The British Motor Museum at Gaydon, in Warwickshire in the heart of England, on a site directly adjacent to Jaguar Land Rover’s development facility and Aston Martin’s factory has recently been re-jigged. Its origins are in the collection of cars maintained by British Leyland, though the brief has now widened and has been amended at times over the years. The Jaguar Heritage Collection is a recent addition (or returnee) and cars from Honda and Toyota are also included, linked to UK assembly operations. Vauxhall Heritage has joined since my visit in August as well, and the museum makes a concerted effort to not just show old cars but to tell the story of the British motor industry as well – warts and all.
A recent addition is the Collection Centre, holding a changing variety of cars on the first floor in a storage format and the Jaguar Heritage collection on the ground floor. Part 1 of this virtual personal highlights tour focuses on the cars presented that were the first or the last of their line, and some that were in between and took my fancy. Your choice may have varied; that’s absolutely fine.
Let’s start with something that was one of a kind – a Docker Daimler, in this case the Green Goddess. Professor Tatra covered these here, so no need to go into the details. If you thought the Mini was small, it certainly seems it now.
And, yes this is the first production Mini, registration 621AOK. Perhaps the museum’s most valuable exhibit?
In the collection is the last Rover 100, the later derivative of the Mini’s closest successor, the Austin Metro.
This is the last Mini Cooper S from 1971, until Austin-Rover realised the benefit of the name in 1990 and, of course, subsequently BMW have used the name extensively. But BL were thinking of saving the £10 royalty on each car.
This is the first Austin Maestro off the line, from March 1983. Being BL, the one preserved is a basic model with black metal bumpers, not the then novel painted valences.
And the last Austin Montego, big brother saloon to the Maestro hatch, and by 1995, long devoid of its Austin badges.
And like the Rover 100 and as was the custom, it was signed by the people who built it, almost by hand in a dark corner of then BMW owned Rover Group factory at Cowley. Despite the name change and Cowley origins, it is generally accepted as being the last Austin.
This is the last Morris – a 1984 Ital estate, the predecessor to the Montego and one of BL’s many deadly sins.
To match the last Austin coming from Cowley, the last Morris came out of Longbridge, the traditional home of Austin in Birmingham.
The Ital was a facelifted Marina and nothing more, unless you pushed the boat out for the O series engine 1700 and (rare) 2000 versions. This Marina is a 1971 1.3 litre example, handed to the museum by a long term owning family.
The car alongside is a 1960 Standard Ensign, one of the last Standard badged cars.
The last Austin Allegro, from 1982. I had an Austin Metro in the same Nautilus blue.
The other notable car of this generation of BL product was perhaps the Maxi – this is the last one from 1981, a 1750 version. alongside is an MGB based safety concept vehicle.
Moving upmarket, here’s the first Rover 825 (aka Sterling 825) saloon, with the Honda V6 engine and many shared genes with the first generation Honda/Acura Legend, seen alongside a 1969 Morris Minor Traveller.
And preceding that, the last Rover 3500 (SD1) – in this case a Vitesse performance version.
I’m a Curbivore, so you have two shots of the SD1.
And the last Rover, a 75 CDT which was virtually hand built from stock materials after the collapse of MG-Rover in 2005.
The last Triumph Dolomite, a Sprint, from 1980; the last Michelotti styled Triumph and perhaps, even, the last Triumph Triumph.
More cheerfully, the first 1948 Morris Minor, designed by Alec Issigonis and described by Lord Nuffield as “looking like a poached egg”. He changed his mind when 100,000 had been built, as the car went on to be Britain’s first 1,000,000 seller.
The Minor replaced the Morris Eight, Britain’s favourite of the late 1930s. This is a 1936 example. Any resemblance to the Ford Model Y is not intentional but not accidental either.
A 1963 Austin Cambridge, part of the Farina range. Somehow, you don’t suspect Farina did the grille or the two tone colour schemes.
Not a Minor, but an 1952 Morris Oxford. So like the Minor, but larger, that even Morris fans make that mistake.
This Honda Civic Type R was actually almost brand new – just three weeks old and never registered. It was the last Honda to be built in Britain, at the factory at Swindon Honda established around thirty years ago to build cars for Europe.
Ands this 1979 Prelude was not actually British built, but was a gift to Sir Michael Edwardes, chairman of BL from 1978, on the signature of the partnership agreement with Honda that, perhaps, saved BL’s volume car business. It was used as a site run-around at Longbridge for many years, apparently.
The Jaguar Heritage collection was also worthy of time; this may not be the first XJ6 but it is the first XJ6 that was William Lyons’ personal car. This car is actually serial number 370 with the 4.2 litre engine, so Lyons waited a little while.
This is the last Jaguar XJ-C, a 1977 5.3 litre V12 example. Still one of my all time favourites.
The XJ-6 first came out in 1968; this is the last six cylinder of the original model, by now in series III format with the Pininfarina shaped glasshouse and built in April 1987. V12 cars continued until 1992.
And this is the last Mini to leave Longbridge. It’s actually the remnants of a 1976 Mini Clubman 1275GT, which was being used a factory runabout, got damaged in accident of some sort, and then dumped away from enquiring eyes, with just 11 miles on the clock, in the network of disused tunnels built underneath the factory in the late 1930s as air raid shelters and potential storage and manufacturing space. It was recovered in 2013 and now adds a certain form of closure to the Mini story at Gaydon.