Museum, Museums ? Musea?
With lots of discussion in the paddock about how beautiful Peter Venn’s Anson is, as much as I agree with the sentiments I have to say that in my eyes the Jordan 191 takes some beating. So when I found myself at a meeting in Leicester a couple of weeks ago, and fortunately it finished early, I decided to drop in on The Donington Collection.
As usual I had the place pretty much to myself. The Jordan 191 was without doubt the most beautiful car in the museum, like Kylie the curves seemed to meet in all the right places. It had that look that cars do when you know they are the work of one man not that of a committee. I suspect the current Red Bull has similar characteristics for the same reasons. Donington is such a evocative place, the cars could tell so many stories. Tales of bravery, revenge, innovation, cheating, you name it-any human emotion. I spent about twenty minutes just staring at the Lotus 49B. Forget the wings, such an elegant design, so minimalist. Engine, gearbox, some tyres and somewhere to sit. A Grand Prix car stripped to the bare essentials. Also I imagine, quite terrifying. A trip around the Nordeschliefe on a rainy day in that thing must have caught the attention of the drivers, even if JYS had already finished and gone home for his dinner.
For people like me who like engines a Renault 3.5 litre V10 is on display. Possibly one of the greatest F1 motors, even the exhausts are things of beauty. How I would like to drive in front of one of those engines-even I might be competitive in Mono Classic (perhaps not)..
There used to be a whole hall full of Brabhams but they seem to have gone. Perhaps Bernie has asked for them back?
A little further from home is the Museum at the Le Mans Circuit. The cars are a collection from either private individuals or that of L’Automobile Club de l’Ouest. Donington caters for single seaters only and even then mostly F1 cars, the Sarthe museum shows only cars that have competed or triumphed in the 24 hour race. There is a stunning collection from the familiar like the V12 Jaguars to the rare cars such as the 1983 Rondeau. The museum covers most of the history of the great race and includes such wonders as the Ford GT40 (real ones not the common-as-muck Gulf Rip Offs) and the awesome and very scary Porsche 917. One can only admire the bravery and skill of those drivers of earlier times willing to push 240-250 mph over the Mulsanne kink in cars like these on tyres of uncertain design and in all weathers. The museum is a little haven of peace and respite from the broken bottles and Germans with big moustaches that infest the circuit during race weekend.
Another place to find Germans with facial topiary and eating lots of sausages is of course the Nurburgring. Adjacent to the wonderful Dorint Hotel (is there another hotel outside Monaco where the balconies look out over a race track?) is the ‘ring museum. Not surprisingly, most, perhaps all, of the cars are German. After all this is the centre of the German preoccupation with massively fast cars. The whole place has a sort of religious fervour that is more often seen at Mecca during Hajj or in St Peter’s Square when a nice old man looks out of his window. The museum has both single seaters and sports cars but also quite a collection of production racing cars. Worth a visit but only if you are there for some other purpose, perhaps making a pilgrimage.
Closer to home again is the wonderful and pleasing Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon in the Midlands. Although it is most certainly not a racing car museum there are a surprisingly large number of competition cars on display, a rare and forgotten Jaguar F1 car from 2000, ‘Our Nige’s’ March F3 car with the Triumph Dolomite engine, a Metro 6R4 rally car and many others. It is also the saddest reminder of why we English (let's be honest here-not many Welsh, Scottish or Irish cars) have fallen so far and so fast in the world of production car manufacturers. Some of the cars on display were just dreadful, badly designed and even worse built. No wonder we have no automotive industry. The competition cars there demonstrate that we have the ability and innovation to do the job but somehow the managers, workforce and Trade Unions managed to scupper the creative genius that epitomised English design. Ho Hum. One look at the Mercedes or Porsche Musea in Zuffenhausen and Stuttgart after seeing the Heritage Centre could make you weep for your country.
There are many more Motor Musea that I could mention, The Schlumpf museum in Mulhouse, the Indy car collection at the Brickyard, our National Museum at Beaulieu, the Coventry Museum –lots of Jaguars for some reason. If you ever find yourself in my favourite museum in the world The Museum of Modern Art in New York (MOMA) they have a series 1 drophead E type on permanent display. The Americans appreciate English design. If you want a laugh The Star is the Car museum in the lake District with the original Reliant 3 wheel van proclaiming ‘Trotters Independent Traders’ London-New York-Peckham and the Batmobile are waiting for you.
The last and most quirky I will cover is the late Prince Ranier’s museum in Monaco. It is slightly off the beaten track, if there is such a place in Monte Carlo, it is Fontveille near the Columbus Hotel. It houses one of the most remarkable collections representing one man’s private tastes and interests. Some of the cars there are presents from his grateful subjects, I suppose like our Queen’s Bentleys. The cars are nicely displayed and astonishingly varied. My favourites are the magnificent straight 8 Packards from the 1930s. They look like something from a black and white gangster film. A splendid place to spend an afternoon after a light lunch at the TipTop while you wife is checking out YSL, Prada, Dior,Hermes, Chanel and you are hoping that she has forgotten her credit card.
So what about a Monoposto Museum? Perhaps any of Jim Blockley’s cars, David Parkinson’s helmet, some cakes (partly eaten), Geoff Fern’s caravan, I have some old racing boots. I think we may be onto a winner.
Disclaimer: The above represents only the unofficial view of the writer and not of the Monoposto Racing Club in any way whatsover.
*The Maxi caption may be read in English as "You might have won the Le Mans 24 Hour Race but you are not able to convert the seats of that Porsche 917 into a bed, are you?"
Gary Anderson designed the Anson and the Jordan 191. Not Kylie.
Lotus 49b driven by Graham Hill
Steven Griffin's Van Diemen Formula Ireland V10 Renault
Jaguar E-Type, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Prince Rainier's 1935 Packard Straight Eight