Street of nostalgia ahead for the National Motor Museum

New Streets Ahead display in the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu
Posted  15.05.2024
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The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu is opening a new permanent exhibition, Streets Ahead: Motoring in Mid-Century Britain, showcasing a typical street from the decades following the Second World War.

The new gallery explores a time when Britain underwent a period of rapid social, cultural, and economic change. Streets Ahead: Motoring in Mid-Century Britain will use artefacts from the Museum’s extensive motoring collections to enable a view of social history through the prism of vehicles from the era.

New Streets Ahead display in the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

Museum Chief Executive, Jon Murden says, “The re-development of this section of the Museum into Streets Ahead is a wonderful addition to our displays. It is an opportune moment to look back, at a time when the high-street is experiencing yet another revolution in shopping habits.”

The new gallery will transport visitors to a bygone era from the 1950s to the 1970s. New shop displays will show items from the Museum’s collections, many on exhibition for the first time. A charming toy shop with treasured playthings, a motoring clothing shop boasting sensible or fashionable outerwear and accessories, a travel agent that brought holidays abroad and trips and excursions to further reaches of the country to the masses for the first time. A mobile hardware store will be parked up showing a form of shopping when roads and perhaps lives were less busy.

New Streets Ahead display in the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

National Motor Museum Senior Curator, Gail Stewart-Bye says, “The decades following the Second World War saw full employment, a growing population, greater affluence, the emergence of the ‘teenager’ as a distinct sector of society, and an explosion in the affordability and availability of consumer goods, all of which fuelled a booming economy.

Gail says that motoring was central to this transformation, “Cars and motorcycles became accessible to more people than ever before. Mass motor vehicle ownership, and the freedom for everyone to travel, was part of the shared experience of post-war life. Through travel, fashion, in entertainment, and while growing up, motoring became a significant part of popular culture.”

The Streets Ahead: Motoring In Mid-Century Britain gallery will show the cars, bikes and other vehicles that were once part of everyday life. Visitors will be able to enjoy stories of motoring that helped defined the era.  Included in the street scene will be a London bus near a ‘talking’ bus stop where you can hear local people’s memories of bus journeys. Alongside the bus is a milk float (a Brush Pony Electric from 1947). Other vehicles in the street will be Austin A40 Somerset (1953), Ford Anglia Super 1200 (1966), Land Rover (1948), Standard Vanguard (1951), Triumph Herald (1960), Rover P4 (1963), Hillman Imp (1963), Morris Commercial PV Shop (1951), Morris 1000 Post Office Van (1970), Austin A35 5cwt Van (1961), Ford Consul Cortina MkI (1963) and a Mini (1959). Motorcycles include BSA Sunbeam Scooter (1964), BMW R50 with Steib sidecar (1957), Yamaha 195cc (1972) and a Triumph Twin 3TA (1962).

The gallery is being supported by Scalextric and Corgi. The exhibition is included in the admission ticket for the Beaulieu attraction, and further details are available from

New Streets Ahead display with special launch weekend in the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

To launch the new gallery over the Bank Holiday weekend 25, 26 and 27 May 2024, actors from the Gobbledegook theatre company will take on roles of characters you may have encountered on the street in mid-century Britain; a traffic warden, a bus conductor, and a motor salesman spiv.