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National Motorcycle Museum, UK (December 1st 2004)

Museum re-opens after devastating fire. (Press Launch)

On December 1st 2004, I was thrilled to be invited along to the Press Launch to celebrate the opening of the National Motor Museum in Solihull (UK) after it was destroyed by a devastating fire on 16th September 2003. They even gave me my own Press Pass badge and so as I joined the “proper journalist” I instantly noticed that they had enormous cameras with 10 foot long zoom lens ... and I was carrying a tiny Olympus digital camera.  Still, they say size isn’t everything!!

As you walk around the plush museum it is really hard to imagine that just over a year ago it was burnt to the ground.  You can see why it has taken over £20 million pound to restore it and indeed all the motorbikes that have been restored have tags on them so you know which ones were damaged by the fire.  At the moment there are over 600 bikes on show, though according to the little Press pack I got, this is going to be increased to over 800 machines by 2007. There are still a number of fire damaged machines being restored at a rate of one a month. In the corner of the entrance hall a chilling reminder recalls the fire and in a large sealed glass chamber sits three burnt out wrecks surrounded by burnt debris. It reminded me of when I visited Pompeii and in a similar way looked at bodies frozen in time by ashes.

Now while the museum has a extremely impressive collection of motorcycles it was the 3-wheelers that I really wanted to see. From my last visit in August 2003, I took a number of low quality pictures then and so was surprised to see that pretty much all the 3-wheelers that existed then are still in the museum. One superb reason I found for being invited on the Open Day was that there were no guide ropes to get in the way of photos. There were some chaps with piles of rope who were obviously about to start fencing areas off but luckily not until I took my photos.  As I was busy clicking away, TV crews were filming around me and one lady with an enormous camera ask if I’d pose next to a bike and pretend to examine it as she took photos.  So, if you see any photos of a guy wearing a grey sweatshirt looking at a red bike ... chances are its me.

The first 3-wheeler I saw was a 1924 Seal, this was still in the same location by the front door as you walk into the museum and it was great to capture it on disk with out any rope around it. Our guide told us that the main reception area was largely undamaged by the fire and thinking back to my visit in August 2003, a lot of the 3-wheelers were in this area. One new 3-wheeler that wasn’t there before was a fantastic BSA that looked as though it had a fabric covered body. It looked superb, as do all the vehicles in the museum.

A 1934 Morgan Supersports also caught my eye, it had a Matchless 900cc engine that absolutely shone.  Some one, some where must have spent hours polishing it.

All in all I took around 95 photos, so they will be slowly filtered in throughout the site on the appropriate A-Z pages.  It was great to see the museum open again and know that a large chunk of motoring history is again captured for all to see. One thing that I did really like was something I read in the Press Pack. After the fire, the museum’s owner; Roy Richards, declared that “The Phoenix will rise from the flames” and also stated that no staff would lose their jobs. As a result chefs and waiters from the Banqueting halls were all found new roles as electrician’s mates, fork lift drivers or indeed anything that would help rebuild the museum back to its former glory.

For more information on the National Motorcycle Museum visit

Other 3-wheelers on show that are not pictured here include:

  • 1904 Quadrant Forecar
  • 1898 Ariel Tricycle
  • 1904 Raleighette
  • 1898 Beeston Humber Tricycle
  • 1902 Century Forecar
  • 1904 Garrard Forecar
  • 1898 Dennis Motor Tricycle
  • 1904 Riley Forecar
  • 1905 Rexette Tricar

1924 Seal.

1910 Auto Carrier (AC)


1934 Morgan Supersports with the shiniest Matchless 990cc engine you will see.

The stunning brass water tank on an early National Forecar.

Reminder of the fire, three bikes sealed in a glass container amongst burnt out debris.