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 more interesting than it sounds!
Coventry Transport Museum (Coventry)
Member Name: chrisandmark
Coventry Transport Museum (Coventry)
Advantages: A massive collection of vehicles, more interesting than you'd think
Disadvantages: None really, although the sprawling nature of it means not particularly mobile people may struggle
A 'must see' for anyone interested in the history of cars is the Coventry Transport Museum. I'd put my fella off visiting for years, thinking it would be a similar experience to walking through a car showroom, but recently we found ourselves in Coventry with a couple of hours to spend so ended up here after all.
I must say, I was surprised. It most definitely isn't like walking through any car showroom I've ever been to and was a great deal more interesting - even for people (like me!) who would rather watch paint dry than spend time studying cars! The museum underwent a £6.3 million redevelopment recently and the exhibits and interactive pieces are brilliant.
The collections are split into a variety of different sized halls, all of which have a specific theme. I particularly enjoyed the first gallery you get to which is aptly named The Introductory Gallery and gives visitors an in-depth introduction into the history of automobiles in the Coventry area. Coventry has always been immensely important to the nation's car making heritage, and it was nice to see this history brought to life in the form of cars from over the years along with brief descriptions about why these particular were chosen for the display.
My partner loved the Commercial Gallery which houses work vehicles such as 1940's deliver trucks, old double decker buses and fire engines plus loads more. He drives an old 1981 pick up for work and remembers his granddad owning some of the older trucks in the display, including an odd looking van which appeared to be made partially from wood! The actual open top double decker bus is on display in which Coventry City FC made their victory parade in 1987 after winning the FA cup. This gallery had an old bus depot feel to it, which I'm not sure was deliberate or not but really suited the appearance of the vehicles!
The Landmarques section is also worth a mention. We all enjoyed this part of the museum as there was something for everyone; the gallery is decorated to catalogue the history of Coventry's contribution to automotives from 1869 to 1948 with the exhibits in a chronological display. I loved the way bunting was hung around the VE exhibits and the authentic pub facia recreated to show off one of the more old fashioned cars. A lot of thought has obviously gone into the design of this gallery and different periods of time have been painstakingly recreated and restored; a nice one being the Parkside Garage Ltd replica of a working garage, showing a mechanic at work on an old (and I mean old!) Austin from probably the early 1900's. Fascinating to see the cars people were driving so many years ago, and marvelling at how bizarre they are compared to the Peugeot we drove to Coventry in!
Part of the Landmarques gallery is given over to a wonderfully interesting Blitz exhibition. Coventry briefly moved away from making cycles and cars during the war, and ended up becoming irreplaceable in the war effort. For this reason they were heavily targeted and damaged almost to the ground by enemy bombs, including the magnificent Coventry cathedral which was practically destroyed. The Blitz Experience is brilliant. Decorated in a very World War II theme, it really brings the past to life. Showcased are cars and emergency vehicles of the time, along with a scene recreated to show a street after the Blitz complete with unexploded bombs and 'DANGER' signs. Sounds and even the smells of the time are piped into the enormous gallery, which makes for a realistic and fun atmosphere.
The Coventry Transport Museum is both educational fun. My children enjoyed the interactive screens and games dotted throughout the galleries, and also the fact that they could look at these old cars up close and even climb up and sit in some of them. It's a very hands on museum, that's one of the things I loved about the place. Some of the exhibits are roped off but the majority of them can be touched and photographed closely.
Thrust2, only the second vehicle in history to break the Land Speed Record, is here at the museum and is a beautiful looking machine. Also Richard Nobles other success, ThrustSSC, is here on display. ThrustSSC not only took the Land Speed Record from Thrust2 but broke the sound barrier in the process! To have both of these historical vehicles in this museum is a big coup for Coventry over other transport museums in the country. There's a special display dedicated to these two cars, where you can also watch footage of the records and subsequent attempts to take the Land Speed title. The Thrust simulator is possibly the best thing in the museum. It's great, you sit in the comfortable simulator while a screen gives the impression you're hurtling along at over 700 miles an hour! My kids absolutely loved the simulator, and went on it three times during our visit.
Other items of interest include a display of BMX bikes which my fella studied for what felt like hours, a beautifully maintained E Type Jag and the actual Austin Mini Metro owned by Lady Diana before she became a HRH and (presumably) swapped it for a Bentley!
Throughout the museum there are activites to keep you interested as you go through. From designing your own car using a clever PC graphics package, to watching short films based on life of Coventry car workers in the 1940's. All of the interactive displays are brilliant; fitting with the general atmosphere of the museum and great fun for everyone!
The museum is absolutely huge and spreads over a large area, meaning that if you have mobility problems it could be a bit of an effort. The wide spaces between displays means wheelchair and even mobility scooters will be able to get around with no problems at all, but my mum has severe asthma and there would have been no way she could have walked around the entire complex. There are over 240 cars and 300 bikes on display in the building so it obviously covers a massive amount of floorspace. Even if you have no mobility problems you'll be shattered by the time you get to the end!
Allow at least a couple of hours to get around the Transport Museum if you want to see everything, although a quick whiz round could be managed during your lunch hour. We spend three and a half hours in the museum, which was largely down to the fact that Mark has such an interest in cars and wanted to examine most vehicles in minute detail. The kids loved the unhurried way the interactive displays were arranged, spending over half an hour designing their car on the PC.
The best thing about the museum is the fact that it's free. Completely free. Which is amazing in my opinion considering how much this collection must have cost to put together, and also the overheads involved in running such a big attraction. Because of this 'freeness' the museum can get very busy during the school holidays but the size of the place means it never feels over crowded.
To find the Coventry Transport Museum by car simply get onto the Coventry City Inner Ring-Road and get off at Junction 2, then follow the straight route to the museum. There's no parking on site but several pay & display car parks are available opposite the entrance. Most of the West Midlands buses which drive through Coventry will terminate at Pool Meadow bus station, which is literally a one minute walk away from the museum.
Open 10am - 5pm seven days a week except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Summary: A must see for any car enthusiast - and a fab day out for those of us who aren't so enthusiastic!
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