Over the weekend I was lucky enough to take some time off from the hustle and bustle of London and head down to UK’s National Motor Museum, right in the heart of The New Forest. The museum is located at Beaulieu (pronounced Byoo-Lee), a 7,000-acre estate just East of Brockenhurst, complete with a Cistercian Abbey built in 1204, a monorail, and of course, a motor museum.
The museum, although not the biggest I’ve come across, is impressive. It starts at the dawn of motoring and works its way through the decades, showcasing cars, motorbikes, trucks, technology, accessories and memorabilia that have influenced the automotive industry for over a hundred years. After hours of perusing the collection, I found myself coming back for more pictures of the racing cars and bikes. Here are 5 reasons I’ll definitely be making a second visit to the museum:
The first car that grabbed my attention at the museum was Graham Hill's 1967 Lotus 49 F1 car. After Lotus' limited success with the complicated 16-cylinder BRM-powered Lotus 43, chief engineer and Lotus founder Colin Chapman went back to the drawing board and penned what would become one of the most iconic race cars ever to be built. The 49 was the first car to be powered by Cosworth's legendary DFV, which proved an immediate success with Jim Clark winning the 49's first outing at Zandvoort in 1967.
After Clark's passing at Hockenheim in 1968, Hill would become Lotus' no.1 driver, and with wins in the 1968 F1 season in Spain, Monaco and Mexico, Hill would record his second of three championship wins. This car is well-preserved, and just looking at it in person takes you to a different time and place.
I still can’t believe Donald Campbell's Bluebird CT7 is sitting in a museum in the middle of the New Forest. As a kid I remember reading about the Campbell family and their world record attempts. 400mph was unfathomable. It still is. Already successful water speed record contenders, the Campbell family decided they’d like to attempt a land speed record. Between 1960 and 1962, they built a number of prototypes. Unfortunately, not all were successful, but the crown jewel was CT7.
This car was nearly written off at the Bonneville salt flats during testing in 1960 and the car nearly never had a chance to set any sort of record. Campbell lost control at over 360 mph and suffered serious injury, including a nasty skull fracture. After rebuilding the damaged car, in 1962 Campbell decided it was time to make a serious attempt at the record. He also decided that the salt flats at Bonneville were too short.
Yeah, that's right, he needed more space. You know you're going fast when you need an area longer and flatter than Bonneville. So where do you find that? Well, you put your land speed record car on a boat and you take it to one of the most inhospitable places on earth - Australia.
Upon arrival at Lake Eyre in South Australia, the dry lake bed which had been picked out as the best place in the world for setting a land speed record had seen unprecedented rainfall and testing was called off. After sponsors pulled out and the project was all but called off, Campbell returned to Australia in 1964, and on a still-drying lake managed to set a couple of record attempts, including his most famous 403.1 mph, a speed that even now is unfathomable.
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a Cosworth BDA engine at 9,000rpm before, but when you do, it’s pretty special. Vatanen and his RS1800 won the World Rally Championship in 1982 comprehensively, and just seeing the car sitting there in real life, I couldn’t help but imagine what it must have been like in 1982, watching and hearing this monster coming over a hill at warp speed with Vatanen driving ten tenths in championship conditions. Still gives me goosebumps.
Yes, I know it's not a car, but this one is important. Before the 1960s, British and Italian racing bikes reigned supreme. The front row of the grid of any World Championship 500cc, 350cc, 250cc or 125cc race would almost certainly contain a Norton, AJS, MV Agusta or Benelli. Japanese manufacturers like Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha were uncompetitive, until a rethink about their racing program changed motorcycle racing forever. In 1961, Honda entered their brand new RC162: an inline-4 250cc thoroughbred racing machine with a 6-speed gearbox. It would be ridden by Mike Hailwood, who would go on to win the 250cc World Championship that year.
Not only did Honda win the 250cc class, they also won the 125cc class with Tom Phillis on a Honda RC143. The two championship wins changed everything, and from 1962-1967, every 125cc, 250cc and 350cc World Championship would be won on a Honda, Yamaha or Suzuki. Finally in 1975, a 500cc title was won by a Japanese manufacturer, with Giacomo Agostini on Yamaha’s YZR500.
Ok, I lied, there is a particular order for this list. No other racing car is as impressive or recognisable than a John Wyer Porsche 917K. I had to do a double-take when I saw this car, because even though I’ve seen a 917 driving around a track before, seeing one unexpectedly is a bit like coming across a bear in the woods. Everybody has their own opinion about what the ultimate race car is, but a Porsche 917K is as close to perfection as you could possibly get.
Built almost exclusively to win big endurance races like Le Mans, Porsche enjoyed success with the various forms of this impressive endurance racer. This particular car was built in 1969, entered into competition in 1970, and saw most of its success in 1971 under the helm of some serious names. Pedro Rodriguez, Jackie Oliver, Jo Siffert, Richard Attwood, Derek Bell, Gijs van Lennep all drove this car to multiple victories, and this special piece of automotive history is there for all to see, right in the heart of the New Forest.