Photos by Howard Koby
In the lush countryside about 90 miles south of London, in the New Forest between Bournemouth and Southampton, resides is a 7,000-acre Victorian estate called Beaulieu. It is the home of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and family and includes their residence, the Palace House; the Beaulieu Abbey and Exhibition, a conserved ruin and church; the Victorian Flower and Kitchen Gardens; and the Secret Army Exhibition, a facility which served as a school for Special Operations Executive agents during World War Two.
Also on the grounds is the World of Top Gear Enormodrome, which presents cars from the popular television show, and On Screen Cars, which showcases vehicles from movies and television, including the Ford Anglia 105E “Flying Car” used in the filming of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and the Jaguar XKR with rear-mounted Gatling gun from Die Another Day.
Those last two facilities are part of the National Motor Museum, originally founded as a charitable trust in 1970 by Lord Montagu as a tribute to his father, one of Britain’s motoring pioneers and the first person to drive a motor car into the yard of the House of Parliament. More than 300 vehicles are included in the museum, which presents the story of motoring on the roads and racing circuits of Britain from the 1890s to the present with stories of motoring pioneers, motor sport champions and speed-record breakers.
A purpose-built museum to house the collections opened in 1972 in a ceremony performed by the Duke of Kent.
Along with the vehicles, tens of thousands of objects relating to motoring history are displayed, including a huge collection of motorcycles from a 1911 Matchless JAP Z Speed and a 1912 Norton “Oldmiracle” to a 1999 BMW R1200C.
Famous racing cars are artfully presented on a suspended metal skyway ramp, including the 1996 Ferrari F310 V10 driven by Michael Schumacher in the Spanish Gran Prix and a 2006 McLaren MP4-21. Early racing is represented by significant cars that competed when the first races were held on public roads in France and a 1907 Italia 120hp driven by Alessandro Cagno and believed to be the winning car in the 1907 Coppa della Velocità (Speed Cup) at Brescia in Italy.
Many of the exhibits are in working order and are driven on rallies such as the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, motorcycle runs and events at Beaulieu and overseas.
A world-renowned reference library and photographic film and artifact collection is housed in the museum, which is a treat and a worthwhile educational endeavor that takes you through the dawn of motoring and will be enjoyed by the whole family, even my 3-year old grandson, Ash, who was with me on this learning adventure.
For details, see the museum website.