Curator's Choice: the National Motor Museum
Wednesday 20 October 1993
The range of road cars on display stretches from a replica of the first ever road car, built by Benz in 1886, a Knight built in 1895 in Farnham when a speed limit of 4 mph was in force, right up to a Jaguar XJ220, built in 1993 and with a top speed of over 220 mph.
My personal favourite is the Vauxhall Prince Henry, a four-seater built in 1915. This is my favourite for the simple reason that it was the first true British sports car, with a top speed of 80 mph. It is enormous fun to drive, having very thin, beaded tyres and only back wheel brakes, which make rather a mockery of modern-day stopping distances. This car is a perfect example of the museum's desire to concentrate their collection on cars for their innate quality and performance, rather than on anything they represent in a social or historical context. Having said that, one of our top attractions is the famous Bluebird, in which Donald Campbell managed to achieve the record speed of 429 mph in 1964.
The most regrettable element about the modern car industry is that the sports car is out of most people's financial reach, unlike such cars as the mass-produced MGs which continue to give drivers such a wonderful experience. For this reason, my favourite modern car is actually 25 years old, the Morgan, although unfortunately I rarely have the opportunity to drive anything other than the company car.
Michael Ware is curator of the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, Brockenhurst (0590 612345)
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