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Beaulieu, Hants, 6 January, 2013

The National Motor Museum was founded over half a century ago, in 1956, by Lord Montagu as a tribute to his father, who one of the pioneers of motorised transport in Great Britain. The museum has grown in size and stature from those early days, and in 1970 Lord Montagu founded a charitable trust to ensure the longevity of the collection as a national heritage. In 1972 a new purpose made building was constructed to house the collection of vehicles, and this was officially opened that year by HRH The Duke of Kent, himself a renowned motoring aficionado. In 1988 the Trust Centre was constructed to house the archives, reserve collection and educational facilities. Today it is much more than just a motor museum, which is the home to some 250 plus vehicles, with a veritable treasure trove of associated motoring ephemera, spanning virtually from the dawn of motoring to the present day, but also a research centre and a charitable educational facility.

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The scope of vehicles in the museum is truly eclectic, ranging from veteran cars from the turn of the 20th Century, like an 1898 Constatt Daimler and a 1907 Itala, through every era to the present day, with a 2012 Chevrolet Aveo rubbing shoulders with a 1986 Ford Sierra RS Cosworth. The vehicles also cover virtually aspect of motoring, from humble sixties family saloons like the Austin 7 Mini, Ford Cortina and Hillman Imp through to pre and post war Rolls Royces, commercial vehicles, motorcycles and scooters, to F1 cars and World Speed Record holders, like Henry Segrave’s Golden Arrow, and Donald Campbell’s Bluebird. There are also the odd and quirky exhibits like the 1926 Eccles caravan, the mini “Royal Caravan”, presented to Prince Charles and Princess Anne when they were children in the mid fifties, by the Caravan Club of Great Britain. Even more unusual are the 1924 Daimler “Bottle Lorry” and the sixties Mini based “Outspan Orange” promotional vehicles. In the centre of the museum there is Jack’s Garage, a recreation of a thirties garage, utilising all original period artefacts – a real trip back in time. Nearby there is a beautifully presented facsimile of a high street with shop fronts of a now long gone era, plus other long lost vehicles from the British streets, the mobile grocer’s van, United Dairies milk float and delivery bicycle. Every time you turn a corner there is something that catches your interest, or sparks pangs of nostalgia.

Apart from the permanent exhibits, there are frequently themed exhibitions, with two currently running. One of these features the various crazy car concoctions from the ever popular TV series Top Gear, in the “Enormodrome”, like the Fiat Panda Limousine, Relaint Robin Space Shuttle and the Snowbine! There is also a video show running through the day showing clips from the series and behind the scenes footage. With the 50th anniversary of the James Bond films in 2012, an exhibition “Bond in Motion” has been held to commemorate this occasion, featuring many of the vehicles and special effect props used in the films over the years. These include the Aston Martin DB5, which made a return to Bond films in the 1995 film “Golden Eye”, and appeared for the fifth time in the latest record breaking blockbuster “Skyfall”. There is also one of seven Aston Martin DBS models used in “Quantum of Solace”, complete with bullet hole riddled windscreen an torn out left side. It is not only the cars that are on display, there is also the model of the Skyfleet S570 airliner from “Casino Royale”, the Bath-O-Sub from “Diamonds Are Forever”, the Acrostar jet from “Octopussy”, and many more iconic Bond items. This exhibition was supposed to run through to the end of 2012, but has proved to such an enormous success, that it has been extended through to February 2014. A smaller feature display is one of “Screen Cars”, which includes the renowned Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Harry Potter’s flying Ford Anglia and the “Back to the Future” De Lorean.

The museum is situated in the heart of the New Forest in Hampshire in the grounds of the 7000 acre Beaulieu Estate, which also includes the Montagu family home, Palace House, and its expansive gardens, together with Beaulieu Abbey, entrance to all being include in the overall admission fee. The scope of the attractions on offer really make it a truly varied and interesting family day out, and with the choice of walking, taking the Monorail, which actually runs at high level through the museum, or replica 1912 London bus as transport around the estate, it is easy to get between the various points of interest. If one feels the need for inner refreshment, then there is the 400 seat Brabazon Restaurant close to the main entrance, which serves everything from home made light snacks and pastries to a full roast lunch. If you are planning to visit all the attractions, then a day might not quite be enough to fully appreciate everything on offer. However, all is not lost, as if you return within 6 days you can re-enter free of charge on your original ticket purchase, so long as you advise reception and get verification before you leave on your original visit.

Opening Times as of January 2013
01 October to 01 June, 10.00 – 17.00
02 June to 30 September, 10.00 – 18.00
Closed Christmas Day

Admission Fees as of January 2013
Adults ... £20.00
Senior (60+) ... £18.00
Youth (13 – 17 Inc’) ... £12.00
Child (5 – 12 Inc’) ... £9.95
Family ... £52.50*
Children under 5 years of age Free
*A family ticket is valid for 2 adults and up to 3 children/youths, or 1 adult and up to four children/youths.

N.B. There is a discount for advance booking on line

There are special rates for disabled people and their carers.
Enquiries for group bookings and specific requests for the group should be directed to the enquiry form on the website as given above.

Keith Bluemel