British Motor Museum Volunteers

British Motor Museum Volunteers

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.

Monday 18 April 2016

Volunteers settle into their new roles

Owing to a trip down under to New Zealand, it's been some time since I wrote our last blog in early January. During that time a lot has happened at the British Motor Museum.

The refurbished Museum, along with the new Collections Centre, opened to the press on 12 February and then the general public the following day. This generated a lot of interest, both locally and nationally with good press and TV coverage. The reopening also coincided with school half-term, which ensured a great initial turn out from the public.

Prior to the reopening the volunteers spent several days helping the Museum's staff move all the stored vehicles into their appropriate new locations, either within the existing refurbished Museum, or in the Collections Centre.


As can be clearly seen, some vehicles were far more easily moved than others

The Museum now contains around 80 vehicles, arranged in themed areas, such as the Time Road, Prototypes, Sport cars etc., with educational graphics and interactive displays.  The Collection Centre, which is a separate new building, contains the Museum's reserve collection of cars on the first floor with the Jaguar Heritage Collection on the ground floor. All can be viewed as part of the Museum's general admission ticket.


Good game - trying to arrange all the reserve collection in rough date order

Although the volunteers are still involved in many other projects at the Museum, our main involvement is now acting as guides at the new Collections Centre. Whilst the public is free to roam around the main Museum at leisure, viewing of the Collection Centre must be supervised and controlled by tour guides.

        Volunteers love a bit of polishing     Our restoration project has a new home

 As I write, the exact arrangements for tours are still the subject of some discussion and feedback analysis. The basic plan is still to have around four guided tours per day, which should be booked if possible on arrival at the pay desk. However, on busy school holiday periods for instance, we've already trialled a general "open house" period, which seems to work well. So, please check at the pay desk on arrival for Collection Centre tour details. 

Friday 15 January 2016

Good bye Heritage Motor Centre and hello British Motor Museum

Our last blog of 2015 ended with the news that the Heritage Motor Centre (HMC) was about to close for a complete £1 million refurbishment. Furthermore, when it reopens in February it will have a new name, the British Motor Museum , which along with the new Collections Centre, will house nearly 400 British-built vehicles from 1896 to the present day.

The British Motor Museum launch at the Classic Car Show in November

As usual the volunteers have played their part in all this exciting activity. The change in name, the new logo and refurbishment plans were announced to the press on 13th November at the NEC Classic Car Show. Three different volunteers helped man the Museum's stand throughout each day of the show providing information on all the forthcoming changes.

The HMC closed its doors on 1st December and straightaway the task of removing all the existing vehicles and exhibits was started. The call for volunteer help was made and within three days an enthusiastic group of volunteers assisted the Museum's workshop staff in completely clearing the main Museum floor space. Unfortunately none of us got the chance to move the McLaren MP4-12C, the Aston Martins or other exotica, but one of us did get the chance to pedal out the Sinclair C5!

              Key sorting and labelling starts              Moving cars prior to the refurbishment

Another task we were asked to assist with was - ignition key sorting and numbering. As you can no doubt imagine, with a large collection of vehicles, also comes an even larger selection of ignition, door, boot, filler cap and glove box keys. Large bags of them in fact.  Not the work of a moment this, but soon a huge, well labelled and documented collection of keys will make the curator's life a whole lot easier.

The  year was rounded off for us when we were invited to join the staff for their Christmas lunch. It was another chance for the volunteers, especially our new intake, to get together again. The opportunity was also taken to get an up-to-date photo of us all outside the new Collections Centre.

 Photo call outside the new Collections Centre was followed by Christmas lunch

Work is now well underway on the Museum's refurbishment and from a quick peep through the windows, it already looks quite different and exciting. The widened approach drive was completed before Christmas and the new Museum entrance area is starting to take shape. Exciting times.

The reopening date is 13th February and further information can be found on the Museum's new website or by following on Twitter @BMMuseum. Also by clicking on "View my complete profile" to the right of this page you now have access to the Blogger profile.