British Motor Museum Volunteers

British Motor Museum Volunteers

Monday 7 December 2015

The waiting is over

After five months of construction the new Collections Centre was finally handed over to the Trust on 9th November, something the volunteers have been eagerly awaiting since their recruitment in July 2012.

Whilst our restoration, vehicle data collection and audio history projects will continue, our main function will now be to act as tour guides at the new Collections Centre. This will house around 230 vehicles, made up of approximately 80 vehicles from the Jaguar Heritage Collection on the ground floor, with the large first floor area containing all the Trust's reserve collection.

In order that we're well prepared for our new roles, everyone has undergone some basic training. This has also been an opportunity for the original 2012 volunteer intake to meet new, recently recruited volunteers, additional numbers being recruited to help at the Collections Centre. Our training also included a full tour of the new building with the Museum's curator Stephen Laing.
Back to school for some training, which included a tour of the Collections Centre

Our next task was to assist with the movement of the reserve collection of vehicles into the new building. The majority of this collection has been stored on site in two large sheds, so a relatively simple push, vehicle tow and push again procedure was adopted to transport them between buildings. With wheels and steering refitted our 1963 Standard Ensign was also moved to its new home where restoration will continue in the New Year.
Vehicle movement involved a lot of pushing and included our Ensign restoration project

Following the arrival of around a half of both the Jaguar and the Trust's reserve collection of cars we had a "soft opening" for museum visitors between 16th and 30th November. This was in order to iron out any possible problems, but perhaps more importantly it gave us a chance to practice our new guiding skills and knowledge.

Volunteers now have their own office and the Jaguar Heritage Collection a new home

It should be explained that both the main museum and the Collections Centre are now closed until 13th February 2016. A lot is now happening at the Gaydon site. The existing museum is now undergoing a major £1 million facelift, allowing vehicles to be better displayed on a variety of levels in themed areas. This will help tell the story of the British motor industry in a much more up to date format. The Collections Centre will be fully stocked with vehicles by then, as will the new workshops, which the public will now be able to view from a special gallery. On top of all this the long running major road works outside the museum should be largely completed by then, providing a much improved entrance to the site.

We look forward to welcoming you from 13 February, when the museum will reopen as the British Motor Museum. Further information and reopening details can all be found on the museums website here.  

Monday 19 October 2015

1960 STANDARD ENSIGN - Continued... PART 13

Latest update and preparing for the move

With the new Collections Centre only a few weeks away from completion and handover, the Ensign is now being prepared for the move. Work on the car will recommence in the New Year once the new building is open and fully running.

The complete restoration and repair of the body shell is now almost complete with just one small repair patch to be welded at the base of the front nearside wing where it meets the sill. This will mark the end of 18 months' hard work by the restoration team who have done an amazing job in rescuing a shell that at one time seemed beyond repair.

So, the task now is to get the wheels back on the car ready for its forthcoming move into the new building. Simply put, we need to get the front and rear axles fitted to accommodate the wheels and then hopefully also get the steering column back in place. 


When in doubt, always consult the manual


Front sub-frame in position and suspension being assembled

It was reassuring to find that with all the repair work carried out around this area, the front sub-frame bolted back on to the chassis with relative ease. All the suspension parts had been fully dismantled and refurbished and the reassembly of so many small parts back on to the sub-frame took a little time and at first a bit of confusion. However, when in doubt, always consult the Workshop Manual and Parts Catalogue, both of which came in very useful.

The rear axle assembly was more straightforward, but on the Ensign it is an extremely heavy item. However, with the aid of a hoist and the car over on its side, secured in the tilt frame, the axle was refitted without too much trouble.


With the aid of a hoist and the car tilted, the rear axle was fitted

The leaf springs were fitted first and again the securing bolts and the new rubber bushes all lined up correctly on the repaired and strengthened chassis plates.

The refitting of the axles has marked quite a turning point for the restoration team for at last reassembly of the car has actually started. The wheels will shortly be fitted, which will then allow us to push the car across to its new home in the Collections Centre. Work on it will continue there, but this time in full public view.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

The Volunteers involvement in the "Car Stories" project

A lot of activity is now going on at the Heritage Motor Centre (HMC) as the building of the new Museum Collections Centre alongside is now progressing fast towards completion. The planned opening is around November time and the "Car Stories" project will form the inaugural exhibition.

Full details of the project will not be disclosed until the opening, but as the name implies it will relate to stories, told by both the young and old about all aspects of cars and the British motor industry. The exhibition will explore the human stories relating to cars and discover how they have and continue to shape our life and experiences. These stories will be told not only orally, but in many other imaginative ways.

Another interesting story recorded by John (on the right) at the Community Open Day

The gathering and recording of all these stories by the Oral History Team has been going on for over two years now and further background information on its work can be found in an earlier blog here.  Mentioned and illustrated in that blog was an interview with volunteer Chris Bramley who worked at Rover's gas-turbine division in the 1960's. This brief one minute audio clip describing the Rover BRM's start at the 1965 Le Mans race is an amusing taster. Click the clip below to listen.

Whilst the volunteers themselves have been the subject of many interesting and sometimes humorous interviews,  members of the general public with a car story to tell have been actively sought and interviewed. At many HMC events, such as Club Expo, the Community Open Day, the Classic Vintage Show and Museums at Night, the Oral History Team has been out and about with microphone and recorder in hand.

Volunteers Brian and John, together with Lara at Sydenham & Lighthorne Heath Primary School where they collected many stories from eager children as well as designing cars with Brian's help.

The team has also been out and about visiting people unable to get to Gaydon, but anxious to tell us their story. One such location has been the British Legion Star and Garter residential home where with so many interesting stories discovered, another visit is planned.

In addition to those with a historical story to tell, "Car Stories" is also very much about the young and how they see cars and their future. As you can imagine some of their stories are highly amusing, with accounts of how their parents take them on some bizarre travel experiences.

Whilst this blog is about the volunteers involvement, it can't be ended without mentioning  Adela Thomas,  HMC's Community Engagement Officer  and artist and photographer  Lara Platman, who together are developing and creating this project. More details can be found on the main HMC website, or you can follow progress on Twitter @HMC_CarStories 

Monday 20 July 2015

Volunteers at shows and events in 2015

A busy year

Helping out at shows and events, either organised by the Heritage Motor Centre (HMC), or where it has a presence, has now become a regular opportunity for the volunteers, allowing us to do something different. The number and success of events put on by the HMC at Gaydon has increased year on year, as well as the number of local shows it attends.

There is a hardcore of around 20 volunteers who regularly attend these events and often a ballot is required to pick who gets to represent the centre.  One of the attractions is no doubt the fact that we often get the chance to drive a rare or classic car to an event.

So, where have we been and what have we done?

Club Expo, Saturday 28th February. This was one of several of these events held at the HMC, attended by six volunteers. The event comprised workshops, talks and seminars where clubs and suppliers could learn more about each other and gain useful hints and tips.

       The last Mini made at Longbridge on display          Volunteers give help and advice at Club Expo

Pride of Longbridge, Saturday 18th April. This was our second visit to this event, attended by three volunteers. Being a Longbridge event, the HMC decided quite rightly that the vehicle to take for display was to be the very last Mini Cooper built at Longbridge. One very happy volunteer was allowed to drive it to and from the event.

Classic Virgins, also on 18th April. Back at the HMC, a further five volunteers took a very active role at this sell-out event, which is designed to encourage and support potential British classic car owners. Some of the volunteers brought along their own classic cars and were able to offer rides and give firsthand experience and advice.

Stratford Festival of Motoring, Sunday 3rd and Monday 4th May. Eight volunteers attended this popular event over the two day Bank Holiday weekend.  Our stand was in the middle of the town and on display were a 1936 MG SA and a 1985 MG Metro 6R4.

Warwick Show and Tell event, Friday 5th May. Four volunteers attended, where a white 1971 Mini Cooper S Mk111 from the collection was on display.

Museums at Night, Saturday 16th May. This was a new event at the HMC, where members of the public were allowed a behind-the-scenes tour. Four volunteers were on hand and part of their task on the night was to try and record some interesting interviews on car related topics for the "Car Stories" project. A blog on this will follow later.

Coventry Festival of Motoring, Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st May. This was probably the biggest event we have covered so far this year. Six volunteers attended over the two days and three cars were on display: a 1965 Alvis TE21 saloon, a 1934 Standard 10/12 Speedline and the big crowd puller, the 1963 Le Mans Rover BRM gas turbine car. This car also did a demonstration run on the ring road, but alas, not by a volunteer on this occasion.

The Rover BRM at Coventry. Volunteer Chris (far right) was part of the Le Mans team in 1965

MG Live at Silverstone, Saturday 20th June. Two volunteers were required for this event where the HMC's presence was to promote its archive department.

More events are in the pipeline for the remainder of the year, with two big three day events among them, the Silverstone Classic and the NEC Classic Car Show.

Future events and shows at the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon can be found here

Wednesday 3 June 2015

1960 STANDARD ENSIGN - Continued... (Part 12)

Light at the end of the tunnel

For regular readers of the blogs on our Ensign, you'll be well aware that the repairing and renovating of the body shell/chassis has been a huge and difficult task for the volunteers. After all the rust and corrosion was removed and the previous poor repairs dealt with, we were left with a shell that many thought was beyond repair.

Where do we start? - was probably the first collective thought, as we were only able to source two prefabricated bottom sills. Everything else, and there was an awful lot of that, we'd have to make, shape and fabricate ourselves. Then, with our initial, very basic welding skills we were faced with the task of welding it all together in the best chronological order to ensure strength and safety.

These photos illustrate the reconstruction work that has taken place on the underside with new forward box sections supporting the engine beams. The nearside sill has still to be welded on.

The prefabricated nearside sill is almost ready for fixing, whilst the offside sill is now in place.

The engine bay has now been transformed, whilst the area around the A post and rear of the front wheel arch (on both sides) is a clear illustration of the extent of some of the repairs required.

There's still a long way to go on this project, but there's now definite light at the end of what many thought a very long tunnel. What has become clear is that amongst the volunteers there is a vast knowledge and love of classic cars, as well as many new found skills in fabricating and welding.


This latest blog coincides with National Volunteers Week (1 - 7 June), where up and down the country, organisations will celebrate and recognise the work of their volunteer helpers. The Heritage Motor Centre will be playing their part with comments on their Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as treating their volunteers each day to an afternoon cream tea.

Monday's volunteers, together with HMC Workshop Team Leader Paul and Volunteer Co-ordinator Sonja enjoy their "thank you" from the Heritage Motor Centre.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

A request from the volunteers

"Come and join us here"

This is an artist's impression of what the Heritage Motor Centre's new Museum Collections Centre will look like. Construction work is now well underway and on schedule for opening on 1st October.

As a result more volunteers will be required to help run this excellent new building, which will house a diverse collection of British built cars and prototypes. The role involves facilitating access to the new museum for public viewing, guiding tours and valeting the collection.

So, if you have an interest in motor cars, the motor industry, people, or just want a project for your spare time - then why not get involved? No previous experience is required - so why not join us? The Trust would love to hear from you.

 There's not much to see at the moment as the ground work continues and the footings are laid.
The steelwork is due soon and then the building will really start to take shape. 

If you've not visited this blog before then do trawl through the archives which will give you a good idea of who we are and what we get up to. Our first blog "About us" is a good starting point.

If you follow this link here to the HMC's website can check the volunteer role profiles and download or fill-in an online form or request one by post.

For more information contact the Volunteer Co-ordinator on 01926 645027 or email

Wednesday 15 April 2015

1960 Standard Ensign - Continued...(PART 11)

1960 STANDARD ENSIGN - (Part 11)

Engine update

Our last blog on the engine (Part 9) gave a general overview of the engine's condition following a complete strip down of all its parts. This in turn revealed one of our main concerns, that the head did indeed have a crack in it. We also needed new piston rings, which we were finding difficult to source.
So, after a thorough detailed inspection and much debate, the general consensus of opinion was that the head could and should be repaired. Also it was decided that we should insert new liners with appropriate new pistons. All this work was carried out by a local third party specialist.

The crack was right in the centre of the head and you may just be able to pick out the pins which were inserted to secure the weld.

These photos show the new liners in the Standard's 1570cc petrol engine and one of the new pistons.
Whilst as explained in previous blogs, the body/chassis is still a major restoration task for the volunteers, the engine and gearbox project is now progressing well.
Incidentally, when the engine was away for repair, the team that has been working on it was presented with another task: to - build a new V8 engine. Well, actually it was a very intricate and clever working model that the museum's education department wanted as a demonstrator for children. It proved quite a challenging task at times, but also very amusing and enjoyable.

Roger, Mike and John hope that the Ensign's engine will run as smooth as the model's.

Tuesday 17 March 2015

The Archive Volunteers

Whilst this blog has always featured the activities of the volunteers recruited in 2012 as part of the new Museum Collections Centre, we certainly must not forget the work of Colin, Oliver and John, who between them have been volunteering for a total of around 24 years already. They are very much the back room boys, working out of the archive department, with a huge collective knowledge of the British motor industry.

The archive collections originated from the British Leyland Corporation, which began gathering such material from its constituent companies in 1975. The archive’s role is to preserve the surviving records of some of the most famous names in British motoring history. This comprises of; brochures and sales literature, press material, workshop manuals and handbooks, production records, business records, which include things like minutes from board meetings, films, negatives and photos.

 Colin evaluating documents and transferring them to an acid-free box. Behind is an expanse of sorted boxes.
The British Leyland archives are at the core of the collections, but in addition other automotive supplier companies such as Lucas Industries are represented. They also feature the work and history of people such as Herbert Austin, William Morris, and Alec Issigonis plus items likethe archives of motoring journalist Nick Baldwin.

So, as you can imagine the collating, labelling, documenting and filing of such a vast archive, which is always growing, requires a willing and knowledgeable workforce. This is where the archive department's three volunteers play such an important part. They are:-

Colin, perhaps better known as the Vicar of Longbridge, has been volunteering the longest at around 13 years. His broad knowledge of the British motor industry is a huge asset to the department and he has under taken many sorting and cataloguing tasks over the years. His specialist subject is without doubt the life and times of the Austin Allegro.

Oliver is a former BBC editor and has been volunteering for 10 years. He tends to specialise in the sorting and labelling of film material, as well as working with the archive’s oldest glass negatives, dating back to as early as 1900, which have up till now been unlisted and unsorted.

John is the new boy, who joined the team just over a year ago. He's a retired long time Longbridge engineer with a detailed knowledge of the company. One of John's main tasks has been to help with the sorting and reboxing of material that were rescued from the Longbridge factory when MG Rover finally closed in 2005.

Oliver and John study an old glass negative on the lightbox

Details of the archive services, together with a list of all the marques for which records are available can be found on the Heritage Motor Centre's website, here. You can also see the link to "Document of the Month" a new feature just launched which is well worth a read. Please also do have a look at the FAQ link which covers the main queries received by the department.

Thursday 26 February 2015

1960 Standard Ensign - Continued...(PART 10)

A big challenge

This blog has rather neglected our restoration of the Standard over recent weeks, mainly because progress has been slow. This is certainly not due to any lack of enthusiasm, but simply because the nature of the work required on the car has been very difficult and at times testing. It should be remembered that the chassis/body of our  Ensign model was in a very sorry state – beyond repair, some thought. Added to this our collective experience and knowledge of metalwork and welding at such a demanding level was somewhat limited.


Thursday 5 February 2015

2015 - A busy and special year for the volunteers

One of the main reasons the volunteers were recruited back in July 2012 was that they would become an integral part of the new Museum Collections Centre at the Heritage Motor Centre's (HMC) Gaydon site. As with most big projects, especially where lottery funding and planning is involved, progress has been slow. However, the builders have now arrived and progress is already well underway, with completion and opening anticipated for early October. The volunteers can't wait.

Behind the fence work is now underway on the new Collections Centre

Meanwhile work continues with our three main projects, restoration of the 1958 Standard Ensign, vehicle data recording of the Trust's entire collection and the Oral History project.

The Standard, as explained in previous blogs, was in a very poor state chassis-wise, but good progress is now being made. This blog will give an update of the current situation soon.

The data team continues its laborious, but interesting, task of researching and collating detail on every vehicle in the museum. The fruits of their labour will greatly enhance the viewing experience of the new Collections Centre, particularly among the technically minded.

The curator gets an update from the data team project leaders

Having interviewed HMC-based colleagues and fellow volunteers, the Oral History team is now busy interviewing  people who have an interesting motor industry story to tell, past or present, as part of the "Car Stories" project for the new Collections Centre. With the protection of unanimity, great stories are emerging from those who held roles across the motor industry, from secretaries to senior managers and shop floor workers.

A volunteer from the oral history team conducts an interview

If that's not enough to keep us all busy, there's yet more to do in 2015. Previous blogs explained that volunteers will be very much involved in the two "Classic Virgin Experience Days", while shortly volunteers will be going out to the local community to give presentations on what the new Collections Centre is all about.

Volunteers are now being recruited to help out at the popular Club Expo on 28th February and more requests will follow for other HMC-based events. HMC will be announcing future events that they will be attending in due course and it is more than likely that volunteers will also be asked to assist at shows and festivals where the HMC has a presence.

So, a busy and exciting year lies ahead. All we need to do now is to persuade the Tuesday Resto Baker Boys to make a special cake for the opening of the Museum Collections Centre.

Details of all the activities etc. at Gaydon can be found on the HMC website here 

Wednesday 7 January 2015

2015 and volunteers doing more volunteering

One great thing about volunteering at the Heritage Motor Centre (HMC) is that there always seems to be new opportunities to get involved in. This blog briefly outlines two recent invitations to support the work of the museum, both of which have had plenty of willing takers.

The first involves spreading the word to local communities and organisations about the new Museum Collections Centre, as well as giving them a brief history of the Heritage Motor Centre and what it has to offer. The volunteers will be very much part of this outreach programme, which is being led by Adela Thomas, the HMC's community engagement officer.

The project kicked off in early November with a Community Open Day, when some local groups were invited to the HMC for a presentation and tour of the museum. These included a Scout group, youth centre, WI and Probus groups and staff from a local school. The volunteers' main role will now be to go out into the community and give presentations to any club or organisation who would like a better understanding as to what the HMC and the new Collections Centre are all about as well as details of their exciting plans for the future.

 Community Open Day presentation - our turn next

So, if you're within about 15 miles of Gaydon and would like a talk, then do please give Adela a call on her work mobile number, 07857 349904. We'll come armed with an interesting Power Point presentation, which also covers the history of the Gaydon site and a few unusual motoring related artefacts from the museum's collection. 

The second opportunity we've been presented with involves helping with the running of an HMC initiative known as the, "Classic Virgins Experience Day". The first one took place in September 2013, followed by a further two in 2014. This year two more are planned in April and September and due to their success more help from the volunteers has been requested.
Volunteers help out with instruction in the workshop section of the day

Run by course director, Bob Wilkinson, the Classic Virgins Experience Day is a hands-on, informative event aimed at those considering buying and owning a classic car. The day also gives participants a chance to ride in a range of classic vehicles along country roads. To quote one participant from the last course "I always wanted one but never had the courage to take the next step ... after today I will be doing that. I now realise how clubs offer support to owners too, which is a great help"

 Bob recently briefed all the volunteers who put their names forward. Given that all of them own one or more classic cars which they've restored, he clearly has some able and experienced helpers.

For more information, enrolment details and the 2015 dates look here