A couple of weeks ago I was at a local Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) meeting when a fellow member mentioned that the South West Mensa group he belonged to was going on an organised trip around The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu and invited his fellow IAM members to join him, I of course needed little prompting and ended up taking regular GALPOT contributor Tim and a last minuet guest Alberto from Madrid too.
Among the delights of the museum I did not cover on my previous visit was the oldest working self propelled vehicle in the country, an 1875 Grenville Steam Carriage capable of 18 mph, that was built by Robert Neville Grenville in nearby Butleigh Court, Glastonbury, Somerset.
When it comes to varied careers few vehicles can beat this 1910 Lancia Corsa that Billy Knipper drove to win the Tiedeman Trophy in Savannah on November 11th 1910, before it was used as a service vehicle by the Fire Chief of Lenox Massachusetts, it subsequently also served as a garage recovery vehicle !
Desperate for foreign earnings to revive the war ravaged economy and repay Britain’s huge war debts Austin came up with the wonderful Austin A90 Atlantic which was aimed squarely at the US market with power windows and hood on the convertible, unfortunately it was completely usurped by the more powerful and rakishly styled Jaguar XK120, but the six cylinder engine ended up powering several larger Austin Saloon / Sedan models and the much admired Austin Healey 100-Six.
A real surprise was finding the last Cadillac bought by Elvis Presley in the National Motor Museum, this 1977 Cadillac Seville MY series 6K is said to have also been driven by “The King” the day before his death on August 16th 1977.
In the learn something new department was that the last time I saw the chassis above was at Le Mans in 1992 when it was fitted with a closed cockpit coupé body and a 3.5 litre / 213 cui V12 BRM motor.
The car caught fire during the race which it started despite the fact that only Wayne Taylor had qualified in it. The fire damage was repaired but the car was not allowed to restart on the Sunday because it had covered insufficient distance.
I knew the car had been subsequently raced in open cockpit form but had not realised the BRM motor was replaced by a turbocharged 3 litre / 183 cui Nissan V6 motor.
In the latter form the renamed P301 was prequalified for the 1997 Le Mans 24 hours with 38th best time by Harri Toivonen and Johnny O’Connell, completed just 6 laps of the 1997 Le Mans 24 Hours, from 34th on the grid, after the engine failed, qualified 6th on the grid for the International Sports Racing Series at Donington, but failed to start because of an electrical problem, started 5th on the grid at Misano in 1998, but retired with drive shaft failure and finally failed to start at Donington in 1998 after it crashed during qualifying.
My thanks to Bill and all the Mensa members who made my guests and I feel so welcome.
Thanks for joining me on this “The Day We Went To Beaulieu” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at a Corvette that raced at Le Mans. Don’t forget to come back now !