Coachlines - August 2017

08.08.17 John Boyes

A day of nostalgia at Brooklands

On 27th July, 26 Coachmakers and guests gathered at the historic Brooklands circuit, disused airfield and now museum for a memorable day of automotive and aeronautical nostalgia. After coffee in the iconic Brooklands Club House we split into two groups and were introduced to our experienced guides whose knowledge of the Brooklands site, exhibits and activities were second to none.

The Club House has a fine history of its own and is famous for many reasons, not least of which is that past Liveryman Ray Wiltshire used it each year as the starting point for his annual BDC adventures to Le Mans.

After two large coffees I was, as the Americans say, in need of the bathroom, and indeed was directed to a seriously proper bathroom exquisitely kept in the style of the 1930s. This was, in period, the private bathroom of Sir Barnes Neville Wallace who had rooms at Brooklands whilst, amongst other things, designing the fuselage of the Vickers Wellington bomber; this I thought was a very good start to the tour.
Our group’s first stop were the ‘sheds’ which house a wonderful collection of competition cars from the very first days of motor racing through to recent Grand Prix cars, together with notable engines and innovative engineering. All of the exhibits had individual information boards with technical and historical details. Not surprisingly we were already behind schedule after the first shed, with only another eight to go.

At the end of this part of the tour, fellow Coachmaker, Director and CEO of the Brooklands Museum, Allan Winn, fired up, in close proximity to wide eyed school children and Coachmakers alike, John Cobb’s 24-Litre Napier Railton. After a raucous warm up period, Allan drove the car to the recently re-opened section of the track leading up to the banking; a fabulous sight.

Next was a visit to the aviation area, where early military fast jets were in the process of being restored to exhibit standards. Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder, but who could fail to see beauty in the Hawker Hunter? It’s from an age when British aviation industries led the world. The Vimy Pavilion houses a magnificent display of early aircraft including a Bleriot, an early Avro and the star of the show, a 1994 ‘tool room’ replica of a 1918 Vickers Vimy; the WW1 twin engine bomber which was delivered to the RAF too late to participate in hostilities, but which in civilian guise set records in long distance flights to Africa, the Far East and the Antipodes. This aircraft has a display licence and has been seen at Goodwood and other events. Onwards to the Wellington hanger where a Vickers Wellington bomber, designed by Barnes Wallace, was in restoration with its revolutionary geodesic fuselage design fully exposed for all to see and appreciate.

After a splendid lunch in the Club House Blue Bird room, we were given a short talk by Allan Winn on the aims and objectives of the Brooklands’ Museum Trust, its specific on-going projects, future ambitions and fundraising activities.

It was then time to participate in the Concorde Experience, inside the static Concorde on display. For those not lucky enough to have flown in Concorde in period, this was an opportunity to hear the sounds, feel the vibrations and see some of the sights during a short simulated Mach 2 flight from London to New York.

After a cup of tea, we had some free time to wander around the museum at leisure, to explore the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers Room and to see Barnes Wallis’ Strato Chamber. Then it was time to leave, it had been a great day out, enjoyed by all.