangement. The Kent Messenger newspaper group who have backed various cars and drivers in the past are putting their money behind Tony Brise’s Formula Three GRD which is widely tipped as the car to beat in this category in 1973. The Messenger will also continue to back Ray Calcutt’s racing Hillman Imp and the 1-litre saloon car championship at Brands Hatch. Both drivers are Kent men so it all ties in nicely.
Iberia Airlines have been backing motor racing for the past couple of years first by Sponsoring a Thruxton race meeting and last year by sponsoring the works Ensign Formula Three team. This year they have moved up a league or two and are putting their sponsorship behind Graham McRae’s Formula 5000 effort. The New Zealander’s recent conquest of the Tasman series is recorded on page 372 where, of course, he was sponsored by STP. Andy Granatelli had hoped to keep McRae in the USA this year and though he is sponsoring McRae’s L & M Championship Formula 5000 effort in America decided to drop his backing for a car in the British series reasoning that this would give McRae more time to concentrate on the US Series and any Indianapolis testing that he might offer him. But McRae was still keen to race over here and thus he pulled off the Iberia deal.
All this does not mean that STP is pulling out of sponsorship in Britain. The flame red colours will be seen on another Formula 5000 car the Trojan to be run for Bob Evans by the McKechnie organisation. STP is also backing three Drag racing competitions at Santa Pod and have announced their continuing connection with March Engineering in both Formula One and Two. In F1 Jean-Pierre Jarier will continue to be the sole STP March representative but in Formula Two, Jarier, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and on occasions Hans Stuck jnr. will carry the flame red colours. Incidentally Beltoises inclusion in the team appears to have caused a little friction between him and BRM’s Louis Stanley. We thought STP was supposed to reduce friction.
Yet another sponsorship deal comes from the Triplex glass people who have previously backed a Silverstone saloon car championship for two years but are now moving into the backing of a car. They are putting their faith in Colin Vandervell’s Formula Atlantic effort with a new works-assisted March 732 finished in the company’s ice blue colour scheme.—A.R.M.