The Creation of the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust

In 1968 the British Leyland Motor Corporation was created by a merger which brought together most of the surviving British Motor manufacturers. Many individual companies owned a number of old vehicles which had been kept for historic or publicity purposes so ‘Leyland Historic Vehicles’ was set up in 1975 to look after them all.

The department soon began to accumulate historic documents and photographs and by 1979 had become a self-funding operation, renamed BL Heritage Ltd.

By 1983 the archive and vehicle collections had grown to the point where it was decided to establish an independent charitable trust to safeguard them. This was how the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust came into being.


Early Days

As ‘Leyland Historic Vehicles’ matured into a Trust, it outgrew its accommodation at the Longbridge factory. In 1978 the archive collections and vehicle workshop moved to Studley Castle which British Leyland had acquired in the 1970s as a conference and training facility. Studley had formerly been an agricultural college and thus our documents and reserve vehicles were housed in rather charmingly named buildings such as the ‘coach house’ and the ‘milking parlour’, but it was not possible to bring the public onto this site.

Studley Castle outbuildings – home to BL Heritage Ltd. In the 1980s
Studley Castle outbuildings – home to BL Heritage Ltd. In the 1980s

Some vehicles had been put on display at Donington Park, but at the end of 1980 a larger selection moved to a small museum in the grounds of Syon Park in London.

In 1983 the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust (BMIHT) was formed to secure the collection for the Nation. It owns a wide range of historical items which help describe the long and varied history of motor car manufacture in Britain, since its early beginnings more than one hundred years ago. Every item that it collects has been made by or is connected to British motor manufacturers.

As the BMIHT vehicle and archive collection continued to grow and it was obvious that a new home was required. With help from Rover Group, in 1993 the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon was opened, enabling many more of the cars in the collection to be put on display and the Archive to be stored in a professional environment.

The Trust Today

Today the Trust continues to grow and shape its work and collections.

The Trust has raised funds for many projects including the purchase of the Nick Baldwin Collections, several major museum re-developments and the 4500m2 Collections Centre, to house the reserve vehicle collections of the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust and the Jaguar Heritage Trust.

The Trust maintains its philosophy of preserving Britain’s motoring heritage and sharing its story with the nation.

The Trust’s Archive now encompasses thousands of business and sales documents, more than a million images and miles of moving film, all of which chart the course of the British motor industry from the 1880s up to present day. The Archive provides access to many of its records for authors, academics, press and the media and the demand for its Heritage Certificates continues to grow.

The British Motor Industry Heritage Trust Archive
The British Motor Industry Heritage Trust Archive