Sunday, 30 March 2008

Of Instruments and Museums

Last weekend I visited my friend Simon, owner of the utterly charming MG Midget which I have mentioned before. Sadly, the Midget is not entirely well as you can read in Simon’s blog. But, component failure aside, the Midget did offer an interesting illustration of a phenomenon that is usually overlooked. Most cars, if they have a temperature gauge at all, only show you the engine temperature when the ignition is switched on. However, the Midget comes from a time before electrical transducers and has a mechanical temperature gauge, which shows the temperature even after you switch off the engine. When the engine stops the coolant pump and fan stop and the coolant just sits, picking up heat from the engine, with a mechanical temperature gauge you can actually watch the needle move towards the “H” marker. Wait long enough and the needle will drop back as the engine cools.

This weekend I visited the Coventry Transport Museum. As I may have said before, one of the reasons I like this museum is the way the exhibits are moved regularly so that there is always something new to see on each visit. The latest special exhibition is a celebration of anniversaries; the 60th anniversary of the Land Rover and Morris Minor and the 40th year of the Jaguar XJ6. It seems anniversaries only count if they are whole multiples of ten! There were some interesting substitutions among the exhibits. Using a Tygan Porsche 356 speedster recreation (developed, I believe from the famous Chesli Speedster) in place of a 1948 Porsche 356 was understandable, the Rover P4 in lieu of a 1958 P5 3-litre Rover was odd but the signage made it clear that it was only a temporary situation. No mention was made of the fact that the “Jaguar XJ6” was clearly an XJ12 series one (built in 1972-3 although Jaguar intended to launch the XJ with the V12 in ’68. Even more unusual was the presence of Daimler wheel trims (you would hope the museum could source the correct parts). Even so, it was a great exhibit even if it ignored the most meritorious 60-year old car, the 1948 Bristol 401.

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