The Sparkford Museum

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Museums have a habit of

Motor Museums have a habit of a springing up all over the place these days, like molehills on suburban lawns. The Patrick Collection will open in Birmingham in 1987, with full charitable trust status, and on July 10th Richard Noble, OBE, opened the Sparkford Motor Museum near Yeovil.

The latter consists of the cars which John Haynes, of the well-known motor manual publishing house, had owned but could no longer house, together with a few exhibits loaned by local people. Apparently when a charitable trust is formed for the preservation of such vehicles the owner relinquishes possession of them, as John explained in his speech at the well-attended opening ceremony (which was also a celebration of Haynes Publishing Group’s 25th Anniversary). However, as the cars can still be viewed and presumably used occasionally during the owner’s lifetime, this seems no great hardship, notwithstanding which John said he could not bear to give up his 1965 4.7-litre AC Cobra or his wife’s Rolls-Royce P2, although both are in the Museum.

Sparkford was en fête for the occasion of the opening and Richard Noble gave a typically lighthearted speech, telling of how, when he regained the World’s LSR for Great Britain, his vizor slipped opus he was entering the measured distance with the reheat well and truly alight and Thrust II doing over 630 mph, so that he had to steer with one hand and lock his vizor down with the other, the eye-holes of his protective balaclava face-mask then slipping. . .! He felt that perhaps Haynes should have done a Thrust ll manual, telling him what to do when the after-burner flame was reduced to less than 12 feet, or whatever! After a good lunch and these lighthearted speeches, the visitors inspected the new museum.

The cars are well spaced from one another, and will be easy to remove when any of the number that are taxed are needed for demonstration. They stand on stone chippings and the walls of the special new museum building carry old-time plaques. Some motor museums, like the transport part of the Science Museum, aim to be educational, some are of appeal because they house exhibits of great historical value, as in the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu. Others are mainly just an owner’s collection, such as that of the Earl Moray at Doune, or the high-performance cars of Bob Roberts in the Midland Motor Museum. This applies to Sparkford, but the 36 exhibits should have sufficient variety to attract those visitors who like to remember cars they, or associates, owned themselves in the past, even if truly exciting or rare cars are less prevalent. For example, John Haynes’ aforesaid Rolls-Royce coupe de vine can be compared with a 1934 A7 saloon. Aston Martin is represented by a 1961 DB4 and a 1952 DB2 and, back on the family-car theme, there is a 1930 Morris-Oxford Six saloon I remember seeing when I was visiting the Haynes printing works some years ago, then as part of John’s collection. A more eye-catching exhibit is the 1936 FWD Cord 810 Beverly. This was the de luxe version, not the cheaper Westchester model, and the museum car is original even to its seats, the mileage a mere 33,000 from new.

A 1939 3 1/2-litre Jaguar saloon contrasts with an XJ150 dh coupe and E-type fixedhead coupe, these Jaguar exhibits being rounded off with a Mk 7 and a V12 E-type roadster. High-performance buffs are catered for by a Corvette Stingray, Lotus Elan, TR3A, MG TF, Mercedes-Benz 280SL, MG-A, Porsche Carrera 911RS, and a TVR Tuscan V8, and an interesting car is the 1947 K1 Allard, the “blue” car of that year’s Alpine Rally team, and driven later by Sydney Allard himself. Claimed to be the only surviving works rally Allard, this one has the 4.4-litre bored and stroked Mercury 239 engine and has run only 26,000 miles. If that is too much for mum and dad, they Can move on to a 1955 Morris Minor convertible.

Pretty staggering are a 1947 Lincoln Continental Town Car, and the R-R Comiche which one supposes was Haynes’ personal transport in 1971. Museums are expected to display the truly old vehicles and here the Sparkford Museum is less compliant, but it does have a 1917 MorrisCowley and, on loan, a 1910 twin-cylinder Renault. Bill Vaux has also contributed his chain-drive 1905 30 hp Daimler limousine. We noticed a spider Alfa Romeo, a Triumph Stag and a Type SC Jowett Jupiter, and the 1910 16/24 hp Gregoire lent by R. Pulman was interesting; I think it may be the exShakespeare car. There are also three motorcycles, Jeff Clew having lent his Speedway Erskine-JAP.

While I prefer to see cars out and about, it was worth driving over 300 miles that day in the Sierra XR4 x 4 to see this latest motor museum, which left no time for a helicopter flight over the village or a ride in a Daimler limousine to see how books are made. It is just “down the road” from the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, so that you could conveniently visit both on the same day. — W.B.