British Motor Museum Volunteers

British Motor Museum Volunteers

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The British motor industry: what is the road ahead?

A Volunteers view

On 25 March, several volunteers attended a new Museum initiative, a one day series of lectures, open to the public, devoted to the future of the British Motor Industry.  Five well-respected and industry-leading professionals gave an overview of where the British car industry is today, how it got there and how they expected it to evolve over the coming years. Volunteer Ian Hicks played a significant role in organising the event as he described in our previous blog. Here he now gives his scenario on what that future might look like in 40 years time:

Spring 2057
Stephen gets into his L segment personal transport, ready for his drive into work. The journey will take him around 30 minutes each way, apparently, the same amount of time people used to commute to work 100 years ago. Whilst he prepares to drive off, he reflects that the 1990’s phenomenon of telecommuting and virtual offices never really materialised. People still needed to travel to their places of work, they still needed to interact with people and things.

His personal transport, the latest Changhong model, built in Coventry, is a single seater. Despite its battery and electric drives, it weighs in at a mere 150 kg and has a range of 150 miles before it needs recharging. This is perfect, since 98% of his journeys are 50 miles or less. On the occasions Stephen wants to take the family out for weekend trips or holidays, he contacts Changhong from his “connected car” and they arrange a family size electric vehicle as part of his “servicisation” package. There’s no longer the need to purchase or contract hire the largest vehicle to suit all needs.

Checking the controls of his personal transport, he selects the FOHOBO controller for his commute. This is a recent innovation, where he can select “Feet-Off” where the car controls speed and braking only; or “Hands-Off” where the car controls position and direction or “Brain-Off” where the car operates in fully autonomous mode.

On his way to the Motor Museum, where he is curator, the speed of his car is controlled by smart loops set into the road, relaying speed information to the car’s controller. Despite more autonomy in controlling cars, there are still strict speed limits in place, mainly to protect pedestrians, cyclists and those drivers still not using fully autonomous cars. Even though cars have been in use in Britain for over 150 years, there’s only been one four-year period, 1930 to 1934 when drivers and their cars have not had to comply with speed limits.  

Stephen contemplates his latest acquisitions for the Museum’s collection; it’s a 2025 Jaguar G type, a fully-electric vehicle and the last model ever produced at Castle Bromwich. The car is in lovely condition, and the crew at the museum will be able to maintain the mechanical components and even the electric drives.  However, the software controllers for the FOHOBO and environment connectivity are no longer made and with over 10 million lines of software are beyond the skills of his support crew and challenge even the most dedicated software developers, who are a dying breed these days.

Stephen Laing (Curator) far left and the panel of leading industry experts

Tata were one of the winners in the so-called Brexit impacts when UK distanced itself from the European car market.  The Brexit negotiations resulted in high tariffs imposed on UK produced cars being sold in Europe but strong demand in the other regions of the globe meant that the Jaguar brand was able to sustain its market position. It was a pity about Europe, but in common with other manufacturers, Tata needed to produce vehicles that complied with global specifications, producing cars with regional variations meeting local specifications wasn’t good business. The success of Tata and others with UK manufacture was to be applauded, but UK was still only the 13th largest producer in the world…. Exactly the same position as it occupied in 2017.

As he arrived at the Museum, he thought back to something he’d read recently in the Museum archives. Back in March 2017, a British MP, Sir Greg Knight had advised Museum attendees that now’s the time to buy and own a classic. How prophetic Sir Greg was. Since then legislation, environmental concerns and the wholesale replacement of petrol stations with supermarket charging points meant that internal combustion cars were no longer viable, even on the shortest journeys. Of the 500 cars in the collection, this meant that over 350 were genuinely just museum pieces……. But that didn’t seem to stop the public being really interested in this transport of yesteryear.  

Friday, 3 March 2017

Organising a show piece event - a volunteer goes the extra mile
Our last blog described some of the other opportunities and activities that come our way whilst volunteering at the Museum. However, one of our colleagues, Ian Hicks, went the extra mile, when in September last year he volunteered to become one of the prime organisers for the forthcoming British Motor Museum Symposium on 25 March.

This is Ian’s fascinating story of what it all involved;
“How volunteering at British Motor Museum took me to Westminster’s Brexit debate"

When I joined the museum as a Collection Centre guide in April 2016, little did I think that this volunteering would take me to the seat of democracy, Westminster’s Houses of Parliament, watching the most significant debate in living memory unfold in front of me.

Back in early February, I found myself meeting Sir Greg Knight, MP for East Yorkshire, together with Stephen Laing, our curator and Steve Cropley, Editor in Chief of Autocar and Trustee of the Museum.

The meeting was concluding and Sir Greg invited the three of us to watch the Brexit debate from the visitor’s gallery in the Commons. We felt we were watching history in the making as well-known and slightly less famous politicians debated the impact Brexit would have on the UK’s nuclear industry.      

My route to the Brexit debate started when I met with Emma Rawlinson.  As Family and Lifelong Learning Officer, Emma was on the lookout for people to help with many projects, one of which was to organise a symposium. This was a new initiative for the Museum, which had received funding from the Arts Council for the event. I have some experience organising similar events, so I was happy to help out. 

Our starting point was a theme for the symposium: A celebration of the British Motor Car. It was to be a one day event on 25 March. Stephen Laing, Curator of the Museum, had already volunteered to Chair the event.

Ian, Tim Bryan and Emma Rawlinson putting the finishing touches to symposium fliers

We wanted to attract a group of well-known industry figures to present their view of the future of the British Motor Car and the automotive industry.

As Chairman of the All-party Parliamentary Group for Historic Vehicles, Sir Greg Knight was high on our list of “must-have” presenters. Coincidentally, we first approached Sir Greg’s office around the time of the EU referendum on 23 June. The initial signs were good, he seemed interested. But to get to speak to the MP and Privy Councillor was more challenging, especially as the whole Conservative leadership contest was unfolding following the resignation of David Cameron.  We had to wait patiently as the contest played out and the majority party stabilised again.    

While we were waiting, we took the opportunity to sign up other people on our must-have list. With their expertise in car manufacture in the Midlands region, we were happy to get the green light from Professor David Morris and Dr. Jason Begley from Coventry University.  David Bailey, Professor at Aston Business School, regularly appears on television giving his strategic industry overview of car manufacture in the UK.   He knows the museum well and was happy to support our symposium.

Steve Cropley, Editor in Chief of Autocar and Trustee of the museum found out about the symposium and was happy to volunteer his services as a presenter, explaining how the press and social media play an important role in car ownership decisions. Steve has also been a great help in refining our marketing messages for the event, he’s a real supporter of the Museum.

Finally, thanks to Stephen Laing’s network, we convinced Professor David Greenwood, originally with Ricardo, latterly with WMG at the University of Warwick, to share his views. David is a thought leader and future technologist. He’s the man to set the scene for battery and hydrogen power, autonomous vehicles and the like.

So finally, in mid-January, we got an invite to attend the Houses of Parliament to meet Sir Greg. It turns out he has a real passion for classic cars. He owns a number of historic cars, including an Allard, a Cord, a Studebaker, a Rover P5B Coupe and four Jensens! He was really enthused to explain how he represents the interests of classic car owners against some of the more interesting planned legislation.

Sir Greg Knight in his 1952 Allard P1

Since meeting with Sir Greg, it’s been flat out finalising marketing material, press releases, mail-shots, e-shots and taking all opportunities to promote the symposium.  As well as relentless promotion and marketing of the symposium we still have to create flyers for advertising at Museum events, we have to create presenter and audience packs and arrange all the logistics. There’s lot still to do.

Then, once we’ve got this one under our belt we’ll be straight into arranging a Christmas lecture and practical for 12 to 18-year-olds. We’re already planning for symposium events for 2018. It’s non-stop.”

Further full and up to date details of the Symposium can be found on the Museums website here 

Tickets are still available and can be bought online. I’ve just bought mine for what will surely be a fascinating and interesting day for any car enthusiast.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Catching up with some of our other activities and rewards

One of the great things about being a volunteer at the British Motor Museum is that we get the chance to become involved in a wide range of other activities besides our normal duties and projects. This blog gives a brief overview of what else some of us have been up to over the last six months.

The Classic Virgins Experience Day is perhaps one of the best examples of this, where volunteers have now become an integral part of this popular one day course. Put simply, the day is for members of the public who have an interest in owning a classic car, but need more knowledge and experience of what it actually entails. Theory and basic maintenance sessions are given as well as rides in a variety of classic cars – some owned by the volunteers themselves. The next Classic Virgins will be held on 22 April, details of which can be found here.

Volunteers in the Museum’s workshop examine a variety of classic cars

An event that always attracts a large number of volunteers is the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show at the NEC in November. On your feet, manning a stand from 10am. until 6pm. – talking classic cars is dream ticket for some of our volunteers. However, as only three volunteers are required for each of the show’s three days, a ballot is necessary to select the lucky nine.


Manning the British Motor Museum’s stand at the NEC in November

The Museum’s popular annual Christmas Lecture took place on 3 December and featured Steve Liddle, Principal Aerodynamicist at Renault Sport F1 Racing. Following his lecture and a brief lunch break, delegates returned to put what they’d learned into practice, by building some simple small electric model cars, incorporating their own take on what they’d learned regarding aerodynamic efficiency. This is where four of our volunteers played their part, as following a training day in November, they were well briefed to have an enjoyable time helping and advising with the model building.

Volunteers training and model building for the Christmas Lecture

Whilst we, as do most volunteers, give up our free time to get involved in projects we have an interest in, it’s always nice to be rewarded or recognised. The British Motor Museum is very good at that and once again we were all invited to their annual Christmas Dinner on 19 December. Prior to that, a day trip down to Luton to visit Vauxhall’s Heritage Centre was also arranged for us all. This was particularly interesting as the centre only opens by appointment and two guides were on duty to show us around and explain the history of the exhibits.

Our well attended day trip to the Vauxhall Heritage Centre was of great interest

Finally, it was nice to be recognised at the inaugural West Midlands Volunteers Awards, organised by the West Midlands Museum Development. Held at the Birmingham Hippodrome back in September and hosted by local BBC journalist Sarah Falkard, the Museum had two finalists in the eight categories. The first was the Project Award, for this very blog and the second for Working Together, for the whole team at the new Collections Centre. Whilst we didn’t come away with the top prize in either category it was nice for our work to be recognised and to come away with nomination placques. The three of us who went had a good night out as well!

Roger King and Cameron Slater (Working Together) and Roger Gollicker (Project Award)

Thursday, 24 November 2016

1960 STANDARD ENSIGN (Part 15)

The painting starts

The slight fragrant smell of paint around the Ensign in recent weeks is a good indication that one of the final restoration tasks is now well underway. Whilst the body shell interior, engine bay and underside were all hand brush- painted some time ago, the exterior is now receiving attention.

The engine bay was hand painted by brush

As the Museum no longer has a paint booth available for resprays, and sending the shell out to a third party would have blown our restoration budget, the volunteers had to come up with an alternative solution. Hand spray cans, brush and rollers were all considered. Because of where the Ensign is situated in the new Collections Centre, spraying, even via aerosols, was not going to be permitted. The choice therefore, was essentially, between brush and roller.
Careful roller application and the nearside rear awaiting a rub down

The final decision was made a lot easier, thanks to volunteer John Rathbone, who took the bonnet home to do a bit of experimenting. Trying both methods - his skill, effort and a fair bit of elbow grease showed that the careful application of paint by roller was the best option.
Painting, rubbing and polishing – the effort well illustrated

So, after the initial brush-painted coat of grey primer, the rolling of the carefully matched Ensign Grey Wing synthetic coach enamel gloss paint began. As many readers will know, the dreaded orange peel effect is always something that catches the eye of even the casual observer of a car’s paintwork. To combat this, a lot of effort has been put into rubbing the paintwork down between coats with a special restoration compound. After three coats and a lot of polishing, the results to this writer’s admittedly untrained eye, already look excellent.

The dashboard and door cappings have also recently been repainted

Ironically, any further work on the Ensign has now had to stop for a few weeks because of, guess what? More painting! The Collections Centre’s first floor, where both the Ensign and the Museum’s reserve collection are situated, is being sealed and painted. The fragrant smell of paint is with us again.

To read the full restoration story click here

Monday, 3 October 2016

Volunteering at shows and events throughout 2016

As in previous years the British Motor Museum has been very active in attending motoring related shows and events throughout the Midlands. This year’s presence has been even more significant as it has given the Museum the opportunity to really promote its refurbishment over the winter and the opening of the new Collections Centre.

The help of volunteers at these events has now become integral to their success and a hard-core of regulars now put their names forward to help. In many cases a ballot has to be held to select the chosen few. Whilst most vehicles on display are tailored to events, some lucky volunteers occasionally get the chance to drive a car to the venue.

So, where have we been so far this year and did you see us?

Race Retro Show at Stoneleigh, Nr Warwick – 26 February                                                                 
A very local event - this is Europe’s pre-season historic motorsport event for racing drivers, preparers, trade and public enthusiasts. Two volunteers, Robin Lock and John Bartlett, attended this event for the one day where the Museum exhibited some appropriate vehicles in the form of a 1935 Austin Seven side valve racer, the famous 1965 Rover-BRM gas turbine Le Mans car and a 1997 Paris/Dakar Land Rover Discovery.

Stratford upon Avon Festival of Motoring – 1 and 2 May

This increasingly popular Bank Holiday event attracts not only classic car enthusiasts, but large numbers of the general public, giving the Museum an excellent opportunity to promote itself. Five volunteers, Chris Bramley, Brian Richardson, Nick Manley, Roger Pantling and Doug Armer, helped to man the stand and spread the word throughout the weekend. On display were the 1935 Austin Seven side valve racer and a big attraction for families was the 2002 Jaguar XK-R James Bond car from the Die Another Day film.

Coventry MotoFest – 4 and 5 June                                      

Now in its third year, this is rapidly becoming a must see event for the local motorsport and classic car enthusiast, with live action on closed roads. Not only did the Museum take along four cars for display, but two of them, the Paddy Hopkirk 1964 Monte Carlo Rally winning Mini Cooper S and the 1965 gas turbine Rover-BRM, were in action on the Ring Road circuit. Six volunteers, Norman Lee, John Bartlett, John Lambert, Philip Casey, John Sheffield and Nigel Porter, were kept busy over the weekend looking after the stand which also included a 1974 Triumph TR6 and a 1965 Alvis TE21, both very locally built cars.

Coventry MotoFest

Silverstone Classic – 29, 30 and 31 July 

Another huge motorsport event for the classic car enthusiast with both static displays and race track action on all three days. Last year, the Rover-BRM provided some track action, but this year our display was purely static with again the 1935 Austin Seven racer, plus the Rauno Aaltonen 1967 Monte Carlo winning Mini Cooper S. Over the three days, volunteers Chris and Jan Bramley, Norman Lee, Brian Rainbow, Roy Thole, Roger Williamson, David Wise and Peter Burke were on duty.

Silverstone Classic

British Motor Museum Family Festival, Gaydon – 31 July

This was a busy weekend for volunteers as apart from those at Silverstone on the same day, four volunteers, Ian Hicks, John Lambert, John Tamkins and Tony Bagley were helping out on home soil. New for this year, this was a fun filled family day of art and science activities all themed around the British motor industry. This included being driven around the Museum’s grounds in a 1952 Riley RMA.

Compton Verney 1950s Vintage Day – 6 August                                                

Just down the road from the Museum, Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park put on this one day fun event celebrating everything about the 1950s. The Museum was invited to join in the fun and volunteers John Lambert and Leslie Gunde drove a 1966 Austin Healey 3000 Mk111 and the 1952 Riley to the event to entertain the public.

RetroWarwick Classic Car Show – 14 August                                         

Held in Warwick’s picturesque market square this popular annual event attracts around 150 pre-1990 classic and retro cars. Again, the Museum brought along the 1952 Riley RMA and the 1966 Austin Healey 3000, driven to and from the event by volunteers, John Sheffield, Chris Fieldhouse and Alec Evans.

Retro Warwick

Our final event of the year will be part of the British Motor Museum’s stand at the annual Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show at the NEC from 11 to 13 November. We’ll be on Stand 150 in Hall 2, exhibiting the 1967 Aaltonen Monte Carlo winning Mini, HUE the famous Mk1 Land Rover and a 1899 Wolseley Voiturette. Do come along and say hello.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Volunteers at the Collections Centre – the story so far

The new Collections Centre, along with the refurbished Museum, has been open for around six months, attracting many more visitors than was originally thought. The volunteers have played an integral part in making this possible - informing, assisting and guiding visitors around the 250-plus vehicles that are now housed in this modern new building.

To help improve our guiding skills and interaction with the public, all the volunteers were offered the chance to attend a half-day training course. Many took up this opportunity and course leader Peter Leake did not disappoint with a very well-structured and often amusing talk. Peter has spent many years working in the motor industry and his tales and advice from many years attending motor shows was particularly enlightening.

          One of several training courses made available    A tour introduction by a volunteer

For those who have not yet visited the Collections Centre, it is perhaps worth mentioning a few things about this new venture. Firstly, admission is included in the price of your general admission ticket to the British Motor Museum. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it is not a museum as such. Like most museums, only around a third of its exhibits are ever on show at any one time in the main museum, with the remaining two thirds away from public view in storage somewhere. The British Motor Museum, prior to the addition of the Collections Centre, used to be no different, with around 200 vehicles in storage, on or off site. The Collections Centre now gives the public the opportunity to view all these previously hidden vehicles in what is surely one of the most exclusive car parks in the country.

The ground floor at the Collections Centre is also the new home for the Jaguar Heritage Collection, which numbers around 70 vehicles on display at any one time. Originally housed at the old Browns Lane, Coventry factory, this working collection contains some very interesting and valuable vehicles. Only the other week, two of the collection, an original E-Type and the XJ13, appeared on TV’s Top Gear programme.

 The ground floor Jaguar Heritage Collection

Up until recently on week days, viewing at the Collections Centre had been by way of four volunteer led, guided tours spread throughout the day. However, in view of the initial viewing demand and the busy summer and school holiday period, viewing is now on a free roaming basis between 10.30 am and 5 pm. Volunteer guides will however still be on hand to supervise visitors and answer any queries. This will be trialled until October as part of the Museum’s constant monitoring of customer feedback and requests. Meanwhile, it is advised to always consult the Museum’s website before a planned visit.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

1960 STANDARD ENSIGN (Part 14)

Work recommences in new location

Regular readers of this blog may have been wondering what has happened regarding our Ensign restoration project. Well, for a couple of months, not a lot really, work had to stop and the project was mothballed because of the complete refurbishment of the museum.

However, all that is now behind us and as was mentioned in the last restoration blog the Ensign now has a new home in the Collections Centre, which opened on 13 February. Installed on the first floor, the restoration of the Ensign can be viewed by all visitors to the Collections Centre, who also now have the opportunity to discuss anything with the volunteers.

Installed in its new location, the unpacking and sorting begins

One of the first jobs the restoration team needed to complete was the cutting, shaping and welding of the final piece of bodywork repair. This was a small section of bodywork at the base of the nearside front wing, which lines up with the bottom sill. It is not possible to weld in the car’s new location, so it was somewhat unfortunate that time ran out to complete this final bit of the jigsaw before the move.

However, given what has already been achieved on repairing this car, this was a problem easily solved. The following sequence of photos illustrates well what this final repair entailed and the skills our mostly untrained volunteers have acquired during this project.

 The area for repair is cleaned and prepared, whilst the new section is cut and shaped

Clamped in place, the repair looks good. The wing is then removed and the new section spot welded

Final weld is completed in the workshop tent and then the wing is refitted and the repair finished

This repair marks the end of the body and chassis restoration and the refitting of parts and components has now started. Further blogs will continue to update you with progress, but why not visit the new Museum and Collections Centre and see the project yourself.