This month, the 1935 Auburn has been prepared for a continental rally, while an unusual electric vehicle has gone on display.
The National Motor Museum may be a petrol-head’s dream, but amongst the numerous vehicles on display fitted with internal combustion engines are several that are powered by other means.
From the 1875 Grenville steam carriage, believed to be the oldest self-propelled passenger-carrying road vehicle still in working order, to the 2008 British steam car ‘Inspiration’, which set the Land Speed Record for steam power at 148mph, these alternative-fuelled vehicles are remarkable machines.
Electric-powered vehicles in particular are well represented in the museum’s new Driving Change display. Today, electric cars are becoming more common on British roads, but this silent and fumeless technology also enjoyed a spell of popularity at the turn of the Twentieth Century.
Visitors can see a 1901 Columbia Electric, built in America and purchased by Queen Alexandra for driving around the grounds of Sandringham House. Later, the London department store Harrods built and ran its own fleet of electric vans. The 1939 example on display may only have a 25mph top speed, but it was well suited to deliveries in urban areas. Also on show, the 1985 Sinclair C5 is a reminder of a commercial flop that became a cult classic.
A new example of electric-powered transport has now also gone on display, in the form of a Riese and Müller Nevo Nuvinci electric bike. Offering assistance from an electric motor, which varies according to how hard the rider is pedalling, electric bikes are becoming increasingly popular.
This German-built model uses a Bosch electric motor and a 500Wh battery, which multiplies the rider’s pedalling effort by up to three times. This example belongs to New Forest E-Bikes, part of the specialist engineering firm Formhalls Vintage & Racing which has worked on several of the museum’s projects, including the 1920 Sunbeam 350hp.
Meanwhile, the 1935 Auburn 851 has been readied by the workshop engineers for a continental adventure. The Jewel that is Gstaad rally in Switzerland will see this glamorous American speedster put to the test on scenic Alpine roads. As a result, the car needs to be in tip-top mechanical condition. New brake lines and track rod ends have been fitted, while the entire car has been checked and serviced. Finally, the original vacuum-powered windscreen wiper motor has been restored.