The UK lottery draw raises money for a number of good causes around the country, some small and some much larger. One of the most spectacular of course was the 2012 London Olympics but another very obvious recipient is to be found just south of the M40 motorway at Gaydon, Warwickshire.
Set in 65 acres of well-tended parkland next to the elegant Aston Martin headquarters and the Jaguar/Land Rover Design and Engineering Centre, the Heritage Motor Centre houses a professional conference centre as well as nearly 300 exhibits tracing the development of the British car industry over more than 100 years.
The centre opened in 1993, combining the collections previously held at Studley, Warwickshire and Syon Park, London, much of it the property of the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust. This trust was created in 1986, supported by British Leyland (later Rover), inheriting in it’s turn vehicles and archives held by Leyland Historic Vehicles (set up in 1975) and BL Heritage Ltd. (1979).
The new centre is owned by a charitable trust and was built in a stunning Art Deco style, which provides a dramatic view to visitors as they arrive.
In 2006 the centre was redeveloped with the help of a £1.3 million grant from the UK lottery draw. After five months, the new centre was opened by the Princess Royal.
But don’t get the idea the UK lottery draw was supporting a static and musty museum. There is always something going on at the Heritage Motor Centre. There are regular meetings of enthusiasts in the large car parks outside the centre and those who arrive in a classic car pay a reduced entry fee; the day after I visited owners of Morris Minor Travellers were meeting at the site. At other times there are classic vehicle shows and rallies as well as shows covering other areas such as toys, model railways and even model aircraft.
The centre hosts specific exhibitions too: at present there is a display celebrating 100 years of Aston Martin cars.
As you arrive at the site you realize there is a lot going on: behind the Heritage Motor Centre is the banked Jaguar/Land Rover test track and you can hear powerful cars going through their paces. There is an extensive restoration and maintenance workshop in the building where five technicians look after the exhibits and prepare them for the many exhibitions and rallies they attend as well as for the Centre’s own displays.
For an extra fee, visitors can also book a demonstration ride in a Land Rover or pilot a four-wheel drive vehicle around the off-road course on site. Twice a day there is a guided tour of the centre and a restaurant, extensive conference facilities and even a wedding venue are available for use.
In 2008, the centre’s archive store was updated too. This area contains some 1 million documents, photographs and films related to the British car industry over the last 100 years. In 2005, the UK lottery draw provided money for the purchase of the Nick Baldwin collection of important archive material.
But it doesn’t even stop there: the Heritage Motor Centre owns some 300 significant vehicles with only around 180 on display at any one time. There are plans in place for an extra building to house the cars not normally on display as well as a new workshop facility and the UK lottery draw has already provided money for the planning stage. Hopefully the UK lottery draw will be closely involved in all stages of the development.
The UK lottery draw gets involved in many fascinating and deserving projects and the Heritage Motor Centre is certainly one to make players of the UK lottery draw proud. Why not pay the centre a visit, talk to the friendly staff and volunteers and know you are supporting one of the most interesting and significant museums?
If you want to find out more about the Heritage Motor Centre, visit their website.