Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Veteran Cars at Beaulieu’s National Motor Museum

1897 Daimler Grafton Phaeton
by Kate Tompkins

There are some very old cars indeed at the National Motor Museum. I guess that’s not surprising given that the collection got its start from the cars of the second Lord Montagu (it was actually founded by the current third Lord in memory of his father) who was an early adopter of the sport of motoring. If you search under “veteran” on the National Motor Museum Trust’s webpage, you’ll actually come up with a list of 40 vehicles built between 1880 and 1914. That includes everything from the 1880 Grenville Steam Carriage, thought to be the oldest self-propelled vehicle capable of carrying passengers that still runs, to a Model T Ford.

Of course, not all of those were on display when I was there, but I did see six vehicles predating 1900, not including the 1886 Benz, which is a replica. Sadly, the Grenville Steam Carriage was not among them, as I know my dad would have loved photos of it, but it’s still got more veterans than I’ve ever seen in one place before, or, for that matter, at all.

The first one to catch my eye was the 1895 Knight I posted a photo of in my last blog entry. It runs on petrol, which wasn’t that common back then. At the time it was built, speed limits for motorized vehicles in Britain were 4 mph in the country and 2 mph in town (slower than horse-drawn vehicles) and you were required to have someone walking in front of them. Builder John Henry Knight was fined for breaking this rule, possibly the first motoring fine. These rules, according to the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run website, were replaced in 1896 with the Locomotives on the Highway Act, which increased the speed limit to 14 mph and removed the requirement for the walker in front. Motorists celebrated by organizing an Emancipation Run on November 14, 1896, which was the first London to Brighton run.

1896 Pennington Autocar
by Kate Tompkins
 Next up was the 1896 Pennington Autocar, one of only five ever made. Its builder was Edward Joel Pennington, who said it would carry four people, do 40 mph and had unpuncturable tires. According to the plaque beside the one in the museum, one of the Autocars was entered in the Emancipation Run, but had to withdraw due to a burst tire.

Then there’s the 1897 Daimler Grafton Phaeton (top of the page), currently owned by Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust and driven regularly in the London to Brighton run. It’s not listed on the museum trust’s webpage (possibly because they don’t own it), but according to its plaque, it’s not only the oldest remaining Coventry built Daimler, but it’s only had four owners! Sure is a beauty.

1898 Daimler Canstatt
by Kate Tompkins
 There’s another veteran Daimler as well, an 1898 Canstatt. This one was built in Germany, however. Like some modern German sports cars, the engine is tucked in the rear. And rounding out the 19th century half dozen are an 1899 Fiat and an 1899 Renault. Yes, both companies have been around that long. The Fiat has a passenger seat facing the driver’s seat, which doesn’t strike me as a particularly good arrangement for visibility, but maybe it’s less distracting than having your kids sit behind you. As for the Renault, it’s one of the few early cars with a reverse gear.

1899 Fiat by Kate Tompkins

1899 Renault by Kate Tompkins

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