Even in bleak midwinter when the frost is on the ground, there is still plenty of activity in the National Motor Museum’s vehicle collection. With a classic Rolls-Royce photoshoot, a Monorail overhaul and the start-up of a Land Speed Record breaker, the workshop engineers have been very busy.
Maintenance is the key to preservation and this is especially important with Beaulieu’s iconic Monorail. Operating in all seasons and all weathers, its lime green carriages put up with the worst the weather can throw at them, while carrying thousands of visitors every year.
To ensure that the Monorail is kept in fine fettle and continues to meets stringent safety standards, both of the two trains are given an annual overhaul. First, the carriages were lifted off the steel sub-frames that support them. Acting as the backbone of the train, these sturdy structures straddle the rail and locate the wheels.
The sub-frames were completely dismantled so that they could be crack-tested, ensuring that they are structurally sound, then checked for any wear or damage. Next, each one was painted and then rebuilt with new bearings and fixings. The hydraulic braking system was rebuilt, while the drive chains that link the electric motors to the driven wheels were renewed. Great care was also taken with the wiring for the electric motors, which was updated with new driver control switches.
Meanwhile, the fibreglass carriages were sent off to be professionally repainted, to protect them against the harsh summer sun and biting winter rain. Finally, the reassembled train was returned to its rail, ready for duty.
Veteran Bus water pump
Another Beaulieu vehicle that is used every day of the year is the Veteran Bus, an impressive replica of a 1912 London General Omnibus Company ‘B-type’ double-decker. With its rugged six-cylinder engine, the Veteran Bus takes its visitor-carrying duties in its stride.
However, a weep from its water pump necessitated a swift repair to keep it in front-line service. Now this much-loved machine is in mechanical good health once more and running between the National Motor Museum and Palace House.
Napier Gordon Bennett
Meanwhile, the Napier Gordon Bennett was started up to exercise its engine, enabling the workshop engineers to tune it to run at its very best. Named after its participation in the prestigious Gordon Bennett Race in Ireland in 1903, this veteran racer could top 75mph owing to its 7,708cc four-cylinder engine.
Silver Ghost photoshoot
The workshop engineers have also prepared a first-class Rolls-Royce to go under the spotlight in the National Motor Museum Trust’s photographic studios. The 1909 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost is one of the most famous cars in the museum collection, having been rescued from a hard life as a breakdown truck and fully restored in the 1960s. It was also one of Edward, Lord Montagu’s favourite cars and over the years has been used for countless events and rallies across the world.
The National Motor Museum Trust’s own photographic studio has seen numerous cars of distinction pose for the cameras of professional photographers. However, the Silver Ghost is used so frequently that there has never been an occasion to catch it ‘at rest’. Following the recent refurbishment of its Barker style Roi des Belges body and luxurious upholstery, now was the perfect time to subject the car to the glare of the spotlights. The results of the photoshoot speak for themselves!
The Silver Ghost will be joining its much younger 1960’s counterpart, the National Motor Museum’s Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, to go on show in an exciting new display in the museum. Preparations are underway for The Luxury of Motoring, which will open in February.
The Luxury of Motoring
Focusing on the history of high-end motoring throughout the decades, The Luxury of Motoring features a number of treasures from the National Motor Museum’s collection as it tells the story of the most luxurious cars ever built, the people who owned them and the chauffeurs who drove them.
A selection of high-quality classic and vintage limousines will form part of the display and the workshop team has had an important role to play in getting these vehicles ready.
The 1968 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow will be one of these automotive highlights, but a quick visit to the workshop was first required. Its 6230cc V8 engine had developed a misfire, requiring a rebuild of its distributor to restore silky smooth running once more. Now the Silver Shadow is ready to join the other kings of the road that will be featured in the display.
The museum workshop has also been filled with the roar of a Land Speed Record breaker, as the 1920 Sunbeam 350hp was started up. Following the painstaking rebuild of its 18.322 litre V12 aero engine over many years, which saw the car return to Pendine Sands in 2015 some 90 years after setting a 150mph record there, the workshop team is keen to keep this mammoth machine in peak condition through use.
With the fuel system primed, two of the engineers swung on the starting handle before the engine erupted into life. With Senior Engineer Ian Stanfield at the controls, this historic car was run to bring the engine up to temperature and to tune it up.