As another winter rolls around, thoughts turn to keeping the petrolhead side of you entertained – road salt, ice, snow, dark afternoons and lousy driving all come together to tell us that our ‘babies’ are better left where they are.
But for those of you that need your motoring ‘fix’, what better way to spend a day than warm and cosy, wandering around a car museum, looking at other people’s pride and joy, laid bare for you to admire, comment on or laugh at – British engineers have come up with some ‘radical’ ideas in the last few decades, some of which beg the question… Why?
Here’s our list of automotive museums that any petrolhead should visit (in no particular order!):
Coventry Transport Museum
Starting in the Midlands, Coventry (and the surrounding areas) was a thriving manufacturing centre in the not too distant past – it was known as ‘Motor City’ because it’s been home to such brands as Jaguar, Rover, Triumph (both cars and bikes), Riley, Healey, Armstrong Siddeley, Humber, Peugeot Talbot, Land Rover, Alvis, BMC, London Taxi - the list goes on.
CTM boasts the ‘World’s largest collection of British road transport’ and better yet, admission is completely free thanks to the council’s scheme that covers all the Coventry museums. The only downside is parking – there’s none on-site.
Haynes International Motor Museum
The museum, based in Somerset, houses the largest collection of the ‘Greatest Cars from around the World’; over 400 cars and bikes, including such legends as the Jaguar XJ220.
Established in 1985, the museum is owned by the makers of the ubiquitous workshop style manuals that every petrolhead must have at least one version stashed away in their garage, even if you’re not a ‘hands on’ owner.
‘Preservation by operation’ is one of the key phrases at the museum, meaning that many of the cars are working examples, and on some special events (information on their website), the cars are brought out and driven on the test track, giving museum visitors that extra sensory experience.
National Motor Museum Beaulieu
Perhaps the best known of them all, the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu has been featured in numerous magazines and TV programmes over the years. Beaulieu houses everything from the ‘Bentley Boys’ Bentley Blower right through to a Williams Renault FW18 and all manner of exotica in-between.
Whilst the other museums are always great to visit, we’d have to say that if you’re only going to visit one museum, make it Beaulieu. With such a vast collection, cars and exhibits can change at short notice, so if there is something specific you want to see, it’s always worth a call before heading down, just on the off-chance that they’ve changed.
Not quite on the same scale as some of the bigger museums, but for those of you on the Isle of Anglesey or around North Wales, Tacla Taid is a great day out at a family run museum.
The collection includes military vehicles, classics, motorbikes, they even have an APC (Armoured Personnel Carrier) or two.
The owner is a keen Land Rover fan, and the museum has a separate collection of Series 1’s, many of which have been featured in a number of TV programmes such as ITV News. Before you make it there to see all of them, check the website first for current opening times (the museum isn’t open all year round).
Lakeland Motor Museum
Being based in the Lake District, it’s natural that the museum houses a separate collection for the Campbell Bluebird – a tribute to Sir Malcolm and Donald Campbell, the land speed record holders of yesteryear. The Bluebird collection includes full sized replicas of the 1935 Blue Bird car, 1939 Blue Bird Boat K4 and 1967 jet hydroplane Bluebird K7.
In total, the museum has over 30,000 exhibits on display, telling the story of motoring throughout the ages, and being based just 5 minutes away from Lake Windemere, they also do joint tickets for lake cruises – a perfect day out when the sun shines!
The UK houses some of the greatest museums, thanks mainly to our part in some of the greatest engineering innovations and achievements. Whether you’re looking for the story of Michelin tyres, want an understanding of the history of tyre brands or automotive manufacturers, you can find it all throughout the UK.
We’ve picked just five museums throughout the country, but there are quite literally dozens of them, all with their own unique story to tell or exhibits to show. As with any attraction, it’s worth checking online before heading there, just to make sure that seasonal hours aren’t in place or that the one crucial exhibit you want to see isn’t in the workshop!