EVENTS

MOTORCYCLE MUSEUM TOUR – LLANGOLLEN MOTOR MUSEUM

JOHN NEWMAN IS SETTING OFF ON A TOUR OF GREAT AND SMALL MOTOR MUSEUMS - HERE IS THE FIRST OF HIS REPORTS


There are a good number of motorcycle museum collections scattered around the country; from the resplendent restored bikes at the National Motorcycle Museum in the Midlands and at Sammy Miller's down in Hampshire; to the outright quirky, run by enthusiasts because they just like doing it.

Over the next couple of months our regular writer, John Newman, will be crossing the land to visit a few and bring to Wemoto News his impressions, facts, location details, pictures and anything else he can conjure up.

First to feature is the Llangollen Motor Museum in Wales

Llangollen is a small tourist town nestled in the splendid wooded hills of the Dee valley, just down the road from Wrexham. It's a well known and busy canal narrow boating centre, and it can boast a World Heritage Site in the Pontsycyllte Aqueduct; the awe inspiring construction allowing boaters to be almost drifting in the sky.

I've passed by the sign for the museum on a number of rides in the area. It's about a mile outside the town and at the foot of the road leading to the Horseshoe Pass and the famous Ponderosa Cafe complex, a gathering place thronged with bikes at the weekend: taking advantage of the bendy roads and grand views across hills and valleys from its summit.

Their website is not the most detailed, and I knew the museum held just a small collection of bikes, cars and auto memorabilia and paraphernalia. But small enthusiast-run places can often offer up a treasure of the unusual to poke an enquiring nose into. It was opened in 1986 by Ted Broadhurst who operated a garage in Llangollen; and seventeen years ago it was taken over by Ann and Gwilyn Owen, who haven't changed the original display policy, which seems to be 'pile it in and let 'em look'.

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To reach the car park and entrance you traverse a small bridge over the canal. Drop down the track and you're not only there but beside a rolling and tumbling river Dee. A very picturesque and peaceful setting for the large shed type building where the collection resides.

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As soon as you get into the entrance, wonderful workshop smells greet your nose. You know: fuel, oil, grease, rags, parts, machinery, and the exhibits themselves, the grime of ages, it's addictive!

There's stuff all over the place! Immediately on the left from the kind of shop and pay desk, there's a Raleigh motorcycle on a stand-come-plank, with a Triumph Herald parked behind with the bonnet open. And in front of the bike, piles of old bike mags reside - marvellous!

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The bikes on display here are not the gleaming exhibits that have had time and possibly thousands of pounds lavished on them with one eye on a Bonhams auction sale. They are mostly loaned to the museum and restored to the original working condition so they are just as they were when they were ridden.

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My favourites were a 1935 New Imperial Super Sports 250 single that was priced at £35 15s (that second figure is shillings) typical of the utility that made British machines the 'everyman' motorcycle.

Then an AJS caught my attention: a 1000cc M1 twin cylinder bike made in 1929. It was built especially to have a sidecar attached; and get this, it's seven feet long but only weighed 385lbs – lighter than some current thousands.
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There was a very business like 500cc Norton Domiracer twin that was put together to enter club road races back in the day, and, in complete contrast, a 1942 Harley Davidson WLA model that saw service in WW2. This bike came complete with canvas holders for a rifle and other weaponry, just like those you'd see on horses in western movies - I'd feel more confident astride a horse than trying to manoeuvre a lump like this around. It had a foot clutch too, just to throw in an additional control problem.

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Laid out around the museum room are all sorts of old parts and components. There are shelves of books that invite you to scan for reference – no computers here. Glass cases contain models and toys, and yet more components, goggles, badges, lights etc etc etc. Some visitors will no doubt spend a good deal of time sifting through, identifying, and even purchasing these treasures.

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I walked down between the car exhibits to the end of the building where a big ol' lathe resides surrounded by vintage signs and  workshop miscellany. The cars hold interest too even if your main focus is bikes. There's an open Ford Prefect chassis, built by apprentices for an exhibition, and where else could you see an original powder blue E Type Jag sharing floor space with motorcycles, old pedal cycles and teddy bears? Quirky doesn't even cover it.

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In a world of burgeoning uniformity, corporatism, convention, meaningless rules and pointless stricture the Llangollen Motor Museum is a beacon of anarchy, and a reminder that there's a motorcycle manufacturing and engineering history – for example the water cooled shaft drive LE Velocette, and the fast two stroke Ariel Arrow – that was way ahead of its time.

Next time you're round that way, planning a ride or a short break with the bike. Include it in your itinerary.
www.llangollenmotormuseum.co.uk

John Newman
for Wemoto News

Posted by John Newman
for Wemoto News on 11 June 2013 in Events

Edited By: Daisy Cordell

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