Some pics from a visit to the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham - July 2019

Discussion in 'Europe' started by MikeO, Aug 1, 2019.

  1. MikeO

    MikeO Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
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    Scarning, Norfolk today...
    29th July 2019

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    I have been meaning to visit the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull, Birmingham for absolutely years. At the suggestion of my old boss Catherine, I drove (the shame!) the three and a half hours from my home in Norfolk, arriving at about 0945 - to meet Catherine in the car park taking off her crash helmet! Epic timing... :brow

    Catherine stored her kit in my car and we wandered into the museum...

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    It is a beautiful sunny and warm day, and I once again ask myself why I didn't ride here- or at least bring the convertible...:fpalm

    We have some half price tickets - but full price is only about £9.00 per head - which I think you will see is excellent value.

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    Bit concerned about the loos, though... :hmmmmm

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    Entrance is via the pay desk in the gift shop, where the very helpful staff gave us a brief rundown on the layout and where to get a cuppa, then we started our tour...

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    The lady at the pay desk said they had many more bikes than they could display (I know this is true of a number of readers here, too :D) and so the displays change gradually over the years as different models are cycled through. All bikes are from British manufacturers.

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    There are thousands of bikes here. I will only be showing you a random selection, or we'd be here all night...

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    I'm always a sucker for a cut-away display, like this old Enfield (from before they went to India)...

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    This...

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    ...is an LE Velocette - a 200cc water cooled, horizontally opposed twin with shaft drive. They were extensively used by the police in the UK, universally known as 'Noddy Bikes'...

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    Many of the exhibits here are loaned to the museum - this Vincent Black Shadow was being wheeled out for a prospective new owner to have a look at...:-)

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    Look at the similarities (other than engine size) between this 1964 Velocette Vogue and the Honda PC800, or ST1100 - there's nothing new under the sun...

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    There are oddities everywhere - like this homemade Marsh MR4 - completely scratch built... :eekers

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    The Automobile Association (AA) used these BSA B40s in the 1960s as patrol vehicles. If you saw one at the side of the road, and were displaying an AA badge, the rider would salute. If he didn't salute, it mean there was a speed trap ahead... :lol3

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    Here's a slightly different take on a combination (hack, outfit, sidecar)...

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    ...in this 1924 1000cc Seal, you 'drive' from the sidecar. There is seating for four - but, looking at the size of the seats, it was clearly designed before MacDonald's was...

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    The displays are splendid to look at. Personally (as I have banged on about in previous reports), I prefer my classic bikes to have some patina of age - these look far better than when they came out of the factory...

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    How cool is this 500cc 1913 Rover with wickerwork sidecar, though?:-)

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    Excellent cutaway Triumph twin...

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    Now there's a comfortable looking bike...

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    ...with a rather over-complicated speedo drive...

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    Here's another invention (from 1903), which you see in use at the back of bicycles these days...

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    The 1904 Garrard Forecar - the days when your passenger was your crumple zone... :D

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    The fittings on these old 'flat-tank' bikes are a steampunk dream...

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    ...this is a 1904 411cc Rex...

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    1920 150cc Stafford Mobile Pup scooter...

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    1921 Reynolds Runabout - a box on the back for a tradesman's tools...

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    I loved this...

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    A Reynolds Special from 1931, using a Scott water-cooled two-stroke parallel twin engine...

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    Once again, proof that there is nothing new under the sun - a 1952 Brockhouse Corgi...

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    ...designed to fold down and fit in the boot of your car...

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    Sunbeam have always made ultra-cool looking bikes - this one is a 1952 500cc S8...

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    Bikes went to war - Vickers liquid-cooled machine gun for the sidecar crew here...

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    Miniature foldable Excelsior 'Welbike' bike for use by parachutists in WWII. The container has a crush device at the bottom end to absorb some of the impact of landing...

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    The famous Ariel Square 4. This is the prototype of the Mk4 Squariel...

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    How about that then? A Brough Superior Dream...

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    Actually, it's a bit like a Brough Superior dealership here... :lol3

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    I remember overhearing a chap at the Bike Show at the NEC a few years ago saying he'd turned down an offer of £120k for one of these - the total value of the collection here must be immense...

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    Rickman Triumph Metisse 650 in police livery - slightly before my time...

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    Ex NYPD Indian 700 - one of very few non-Brit bikes on display...

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    1987 Armstrong MT500 - this one in desert camo. You used to see olive green versions of these all over the place - they were the staple British Army dispatch rider bike for decades...

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    1975 prototype Triumph 'Quadrant' - a 1000cc, four cylinder version of the 750cc triple Triumph Trident. By 1975, Honda and Kawasaki were already selling thousands of big, reliable and smooth four cylinder bikes - Triumph clearly thought it was too late to play catch-up...

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    If ever there was an object lesson in ignoring a market competitor at your peril, it must be the Brit bike industry, who thought they had a completely loyal customer base, until the customer base started taking notice of how much easier to own and more fun Japanese bikes were...

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    This part of the display is devoted to prototypes - like this 1938 Scott Squirrel 1000cc three cylinder two-stroke...

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    More AA and Royal Automobile Club (RAC) combinations from a bygone age...

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    Beautiful old Matchless - although restored to within an inch of its life...

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    And a Neracar!

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    I remember seeing one of these at the Invercargill museum in New Zealand, back in 2017...

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    This is a 1933 NUT 700cc V-Twin - NUT stands for Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Probably not the brightest bit of branding... :D

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    1930 400cc Matchless Silver Arrow :raabia

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    Slightly more up to date - the Hesketh 1000cc Vampire V-twin Super Tourer. Hesketh Motorcycles
    have an interesting history, as indeed does Alexander, 3rd Lord Hesketh - a complete petrol-head who had his own Formula One team (if you have seen the film Rush, it was the team James Hunt was driving for at the start) and later started a motorcycle company. Neither survived his management, although the motorcycle company seems to still be solvent.

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    Remarkably, there is a Hesketh scooter - electrically powered...

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    1924 Montgomery 1000cc V-twin - looking remarkably like a Brough Superior...

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    There is an excellent display of Royal Enfield bikes - they must have an example of just about everything they produced...

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    1960 Royal Enfield Meteor Minor 500...

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    Beautiful Rickman 1970 Royal Enfield Interceptor Metisse..

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    The quality of the welding on the nickel-plated Rickman frame is superb...

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    It's getting quite warm in the museum, so Catherine and I grab a cuppa from the restaurant and repair to the balcony to enjoy the sunshine (WHY didn't I bring my bike or the convertible?) :bluduh

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    Suitably refreshed, we go back and find our place in Hall Four (of Five Halls) - home to some trikes...

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    Hall Five has a lot of competition and racing bikes, like this 1963 Super Nero Sprint Machine - with a supercharged 1000cc Vincent engine...

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    ...plus whatever these are... :rofl

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    1929 Chater-Lea Brooklands Special - 'Copperknob'...

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    ...as well as various dragsters...

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    Beautiful 1934 Excelsior 250cc road racer - The Mechanical Marvel...

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    Lots of John Player Nortons...

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    1928 Grindlay Peerless JAP 500...

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    1937 OK 250cc Supreme RC/37 - 'True Blue'...

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    Spectacular 1952 Norton racing outfit...

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    Look at that fuel tank!

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    1962 500cc Norton 30M Manx...

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    Just look at the names on the fairings - chariots of the gods indeed...

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    One of the most famous British racing bikes - Slippery Sam - a Triumph Trident production racer...

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    Gorgeous looking 1951 500cc Vincent Series - Grey Flash...

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    And that pretty much brings us to the end of the display.

    I recommend this museum to anyone who even has a passing interest in motorcycles, or things mechanical. It's well set out, easy parking, good restaurant etc.

    Most remarkably - it suffered a near-catastrophic fire in 2003, but managed to rebuild and reopen about 12 months later...:-)

    My advice if you're going to visit - go by bike... :bluduh

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    On the drive home, I saw this hearse. It's clearly still in use as a hearse, but don't know what religion or sect might use a vehicle decorated like this...

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    #1
  2. nickguzzi

    nickguzzi Long timer

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    Thanks for the review.
    When I lived in/near Leicester I would pop across quite often. I worked in Hinckley and it was even nearer for an after work bimble.

    I always feel guilty. As a kid I was given a 350cc Gold Star, and it got thrashed to death and abandoned on the bomb sites we used to play on. The NMM had before the fire a trio of Goldies. The inevitable and expected DBD 34, an Eddie Dow Rocket Gold Star and a Rocket Three version which had been built by some American dealers and sent to Small Heath with a note saying "build us lots of these" It did look stunning. Like many irreplaceable bikes, they got melted don to scrap in the fire. Maybe they have rebuilt them, they weren't there last time I was.

    As well as the museum, there is the adjacent NEC for both trade and public exhibitions and live performances by all sorts, metal to disney on ice. Best bit though, is apart from the Birmingham city quadrant, the countryside and roads all around (other than the inevitable main roads and motorways) are pretty good, a few sites and attractive villages/towns in and around.
    #2
  3. Roadscum

    Roadscum Long timer

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    A little bit of drool is running down my jaw. All I can say is WOW, I want to be there. A thousand thanks for taking me along on the tour. :beer

    Paul
    #3
  4. CROSSBOLT

    CROSSBOLT Been here awhile

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    There is a motorcycle museum also in Birmingham....Alabama! Your pictures are stunning! Britain gave the world the hand clutch and foot brake and your pictures from the original Birmingham prove lots more genius years before others reinvented the same things!
    #4
  5. nickguzzi

    nickguzzi Long timer

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    For visitors to the area (for whatever reason) not sated by the NMM, nearby Coventry also has a Museum of Transport, not vast but celebrate the city's former position as England's Motor City.
    The museum is more diverse than NMM, often has a special display in the foyer, and all free to enter last time I went.

    Cov is much smaller. The centre is mostly pedestrianised so you can easily walk to the famous Cathedral - take your pick of two. Tiny bits of the Medieval city remain after the Blitz destroyed most of it. It's reckoned the post war planners did more damage than the nazi's.
    #5
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  6. hairnet

    hairnet will travel for cake

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    good pics mike

    recommend sammy millers in teh new forest

    nicer roads too :D

    @CROSSBOLT will be going to barber in mid sept - not on the bike sadly
    #6
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  7. Popeyerider

    Popeyerider n00b

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    Hi There
    I went to this motorcycle show more a less in the same area.
    Lot of people collecting old bikes

    #7
  8. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer Supporter

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    Thanks for that - a lot of stuff that we don't see on this side of the pond. And more than a few memories.

    Re: the museum in our Birmingham (Leeds, actually) - the Barber Motorsports Park & Museum is worth a visit. It's a private facility owned by a gentleman with a somewhat (cough) larger toy budget than mine.

    A few pics from my last visit: https://www.fratellibrothers.com/Motorcycles/Barber-Motorsports-Museum-2018
    #8