With over 30 cars on display, the museum’s car collection is truly unique. The oldest car on display dates from the early1900s to the latest addition, a Mini Clubman from 1972. From sleek Jaguars, quirky Austins to sporty, open topped MGs the collection will transport you back to a time when driving was a hobby not a necessity.
The Austin Swallow is regarded as the first Jaguar. Company founder William Lyons and Thomas Walmsley built motorcycle sidecars. They went into partnership to form the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922. In 1927 they went on to fit new bodies to Austin Sevens which they then called Austin Swallows.
William Lyons realised that he needed a stronger identity for his cars. His advertising agency came up with lots of animal names, but Jaguar was the strongest and it reminded Lyons of an old school chum Arnold Breakwell who had worked on Jaguar aircraft engines. In 1935 a new range of SS Jaguars was launched that had little in common with the Swallow except stylish bodywork and a low price.
This is arguably the most important British car ever built. On its introduction in 1922 it effectively wiped all the other affordable light and cycle cars on the British market. It really did bring motoring to the masses, well those who could afford £149 which meant the comfortably off lower middle classes. Unlike so many budget cars of the period the Seven was an example of scaled down motoring rather than scaled up motorcycling. The Austin Company had a well-deserved reputation for quality, so the small car actually had a big car feel. Top speed was a useful 50mph, but even more importantly it also returned 50 miles to a gallon of petrol. Tough, reliable and easy to drive it was more than a car effectively becoming a four-wheeled friend. No wonder the name 'Chummy' stuck.
Produced from 1950 it looks every inch the classic British sports car with its upright grille, slab fuel tank and exposed spare wheel on top. Indeed, during the War American GI's had experienced and grown to love the T-Series MG's. Many were exported, and with that in mind the TD was the first MG ever to be built in left hand drive. The TD still used the 1250cc engine, which had been in production since 1939, but it was the first MG sports car to have independent suspension and rack and pinion steering, donated by the YA. At the back was another first, a hypoid-bevel rear axle, all this meant a smoother ride and better handling. The MG TD Mark II in 1950 was essentially a factory tuned model, which had a more powerful 60bhp engine, up from 54bhp and different gear ratios. Otherwise there were only subtle changes over the years.
Morris had bought Wolseley and that meant there was production space and also a six-cylinder engine, which was in development for the Wolseley Hornet. So two thirds of that advanced overhead camshaft engine powered the Morris and also the MG Midget. The Minor was launched in 1928 at a time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer Winston Churchill had imposed duty on petrol by 4d a gallon, so small economical cars were popular. In 1931 Morris went even further and managed to offer a simplified two-seater version with a less complex side valve engine for just £100.
Originally this rounded back two seater model was known as the Sports 65 and was introduced in 1933. The name Nippy was used from 1934 until the model was discontinued in 1937. The only difference in outward appearance in the Nippy from the Sports 65 was a revised hood and cover, also the side lights were positioned on the front wings. According to figures reproduced at the time it had a maximum speed of 65mph. To cover a standing quarter mile took 27 seconds and the little sports car averaged 40 to 45 miles to the gallon. So it was nippy enough and some 1936 examples had a more powerful pressure-lubricated engine from the more powerful Speedy model.
Shortly before the outbreak of World War Two, a small saloon had been designed to replace the old Morris Eight. Originally scheduled to appear in 1941 it was finally launched in 1947. The all-welded chassis constructed from box-section steel provided a very sturdy frame, something that had only really been seen in the big pre-war saloons. The interior was considerably more luxurious than that of the Morris, with walnut dashboard and door trims, octagonal instruments, an adjustable steering column, and plush upholstery. On the outside there was a longer bonnet with a traditionally tall MG radiator grille, together with elegant swept wings and running boards. It looked different but it wasn't much faster than a Morris as the heavy car could only just manage 70mph
The car was introduced in 1932 and was steadily developed throughout the 1930s. The radiator shells were painted in 1935 and the bodywork became slightly more streamlined and modern. In 1937 there was a proper boot, the Girling brakes actually worked, the engine was mounted further forward in the body and could be found beneath an ‘alligator’ bonnet that opened upwards. By 1939 this model had what is called semi-unitary construction in that the bodywork now formed part of the chassis and the styling was almost American. The model in the Museum is a tourer with a ‘dickey’ seat.
The majority of Jaguar Mark Vs especially drophead models like this were exported. Early post-war times were difficult. Amongst other problems were shortages of steel and foreign currency. The Government said, 'Export or Die' and steel quotas were closely related to export performance - in other words, no exports, no steel. By 1948, Jaguar had developed a new chassis and was close to production of the revolutionary XK engine, which is fitted to the XK140. First, however, was the transitional Mark V, with the new chassis, but with the older overhead valve engines and a revamped body derived from the pre war models.
The Adelphi has a four cylinder engine (the model range is called Big Four). Certainly this is a big car with a huge seven cross member chassis, but the 2443cc engine tugged this saloon to an impressive top speed of 90mph. The gearbox had a dual overdrive and that meant that it had five gear ratios in all and could cruise at high speed with ease. The Adelphi is underrated, it was one of the best saloon's of the '30s but never gets the recognition. Its hydraulic dampers on the suspension and the 25-inch Girling brakes helped it to handle and stop very effectively.
The Riley family were engineers, building and operating weaving machinery in Coventry. In 1890 they bought the Bonnick Cycle Company which they transformed into the Riley Cycle Company in 1896. They also built their first car that year but it did not go on sale. They gradually worked up to four wheels first with motor tricycles in 1900, then tricars in 1903 and finally a four wheeled Riley in 1904. At the heart of Rileys success was the brilliance of engine designer Percy Riley. Between 1926 and 1938 he developed several families of engines, each of which shared an identical layout. The six cylinder engine is a small bore Riley unit which means that the engine size is just 1458cc, but it is capable of 73 mph. The Kestrel's most distinctive feature is its beautiful bodywork. However this 'fastback' style with the dramatically sloping rear end did not become popular for another 20 years.
Formed in 1916 BMW built aircraft engines. The design of their famous badge is based on the rotating blades of an airplane, which are painted blue and white, the state colours of Bavaria. Car manufacturing started when BMW bought the Dixi Motor Company, which had a licence to build the Austin Seven. From 1928 it was badged as the BMW 3/15. In 1937 BMW needed an elegant sports tourer to fill the gap between the competition bred 328 roadster and more sedate 326 models. Engineered by Fritz Fielder the 327 was a combination of existing BMWs. The 326 donated steering, brakes, wheels and a 55bhp 2-litre six cylinder engine, whilst the rear suspension and gearbox came from the 328.
XK refers to the legendary range of XK twin overhead camshaft engines. Its predecessor was the XK120 whose top speed was 120mph. However the XK 140 could not actually reach 140mph and was originally referred to as the XK120 Mark 4. The styling is similar to the XK120, but the engine was moved forward by 3ins to create more cabin space. Also the bumpers were larger, the suspension redesigned and more precise rack and pinion steering fitted. Although all these upgrades and weight gains made the XK140 more acceptable to the important American market, fitting a more powerful 180bhp six cylinder 3.4 litre engine meant that the XK140 could still manage 120mph. In 1957 it became the rather less graceful looking, but otherwise much improved, XK150. Disc brakes and more powerful engines meant that in 150S form it could top 135mph. In 1961 the XK150 was succeeded by the revolutionary XKE, better known as the E-type.
George Hartwell, a friend of Billy Rootes whose Rootes Group owned Sunbeam, built himself a two seater open version of the Sunbeam-Talbot 90 for competition use. The Rootes directors liked it so much and thought it would be such a success in the States that the brilliant industrial designer Raymond Loewy was asked to create the final product in his North American studio. The chassis and running gear were the same along with the front-end and side-on styling lines, but it had a longer and more graceful tail. To make up for a lack of rigidity, because the roof had been removed, there was much additional strengthening. The front suspension had stiffer springs, the steering was more precise, the engine was tuned and there were new gearbox ratios. Incredibly for a sporting car the steering column gear change was retained and initially it was only made in left-hand drive.
Invictas were well built cars that enjoyed a string of racing successes, but they were very expensive. Founders Noel Macklin and Sir Oliver Lyle wanted a quintessentially British Vintage car, with a flexible, almost lazy American feel, combining big engines, gearboxes and axles from existing manufacturers. The Invicta operation involved hand assembling limited numbers of high quality sporting cars. By using a large Meadows six cylinder engines these cars could accelerate to 60 mph without changing out of first gear and the legendary S-Type had a top speed of 95mph. However, cost became too high and the company opted instead for the cheaper Blackburne engine unfortunately it was not powerful enough and still too expensive and the company failed.
The RM stands for Riley Motors and the last letter designated which model it was. They were very modern because whilst the majority of manufacturers had simply dusted off their 1939 designs, Riley had created something new. Announced in late summer 1945, deliveries began in spring 1946. The basis of the design was a box section chassis, which had torsion bar independent suspension, which was a Riley innovation. The only carry over from the 1930s was the old 1.5 litre and big four engines. The RMD was launched in 1949 aimed squarely at the export market to America.
This un-restored example of a Triumph Super Seven is very rare. Most had Triumph’s own saloon bodywork which cost £182, but Super Sevens were also sold as bare frames for other coach work bodies to be fitted, just like our roadster. It was developed as upmarket answer to the Seven, by Arthur Sykes and Stanley Edge who were directly involved in the birth of the original Austin 7. Although it never rivalled the appeal or sales figures of the Austin, the Super Seven became Triumph’s best seller as some 17,000 were produced from 1927 to 1932. One of the biggest selling points was the fact that it had hydraulic, rather than mechanical brakes on all four wheels. The rear axle was also promoted as being ‘unburstable’ and it also had a strong three-bearing engine.
This is a replica of Henry Ford’s first car, the quadricycle. The original was made in 1896, just 15 years before the Alldays, showing just how quickly technology was developing. It has a petrol driven, two cylinder engine. The ignition is powered by a battery fitted in the front of the driver and it is steered using a tiller. There are no brakes.
The firm Alldays and Onions came about in1885 when two competing companies joined forces. The firm of Alldays can be traced back to 1780, while Onions had been operating since1625. Alldays and Onions made bellows, anvils, vices and tools for the blacksmith trade. Some of their equipment is displayed in the Blacksmith’s workshop. They expanded their range of equipment and in 1888 started manufacturing bicycles for the G.P.O. In 1902 they launched the Alldays Traveller Voiturette. Their cars were a success, winning numerous awards and being exported throughout the world. By 1911 they were producing 10 cars per week. A year after fitting a compressor and storage cylinder to the 1911 Alldays Victoria (which was used for tyre inflation) William Allday patented a compressed air starter. This car has wooden spoke wheels and gas lighting.
The MG 1300 was introduced in 1962 as the sporting version of the Austin/Morris 1100. It competed on famous rallies of the time, RAC, Acropolis, Monte Carlo, driven by such well known personalities as Raymond Baxter and Pat Moss. Some 30 years later this car was driven by Tony Davies (former CSMA Chairman) and Alan Smith on the Monte Carlo Challenge rally. On their first attempt with the MG in 1994 the dynamo failed on the night time mountain loop, but then the next year they returned to win their class.
The 1934 Levis was used by Harold Breach of Gloucester to play motorcycle football. The sport was very popular in Gloucestershire, but also had an international following. In 1949 he participated in the British Motor Cycle Football Tour of Scandinavia.
This fully working model of the famous Brookland Riley was once owned by Peter Maclure. Motoring ran through the veins of Peter family. His father, Gustave, was an engineer for Rolls Royce and Riley and his brother, Percy, was a famous Riley racing driver. Percy Maclure had established an impressive reputation with Riley. If it had not been for his untimely death he may have gone on to be one of Britain’s greatest drivers. The Maclures had a large garden with a track so, Peter took every opportunity to practice his driving skills. Peter and the ‘baby’ Brooklands Riley participated in a number of events during the 1930’s. Most significantly Peter, aged 10, set the track record for miniature cars at Donnington on Coronation Day in 1937.
A great family day out for under £17 in the Cotswolds! A family of four can visit the museum for just £16.50.