The Museum Story

The British Motor Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of historic British Cars; it boasts nearly 300 cars in its collection which span the classic, vintage and veteran eras.

Situated in the small village of Gaydon, Warwickshire, just off junction 12 of the M40. The Museum building is a spectacular piece of architecture with an art deco design, whilst the Collections Centre building is a modern contrast. Together they stand proudly in a beautifully landscaped setting of 65 acres, which rolls out onto the Warwickshire countryside.

Background

The Museum opened in 1993 as the amalgamation of the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust’s preserved car collection.

The Trust decided that the car collection and artefacts were outgrowing its then two locations, Studley in Warwickshire and a museum in Syon Park in London. A dedicated purpose-built residence was needed to give the collection pride of place and open for public viewing.

It was the Trust’s mission to keep the memory of the British motor industry alive and to tell its story to all, starting from the beginning of the 20th Century to present day. So a building was designed that not only housed the cars and its extensive motoring archive, but also had educational and conference facilities thus ensuring its sustainability. The Heritage Motor Centre, as it was first known, opened in May 1993.

 

Heritage Motor Centre 2010

Heritage Motor Centre 2010

2006/7 Museum Redevelopment

Always keen to keep the Museum current and a leader in its field, in 2006 the Trust was awarded a Heritage Lottery grant of £1.3 million pounds to further enhance the Museums displays and interpretation.

“We carried out research with the public to find out what they wanted to see in a museum” said project director Tim Bryan. “The results showed that visitors wanted to learn more of what has been hidden away and they wanted to know how cars work under the skin”

This was the inspiration which began the five month project to give the public a Museum that aimed to reach their expectations and more.  The result was a number of new exhibitions including “Making British Cars” and “Under the Skin” , all of which are educational and entertaining whether you are a car enthusiast or not!

The Mezzanine floor in the Museum

  • Under the Skin Exhibition

  • Making British Cars Exhibition

The most dramatic transformation of the 2006/7 re-development was a new mezzanine floor, which forms a quarter section of the museum and was designed to be a more flexible exhibition space, housing temporary exhibitions.

Temporary Exhibitions have included

2009 - The Mini 50th Exhibition

2010 - Jeremy Houghton Art Exhibition

2011 - Guild of Motoring Artists Exhibition

2011 - Aston Martin a Centenary of Craftsmanship

2012 - Record Breakers

2014 - James Hull Exhibition

Closed for five months of building work, the Museum was officially re-opened in September 2007 by Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal, who was fascinated and impressed with the new exhibitions.

Princess Anne

Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal opening the Mezzanne in 2007

2014 DESIGNATED STATUS AWARDED

In November 2014 the Museum was awarded Designated Status, – meaning that its collections were of national and international significance.

The Designation scheme in run by Arts Council England and identifies the pre-eminent collections of national and international importance held in England's non-national museums, libraries and archives, based on their quality and significance.

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THE BUILDING OF THE COLLECTIONS CENTRE

With the British Motor Industry Heritage Trusts car collection nearing 300 vehicles and display space within the Museum at a premium, its reserve collection was largely kept unseen, in storage.

It had long been the Trusts plan to build a storage facility that would allow public access to all of its collection, and in 2013 a Heritage Lottery grant, and funding from Jaguar Land Rover, The Garfield Weston Foundation as well as British Motor Industry Heritage Trust and the Jaguar Heritage Trust, made the dream a reality.

The Collections Centre opened in November 2015 as a store for the reserve car collections of both the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust and the Jaguar Heritage Trust.

  • Collection Centre Building in November 2015

Museum Redevelopment and Rebranding

In the winter of 2015 the Museum underwent a further £1.1million refurbishment, dramatically changing the layout of the exhibitions with fresh and interactive interpretation. With its recent Designated Status and new look Museum, the Trust took the opportunity to change the Museums name from the Heritage Motor Centre to something that more accurately portrays the visitor experience as well as its position and status.  

– so the British Motor Museum was born.

Re-opened in February 2016, and housed within two buildings, the British Motor Museum collections form the world’s largest collection of historic British cars on view to the public.

More Than a Museum

The British Motor Museum is known for having one of the top car collections in the world but it is much more than just a motor museum. From a comprehensive archive and picture library, education and learning programmes, a spectacular calendar of specialist motoring events, clubs, rallies, group visits, to weddings, corporate team building and conference facilities, there is a lot more at the venue to be discovered.

This is a Museum with a difference, unique and versatile; the British Motor Museum offers something for everyone, even those not so passionate about cars! Come and EXPLORE what we have on offer.

Related Pages
Museum

Immerse yourself in the fascinating story of Britain’s motor industry – the designers, the factories, the workers, the cars, the publicity and the drivers.

> Find out More
Collections

The Collections at the British Motor Museum include over 300 British cars and over 1m historical items tracing the history of the British motor industry.

> Find out More
Archive

The Archive, at the British Motor Museum, preserves and provides access to documents, images and film that record the work and achievements of the people who were employed in the British motor industry. 

> Find out More