The National Motor Museum often plays host to film crews, with several of its motorised exhibits appearing on television. Recently, viewers of the BBC2 series Great British Railway Journeys will have seen the museum featured in the seventh series of this popular programme.
Roads and Rails
In Great British Railway Journeys, Michael Portillo journeys around Britain, using his trusty 19th century Bradshaw’s railway guide as he investigates the influence of the railways on the prosperity and development of Britain.
In episode eight of the latest series, Michael follows the railway line to Brockenhurst station, before taking a detour to Beaulieu. Visiting the National Motor Museum, he discovers how the motor car eventually came to rival the train as the nation’s main mover of people, before experiencing early motoring in a replica of one of the earliest automobiles.
Senior Workshop Engineer Ian Stanfield played a major role in the filming for this episode which took place during the summer of 2015. With both he and Michael dressed in overcoats and hats, Ian talked the former politician through the controls of the 1886 Benz replica, before giving him control of the car for a spin around the grounds, under the watchful gaze of the cameras.
To modern eyes the 1886 Benz replica, which mirrors the first car that Karl Benz built and drove, looks completely alien, with its three spindly wheels, tiller steering control and single bench seat. It takes a hearty swing on the huge, horizontally-mounted flywheel, in order to fire up the four-stroke one-cylinder engine, before drive can be engaged with the long hand lever.
The first Benz motor car was famously driven by Karl Benz's wife Berta on a daring 65 mile journey, proving the car's reliability and making history. You can read more here.
Bugatti Type 35
Meanwhile, the workshop engineers have been kept busy with other projects, including the museum’s 1924 Bugatti Type 35. Water ingress in the car’s sophisticated eight-cylinder engine, owing to leaks from the water-cooled valve seats, had allowed corrosion to badly damage the crankshaft and con-rod bearings. These have been replaced, but the other moving parts of the engine, including the camshaft and valve gear, have also required work, and the radiator is being rebuilt.
Elsewhere in the museum, a brand new display, Driving Change, has been opened. Exploring motoring technology through the ages, pioneering vehicles from the museum’s collection, such as the 1901 Columbia Electric, 1964 Peel P50, 1921 Ner-A-Car and 1948 Land Rover prototype, are at the heart of this display.
One car which has been put back on show especially for Driving Change, the 1934 Crossley Burney Streamline, shows what might have been. With its rear-mounted engine, all-round independent suspension and striking streamlined appearance, this rare and unusual machine was truly ahead of its time.