The Journey

We are going to take you on a journey...

A journey featuring British companies,and the people behind them,
which were at the forefront of a transport revolution.

The heroes of our journey are the cars – NOT a random selection of old vehicles but a carefully chosen selection of cars made in Britain which changed the world for good. Many of the cars have their own story: a 55 year old Mini with 7700 miles on the clock, the last MG Metro ever produced showing less than 400 miles, and one of the 360 Morris Minor “Millions” produced in 1961 to celebrate a production record and sent to every Morris dealer in the UK.

Your journey is a timeline which starts in 1921 when Austin very nearly went bust, and ends in the present when we all take the car completely for granted. It features success and failure, both mechanical and human, and charts the rise and demise of an industry which was once vital to our economy.

Your guide is a specially produced device providing audio commentary and pictures, and guides you through the decades as the cars roll out before you. The basic journey can be completed in less than 90 minutes but, if you choose to unlock the many secrets of these very special cars, your journey could be much, much longer!

This is an interactive journey through the British car past in which Dad’s car, Mum’s car, your first car or the one you learned to drive in will almost certainly feature… as long as it was built in Britain!

Chapter 1 and our journey starts in 1922

With his company facing bankruptcy, Herbert Austin changed the world for ever with his little Austin Seven. Working families could sell the motorbike and sidecar and go on relatively long journeys in comfort in their motor car which conveniently would fit in the same shed that the Bike and Sidecar had occupied

The Cars on display in this Chapter include

  • A selection of Austin Sevens demonstrating the evolution of the first Chummy into a range of cars which sold in huge numbers up until the outbreak of war in 1939.
  • There are also some other pre-war Austins
  • As well as a car built in Scotland in 1902 – can you guess what it could be?.

Chapter 2 starts at the end of the Second World War war with the British car industry slow to recover as all of its factories had been turned over to production of tanks, munitions and aircraft.

It was Austin’s great rival William Morris who became Lord Nuffield who hit the sweet spot in terms of producing the next great family car. The Morris Minor designed by the great Alec Issigonis offered a relatively large car but with small car agility and performance. Launched in 1948, the Minor became a much loved symbol of post-war prosperity and by 1961 more than a million had been produced.

The cars on display in this chapter include

  • Selection of Morris Minors
  • The equivalent small cars from Austin ( A30) and Ford (Anglia 100E).
  • There are also bigger 1950s cars from Austin, Morris, Standard, MG, Bristol, Jaguar and Daimler
  • MK1 Land Rover, another great British product launched after the war.

Many of these cars have fascinating back-stories which can be accessed on the interactive tour guide.

Chapter 3 begins in !959 with Alec Issigonis not content with the success of his Morris Minor, bringing his Mini to the market, which of course was destined to be the best selling small car ever made in the UK.

Issigonis was a genius and the Mini combined technical innovation with brilliant packaging. Although it was only ten feet long, the diminutive car could genuinely transport four adults and a decent amount of luggage. Just as important was its lovable looks and the fact that it was terrific fun to drive. It soon became the poster-car of the 60s with The Beatles, Princess Margaret, Twiggy and even a certain Enzo Ferrari becoming ambassadors for a car that was groovy and cool.

The cars on display in this chapter include 

  • A number of different Minis including two which have never been registered.
  • Examples of the Austin/Morris 1100, another great Issigonis design
  • Some more exotic offerings from Jaguar and Jensen.

Chapter 4 bring us to 1967

Despite the great success of the Mini, not everything was rosy in the Austin / Morris garden as Ford and Vauxhall proved adept at recognising what the modern motorist required and the Ford Escort and Vauxhall Viva offered a lot of relatively simple car for not a lot of money.

The merger of Austin and Morris into the British Motor Corporation had not proved a particularly happy one and by 1967, Jaguar, Rover and Triumph joined the fold under a new umbrella called “British Leyland”.

Whereas both Ford and Vauxhall had rationalised and logical ranges to suit all pockets, British Leyland had a range in which many different brands competed with one another with a fairly disparate range of cars.

The cars on display in this Chapter include

  • Morris,
  • Wolseley,
  • Triumph ,
  • Daimler
  • Welsh Gilbern
  • Reliant Scimitar.

Chapter 5 takes a break from the chronological narrative and goes back to 1939 to introduce the Rootes Brothers who by this point presided over the biggest car retailing empire ever seen in the UK.

They were the best customers of both Austin and Morris and when then when other manufacturers hit trouble, they were there to pick up the pieces and became a significant force in car manufacturing as well as retailing with factories both here and abroad.

The cars on display in this chapter include many Rootes classics including

  • The wonderfully eccentric Hillman Minx Californian
  • The sublimely elegant Sunbeam Alpine.
  • The Hillman Avenger is also on display
  • A couple of wonderfully original and historic Humbers.

Chapter 6 continues the break from the narrative by looking at the two American companies who have been part of the UK car landscape for over a century.

Again the cars on display are those which were made and sold in huge volume but also scrapped in almost equal number – making some of them very rare now days

The Cars on display in this Chapter feature both Saloons and Estates and include

  • The very rare Vauxhall Chevette,
  • Several Vauxhall Cavaliers
  • Vauxhall Astra
  • The iconic Ford Escort,
  • Several Ford Cortinas
  • Ford Sierra.
  • A wonderful Ford Transit Camper

Chapter 7 returns to the narrative and the troubled decade of the 70s. British Leyland was still a wallowing conglomerate and some of the replacements for the successful cars of the 60s just didn’t cut it against the offerings from Ford ,Vauxhall and the new threat from Japan.

The cars on display in this Chapter include 

  • The Austin Allegro including the frankly weird looking Estate,
  • The Princess “Wedge”,
  • Some limited edition Minis which are still selling well
  • ,A very mysterious Vauxhall Victor
  • Rover SD1 Vitesse,
  • another interesting Jensen
  • A very large Daimler limousine.with a very interesting back story

Chapter 8 ushers in another decade and a change in both government and management at British Leyland.

The new Metro was supposed to replace the Mini…but the latter just refused to die. The Metro was a very good effort and well over two million were produced but the Maestro and Montego didn’t capture the hearts and minds of the 80s public and sales were never troubling to Ford who were dominant in the 1980s sales charts.

The cars on display in this chapter include

  • Austin Maestro,& Montegos
  • Selection of Mini Metros including the last one ever made
  • Reliant
  • Fords are ever-present and the Fiesta XR2 showcases their sporty credentials

Chapter 9 brings us back to the present day and deals with the sad end of car manufacturing in many of the towns and cities where it had almost become an institution.

There are still plenty of cars to look at including 

  • The new Ford Mondeo,
  • Various Rovers,
  • A couple of fascinating Rolls Royces
  • A Bentley once owned by a world famous Pop star.
  • A Formula One Car made in the UK
  • A whole host of quirky cars both big and small, many of which have their own great stories to tell.

At the end of the Journey, have a look in the workshop and see which of the many cars that you can come and drive are being fettled for the next day of Drive Dads Car experiences. Could be anything from an Austin Seven to a Rolls Royce!

Hopefully we have managed to wet your appetite so that you would like to join us on the Great British Car Journey  

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