British Motor Museum Reserve Collection

The British Motor Museum has more cars than they can display in their main collection.   Unlike most museums, they open up their reserve collection to browse.   The cars are obviously packed in close together to fit them all, so harder to see all the details and photograph.  I still think  its great that the museum opens this part of the collection to the public.

The museum offers volunteer tours of the reserve collection twice per day.   Despite many people at the museum during my visit, I was the only one to avail myself of the tour.   I ended up with a two hour private tour of the reserve collection instead of the 45 minute highlights a big group would get.   This was the highlight of the whole museum for me.     The tour also included the Jaguar Heritage collection.

Probably the most fascinating part of the tour was some of the descriptions of an early Lanchster.   I had heard of Lanchester, but more about the cars they built during their ownership by Daimler.    However, the most interesting cars were built by Frederick Lanchester.   Like W.O. Bentley, Lanchester was a brilliant engineer but not a great businessman.  And unlike Henry Royce, who had Charles Rolls and then later professional managers, Lanchester never had a partner to handle the business side of things.

The car we looked at had an epicyclic gearbox, years before Henry Ford adopted it for the Model T, twin crankshaft engine for smoothness, was much faster than the competition and many other clever touches.   Sadly, the Lanchester brand ended up building a series of forgettable cars under Daimler ownership.

Another interesting part of the museum was a collection of test cars showing off different safety ideas of the 70s.   One in particular looks like a mousetrap – it was designed to come up during a collision to improve pedestrian safety.   There is also another one to try and show American regulators how silly a proposed law was that focused on rear visibility.    It is fitted with a large periscope as the only way of complying with the regulations.

The collection also contains three interesting Rover P5 models.   The main collection houses one of the Queen’s P5Bs and the overflow collection has the other.   There is also the Prime ministerial P5B, and interesting for me, a 1965 P5 Coupe with a manual transmission.   A similar car (transmission aside) from my old rover and identical spec to a couple of cars being restored by a friend of mine.    Continuing the Rover theme, there is a Rover Speed 14 Streamline Saloon, a rather performance oriented model by the company.

Also of interest was a very impressive Daimler Green Goddess.   This is a very imposing car and you can certainly understand the stir it created when first unveiled.   However, if I could have taken one car home from the museum, it would have been the Bentley R Type Continental.

 

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