Here’s one for the petrol-heads. And, to be fair, others too – because you don’t need to know anything about brake horsepower in order to admire this splendid, eclectic, collection of wheeled vehicles and associated bits and bobs. Plus, given that the English Lakes are inclined to dampness (well, they would be, wouldn’t they?), it’s a great wet weather option when you happen to be holidaying in the area.
If you’re of a certain age, some of the cars of yesteryear and the old enamelled tin advertising signs will be curiously recognisable. Rather like a bunch of old friends you’d completely forgotten about. So be prepared: there could be a wee bit of nostalgia for times when petrol was 4/6d a gallon (22½p) and motorway service stations were jolly thrilling places to spend a day out (aren’t they still?). There’s an amazing collection of car mascots too. In fact, the museum claims to have “perhaps the largest collection of motoring memorabilia on public view in the UK.” All I can say is - perhaps they are right...
There’s an enormous display of pushbikes. Now, unless you’re the managing director of Halfords, or possibly into dressing up in spandex, it’s hard to see how anyone could get terribly excited about things that, apart from obvious individuals like penny-farthings, mostly all look pretty much the same. Personally, my eyes glaze over when it comes to too many motor bikes as well – though some of these are undoubtedly wonderful looking machines – but there’s certainly one or two of those for the bikers and other leather-lovers amongst you; plenty to torque about. However, one unexpected joy was a display of kiddies’ pedal cars, which I found fascinating: did you know that many of these were made by the motor manufacturers themselves, using off-cuts from the factories? I didn’t, but it makes sense, if you think about it. They weren’t all toys for rich kids – though I do remember seeing a mini-Mercedes in Harrods sometime in the 1990s, which had a real petrol engine, sound system and leather upholstery, priced at £42,000. Bonkers.
It’s the grown-up cars you want to know about though, isn’t it? All that shining steel…the heady scent of rubber and exhaust fumes... Well, there’s everything from a De Dion Bouton from 1907 to a DeLorean (1981) – and more besides. Most of the cars are European, though there’s a Cadillac, Buick, or something similar of the type owned by Al Capone, complete with Tommy-Gun accessory. Refugees from the 70s can reminisce over what Ian Dury might have done whilst imitating a hyena in the back of a Cortina, and there’s an Austin Allegro in the same shade of vomit green as my mother’s Morris Marina. What did designers do to paint colours in the 1970s, anyway?! Donald Campbell’s Rolls Royce, in bluebird blue (yeuch!) is there – with a Campbell Bluebird Exhibition next door, by the way. I was intrigued by a rather natty 1960 MG roadster, with police trimmings: apparently, 50 of these were procured by Lancashire Constabulary…it does make you wonder about the boys in blue, doesn’t it? In any event, there are cars you grew up with, cars you’ve seen in movies, ugly cars, lovely cars – and one thing they all seem to have in common is that every one of them appears to be in excellent condition.
If all the motoring stuff isn’t enough, there’s several amusing shop displays as well as some interesting background on the local industrial heritage. Nearby was an iron works that closed in 1963 and a gunpowder mill that produced over 33% of the powder used in the Napoleonic Wars. So now you know. The museum itself is located in a refurbished factory, which used to package ‘blue’ – used in washing powder, amongst other things.
A great deal of thought and enthusiasm has gone into the Lakeland Motor Museum. The collection moved there from nearby Holker Hall in 2010, though you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s already a little cramped in parts, and that there’s precious little room for expansion. The adjacent café seems to be disproportionately large – maybe catering pays better.
The Lakeland Motor Museum is located in Backbarrow, just off the A590, a few miles south of Windermere, and you can read more about it by visiting the Lakeland Motor Museum website.