A day valeting in miniature

Even small cars need to be valeted before going on display. This year, the museum is putting on a new display called Motoring in Miniature – the Toys of your Childhood, where they will display a range items that children would have played with linked to motoring.

The display will include a range of pedal cars, if you have done one of the behind the scenes tours you will have seen a number of pedal cars in storage, now is their time to be displayed in the museum.

Just like a car, these pedal cars need to look their best before being shown to the public, so this is where members, Jon Horsley and Paul Cable stepped in to help prepare these cars.

The start of our day was to meet Keith Smith and Gail Stewart-Bye who were going to provide the tools of the trade and introduce us to the 2 cars we would be preparing.

Our tools for the job, soapy water, sponges, polish, tyre black and glass polish, Ah… no that is not how museum cars are prepared! Our tools were a small bucket with deionised water, 2x micro fibre cloths and a range of paint brushes with hard, medium and soft hairs.

The cars we were to work on were in fact not pedal cars but small electric motor cars both were hand built to use a car 12V battery.

Car one was based on a vintage Rolls Royce with lots of brass fittings, with features like a folding windscreen, lifting boot lid and folding bonnet with working lights.

Car 2 was based more around a small single seat racing car from the 1950’s, this was quite a beast, taking 3 people to lift it onto the work bench (pallet stack), and that was without the battery being fitted.

So how long to clean a car like that you ask? 1 hour and you would be sampling the lovely cakes in the Brabazon Café. Well, that was not the case. Each car had about 6 man hours of work to prepare them for display.

The morning was spent on the vintage car, which to our eye, just needed cleaning and some air in the tyres, but with all the years of dust in all nooks and crannies in the ornate brass fittings took time, and then lets talk tyres. Each tyre was cleaned, and not just the side walls, but the tread as well. By the end the car was gleaming and ready for display. Keith took some pictures and then it was parked with a pedal bus and covered to be next seen on the display.

Lunch in the Brabazon and a quick catch with Heather before returning for round 2!

Roll in the 1950s racer, this started with a strip down removing the bonnet and windscreen as well as the seat and rear Tonneau cover. This car needed some small repairs, the bumper bolts were tightened and over riders straightened (evidence of enthusiastic driving), one of the grills silver detail was in the cockpit so this was refitted by sharing some clips from the other one. Body work cleaning and polish really made the car look fantastic, once again the tyres were cleaned, but this was much harder as it was evident the child that use to drive this loved to slide the car around as there was tell-tell scuffing on the tyres (Who knows? They may be a famous racing driver today).

This was a great day helping support the work of the NMMT and we came away having really enjoyed the day, but we both had the same thought, “What if we could refit the batteries and get them working as well!”

I would recommend taking up the opportunity to help out on a project, it’s a great way to learn more about the collections and also the working practices of the museum.

A big thanks you to Gail and Keith for organising and looking after us on the day!

Paul Cable

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Leslie Hamilton Green says:

    I’m a volunteer at Beaulieu as well as 100 member and I’ve been asked to do an extra day next week preparing the pedal cars for the new display! I’ve agreed as long as I can road test them.


    1. Beaulieu One Hundred says:

      Now Les! I can just see you doing that!


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