Last week I got wind of editor-in-chief Steve Cropley’s plans to make a flying visit to the motor museum at Beaulieu. It struck me that it was probably the thick end of forty years since I had last been there.
My first and only visit was on a rare family holiday, which was at the other end of Britain from home. (The New Forest is a staggeringly long way from Lancashire, especially when you are travelling in the back of an Austin 1800S on a hot summer’s day…).
The two exhibits that have always stuck in my mind from that trip were the 1928 Golden Arrow and the 1960 Bluebird-Proteus, both world Land Speed Record cars. Oddly, my most vivid memory was of the Bluebird’s massive faired-in wheels and the tiny cockpit. Perhaps it was this machine that triggered a fascination with design and engineering in a young head.
Anyway, I could hardly pass up the chance to steal a few hours and jumped into the Jaguar F-Type’s passenger seat alongside Cropley on a particularly miserable morning. If you’ve not been, Beaulieu’s main exhibition may be compact, but it is absolutely stuffed with machinery that will make anybody with a bit of imagination stop and stare and think. I was particularly struck by a WW2 Jeep which actually took part in the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944.