Coventry’s Transport Museums – The Museum of British Road Transport – IanVisits


The third of Coventry’s museums was known as the Museum of Road Transport, which is undeniably is, but was rebranded in 2001 as the Coventry Transport Museum, which it sort of is.

(I chose the older name for the headline, as to keep with the previous two Coventry museum article title formats would have meant a headline of “Coventry’s Transport Museums – The Transport Museum”, which just looked weird)

Coventry being once the beating heart of the British motor vehicle industry, it’s apt that there should be a very large museum devoted to the history of road transport in the country. Not just cars, but also their precursor, the bicycle and the later motorbike.

As a person, I am rather ambivalent about motorcars, which makes a visit to this museum rather harder to appreciate. My ambivalence stems in part from my father’s attempts to get me interested in driving a car, which was occasioned by putting me in the driving seat at the top of a hill and releasing the brake.

Had his intention been to scare me witless, few alternatives could have done as good a job, so I spent my teenage years looking at his large collection of vintage cars, and the offputting smell of petrol and oil, with a notable lack of teenage interest.

Later years never caused a need to drive, so never a desire to put in the effort, and even today I struggle to muster up the desire to learn.

For me therefore a museum full of cars is one to wander around casually admiring the craftsmanship of old cars, which is a delight to see, but probably not quite getting the Top Gear excitement that most visitors were experiencing.

It helps that the museum is also free to enter.

The museum is also large. Surprisingly large in fact.

A ground floor filled with motor cars, and motorbikes, and enough penny farthings to make a hipster weep with delight.

A few signs dotted around explain bits of history, but this is very much a display for people who know a bit about cars already, which admittedly is most of the population, just not me.

However, the history of the British motor industry can’t shy away from the era of nationalisation and unions, and strikes. A side room which talks about the board meeting to close the last manufacturing plant in the city offers local residents a voting opportunity, and unsurprisingly, most locals say the factory should have been kept open.

Whether is was possible to be kept open is overlooked.

Upstairs though, is a potentially much more interesting display, being a modern addition and full of modern thinking about the motor vehicle. From new materials to make cars from to the notion of doing away with the driver entirely — in a driverless concept car that still had a steering wheel.

Jaguar, the local dominant company, and the one who want to use the land occupied by the railway museum, have a large space to show off their wares. As much a heritage collection as a chance to promote their latest cars.

The area where your correspondent did start to get excited a bit was the sight of a Sinclair C5. Given the space and budget to “buy something for the road”, as impractical as it is, I have a strong suspicion that this would be very high up the list of things to buy.

At the other end of the spectrum though and also curiously exciting is the collection of land-speed record vehicles.

These “jet engines on wheels” are reminiscent of an earlier age when motoring was still a bit of a luxury and racing cars playthings of rich aristocrats.

Today, Britain is once again pushing the limits of road speed, with the Bloodhound SSC aiming to reach 1,000 miles per hour. That vehicle is undergoing speed trials, so the museum has a full size model on display, next to it’s real life predecessors.

The Coventry Transport Museum is open most days, and is free to visit. If you’re a car geek, this is a wonderous place to visit. If not, it’s interesting, and as it’s free, worth a wander around if nothing else.

Coventry therefore has three museums of transport to visit, devoted to trains, planes and automobiles, which is pretty good when you think about it.



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