Gaydon’s popular museum

Gaydon’s popular museum now has a new name, revamped displays, an extra building and over 250 more cars to view the clue is in the new name. It’s not only literally accurate but also sums up the bolder, more confident feel to a museum that’s been around since 1993, when it was first opened in Gaydon, Warwickshire, to show off the survivors of British Leyland’s mixed reign.

So the Heritage Motor Museum has become the British Motor Museum, to cover not only the cars of its founders but anything built in the UK. The original building has been remodelled, the displays expanded and improved and, crucially, a huge two-storey car storage facility added to the site.

That new building, The Collections Centre, finally gives a single home to vehicles that have previously been stashed around the country. It’s not laid out as a museum, but it’s packed with automotive gems that you either never knew existed or had long forgotten, and can be visited on the optional free guided tours that take place four times a day.

So this is quite a transformation, as important as the high-profile remake of Los Angeles’ Petersen Automotive Museum last year. Where the Petersen hastop-end concourscarsand the glamour ofLAon its side, the British Motor Museum has fascinating industry development vehicles and is fittingly nestled amid the ever-growing Aston Martin and Jaguar Land Rover plants in rural Warwickshire.

Long-time fans of the Gaydon museum might have worried that the collection’s oddball prototypes would be swept away in a bid for wider, more public-friendly exhibits, but that’s proved not to be the case. The main entrance has moved 90° around the original circular museum building, and the lobby now opens out into several new displays, the first of which is Design and Concepts, packed with stillborns such as the neat convertible ADO34, Rover SD1 estate and P6BS V8 sports car.

Other exhibits include Sports Cars – with, among others, the museum’s sectioned MGB, the huge Leyland Eight next to the neat little Lotus Europa, and recent offerings from McLaren and Aston Martin – along with Motorsports, Recordbreakers, Jaguars and a Land Rover display based around a mock mountain.

New interactive displays around the museum, along with neatly curated sideshows of William Morris’s recreated office, film cars, gas turbines and British manufacturing through the years, all combine to keep visitors interested.

Next door, in the new Collections Centre, the ground floor is dedicated to around 70 Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust cars, which vary from stock E-types and Mk2s to the DieAnother Day Bond XKR and Eddie Irvine’s 2002 Formula 1 Jaguar R3.

Upstairs, there’s a great viewing gallery over the busy museum workshop, and a brilliantly varied line-up of 150 vehicles, from veterans to recent prototypes, and Metro van MGF ‘mule’ to the Queen’s special-bodied Land Rover Series 1.

So, a success? Resoundingly so. Be sure to visit.