British Motor Museum

It has been quite some years since I first visited the British Motor Museum.
After attending the AMHT’s 19th birthday party we found the museum to be on the way home, so we stopped for a visit.

I remember the museum being in the same building it is now, but containing considerably fewer cars. Now it is a treasure trove!
There are hundreds of beautiful examples from British car history across various categories. In addition there is now a second building open to the public which holds more cars from the collection. The ground floor is entirely dedicated to Jaguar. Upstairs there is a variety of marques represented covering decades.

The Jaguar E-type is of course very well known, but I prefer the D-type ‘long nose’ as pictured here.
© All Rights Reserved

As is to be expected, there are quite a few classic Minis on display. Three of these are Monte Carlo Rally winners. I always did like a Mini with seemingly too many headlights. They just pull off the rally look quite well.
There are also several film cars; from Back to the Future to Thunderbirds and Judge Dredd.
And let’s not forget the speed record attempts! Those cars look positively futuristic. They are also considerably smaller than I imagined.
There is a cinema which shows car and race related old films all day long. Obviously I didn’t want to stay in the cinema too long, but it is tempting. There are some interesting features on offer.

Two of the classic Minis that won the Monte Carlo Rally in the 60s.
© All Rights Reserved

I realise I cannot possibly do the place any justice by trying to describe everything I saw. There is simply too much.
It’s wonderful to see so many marques represented that no longer exist. There are also many that were still around in my lifetime, but are now gone. It’s a bit nostalgic, but also a wonderful trip down memory lane.

The information provided is quite extensive, which I always find important in a museum. I suppose the only ‘downside’ is that I couldn’t really find a logical route through the museum. That didn’t make the experience any less fun, however, as you can easily find your own way. With a map you can even decide what marques or categories you’d like to see first.

In 1907 the car’s interior and ‘dashboard’ were distinctly different from now! (Rover 20hp)
© All Rights Reserved

Even though we had several hours to explore the museum we did not see everything. This is a museum I’ll want to visit again, not in the least due to the sheer number of cars and variety. There is a car to love for every petrolhead out there.


AMHT’s 19th birthday party

The Aston Martin Heritage Trust (AMHT) was founded in 1998, which means it was time for a party.
Located in what is known as ‘the barn’ in Drayton St Leonard (Oxfordshire) is the Aston Martin Museum and the trust’s archive. For some time I have wanted to go there, but due to the fact the museum was only open during weekdays I hadn’t had the chance yet. This was the perfect opportunity to go.

I don’t know why, but I expected the museum to be larger. This is perhaps because the photos I see give the idea it’s a spacious place, but it actually is not. It is also very full. There are seven cars (for argument’s sake: let’s call the clay model and cutout cars too) in there, taking up most of the space.
In addition there is a very large number of memoribilia: from car models to games, from trophies to furniture. Upstairs is the archive with a wealth of information. And it’s all about Aston Martin.
So yes, this is probably what heaven would look like to me.

The A3 is the oldest Aston Martin in the world and one of only five prototypes created by Bamford & Martin.
© All Rights Reserved

On the trust’s birthday they unveiled a new exhibit: the Vanquish Volante which was driven by Daniel Ricciardo in the YouTube video with a caravan race (yes, really). It was a test car and it sounds like it has been through a lot (filled with water?). Nevertheless, it is a beautiful car and a lovely piece of unique history the AMHT has now added to their collection.

They do have more cars, but they are elsewhere. Some are in storage, some are at Aston Martin’s headquarters at Gaydon. I do hope AMHT will find bigger premises to move to so we can see more on display.

Aston Martin Vanquish Volante – the new exhibit
© All Rights Reserved

Of course several visitors arrived in their own Aston Martins, adding even more fun to a pretty good party. There is a lot to take in due to the sheer volume and even after spending two hours there I know I haven’t seen everything. It was a joy to finally see the collection which is currently on display and I will certainly make an effort to go back at some point.

Bond in Motion

I was in London. I was on my way to the London Transport Museum. And then I almost passed the London Film Museum. Almost.
Because when I realised their current exhibition is ‘Bond in Motion’, I also realised there is a DB10 in there. I went in to have a look.

Not sure how many people know this, but it is said that the first car manufacturer to be offered having their car featured in a James Bond film was Jaguar and that they turned that offer down. If true…ouch!
It is now well known that the Bond franchise has a very strong connection to Aston Martin for several decades, so it’s no surprise that at an exhibition about the James Bond films you will find several Astons.
Previously the films would feature a model of a car (not just Aston Martin) which you could buy, minus all the weaponry and toys, of course. For Spectre Aston Martin built the DB10. Two of the ten cars built have been used for promotion, so people have had a chance to see them. I would say not many people had that chance though, because these promotional events were usually in big cities etc. I live in the UK, but not in or near London, so no chance! This exhibition was possibly a once in a lifetime chance to see a DB10 for real. But let’s go back to where it started for a moment.

Aston Martin DB5 (Goldeneye)
© All Rights Reserved

Say the name ‘James Bond’ and, if you’re after word association, a lot of people will say ‘DB5’. It has gotten to the point where people see a DB5 in the wild, point at it and say ‘That’s James Bond’s car!’. It could be an interesting discussion about how iconic the DB5 would have been without James Bond. Of course that’s impossible to say now, but the association is quite strong and I’m sure it has done the company a lot of good.

In the same vein I get the idea that the other models used in the films never were that well known to the general public. They still know they are Astons, but not which type.
And I shouldn’t forget to mention that other car manufacturers feature in the Bond films too, most noticeably Jaguar.
In that ever growing group of cars the DB10 may well be another game changer.

The exhibition features the vehicles of the James Bond films. Of course my main focus is the same as always, single-minded as I can be, but seeing other cars, boats, the cello case and motorbikes is a great feast of recognition. Because of course I have seen James Bond films; quite a few of them. When you see any of these vehicles/modes of transportation you get that deja vu feeling of being in the cinema again and watching the most memorable scene in which it featured.

The Aston Martin V8 which featured in The Living Daylights, with the cello case in the background.
© All Rights Reserved

I remember visiting Aston Martin at Newport Pagnell (mere months before they closed the factory) and a ‘James Bond’ V12 Vanquish was on display at Works’ reception, rockets and all. Of course this car is part of the exhibition as well.
Unfortunately (because, oh, how that hurts to see!) there are also two ruined examples (both DBS). I hoped they were made to look like that, but according to the guide book the cars really sustained this damage during filming.

Now, what about that DB10? The exhibition shows two of them. One of them is a rig which allows them to film the actor(s) while ‘driving’ the car. It’s therefore incomplete and has no windscreen. It is insightful, because you do get to see how that works. There is a lot more involved than an incomplete car and the entire camera setup etc. is not included in the exhibition, but from the car alone you get an idea. It did make me wonder why the tail end of the car is complete…

© All Rights Reserved

It really is a pity I can only offer video footage and some photos of the DB10.
The reason I say that is because I didn’t like it at all when I first saw it. The grille is much wider and lower than on any other Aston, the headlights are a lot smaller and there didn’t appear to be many outstanding features at all. I’ve changed my mind completely now I’ve seen the car.

There definitely are outstanding features. They are just more subtle than we are used to seeing. On the nose, for example, there are no slits/gaps with mesh, there are perforated holes.

Detail of the DB10’s nose.
© All Rights Reserved

The lines on the nose continue on the roof, but this is not very visible on photos or film. The lines at the side of the car are quite sharp and guide the eyes beautifully from the front to the rear.
The parts of the car which are made of carbon fiber are also wonderful details that usually would remain unseen.

The thing that stood out to me first and foremost is the car’s width. I have seen many Aston Martins, old and new, and this one just seemed much wider. Predictably the internet is uncharacteristically quiet about the DB10’s details, but I managed to find out that the car is about as wide as the One-77. And the One-77 is 30cm wider than most modern Astons.
This is a big car. It looks mean (apologies to the sharks it resembles), it looks dangerous, but it is absolutely stunning.

The imposing glare of the DB10 in full force.
© All Rights Reserved

The DB10 truly is the DB11’s forebear. I think the DB10 is uncompromised. With that I mean that the DB11 is a wonderful combination of the One-77, the Vulcan and the DB10; almost as if the most popular features were put in one car, ensuring its success. However, the DB11 has its main look from the DB10. The DB10 is raw and possibly an acquired taste.
If you ever get the chance, I suggest you go see one and decide for yourself.

Donington Park Collection

By now I have visited Donington Park quite a few times, but I never had the time to go and see their collection. So on a not very sunny Sunday my best friend and I drove down to Donington Park to see what they had on display.

The first area is filled with military vehicles: trucks, tanks, motorbikes, even a motorbike-tank (the front is a motorbike, the rear is a miniature tank). I wasn’t aware they had so many military vehicles there, but, let’s face it, you can’t go wrong with a tank or two. Some of the motorbikes are stunning examples of the time, so there’s plenty to admire.

We made our way through the various rooms and enjoyed the variety of cars on display. The main focus does seem to be on F1, which is not surprising considering one of the rooms is filled with McLarens.

McLaren MP4/8
© All Rights Reserved

The variety of cars is such that I honestly don’t know where to start. Because I’m not a fan of F1 I didn’t recognise most of the cars there. That doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate them. After all, it’s nice to see how these cars developed and how different they used to look from what we see out there now.
Recently they acquired additional cars from Force India, so now a whole corner has nothing but Force India cars. This gives a rare opportunity to see several modern F1 cars and be able to find the difference. At first glance they seem very much alike, but they really are not!

There is a display with helmets; some big names in there. On the windows several iconic tracks are shown. There is nowhere in this place where there is not something to see. All in all it is not massive, but it is very full and the number of cars once driven by the bigger names in motorsports is impressive.

My favourite has to be the replica of a Mercedes W125. What a stunning piece of machinery!

Replica of Mercedes W125
© All Rights Reserved

The work that has gone into gathering the information and then building this car is amazing and the result is equally impressive. I did not realise I was looking at a replica until I read the information on the display.

Throughout the exhibition there are screens showing films or races connected to the cars in that particular room. There simply is an aweful lot to see.
At the end you have to turn back and that is a good thing. It gives you the opportunity to quickly revisit the cars that stood out for you, but also to ensure you haven’t missed anything. This place certainly requires more than one visit to be fully appreciated.

A closer look at a motorsport fan

The 2016 WEC season has just come to an end. The 6 hours of Bahrain was the last race and it finished about 90 minutes ago. My emotions are still all over the place.
Of course that is the perfect moment to write about how a motorsport fan feels when attending or watching races. (Note: not every fan will feel this way, this is me.)

I guess motorsport fans are no different to any fan of any other sport. Maybe we’re less violent/aggressive than some, but I assume we’re just as passionate about what we love. We buy the merchandise, we want our favourites to sign stuff (lots of it!), we want selfies, we have flags, we laugh, we cry, depending on the result of our favourite team/driver(s). And that can be strange to people who don’t share that passion.
“It’s just cars going around in circles.” That’s one I hear often enough. Well, for your information, most tracks are not circular. And there’s much more to it than that. However, you need to be interested in the technicalities behind it to appreciate that. The strategies, the cars and their technology, fun stuff like downforce, tyre degradation, how a full course yellow can influence the outcome; it all matters.

The #95 Aston Martin – the Dane Train – which has just won the GTE Pro class in the 6 hours of Bahrain resulting in the WEC GTE Pro drivers championship for Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen, here in action at the Nürburgring in July this year.
© All Rights Reserved

Growing up I was very fond of cars and also interested in the technology, but I didn’t understand anything about racing. I just enjoyed watching the cars (F1, at the time) do their laps and listening to the noise. Only recently have I started following several series in earnest. Now I know a lot more!
This additional knowledge makes the whole thing a lot more enjoyable as well. Like the commentators (both on television and at the track) I am calculating where a team or a driver needs to end up in the race to gain a place or keep that first spot in the overall standings.
But with the enjoyment come all the other emotions: the disappointment when your team/driver doesn’t finish, the joy when they win, the elation when your favourite driver makes a fantastic move (yes, an overtake can be beautiful), the worry when someone crashes (which team is not important!). It is a rollercoaster.

I have thought long and hard about how I came to be an Aston Martin Racing fan. And I am not actually sure.
A long, long time ago I ended up loving Aston Martins, but that is no guarantee I would end up loving the team, which they didn’t even have at the time! Of course it did interest me when they started up a racing team again after a very long absence. And I guess it’s not strange at all to want to support the racing team associated with your favourite car brand. No surprises there.
But for some reason I got more into this, quite naturally.

The #97 Aston Martin in action at the Nürburgring in July 2016.
© All Rights Reserved

For me the team comes first. I am an Aston Martin Racing fan first and foremost. But I do have my favourite car within the team (the #97) and within that a favourite driver (Darren Turner). And I cannot, for the life of me, explain why.
The team runs several cars and they are identical. So why did I pick the #97? No idea.
Explaining my preference for Darren Turner is a bit easier. He’s been in that car since they started using that number and I’ve even heard people refer to him as ‘Mr 97’. He is also very fast and that is how he got my attention. Voila! A fan is born.

Aston Martin Racing is active in WEC – World Endurance Racing – so that quickly became my favourite series. That is not only due to the fact that AMR races there, but also because I have had a love for the 24 hour race at Le Mans for a very long time.
AMR has three cars running in WEC currently, so I have one team to support in two classes (one car in GTE Am and two in GTE Pro). But there are two more classes, LMP1 and LMP2. Even though I like the LMP classes, GTE is by far my favourite. There is just something about those bulky monsters growling while chasing each other around the track. But I managed to get favourites in the LMP classes too: Audi in LMP1 and RGR Sport in LMP2.

The #43 car of RGR Sport in action at Silverstone, April 2016.
© All Rights Reserved

Now how does that happen?
This is something you will hear from more motorsport fans. Because drivers tend to move between teams you get introduced to other series and teams. In the case of RGR Sport the interest comes from following the career of Bruno Senna. Thanks to him I now follow Formula E, Blancpain and RGR Sport in WEC.
This via-via system happens across the board. For example: Aston Martin Racing is also involved with customer and partner teams. And they race in series like British GT and Blancpain. Here we go, another series to add to the list! And these teams have different drivers, who sometimes race in yet other series. The list becomes virtually endless.

Before I forget: Audi gets my support because:
1. they are simply awesome in LMP1;
2. I just like the brand.
Recently they announced they will no longer race in WEC, so the race in Bahrain was their last one. A very sad moment.
And that brings me back to the emotional rollercoaster.
WEC is a very close-knit bunch. When Toyota almost won Le Mans this year everyone (and I mean everyone) was sympathetic. The other teams went to the Toyota box to show their support. The fans were practically unanimous in their outpour of support.
So next to the emotions I described earlier there is that strong sense of belonging. It doesn’t really matter who you support. You love the race, so you belong. There will be playful teasing, of course. But I’ve never seen it get vicious.

The #7 Audi at Silverstone, April 2016.
© All Rights Reserved

Many motorsport fans will get up at what we call ‘stupid o’clock’ to watch that all important qualifying session and, obviously, the race – even if it starts at 3 AM in your timezone.
Le Mans, being the mother of all races, is not to be missed and I’m sure I’m not the only one who tries to not miss a second – and fails (people do need their sleep, apparently).
Being at the track itself is a bonus. The experience is direct, you can get to the paddock where you can do a spot of driver spotting or even get an autograph or photo. And there’s the atmosphere.
In 2015 I went to the 6 hours of Nürburgring on my own. I can tell you there weren’t many Aston Martin Racing fans around. Most people were wearing Porsche and Audi shirts. As I said above: it doesn’t matter. People were accepting, friendly and ready to share a laugh or have a chat. You simply belong.
I guess that is one of the things that makes me go back again and again, also online. You make new friends and you have something in common. All of a sudden those races become social events as well.

Additionally you get a chance to meet your favourite driver(s). If you’re lucky you can join the pit walk during which the signing sessions are held. Trust me, the banter between drivers and fans can be quite something. And no mistake, most drivers like this interaction! There are quite a few drivers in WEC alone who are very active online and love interacting with their fans. They ask questions, run competitions and tell their fans they love them lots.

At Nürburgring my best friend had her Aston Martin tattoo signed by all AMR drivers. The drivers thought it was pretty cool and the photographers were also quite curious (in the background).
© All Rights Reserved

All these different experiences add to the passion.
So today Audi had their last WEC race (which they won), RGR Sport became second in the race and the overall standings in their first season, the #98 Aston Martin retired in a fairly spectecular and smoky fashion, the #97 Aston Martin lost a wheel and had to fight back to a descent position and the #95 Aston Martin won the race, resulting in their drivers winning the 2016 WEC GTE Pro drivers championship. I was a blubbering mess…
I’m not sure if everything in this piece actually explains why I shed happy tears (mainly), but I hope it does.
For now I will have a few months of peace until the team announcements and car unveilings start early 2017. Then the emotional rollercoaster starts again and I will be on it.

The #98 Aston Martin, often a winner in GTE Am, which had bad luck today. On this photo she is racing at Silverstone, April 2016.
© All Rights Reserved.

The race car in the museum (2)

Late in 2013 I wrote about the Tyrell 003 which was in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh at the time. I was aware the car had been there for some time and would stay for some time longer. So I did not expect to see a different car during my visit last month. Only after my visit did I realise I had seen this car in this museum before, well before the closure of some areas of the museum for refurbishment.

© All Rights Reserved

This is the Stewart-Ford Formula 1 car, specifically SF-2 which was driven by Jan Magnussen in 1998 and later that year by Jos Verstappen. The team was call Stewart Grand Prix and was founded by Sir Jackie Stewart and his son Paul. They raced for three seasons, 1997 to 1999. Believe it or not, from this came Red Bull Racing. Ford bought the team at the end of the 1999 season (the team was renamed Jaguar Racing) and in 2005 it became Red Bull Racing.

My main issue with this museum is the lack of information and like before there is very little information available near the car (even less than with the Tyrell) and even on the Museum’s website the information is minimal.

© All Rights Reserved

On that note, there is another race car in the same museum, a JP3 Formula 3 car. It’s on one of the wall displays in the Grand Gallery, gathering dust. There is however a little bit more information:
Joseph Potts Limited was an established garage in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, when in 1950 Joe Potts junior began to build his ‘JP’ cars for racing in the 500cc Formula 3 class. 500cc racing started in 1946 as a cheap entry to motor racing and several successful grand prix drivers began their careers competing in Formula 3. Of the 34 JP cars made, only 5 are thought to remain, including one raced by Ron Flockhart, who went on to win the 24 hour race at Le Mans in 1956 and 1957. This example was made in 1952.

© All Rights Reserved

It always amazes me how small these cars were. It must be terrifying to race something like this. Of course I realise in the 1950s they went a bit slower than current race cars, but still…
It even looks like they were sitting on the fuel tank (I have not been able to confirm that, but just look at the photo below).

© All Rights Reserved

Again, the museum’s website does not have a lot of detail on this car other than what’s mentioned near the display, so if anyone has more information on either one of these cars, please let me know.

The race car in the museum

My hobbies include, well, cars, photography and history. Due to my interest in history I ended up in Edinburgh once again to see a temporary exhibition in the National Museum of Scotland together with my best friend. She ended up waiting, because shortly after entering the museum this is what I saw.

Tyrrell 003
© All Rights Reserved

This is the Tyrrell 003 which used to be driven by Sir Jackie Stewart. And what a beauty it is!
There’s a video to watch behind the car and you can listen to the narrative by Sir Jackie Stewart as well. He explains that the first Tyrrell car was built out of necessity. The car he had been driving was no longer available, they couldn’t get a car from Lotus or Brabham, so they ended up building their own. He attributes the success of the Tyrrell cars to the V8 Ford Cosworth engine and the fuel being in the centre of the car.

Tyrrell 003
© All Rights Reserved

Of course these were completely different times, but I think it’s great to see cars which are a solid part of history in a museum. Apparently it will be there for a while, as you can read here. If you wish, you can download the transcript of the video from the website and read a little bit more about the car’s history.

Tyrrell 003
© All Rights Reserved