Car Cathedral

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A recent exhibition of Bentleys gave me the prod I needed to go and investigate the Museum of British Road Transport, Coventry, and I came away impressed. Where I had expected that a temporary display might consist of four or five cars, we found a large hall graced with some 18 Bentleys; and instead of the usual LM reps, two actual Le Mans cars in a Sarthe pits setting, Jumbo Goddard’s improbably fast 8-litre, and the Pacey-Hassan and the Birkin single-seater balancing on a mock-up Brooklands banking. There was also one of almost everything else bar S and T, including a 4-litre and a MkV, a Continental R revolving at 45rpm, and a pleasing variety of WO saloons. Quite a show. You’ve already missed it, but the museum runs four or five such specials in the year.

Elsewhere the extensive permanent exhibits crowd together in busy street scenes enlivened with shop fronts, adverts, motoring paraphenalia and appropriate sound effects, and leavened by an extraordinary collection of early bicycles and motorcycles to remind you of Coventry’s position at the centre of the fledgling British car industry. Coverage extends from an 1897 Daimler up to current Jaguars and a couple of advanced concept cars. Thrust II lives here with an LSR show, and you can immerse yourself in The Blitz Experience, where you are lightly pummelled by bomb-blasts and wreathed in smoke passed by the Health and Safety board. The Museum is easy to find from Coventry’s Ring Road (though you arrive at the back where there is only a faded A4 paper explaining where the entrance is — post a proper sign, chaps), and it adjoins the town centre with much historical interest. It’s open seven days a week from 10am-5pm. I failed to get round all three packed floors in one visit and am waiting to find out what the next special show is about.

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