June 2024

[1-Jun_24_River_Windrush.jpg] The River Windrush in Bourton-on-the-Water.
Photo by David Schwartz

The Cotswolds Motoring Museum
by David Schwartz

BOURTON-ON-THE-WATER, Gloucs., U.K. — My two-week trip with the Morris Minor Registry of North America last June had the option of visiting three British Motor Museums. The April newsletter focused on Minis at the British Motor Museum. This is the second article in what will eventually be a trilogy.

Bourton-on-the-Water is a popular tourist destination in the Cotswolds. The River Windrush runs through the village, is crossed by several stone bridges, and is surrounded by stone cottages. My group visited on a Sunday and the town was packed with locals and tourists. It was a hot, sunny day. Families picnicked in the shade along the river, children, adults and dogs waded in the water, and ice cream vendors did a brisk business.

The Cotswold Motoring Museum is housed in The Old Mill, a series of stone and brick buildings in an old water mill dating to the 17th century. The Museum contains seven galleries filled with rare cars, trucks, motorcycles, and caravans (camper trailers) from several countries. The galleries are packed to the ceiling with an eclectic collection of motoring memorabilia, toys, and items that defy categorization.

The first classic Mini I saw in the wild was parked in front of the Museum. It was a rare variant made primarily of shrubbery. I sent a photo of the car to the NEMO Variant Committee. Iain Barker replied, “Looks like LP883 Cooper S wheels. That’s one expensive hedge.” Bruce Vild pointed out that it “takes driving green to a whole new level.”

The Museum displays a large number of Austins, including models I had never heard of before. A pair of Austin 7 variants sit by the main entrance. The 1935 Austin 7 Nippy two-seater convertible was built from 1933 to 1937. The car features a rounded back, curved front axle, and was based on the Sports 65 model. It has a red body, black fenders and a red interior.

June 2024

[2-Jun_24_Topiary.jpg] Shrubbery. Brits do love gardening.
Photo by David Schwartz

A green and white 1929 Austin 7 Swallow saloon is parked next to the Nippy. The Swallow is historically significant because it starts the Jaguar automobile story. In 1922 William Lyons and William Walmsley formed the Swallow Sidecar Company, which originally built motorcycle sidecars. In 1927 they redesigned the Austin 7 body and produced cars under the name Austin Swallow. The Swallow had features associated with luxury cars, including full instrumentation, cloth-covered trim, a two-tone paint job, and unusual fresh air trumpets mounted behind the bonnet. In 1931, the company name was changed to SS, and in 1945 the name was changed again to Jaguar Cars.

The Museum also owns a 1934 Austin Bantam convertible which looks like a more stylish version of the Austin 7. The car is left-hand drive, is more rounded than British Austin 7s, and sports a two-tone blue over light blue paint job, including light blue wheels. The U.S.-based American Austin Car Company built modified Austin 7s under license. Unfortunately, U.S. demand for a small, light car was very low. Only 5,500 Austin Bantams were produced between 1929 and 1940 when production ceased.

A crouching ski jumper radiator cap on a 1938 Riley Adelphi really caught my eye. The cap was not factory original, or at least it is not shown in any photos I found on-line. Riley was known for producing powerful six-cylinder engines, though the Adelphi has a 2443cc four-cylinder engine. Despite the car’s large size and heavy weight, the dual overdrive gearbox allowed it to cruise at 90mph.

Perhaps the fast top speed inspired an owner to install the ski jumper cap. There is a large display case filled with other fun radiator caps, including two more skiers, a couple dancing, and a variety of animals.

June 2024

[3-Jun_24_Austin_7s.jpg] Two Austin 7s, Swallow saloon and Nippy.
Photo by David Schwartz

The Museum’s foreign cars include a 1938 BMW 327, a 1973 Volvo P1800ES (with Roger Moore from The Saint at the wheel), and a 1937 Fiat 500 Topolino. The Fiat is tiny and incredibly cute. The name Topolino is essentially Italian for Mickey Mouse. The body is painted royal blue (including the radiator slats) and has a black roof, fenders, headlights, and vestigial running boards. The front of the car is rounded, and the doors are hinged at the rear with vertical door pulls up front. The 596cc engine gave the car a top speed of 53mph.

A radio station mock-up with a DJ, turntables, a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and broadcast equipment plays homage to the days of “pirate radio” in the U.K. In the 1960s, various pirate radio stations broadcast to the United Kingdom from ships in international waters. The stations specialized in rock and pop music that was not played on BBC Radio.

As part of the display there is a large photo on the wall of the lightship Veronica, which broadcast as Radio Veronica to the Netherlands, and flyers for Radio Caroline which broadcast to the U.K. Caroline still exists on-line. The movie Pirate Radio tells the story of the fictional station “Radio Rock.” This all is a little incongruous for a car museum, though perhaps car radios are the tie-in.

Minis and variants are limited to a 1972 Mini Clubman and a mud-covered 1964 MG 1100. The MG is a sportier version of the Austin/Morris 1100. The Museum’s car was raced in the Monte Carlo Rally in the 1960s and bears the names Alan Smith and Tony Davies. In the 1990s the MG took part in some Monte Carlo rally recreations. I suspect the mud is for effect, as opposed to actual Monte Carlo mud.

Allow at least several hours for a Museum visit. There is so much to see it is easy to glaze over. There are lots of nearby pubs and restaurants so you can take a break and go back to the Museum later.

There is also a great gift shop, where I purchased a classic Mini T-shirt, refrigerator magnets, and postcards.



May 2024

[1-May_24_Skeleton.jpg] A skeleton checks under a bonnet at the Trunk or Treat Cars & Coffee at LAAM.
Photo by David Schwartz

Trunk or Treat at LAAM

The final Larz Anderson Auto Museum Cars & Coffee of 2023 was held on October 28th. I prefer fall car shows as they avoid the heat and humidity of summer events. We had a nice sunny day, the temperature was cool and comfortable, and the trees surrounding the grounds still showed fall colors. There was a good turnout, with cars parked on both the upper and lower lawn.

Car owners were encouraged to give out Halloween candy and dress their cars for the occasion. Numerous cars sported costumes or other seasonal accoutrements. There was a skeleton checking under the hood of a recent-generation Mazda Miata, a spider driving an Alfa Romeo Spider, and the original Star Trek crew was pictured on the windshield sunshade of an SUV.

My 1968 Mini Traveller opted for the ever-popular Clown Car motif. I was out of the red foam clown noses that I have given away at past events, but people were happy to take candy from the bowl in the way-back.

There were two other classic Minis parked on the upper lawn, including Adam Blake’s 1967 Austin Cooper. A gray modern MINI with the vanity plate FERRET was parked on the lower lawn and a number of other British cars were scattered about.

German cars were well represented, including vintage Porsches and BMWs. I was surprised to see a Mercedes 300SL Gullwing coupe. The doors were raised, providing a good view of the plaid seats.

LAAM’s Cars & Coffee is free for car owners and spectators. Museum admission and espresso drinks are complimentary. The official hours are 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and there is no advance registration. Space fills up, so you should arrive by 8 a.m. if want to display a vehicle. This is especially true for the May event.

The 2024 dates are May 11th, June 8th, July 20th, August 17th, September 7th, and October 5th. LAAM is located at 15 Newton St. in Brookline, Mass.

May 2024

[2-May_24_Blake_Model_T.jpg] Adam Blake’s Mini next to another classic at Wheels of Wellesley.
Photo by David Schwartz

Wheels of Wellesley

The “Wheels of Wellesley” car show is sponsored by the Modifiers Car Club in conjunction with the Wellesley Celebrations Committee and is part of a full weekend of activities.

The 2023 show was held on May 21st. There was a good turnout of LBCs, including four classic Minis belonging to NEMO members. There was also a Triumph TR3A, a Triumph TR6, two Jaguar E-types, and two Austin-Healey 3000s.

Wheels of Wellesley is a small multi-marque show. Central Street in Wellesley Square is closed to traffic and show cars park on both sides of the street. Restaurants and businesses are open for the event.

Most of the British cars were parked near each other, and Adam Blake’s Mini was parked next to a Ford Model T. Former NEMO member Paul Saulnier brought his 1959 Volvo PV544. Other cars ranged from rat rods (one of which had two engines under the hood), hot rods, beautifully restored prewar and early postwar cars, ’50s and ’60s muscle cars, and preserved cars with loads of patina.

There was a 1952 Willys M38 Army Jeep with a sign that read “Kids* of all ages allowed on M38 Army Jeep with parental O.K. and oversight. (*Owner decides who is a kid).” The Jeep was very popular with young children and many kids took turns at the wheel.

May 2024

[3-May_24_Jeep.jpg] Kids (of all ages) enjoying the M38 Army Jeep.
Photo by David Schwartz

One of my favorite cars was a bright red 1959 Chrysler 300E owned by Dave Larsen. The driver and passenger front seats swiveled towards their respective doors. There was a Chevy Camero hot rod that was rebadged “Chomaro” due to the huge, fully chromed engine protruding through the hood.

Studebakers and Chevy Bel Airs were well represented, as were Ford T-Birds, one of which had a convertible top that retracted into the trunk. Foreign cars included several classic VW Beetles, a VW van, and a 1970 Datsun 240Z with only 24,000 miles.

Wheels of Wellesley 2024 will be held on May 19th from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Central Street in Wellesley, Mass. will be closed about 15 minutes prior to show car entry. The staging area and entrance are on Cross Street, which is off of Weston Road.

The show is part of “Wellesley’s Wonderful Weekend,” which includes a parade, concert, art exhibits, fireworks, and much more. The full weekend schedule is available at https://wellesleywonderfulweekend.com/schedule/.

For show-specific information, see the Mass Modifiers website: https://modifiersofwellesleycarclub.com/.



April 2024

[1-Apr_24_NEMO_Mini.jpg] The first production Morris Mini, recently adopted by NEMO.
Photo by David Schwartz

Minis at the British Motor Museum

by David Schwartz

GAYDON, Warks., U.K. — In June 2023, I spent two weeks traveling in England with forty members of the Morris Minor Registry of North America.

The trip culminated in a two-day car show celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Morris Minor. There were many trip highlights, including a visit to the British Motor Museum, which had been on my bucket list since I entered the British car hobby 11 years ago.

The Museum was previously known as the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust, and it is still the source of British Motor Heritage Certificates.

It is home to the world’s largest collection of historic British cars, with over 400 cars in its collection. The main Museum building was not large enough to house the entire collection, and in 2015 the adjacent Collections Centre opened to display vehicles that were previously in storage.

In 2009 the Museum featured a temporary exhibit, “The Mini 50th Exhibition.” There are still a large number of classic Minis on display in both buildings, including very early cars, Monte Carlo Rally winners, Mokes, variants, prototypes, a sectioned Mini, even a full-size Lego Mini!

The Welcome Gallery in the Museum lobby displayed at least eight historically significant British cars built between 1896 and 1971. The cars were arranged in chronological order, and I was excited to see a white 1959 Morris Mini-Minor, the first production Morris Mini, which left the Cowley factory on May 8th, 1959.

This Mini wears the plate 621 AOK and was recently adopted by NEMO (see the March British Marque for details). The Mini was parked next to a red 1963 Jaguar E-type, a surprising juxtaposition.

April 2024

[2-Apr_24_ADO34.jpg] ‘Dinky Toy’ ADO 34 from 1964. Photo by David Schwartz

Other lobby cars included the 1896 Wolseley Autocar Number One, designed by Herbert Austin the 1897 Daimler Grafton Phaeton, the oldest Coventry-built Daimler a 1912 Ford Model T Torpedo, the second-oldest British-built Ford and the 1925 MG known as “Old Number One” and “the Kimber Special.”

Old Number One was a one-off special, built for Cecil Kimber, manager of Morris Garages, the business that gave its initials to MG. This was rarified company for the common Morris Mini.

Near the Museum entrance were several 1:1 scale cars sitting on top of giant Dinky Toys boxes. The boxes were labeled “Prototype” Series, and one was a 1964 MG/Mini ADO 34, a concept for a Mini-based front-wheel-drive MG sports car.

Different versions of ADO 34 were developed by Austin at Longbridge and MG at Abingdon. The Museum car was the Longbridge version and was constructed using two Mini subframes and a Cooper S engine and wheels. The body of the Museum car was designed and built in Italy by Pininfarina. The project was cancelled in 1964.

A 1962 “Twini” Mini Moke twin-engine prototype was displayed in the Museum building. A rear engine was mounted in a Mini front subframe with the steering locked in the straight-ahead position. There were two separate gearshift levers, the normal one for the front engine, and a second for the rear engine. The same clutch served both transmissions. It is no surprise that the Twini was never manufactured.

In 1968, Moke production moved from England to Australia, then moved again in 1981 to Portugal. A 1984 Portuguese-built Moke was in the Collections Centre.

Roped off in the main building was a 2017 Lego Mini Cooper. Red with a British flag roof, it was built by over a thousand Museum visitors in nine days over a February school holiday. Visitors were assisted by expert Lego builders. Even the tires and wheels were built out of Legos. The car weighs 1940 lbs., which is about 540 lbs. more than an actual classic Mini! A total of 229,893 Lego bricks were used to build it.

April 2024

[3-Apr_24_Motorsport.jpg] The Museum’s ‘Motorsport’ section, with Monte Carlo-winning Mini Coopers right in the center.
Photo by David Schwartz

An entire section of the Museum was devoted to motorsport. The raised centerpiece of the exhibit consisted of three Morris Mini Cooper S models that won the Monte Carlo Rally. Car #37, a 1963 model with a 70bhp, 1071cc engine, helped Paddy Hopkirk finish 3rd overall in the Tour de France, and 1st in the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally. Car #52, a 1964 model with a 75bhp, 1275cc engine, won in blizzard conditions in 1965, and car #177, a 1966 model also with a 75bhp, 1275cc engine, won in 1967.

Another early Mini in the rally section was a 1959 Austin Se7en Downton, one of the oldest surviving Austin versions. This particular Austin was built in September 1959 and was originally owned by Daniel Richmond of Downton Engineering. The Downton Austin Se7en raced in 1960 and was adjacent to the Monte Carlo Mini Coopers.

My tour group only had a half day budgeted for British Motor Museum. I spent several hours in the main building, then rushed over to the Collections Centre. The first floor was home to the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust collection, which I ran through, since the Minis are on the second floor.

The first car I saw was a 1965 Austin Mini that was sectioned (cut in half) to demonstrate all the features that made the Mini so unique: the front-wheel-drive transverse engine with the transmission in the sump, large interior space with storage pockets and sliding windows, and even the Hydrolastic suspension (available on select models from 1964 to 1971.) The sectioned Mini rode on all four wheels, was left-hand-drive, and the full transverse engine was present. The car was white with a red interior, and the suspension components were highlighted in red.

April 2024

[4-Apr_24_Sectioned.jpg] Sectioned Mini, showing the details of the suspension and the interior.
Photo by David Schwartz

Other cars on display in the Collections Centre include production cars and prototypes, including a 1971 Mini Cooper S MkIII, a 1992 Mini Cord FA glass-fibre, plastic-bodied car produced in Venezuela, a 1974 Mini Clubman SRV4 safety research vehicle, a 1976 Mini 9X gearless prototype designed by Alec Issigonis, a 1989 ERA Mini Turbo, and even the damaged body of a 1976 Mini 1275GT that was infamously disposed of in a Longbridge tunnel. (Some people believe the tunnel car was the last Mini to leave the Longbridge factory.)

A beautifully restored 1962 Austin Mini 5cwt van also was on display, a replica of those used by John Cooper Garages. Cooper used identical vans to transport parts and provide support for customer cars. Unfortunately, none of the original Cooper Garage vans have survived.

Our half-day visit wasn’t nearly long enough to see everything in both buildings. Although I can cross the British Motor Museum off my bucket list, I would happily go back again. The cars described here are only a fraction of the ones I viewed.

If you are planning a trip to England and only have time to visit one motor museum, this should be your top priority. To see everything requires an entire day. The Museum schedules special events throughout the year, runs activities for children, and holds car shows in the parking lot. See their website for additional information: https://www.britishmotormuseum.co.uk/.



 

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