On Priory Street, in the shadow of Coventry cathedral and down a short flight of steps that takes you below pavement level, is a length of old brick wall supported at intervals by stout buttresses. Much of the old pointing around the bricks has disappeared. In fact, some of the bricks themselves have disappeared. The work of souvenir hunters? Possibly. After all, this forgotten stretch of brickwork is all that remains of the huge Triumph factory that once stood here.
Coventry is full of glimpses into its motoring past such as this: a short length of iron railings beside a busy road, a grand gatehouse outside a business park, once handsome head offices now a city centre bar… These and other little-known locations today form what we’ll call ‘Coventry confidential’ – those factories and offices that once earned this enterprising city the nickname the British Detroit but now go largely unrecognised today.
Autocar set out, pre-lockdown, to discover some of them during a day with Coventry studies officer and transport specialist Damien Kimberley, an authority on the city’s motoring past. But just so that the day wasn’t spent solely wallowing in history, our first appointment was at the London Electric Vehicle Company just outside Coventry, to collect our carriage for the day: a TX range-extending electric taxi.
Note: to see where each landmark appears on the map, just match the markers with the numbers in the subheads
1 - Coventry Transport Museum - Millennium Place, Hales Street, Coventry, CV1 1JN
It can’t be often that a taxi ventures onto the plaza in front of Coventry’s transport museum. Still, I see no traffic wardens so I park up and within moments am joined by Damien, who’s bursting with information and anecdotes about the area and where Coventry’s car-making story begins.