Bicester plans to enhance its airfield, historic aviation programs

Our weekly roundup of news and notes from car museums

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A Blenheim bomber taxis along a grass runway at Bicester | Bicester Heritage photos

Bicester Motion, the former RAF airbase reborn as Bicester Heritage, a major collector car center in England, has set a strategy to enhance its more than 100-year-old former military airfield while promoting historic aviation.

The airfield in Oxfordshire was established in 1917 and has been active since then. Plans include not only powered aircraft but gliding programs as well as new aviation technology and training opportunities.

“We are genuinely excited about the future of aviation here and believe that Bicester Motion can be the driving force behind a rejuvenation of our airfield’s prospects,” chief executive Daniel Geoghegan is quoted in a news release. 

Bicester visitors enjoy an airshow

“Since the departure of the RAF in 1976, the airfield has not been immune from the deterioration and viability issues that have blighted similar sites across the UK. Our plan is to formulate a sustainable approach to enable it to be a positive presence in the flying world.”

“In an era when the viability of historic airfields is increasingly severely challenged, Bicester Motion hopes that the former RAF Bicester will become a rare survivor by promoting the Airfield’s offering as a leisure and amenity resource in the centre of the UK,” Bicester Motion added.

Geoghegan noted that since taking over the site in 2013, Bicester Heritage has reactivated 19 buildings and removed the former airbase from the Historic England’s At-Risk Register, and instead have made it “a national exemplar for constructive conservation.”

That effort now turns to the airfield.

“Once home to a number of significant aircraft, including Blenheims and Spitfires, our aim is for our airfield to once again play its role at the heart of the British aviation community and, ideally, help preserve the skills and training required to maintain these wonderful machines for many generations to come,” Geoghegan added.

Autojumble added to April Scramble

Bicester Heritage’s April Scramble, scheduled for April 26, will add an Autojumble (the British term for a swap meet) to its activities, and camping also will be available for those booking in advance.

Beaulieu adds two more ‘Simply’ events

The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, England, has announced an expansion of its “Simply” car-show series. The additions are Simply BMW on July 19 and Simply British Classics on September 20.

The additions bring to 13 the number of such single or focused marque events on the museum calendar. The museum earlier announced the addition of a Simply Electric show on May 24.

Simply British Classics will be open to pre-1980 vehicles built in England or by a British manufacturer.

The next Simply show is Simply Aston Martin on April 5.

Beaulieu shares its photos

An Austin 7 tips onto 2 wheels at Donington Park in 1933 | National Motor Museum Motoring Picture Library photo

Britain’s National Motor Museum at Beaulieu offers more than 120,000 color photos and nearly 1 million black-and-white images dating from the 1880s through its Motoring Picture Library. 

The photo collection was established more than 50 years ago by Edward, Lord Montagu, It also includes nearly a million images that have yet to be digitized. A film library was added in 1979 and now includes nearly 40,000 items. 

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BMW Museum doing renovation work

Isetta that smuggled people across the Berlin Wall on display | Museum photo

After attracting a record of more than 600,000 visitors in 2019, the BMW Museum in Munich is spending the first quarter of 2020 doing renovation work, including improvements in lighting to better illuminate exhibits and collections. 

Meanwhile, as new exhibits are being prepared for 2020, the “Freedom with the BMW Isetta” exhibition about escaping from the former East Germany in a secret compartment in a tiny vehicle will continue until March.  

Mercedes Museum celebrates 850,954 visitors in 2019

The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Germany reports that it has surpassed the 10-million visitor mark thanks to an additional 850,954 visitors in 2019. Of those visitors in 2019, nearly 60 percent came from outside Germany

The museum also reports the success of its lived guided tours on Instagram, with around 350,000 people taking part in two such events in 2019.

Seal Cove can proceed with its suit

Four years ago, the Seal Cove Auto Museum in Maine sued two trustees of the Richard C. Paine Jr. Automobile Collection Charitable Trust in regard to what the museum board saw as exorbitant fees the trustees were paying themselves to the museum’s detriment. The state attorney general joined the museum in its suit, but a court ruled that the museum had no standing in the case and a settlement was reached.

Now, however, the Bangor Daily News reports that the Maine state supreme court has overruled the lower court, allowing the museum to resume its suit. 

The trust owns the cars displayed in the museum. The two trustees had been paying themselves $150,000 each per year as salary, money the museum not only contends is exorbitant but that threatened the trust’s future, and therefore the museum’s as well.

Museums open special exhibitions

Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth’s creations on display at National Corvette Museum | Museum photo

Several automotive museums have opened special exhibits in recent days. They include “Reclaimed Rust: The James Hetfield Collection,” which runs through October at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles; “Car-toon Creatures: Kustom Kars & Corvettes, The art & influence of Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth,” which runs through December at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky; and “Ford v Ferrari,” which runs until mid-September at LeMay – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington.

Meanwhile, the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia has extended its ‘Ford v Ferrari’ exhibition through February 16.

Special events this weekend

The Historical Society of Michigan offers several workshops for museums in the coming weeks, starting with “Selling History: Operating a Museum Store,” from 9 a.m. until noon on February 7. The event takes place at the society headquarters in Lansing, Michigan.

It’s a “Hoods Up” weekend February 8-9 at the Newport Car Museum in Rhode Island, where the engines on the museum’s cars will be exposed for viewing.

“Dawn of the American Sports Car” is the focus of Demo Day, scheduled from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. February 8 at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, where the cars being exercised in the parking lot will include a 1909 American Underslung Traveler, a 1912 National Model 40 Semi-Racing Roadster, a 1912 Hudson Roadster, a 1913 Mercer Raceabout and a 1916 Stutz Series 4C Bearcat.

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The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles will host a panel discussion February 8 on “The Jenkins Bus,” the Volkswagen Type 2 bus used to transport African Americans and selected by the Historic Vehicle Association for inclusion in the National Historic Vehicle Register. The panel will feature three members of the Jenkins family. The bus will be on display at the Petersen until June.

Charles Nash’s career will be presented in lecture by his great-grandson at AACA Museum | Museum photo

“The Miracle Story of Charles W. Nash” will be presented by James Wheary, Nash’s great-grandson, at 2 p.m. on February 9 at the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

The Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, continues its winter lecture series February 9 with “The Hackett Automobile Museum – A History” presented by Ted O’Dell, founder of the new automotive museum in Jackson, Michigan.

Mark your calendar

Greg Stacy, marketing director for Saleen Automotive, will be the special guest for the “If Cars Could Talk” program February 11 at  

11:30 a.m. at LeMay – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington. 

The Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee will offer 2-for-1 admissions as part of its “Date Night” program in February. The museum has designated Thursday evenings in February for its date night promotion, which includes special “Love Potion” scavenger hunts and a “built-for-two” menu in the Motor bar and restaurant.

The Hedkes and their 1964 Studebaker Lark visit LeMay museum | Museum photo

“How to win The Great Race… and stay married!” will be the topic of the day from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on February 13 when Janet and Steve Hedke and their 1964 Studebaker Daytona visit LeMay – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington. The Hedkes have competed in The Great Race for more than 20 years “and have managed to keep their cool in doing so,” the museum notes.

The California Automobile Museum in Sacramento opens its new exhibition, “Reel Cars: The Importance of Cars in Filmmaking,” on February 14.

The North East Motor Sports Museum in Loudon, New Hampshire, kicks off the 2020 racing season February 15 with a Daytona Party that includes slot-car racing and snowcross. The part starts at noon, will show the NASCAR Xfinity 300 on a big screen, and will feature a 60-foot slot-car drag strip, an iRacing simulator, and other events, including the first snowmobile event on the museum’s flat track.

The Harley-Davidson Museum is joining the Milwaukee Art Museum for a special 2-for-1 admission promotion on February 15 and 16. Visit either museum on those dates and your admission ticket also will admit you to the other museum.

Muscle Car City in Punta Gorda, Florida, celebrates its 11th anniversary with a car show February 15 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

The Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, hosts its annual Pint with the Past fund-raising gala on February 15 from 7 to 10 p.m.

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The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum in northeast Indiana hosts its annual Bootlegger’s Ball on February 15 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The spring lecture series continues at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, England, on February 15 when George Mooney talks about “Austin Adventures.” Mooney and his wife have traveled the world in their small pre-war cars. The series continues March 21 with Steph Jeavons talks about “Girls on Top” and leading the first all-female motorcycle riding group to the Mount Everest base camp. The series concludes April 18 with Alan Chandler sharing his experience in collecting nearly 4,000 items of Petroliana. 

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum in northeast Indiana, with support from the AWS Foundation, will offer an Access Day on February 22 with additional staff and volunteers on hand to provide special programming for people with disabilities and with sensory-related sensitivities. Pre-registration is required and can be done through the museum website.

The Murphy Auto Museum in Oxnard, California, plans at Grand Re-opening Party for February 22 to celebrate its new location.

The finalists for the Dean Batchelor award as book of the year will be featured February 22 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Autobooks-Aerobooks in Burbank, California. The books are The Speed Kings: The Rise and Fall of Motordrome Racing by Don Emde and The Last Shelby Cobra: My Times with Carroll Shelby by Chris Theodore.

Tacoma, Washington, museums including LeMay – America’s Car Museum, plan a special K-12 educator workshop exploring science, technology, engineering, art and math on February 29. 

“Drive the Blues Away” with a “Viva Las Vegas” night March 13 from 8 p.m. until 11 p.m. at the LeMay – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington. 

The “Foundations of Photography 2020” series of classes begins March 14 at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, where Andrew Taylor will lead the 6-part educational series on photographing the automobile.

The Mustang Owner’s Museum near Charlotte, North Carolina, will host a Ford Spring Garage Sale on March 28.

The Miles Through Time Museum in Clarkesville, Georgia, will stage a grand re-0pening and cruise-in on April 4. 

The Mustang Owner’s Museum near Charlotte, North Carolina, is making plans for National Mustang Day with several days of activities, including a test and tune on April 16, at Mooresville Dragway; a driver’s choice cruise to various NASCAR race shops or to a winery, distillery and brewery before the Mustang Hall of Fame induction on April 17; a “day at the museum” program on April 18; and a cruise to Mustang specialist Innovative Performance Technologies on April 19. Just confirmed will be an appearance by the 1963 Mustang II concept vehicle.

The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, re-opens its Performance Gallery on April 22. The gallery closed on November 20 for “a much-needed refresh.” 

Does your local car museum have special events or exhibitions planned? Let us know. Email larrye@classiccars.com


A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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