Monday, 27 October 2008

Grand day out 1 – Donington Collection

I decided to take a day to go to the Donington Grand Prix Collection. It is the largest collection of Grand Prix cars in the world, apparently. Once you are inside the collection seems to go on almost forever with halls full of cars and other memorabilia. The oldest cars are, I think, the two 60 hp Mercédès while the collection features examples from every era of racing right up to the present day.

One interesting thing is the noise; there isn’t any except that made by visitors. It is nice to see the temptation to go “interactive” and “multimedia” has been resisted. My experience today might not be typical but as it is half-term there were plenty of families in the museum and everyone seemed to be enjoying the exhibits without needing audio-visual stimulatiion. Somehow even quite young children seemed calm and well-behaved giving the collection a much most agreeable atmosphere. Some museums give the impression of being little more than glorified adventure playgrounds.

It is difficult to pinpoint a favourite exhibit as there is so much to see and I you have ever followed motor racing (I don’t really bother anymore to be honest) then nearly every exhibit will make some sort o connection, whether it is a famous historic machine like the bimotore Alfa Romeo or 1980s Williams and McLaren racing cars driven by Mansel, Senna, Prost, etc.

If motor cycles are your thing there are plenty of those too, including some almost toy-like Yamaha racers and a fine collection of vintage cycles. One of the most eye-catching is an early NSU cycle. Car enthusiasts may associate the Necarsulm firm with the futuristic but flawed RO80 or the unusual, rear-engined small cars but the company made bikes too.

It took me over an hour to get round the museum; a good length of time as I felt I had seen a lot. The only slightly negative criticism I’d make is that to get out you have to double back on yourself. On the other hand, if you want to go back for a second look at something at least you get the chance.

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