Monday, February 18, 2013

Overview of National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, England

British race cars at National Motor Museum,
Beaulieu, England, by Kate Tompkins

A week and a half ago, I had the chance to tour the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu (pronounced, despite appearances, as Bewley) near London. I wasn’t sure what to expect, though their website looked promising, as the online reviews I’d seen had been both pro and con. Would it be worth the hassle and expense of a two-hour train ride, followed by a taxi trip, apparently the only way to get there without renting a car? Though given London traffic, it was probably actually cheaper and quicker to take the train.

For me it was worth the trip, but it depends what sort of cars you are interested in. There’s almost no American muscle in the collection (though there is a Shelby Cobra). There’s not much in the way of exotics, either, except for what’s in the visiting Bond vehicles exhibition. But as far as a good, solid history of British (and European) motoring, especially up to the early 60s (though they do have more recent stuff), the museum is fantastic. If you love vintage cars, you’ll really enjoy it, as they have several from the 1800s, including some veterans of the London to Brighton run. There are some vintage motorcycles to be found in the collection as well, and a sweet collection of British race cars.
1895 Knight at National Motor Museum,
Beaulieu, England, by Kate Tompkins

As for the Bond exhibit, which contains 50 vehicles representing 50 years of Bond films, it’s running for the rest of the year and is well worth a look for any Bond fans. The World of Top Gear exhibit, which contains some of their “challenge” vehicles, is amusing enough, but not worth a trip out just to see it.

My biggest quibble with Beaulieu was that they have so much on display that it’s hard to get a good look at any of it. Most of the cars are parked cheek by jowl—it’s not a coincidence that most of my shots were taken head-on. Also, the main building is not heated very well (I think it’s open to the air at the point the monorail comes in, though that didn’t seem to be running the day I was there) and some of the temporary exhibits are actually outside in tents. So be prepared for weather!

I’ll be covering parts of the collection in more depth, but wanted to give an idea of what it was like first.

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