Incredible machines have been stirring into life in the National Motor Museum this summer to join daily motoring parades, while the workshop engineers have put a historic steam-powered fire engine through its paces and a globe-trotting motorcycle has gone on display.
Gobron-Brillié fire engine
It may seem odd, but the 1907 Gobron-Brillié fire engine actually uses fire to fight fire, with its steam-driven Merryweather Valiant pumping gear. In order to pump huge volumes of water, helping the fire crew to put out a blaze, a fire has to be lit to bring the boiler of this small steam engine up to operating temperature.
Despite being over a century old, the Gobron-Brillié is kept in full working order by the workshop engineers. As part of its maintenance schedule, its boiler was subjected to professional inspection and testing, before the pumping gear was put through its paces. With its input hose lowered into a huge container of water, the pump was engaged, with Museum Manager and Chief Engineer Doug Hill using his fire service experience to control the spray of the hose.
The Gobron-Brillié didn’t start life as a fire engine, but was originally a seven-seater touring car, used for chauffeur-driven charter trips between London and Paris. Its sophisticated petrol engine is unusual for having eight opposed pistons, travelling in opposite directions in each of the four cylinders.
When the car was just three years old, it was converted for use as a fire engine on a country estate. The steam pump from an older horse-drawn fire engine was fitted, along with stronger lorry wheels and solid tyres to cope with the extra weight. Unlike a modern fire engine, the Gobron-Brillié is not fitted with a water container, but relies upon the availability of other water sources, such as ponds and rivers.
Summer motoring parades
Following the successful revival of Beaulieu’s motoring parades for Easter, these action-packed demonstrations have returned for the summer holidays, taking place every day until Sunday 1st September (subject to weather conditions).
Ensuring all of the vehicles are ready for action has been a challenge for the workshop engineers, with even more historic vehicles joining the varied line-up. From old favourites such as the 1928 Austin Twelve Clifton ‘Gumdrop’ and 1943 Willys Jeep, through to the gadget-laden Jaguar XKR from the James Bond film Die Another Day, Beaulieu’s iconic Veteran Bus and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the motoring parades are a big hit with Beaulieu visitors.
A very unusual machine, on loan from a private collection, has been turning plenty of heads as it takes part in the parades. The 1964 Amphicar is a rare survivor of one of the most daring motoring designs of the Twentieth Century, capable of being driven not only on land, but also on water.
This amphibious convertible’s official title of Amphicar Model 770 hinted at its all-round performance, capable of 7 knots on water and 70mph on land. Its watertight steel body-shell was powered by a rear-mounted 1147cc Triumph Herald engine and drive could be switched between the rear wheels and two propellers. Acting as rudders, the front wheels provided steering on water as well as on the road. Due to its high cost, less than 4,000 examples were built in West Germany between 1961 and 1967, but today these eye-catching machines are highly sought-after.
Also making a guest appearance is a comedy classic that is instantly recognisable to millions. Bright yellow and with Trotters Independent Trading Company painted on its sides, this Reliant Regal Supervan starred in Only Fools and Horses. Including this one, several of these three-wheeled workhorses were used during filming of the long-running sitcom, although many replicas have since been made of Del Boy’s company van.
Still loaded with suitcases and boxes of dodgy merchandise, the Reliant is exactly as it was when last used by Del Boy for transporting his stock down to the market. With its lightweight fibreglass bodywork and a thrifty 700cc engine, it would have provided the Trotters with many miles of frugal motoring.
The Reliant is usually on show in Beaulieu’s On Screen Cars exhibition, so required recommissioning to get it ready to join the motoring parades. Although working on the engine is a little awkward, thanks to limited access through the small bonnet flap and inspection panels in the cabin, the workshop engineers treated it to a service, tune-up and thorough check-over, before it was declared fit for service.
Steph Jeavons’ globe-trotting Honda
After 74,000 miles around the world, record-breaking adventurer Steph Jeavons’ Honda motorbike has become the latest addition to The Motorcycle Story in the National Motor Museum.
The trusty 2013 Honda CRF250L was Steph’s two-wheeled companion for the four-year solo around-the-world adventure, which saw her become the first Briton to ride on all seven continents.
Affectionately nicknamed Rhonda the Honda, the plucky motorbike took Steph through 54 countries including Thailand, Chile, Turkey, Panama, Canada, Egypt, Australia and even Antarctica. She encountered the hottest, driest, wettest and coldest environments, with challenges ranging from tackling the frozen landscape of Antarctica to getting caught in a Himalayan landslide.
The journey took in some of the longest and highest roads and tested the Honda’s reliability to the limit. Yet despite its light weight in contrast to the heavier, larger capacity motorbikes usually favoured for long-distance adventures, the 249cc Honda proved to be very reliable. Steph suffered from just four punctures in four years, with only a broken sub-frame in Indonesia and a faulty starter relay in Tanzania to slow her down.
Look out for more historic vehicles out and about in the Beaulieu attraction grounds this summer, with motoring parades and a busy calendar of events. Keep reading the Beaulieu workshop blog for more details.