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I visited the Coventry transport Museum when I was in Coventry earlier this year. It is situated very close to the main bus station so you shouldnít find it too difficult to locate. Itís also sign posted from various points within the city centre but due to its very central location it doesnít have its own car park so if you are arriving by car youíll have to use one of the pay and display car parks nearby.
Coventry has a long association with the manufacture of cars, motorbikes, motor cycles and other vehicles including coaches and buses. In fact there have been over 120 different car makers and over 300 cycle makers that have established themselves in Coventry so itís no great surprise to find a museum dedicated to this history here.
The museum was established in 1980 when it was known as the Museum of British Road Transport. Since that time its undergone several transformations and expansions and now houses the largest collection of its kind in the world. There are over 240 motor cars, buses and other vehicles, 120 motorcycles and 25,000 models. In addition to these large items there are over one million items within its archives.
Admission into the museum is completely free but there are signs saying that it might be necessary to queue at busy times. I visited on a Saturday afternoon and although it was relatively busy we walked straight in without the need to queue. Immediately inside the entrance there is a reception area and gift shop and toilets and directly next to this there was a collection of around 20 vehicles with a connection to the Royal Family, including cars used by the present Queen as well as former Monarchs. This was a temporary exhibition to coincide the Jubilee year.
The main entrance into the museum is beyond the reception and once you pass this youíll start to realise just how vast this place is. There are signs pointing to each area numbered from one onwards and itís a good idea to follow this carefully laid out route as otherwise Iím sure youíll miss some parts. I was somewhat alarmed to discover a sign 2 hours into my visit that said I was now at the halfway point. This really is the sort of place that you need to allow half a day to visit.
The museum is divided into 16 large sections spread over two floors, with each of these smaller sections sub divided into smaller areas. Some of the more well known manufacturers like Daimler, Triumph and Jaguar have their own sections but in other parts the vehicles are grouped by other criteria like racing cars, vintage cars etc.
The oldest item on display is a Hobby Horse dating from 1818, whilst other items include one of the very first Miniís and the worlds fastest vehicle, the Thrust SSC which set a world land speed record of 763 mph in the Nevada desserts in 1997. This vehicle is huge and the exhibits feature video footage of the actual event. There is also a simulator, which I was quite looking forward to experiencing but sadly this was not in use when I visited.
As you walk around youíll see a vast diversity of different things but youíll also spot more familiar items that youíll recognise from your younger days. Obviously the older that you are then there will be more familiar things but since the most modern items are only a few years old almost everyone will recognise at least something. I was surprised just how much everyday vehicles like police cars and ambulances had changed as I saw examples from the late 1970ís and early 1980ís that were like the ones that were around when I was a child, although Iíd completely forgotten that they had changed at all.
Overall I really enjoyed my visit to this museum. It has won numerous awards over the years and I can see why.
Coventry Transport Museum, Millennium Place, Hales Street, Coventry CV1 1JD
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