Newest Review: ... suited the appearance of the vehicles! The Landmarques section is also worth a mention. We all enjoyed this part of the museum as ther... more
"It's Not Quite a Jaguar..."
Coventry Transport Museum (Coventry)
Member Name: Autarkis
Coventry Transport Museum (Coventry)
Date: 30/10/10, updated on 28/08/12 (154 review reads)
Advantages: A historic place that's free to visit
Disadvantages: Not everyone respects the right of no touching the exhibits
~Looking Good On the Outside~
The building itself is quite an impressive sight, with massive windows spanning the front and side of it giving a very striking look to it. Along with this, the surrounding area plays host to the Whittle Arches created in memory of Frank Whittle, Coventrian and inventor of the jet engine, and the Millennium Square which depicts the time lines of the world including the major cities of the world, along with the various twin cities of Coventry in their relevant time zones. These attractions are a wonder in themselves to observe, especially at night when the Arches are lit up and the time lines appear in a brilliant blue colour below your feet.
~And Our Special Guest is...~
Upon entering the building you are greeted with a rather friendly looking cafe on your left and one of the guest exhibits upon your right. Currently the guest exhibit is the Ladybird Big Book of Motor Cars which incorporates the Ladybird Reading books that we all grew up reading with some classic cars and images. Prior to this, the museum has played host to an exhibition documenting the design of disabled vehicles through the ages, and my favourite exhibit a history of ice cream trucks. For all those Sci-fi fans out there it originally housed a massive Doctor Who exhibit, which included a number of props and creatures from the hit TV programme, including items such as, one of David Tennant's outfits, and the bridal gown worn by Catherine Tate during her debut appearance on the show.
~Come One, Come All~
One of the great things about the museum is that when you reach the front desk you realize that there is no admission price list, that's because everybody who enters the museum pays exactly the same amount...the grand total of nothing. That's right not a bean, now that certainly in this day and age of everything costing something is a rarity to say the least. Of course though, the museum isn't going to let you get away completely scot-free, as with any major attraction there is of course the guide book that can be purchased from the front desk, and along with this there are a number of guided tours of the museum itself which gives participants of the tour an insight to some of the major displays contained within the museum's collection. The museum more relies upon the donations and charity of individuals who visit the museum; all through the different areas of the museum you will find a number of collection boxes where you can make a donation. The donation boxes themselves are not in your face and so don't make you feel like you are required to put money in them, which in turn makes you more likely to want to be generous, as it doesn't feel like they are trying to prise every last penny from your pocket.
The museum is divided into several different sections, each containing a number of motor vehicles based around a common theme. One of the first themes that you will come across is the commercial vehicles, which demonstrates an array of different farming vehicles and buses, and of coursewhat collection of buses in Coventry could be complete without the 1987 FA Cup winners double-decker which the Sky Blues rode through the streets of Coventry after their victory overTottenham. As you progress through the museum you are taken on a journey through the various eras of the motoring industry. All of the themed areas not only have a number of different automobiles displayed, but also incorporate a number of dioramas depicting various aspects of life in the era that the cars are from. These scenes can be anything from the streets of the early 20th century when motor cars were an infrequent sight, through the war efforts of World War II, to the car production boom of the 60's and 70's. As well as treating you to how the times have changed, visually your sense of smell is also tested on a number of occasions, such as in the blacksmith's shop which has a combination of horse, hot metal, and dirt floating around in the air, so giving you a great sense of just how life was back then. As you progress through the museum there are a number of factual boards alongside the displays, which provide a large amount of information about the surrounding exhibits.
The museum itself contains a massive number of vehicles comprising of some 240 cars, 200 bicycles and 100 various motorcycles, being the home city to a great deal of major car manufacturers such as, Triumph and Jaguar there are quite a large number of cars in the collection from these manufacturers. However, pretty much all the major automobile manufacturers of the world are incorporated into the museums display in some way, and so offer up something for all car and motoring fans to check out. The museum does operate a strict no touching the exhibits policy to help in the preservation of the vehicles, as even the dirt and grease on our finger tips can damage these beautiful exhibits, so be warned, look but don't touch.
~Even the Cars Have Fans~
Alongside the display of regular cars in the collection, there are a number of celebrity cars within the museum; these include the Humber Car of Field Marshall Montgomery, the state limousines of both Queen Mary and King George VI, and the iconic Metro belonging to the late Princess Diana. As well as these, for all the movie fans out there is a De Lorean car as used in the Back to The Future trilogy, complete with the iconic gull like wing doors. As well as these classic celebrity vehicles the museum has been playing host to the bikes used by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman during their Long Way Round TV series which saw them travel cross country from London to New York via Asia.
Even with all these wonderful celebrity vehicles finding a home within the museum's walls, none of them can compare to the museum's centrepieces, which are made up of two of the fastest cars on the planet, in the form of Thrust 2 which broke the land speed record in 1983 when driver Richard Noble clocked up 650mph in it, and it's successor the magnificent Thrust SSC which in 1997 smashed Thrust 2's record when under the control of Andy Green broke the sound barrier with a mighty 763mph. Along with the Thrust 2 display there is a continuous looping video playing on a overhead projector depicting the story of the record attempt in interesting detail. However, the museum then goes one better with the Thrust SSC display, as not only do you get to see how fast it could go, but also feel just how quick 763mph really is, as you can take part in the simulator, albeit for a small fee.
~One Likes to Be Chauffeured~
As well as being able to go around the museum at your own pace and take in your surroundings as you like, there are a number of guided tours that occur during the day. Each of the tours is lead by a member of the museum staff, who not only will tell you about the cars, but in some cases the history of the cars and how they arrived at their home here in the museum. The only problem with the tours is they have to be booked in advance, however, if there are a number of you thinking of attending the museum they are certainly worthwhile taking, as the hour long tour is priced at only £2 per person and this includes the chance to go on the Thrust SSC simulator. Even though I have never been on one of the tours personally, there have been a number of times where one will be going on just in front of us, and the knowledge and presentation from the various members of staff always sounds impressive. Along with the tours there are a number of TV screens through the majority of the museum which play a short video in relation to the area that you are in, and if you time it right as you walk from each area to the next the videos pretty much start as you get near them.
~The Gift of Transport~
Now what museum would be complete without a gift shop, and the Transport Museum is no exception to the rule, conveniently located at the exit to the museum you literally have to walk right through it to leave the museum complex. In general, any museum or such that I have ever been to seems to be filled with just tacky overpriced merchandise, usually with an assortment of items with the name and logo plastered on anything that has a flat surface larger than a postage stamp, and charge over the odds for it. So when I first entered the shop I was really expecting just the same, however, this didn't seem to be the case, the shop has a number of different collectable items and souvenirs within it which are actually very responsibly priced ,as well as being good in quality too.
~Treats and Sweets~
Alongside the museum there is a coffee shop which is part of the Esquires Company, they provide an assortment of tempting drinks and snacks; again the prices are fairly reasonable, so it shouldn't break the bank as well as providing a tasty treat. As well as providing refreshments for the museum, the coffee shop itself is also used as a small music venue during the evening and night time, so it can be sometimes quite busy, but even so it is a really nice spot to take a break after your visit. One thing to mention though is that food and drink is prohibited through the rest of the museum as a measure of conservation for the exhibits within, as any discarded food and drink attracts pests which can damage some of the antique vehicles.
~Taking the Museum For a Spin~
Being a parent in this day and age it seems like any activity that you want to do with children is marred with expense, and even a simple walk to the park could end up costing more than you think, especially when that ice cream truck shows up just when you thought you had got away scot-free. So with this in mind I am always trying to find different fun and interesting days out that won't break the bank, but still be entertaining for both adults and children alike. With the Coventry Transport Museum my wish had come true. With a history so steeped in automobile production through the ages Coventry is the perfect setting for the museum, along with its contribution to the car trade, the museum also manages to tie in Coventry's history during the 2nd World War, and has a number of scenes within that illustrate life around the time of the blitz when Coventry was sacrificed for the greater good during the war effort.
Even though the museum mainly focuses upon the motoring industry in general, the addition of the history of Coventry being included alongside it gives a little of something for all, as well as this there are a number of different activities around the museum aimed towards children to engage their minds along the way, and sneakily teach them something as well. The whole museum is very spacious and even during busy times such as holidays and the weekends there is no crowding in any part of the museum itself, in fact, on a few of the trips that we have taken to the museum, we have found only a small number of other visitors attending alongside us.
Prior to the museum moving into its new home, I had visited it as a child during my school days and found the day to be very educational and memorable, despite my complete lack of interest in the automobile trade and cars in general. Even now in my adult life I have no interest in present day motor vehicles and no intention of learning to drive, however, I still wanted to take my family along to the Transport Museum as a treat for my partner and my children, especially my son who has a slight obsession with all things wheeled. Although the main reasoning for the first visit was for their benefit, I was surprised to find myself intrigued and fascinated by the trip that we took back through time. My family and I have visited the Transport Museum on several occasions since, and have thoroughly enjoyed it each and every time, as there is just so much to take in all at once, a return visit is recommended, just to take in everything that you may have missed the first time round.
Since the first time that I took my son to the Transport Museum he has been fascinated with all things car related, and on each return visit to the museum he can barely contain his excitement, as he runs back and forth from car to car taking in a much as he can along the way hardly stopping for breath. The entire experience is certainly fascinating and educational, as you find out some amazing facts about the motoring industry in general, as well as learning about Coventry's history. Without a shadow of a doubt, I would whole heartedly recommend a trip to the Transport Museum next time you're about in Coventry. You never know you might be surprised at what you can learn, and remember most importantly of all, it's free, but like me don't ignore those donation boxes, as this is the type of museum that one day I hope my children will take their children to, and gain just as much enjoyment out of it as they have.
The Museum is open every day
10am until 5pm with last admission at 4:30pm
Coventry Transport Museum
[Also on ciao with pictures]
Summary: A trip back in time