A Welsch Motor Museum
The eyes of the World have been on Wales recently, when they were not on America and the Moon. So it is appropriate that we should refer to a Welsh Motor Museum. America is well supplied with such museums and the Editor feels that it might well take him a year to visit all of them. To some extent the same is true of this far smaller country. There are now motor museums, or museums with car exhibits, in London, Birmingham, Coventry, the Cheddar Gorge, Norwich, Edinburgh, Glasgow, York, Hull, Derby, Bristol, Kilmarnock, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Isle of Man and, of course, at Beaulieu. etc. But if you are touring Wales and have driven along A477 until you can go no further without falling into the sea, and you feel like absorbing a bit of motoring history, the Pembrokeshire Motor Museum is there for you to visit.
It was opened in July 1968 by Mr. and Mrs. Chester Smith, with the help of their son, and occupies a building, still in process of redecoration, which was originally a chapel and subsequently the Garrison theatre and then a cinema, at Pembroke Dock. Well sign-posted by the R.A.C. from the outskirts of the town, the Museum is surrounded by some private roads on which the cars therein can be tuned or tested. There is a souvenir shop selling books, models and the usual old-car paraphernalia, at the entrance.
The exhibits, in the order in which I looked at them, are as follows. There is a well-used Graham Paige, an actual 1928 Show model, with Weymann/A. J. Mulliner fabric saloon bodywork typical of the period, having leather straps for adjusting the rake of the front-seat squabs. Next, a 1911 A.C. Sociable, a 1928 Austin 12/4 Clifton tourer found near Honiton twelve years ago and since nicely restored, and an impressive 1937 Lagonda Rapide tourer, its bonnet open to show the duplicated ignition, etc. Veteran interest is held by an 1898 Léon-Bollée tricar with its remarkable 75 x 114-mm. single air-cooled horizontal cylinder, next to which is a 1924 Morris-Oxford tourer. A rarity is a 1919 Hazelwood motorcycle combination with the well known s.v. 686-c.c. J.A.P. engine, which was bought, the complete. outfit, for 35s. nine years ago.
A 1925 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost appears at first to be a chassis but is then seen to have an abbreviated sports two-seater body, a little crude where the r.h. gear gate intrudes where a door should be, but a good sporting effort nevertheless, which, with upturned cantilever tear springs, might well have been a Brooklands entrant. There is a 1923 Dodge 24/35-h.p. tourer in rough but original condition, giving visitors some idea of where restoration work of the less daunting kind starts, a once-proud 1926 3-litre Bentley with the correct twin carburetters and a yellow two-seater body by Mulliner with those float-shaped running-boards or steps but bogus front and cycle back mudguards’, it having beets the victim of partial destruction by fire, and a 1933 20/25 Rolls-Royce Hooper limousine, wearing wedding ribbons as a reminder that it can be hired for functions of this kind.
Much more “museum” are another Léon-Bollée tricar, John Mills’ 1901 5.9-h.p. Benz Ideal with opposed twin engine, and Mr. Chester Smith’s own 1903 curved-dash Oldsmobile, which he has used in the Brighton Run since he forsook Bentleys for veterans in 1953. It has those road springs which run the entire length of the wheelbase and overheating of its 5-h.p. 4½ in. 6 in. one-lunger engine has recently been cured. Vintage light-carism is represented by an 8/18 Humber tourer in very presentable condition, and a horse-drawn fire-engine has been lent from Haverfordwest.
I am not suggesting that all these exhibits are in pristine order and the majority of them are on loan, many from far afield. But they form an interesting collection, backed up by many motorcycles, the latter including a 1900 Minerva-engined Fleet, an Alldays “Alton”, an Alldays-Matchless, a Radco No. 2 two-stroke and some more recent machines. Very unusual is a 1904 Arielette prototype tricar, with a Léon-Bollée-like but water-cooled engine, which features an o.h.c., front-wheel-brakes and a big flywheel on a slender crankshaft. These are displayed in a sort of workshop in a gallery running along the end of the hall, and here is an early Austin 7 chassis looking for a Chummy body, the son’s Austin Ulster in pieces looking for a Cozette supercharger, a Bristol Cherub aero-engine, a single-cylinder De Dion stationary engine, and other bits and pieces.
Showcases contain the usual museum “extras” in the form of badges, models, old tyres (one of which is a Quaker), lamps, etc., and there are early hand carts, pram, gas-engine and so on. No catalogue is issued but the main exhibits are well documented, and wire-mesh walls, with comfortable wood rails for leaning-on, effectively divorce them from the visitors.
Refreshments are available in a sort of kitchen annex, from the window of which there is a good view of the Sunderland flying-boat which is exhibited next to the Museum building, although not owned by them. Car parking is free and admission costs 2s. 6d. per head for adults, 1s. for each child under 15. Outside the Museum, which is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., from Easter until the end of September, there is a 1917 Cleveland caterpillar tractor with o.h.v. Weidley engine made in Indianapolis, and the workshop contained an odd and ugly Villiers-engined invalid carriage and a P11 Rolls-Royce being restored.—W. B.