I visited the Coventry transport Museum when I was in Coventry last summer. It is situated very close to the main bus station so you shouldn't find it too difficult to locate. It's also sign posted from various points within the city centre but due to its very central location it doesn't have its own car park so if you are arriving by car you'll have to use one of the pay and display car parks nearby.
Coventry has a long association with the manufacture of cars, motorbikes, motor cycles and other vehicles including coaches and buses. In fact there have been over 120 different car makers and over 300 cycle makers that have established themselves in Coventry so it's no great surprise to find a museum dedicated to this history here.
The museum was established in 1980 when it was known as the Museum of British Road Transport. Since that time its undergone several transformations and expansions and now houses the largest collection of its kind in the world. There are over 240 motor cars, buses and other vehicles, 120 motorcycles and 25,000 models. In addition to these large items there are over one million items within its archives.
Admission into the museum is completely free but there are signs saying that it might be necessary to queue at busy times. I visited on a Saturday afternoon and although it was relatively busy we walked straight in without the need to queue. Immediately inside the entrance there is a reception area and gift shop and toilets and directly next to this there was a collection of around 20 vehicles with a connection to the Royal Family, including cars used by the present Queen as well as former Monarchs. This was a temporary exhibition to coincide the Jubilee year.
The main entrance into the museum is beyond the reception and once you pass this you'll start to realise just how vast this place is. There are signs pointing to each area numbered from one onwards and it's a good idea to follow this carefully laid out route as otherwise I'm sure you'll miss some parts. I was somewhat alarmed to discover a sign 2 hours into my visit that said I was now at the halfway point. This really is the sort of place that you need to allow half a day to visit.
The museum is divided into 16 large sections spread over two floors, with each of these smaller sections sub divided into smaller areas. Some of the more well known manufacturers like Daimler, Triumph and Jaguar have their own sections but in other parts the vehicles are grouped by other criteria like racing cars, vintage cars etc.
The oldest item on display is a Hobby Horse dating from 1818, whilst other items include one of the very first Mini's and the worlds fastest vehicle, the Thrust SSC which set a world land speed record of 763 mph in the Nevada desserts in 1997. This vehicle is huge and the exhibits feature video footage of the actual event. There is also a simulator, which I was quite looking forward to experiencing but sadly this was not in use when I visited.
As you walk around you'll see a vast diversity of different things but you'll also spot more familiar items that you'll recognise from your younger days. Obviously the older that you are then there will be more familiar things but since the most modern items are only a few years old almost everyone will recognise at least something. I was surprised just how much everyday vehicles like police cars and ambulances had changed as I saw examples from the late 1970's and early 1980's that were like the ones that were around when I was a child, although I'd completely forgotten that they had changed at all.
Overall I really enjoyed my visit to this museum. It has won numerous awards over the years and I can see why.
Coventry Transport Museum,
Telephone: 024 7623 4270
A 'must see' for anyone interested in the history of cars is the Coventry Transport Museum. I'd put my fella off visiting for years, thinking it would be a similar experience to walking through a car showroom, but recently we found ourselves in Coventry with a couple of hours to spend so ended up here after all.
I must say, I was surprised. It most definitely isn't like walking through any car showroom I've ever been to and was a great deal more interesting - even for people (like me!) who would rather watch paint dry than spend time studying cars! The museum underwent a £6.3 million redevelopment recently and the exhibits and interactive pieces are brilliant.
The collections are split into a variety of different sized halls, all of which have a specific theme. I particularly enjoyed the first gallery you get to which is aptly named The Introductory Gallery and gives visitors an in-depth introduction into the history of automobiles in the Coventry area. Coventry has always been immensely important to the nation's car making heritage, and it was nice to see this history brought to life in the form of cars from over the years along with brief descriptions about why these particular were chosen for the display.
My partner loved the Commercial Gallery which houses work vehicles such as 1940's deliver trucks, old double decker buses and fire engines plus loads more. He drives an old 1981 pick up for work and remembers his granddad owning some of the older trucks in the display, including an odd looking van which appeared to be made partially from wood! The actual open top double decker bus is on display in which Coventry City FC made their victory parade in 1987 after winning the FA cup. This gallery had an old bus depot feel to it, which I'm not sure was deliberate or not but really suited the appearance of the vehicles!
The Landmarques section is also worth a mention. We all enjoyed this part of the museum as there was something for everyone; the gallery is decorated to catalogue the history of Coventry's contribution to automotives from 1869 to 1948 with the exhibits in a chronological display. I loved the way bunting was hung around the VE exhibits and the authentic pub facia recreated to show off one of the more old fashioned cars. A lot of thought has obviously gone into the design of this gallery and different periods of time have been painstakingly recreated and restored; a nice one being the Parkside Garage Ltd replica of a working garage, showing a mechanic at work on an old (and I mean old!) Austin from probably the early 1900's. Fascinating to see the cars people were driving so many years ago, and marvelling at how bizarre they are compared to the Peugeot we drove to Coventry in!
Part of the Landmarques gallery is given over to a wonderfully interesting Blitz exhibition. Coventry briefly moved away from making cycles and cars during the war, and ended up becoming irreplaceable in the war effort. For this reason they were heavily targeted and damaged almost to the ground by enemy bombs, including the magnificent Coventry cathedral which was practically destroyed. The Blitz Experience is brilliant. Decorated in a very World War II theme, it really brings the past to life. Showcased are cars and emergency vehicles of the time, along with a scene recreated to show a street after the Blitz complete with unexploded bombs and 'DANGER' signs. Sounds and even the smells of the time are piped into the enormous gallery, which makes for a realistic and fun atmosphere.
The Coventry Transport Museum is both educational fun. My children enjoyed the interactive screens and games dotted throughout the galleries, and also the fact that they could look at these old cars up close and even climb up and sit in some of them. It's a very hands on museum, that's one of the things I loved about the place. Some of the exhibits are roped off but the majority of them can be touched and photographed closely.
Thrust2, only the second vehicle in history to break the Land Speed Record, is here at the museum and is a beautiful looking machine. Also Richard Nobles other success, ThrustSSC, is here on display. ThrustSSC not only took the Land Speed Record from Thrust2 but broke the sound barrier in the process! To have both of these historical vehicles in this museum is a big coup for Coventry over other transport museums in the country. There's a special display dedicated to these two cars, where you can also watch footage of the records and subsequent attempts to take the Land Speed title. The Thrust simulator is possibly the best thing in the museum. It's great, you sit in the comfortable simulator while a screen gives the impression you're hurtling along at over 700 miles an hour! My kids absolutely loved the simulator, and went on it three times during our visit.
Other items of interest include a display of BMX bikes which my fella studied for what felt like hours, a beautifully maintained E Type Jag and the actual Austin Mini Metro owned by Lady Diana before she became a HRH and (presumably) swapped it for a Bentley!
Throughout the museum there are activites to keep you interested as you go through. From designing your own car using a clever PC graphics package, to watching short films based on life of Coventry car workers in the 1940's. All of the interactive displays are brilliant; fitting with the general atmosphere of the museum and great fun for everyone!
The museum is absolutely huge and spreads over a large area, meaning that if you have mobility problems it could be a bit of an effort. The wide spaces between displays means wheelchair and even mobility scooters will be able to get around with no problems at all, but my mum has severe asthma and there would have been no way she could have walked around the entire complex. There are over 240 cars and 300 bikes on display in the building so it obviously covers a massive amount of floorspace. Even if you have no mobility problems you'll be shattered by the time you get to the end!
Allow at least a couple of hours to get around the Transport Museum if you want to see everything, although a quick whiz round could be managed during your lunch hour. We spend three and a half hours in the museum, which was largely down to the fact that Mark has such an interest in cars and wanted to examine most vehicles in minute detail. The kids loved the unhurried way the interactive displays were arranged, spending over half an hour designing their car on the PC.
The best thing about the museum is the fact that it's free. Completely free. Which is amazing in my opinion considering how much this collection must have cost to put together, and also the overheads involved in running such a big attraction. Because of this 'freeness' the museum can get very busy during the school holidays but the size of the place means it never feels over crowded.
To find the Coventry Transport Museum by car simply get onto the Coventry City Inner Ring-Road and get off at Junction 2, then follow the straight route to the museum. There's no parking on site but several pay & display car parks are available opposite the entrance. Most of the West Midlands buses which drive through Coventry will terminate at Pool Meadow bus station, which is literally a one minute walk away from the museum.
Open 10am - 5pm seven days a week except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
For many car enthusiasts the city of Coventry has played a massive role in the car industry of both today and yester-year, it has been the true home of car production since their introduction onto the market place in this country, and has played an integral part in the development of many of the advances in motoring technology that we see today. As homage to this industry within the cities boarders Coventry has played host to the Coventry Transport Museum which has housed a number of different automobiles of all shapes and sizes from different eras of the motoring industry. The only problem was prior to the redevelopment of part of Coventry city centre for the new millennium project the museum was housed within a rather drab and run down looking building which looked very uninspiring from its exterior. However, with the redevelopment completed the museum was moved to its new home just a short distance away in the new Millennium Point area of the city centre, and has formed the centrepiece to this development. With a larger building area and bright new surroundings the museum was transformed into an eye catching masterpiece worthy of housing some of Coventry's finest history.
~Looking Good On the Outside~
The building itself is quite an impressive sight, with massive windows spanning the front and side of it giving a very striking look to it. Along with this, the surrounding area plays host to the Whittle Arches created in memory of Frank Whittle, Coventrian and inventor of the jet engine, and the Millennium Square which depicts the time lines of the world including the major cities of the world, along with the various twin cities of Coventry in their relevant time zones. These attractions are a wonder in themselves to observe, especially at night when the Arches are lit up and the time lines appear in a brilliant blue colour below your feet.
~And Our Special Guest is...~
Upon entering the building you are greeted with a rather friendly looking cafe on your left and one of the guest exhibits upon your right. Currently the guest exhibit is the Ladybird Big Book of Motor Cars which incorporates the Ladybird Reading books that we all grew up reading with some classic cars and images. Prior to this, the museum has played host to an exhibition documenting the design of disabled vehicles through the ages, and my favourite exhibit a history of ice cream trucks. For all those Sci-fi fans out there it originally housed a massive Doctor Who exhibit, which included a number of props and creatures from the hit TV programme, including items such as, one of David Tennant's outfits, and the bridal gown worn by Catherine Tate during her debut appearance on the show.
~Come One, Come All~
One of the great things about the museum is that when you reach the front desk you realize that there is no admission price list, that's because everybody who enters the museum pays exactly the same amount...the grand total of nothing. That's right not a bean, now that certainly in this day and age of everything costing something is a rarity to say the least. Of course though, the museum isn't going to let you get away completely scot-free, as with any major attraction there is of course the guide book that can be purchased from the front desk, and along with this there are a number of guided tours of the museum itself which gives participants of the tour an insight to some of the major displays contained within the museum's collection. The museum more relies upon the donations and charity of individuals who visit the museum; all through the different areas of the museum you will find a number of collection boxes where you can make a donation. The donation boxes themselves are not in your face and so don't make you feel like you are required to put money in them, which in turn makes you more likely to want to be generous, as it doesn't feel like they are trying to prise every last penny from your pocket.
The museum is divided into several different sections, each containing a number of motor vehicles based around a common theme. One of the first themes that you will come across is the commercial vehicles, which demonstrates an array of different farming vehicles and buses, and of coursewhat collection of buses in Coventry could be complete without the 1987 FA Cup winners double-decker which the Sky Blues rode through the streets of Coventry after their victory overTottenham. As you progress through the museum you are taken on a journey through the various eras of the motoring industry. All of the themed areas not only have a number of different automobiles displayed, but also incorporate a number of dioramas depicting various aspects of life in the era that the cars are from. These scenes can be anything from the streets of the early 20th century when motor cars were an infrequent sight, through the war efforts of World War II, to the car production boom of the 60's and 70's. As well as treating you to how the times have changed, visually your sense of smell is also tested on a number of occasions, such as in the blacksmith's shop which has a combination of horse, hot metal, and dirt floating around in the air, so giving you a great sense of just how life was back then. As you progress through the museum there are a number of factual boards alongside the displays, which provide a large amount of information about the surrounding exhibits.
The museum itself contains a massive number of vehicles comprising of some 240 cars, 200 bicycles and 100 various motorcycles, being the home city to a great deal of major car manufacturers such as, Triumph and Jaguar there are quite a large number of cars in the collection from these manufacturers. However, pretty much all the major automobile manufacturers of the world are incorporated into the museums display in some way, and so offer up something for all car and motoring fans to check out. The museum does operate a strict no touching the exhibits policy to help in the preservation of the vehicles, as even the dirt and grease on our finger tips can damage these beautiful exhibits, so be warned, look but don't touch.
~Even the Cars Have Fans~
Alongside the display of regular cars in the collection, there are a number of celebrity cars within the museum; these include the Humber Car of Field Marshall Montgomery, the state limousines of both Queen Mary and King George VI, and the iconic Metro belonging to the late Princess Diana. As well as these, for all the movie fans out there is a De Lorean car as used in the Back to The Future trilogy, complete with the iconic gull like wing doors. As well as these classic celebrity vehicles the museum has been playing host to the bikes used by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman during their Long Way Round TV series which saw them travel cross country from London to New York via Asia.
Even with all these wonderful celebrity vehicles finding a home within the museum's walls, none of them can compare to the museum's centrepieces, which are made up of two of the fastest cars on the planet, in the form of Thrust 2 which broke the land speed record in 1983 when driver Richard Noble clocked up 650mph in it, and it's successor the magnificent Thrust SSC which in 1997 smashed Thrust 2's record when under the control of Andy Green broke the sound barrier with a mighty 763mph. Along with the Thrust 2 display there is a continuous looping video playing on a overhead projector depicting the story of the record attempt in interesting detail. However, the museum then goes one better with the Thrust SSC display, as not only do you get to see how fast it could go, but also feel just how quick 763mph really is, as you can take part in the simulator, albeit for a small fee.
~One Likes to Be Chauffeured~
As well as being able to go around the museum at your own pace and take in your surroundings as you like, there are a number of guided tours that occur during the day. Each of the tours is lead by a member of the museum staff, who not only will tell you about the cars, but in some cases the history of the cars and how they arrived at their home here in the museum. The only problem with the tours is they have to be booked in advance, however, if there are a number of you thinking of attending the museum they are certainly worthwhile taking, as the hour long tour is priced at only £2 per person and this includes the chance to go on the Thrust SSC simulator. Even though I have never been on one of the tours personally, there have been a number of times where one will be going on just in front of us, and the knowledge and presentation from the various members of staff always sounds impressive. Along with the tours there are a number of TV screens through the majority of the museum which play a short video in relation to the area that you are in, and if you time it right as you walk from each area to the next the videos pretty much start as you get near them.
~The Gift of Transport~
Now what museum would be complete without a gift shop, and the Transport Museum is no exception to the rule, conveniently located at the exit to the museum you literally have to walk right through it to leave the museum complex. In general, any museum or such that I have ever been to seems to be filled with just tacky overpriced merchandise, usually with an assortment of items with the name and logo plastered on anything that has a flat surface larger than a postage stamp, and charge over the odds for it. So when I first entered the shop I was really expecting just the same, however, this didn't seem to be the case, the shop has a number of different collectable items and souvenirs within it which are actually very responsibly priced ,as well as being good in quality too.
~Treats and Sweets~
Alongside the museum there is a coffee shop which is part of the Esquires Company, they provide an assortment of tempting drinks and snacks; again the prices are fairly reasonable, so it shouldn't break the bank as well as providing a tasty treat. As well as providing refreshments for the museum, the coffee shop itself is also used as a small music venue during the evening and night time, so it can be sometimes quite busy, but even so it is a really nice spot to take a break after your visit. One thing to mention though is that food and drink is prohibited through the rest of the museum as a measure of conservation for the exhibits within, as any discarded food and drink attracts pests which can damage some of the antique vehicles.
~Taking the Museum For a Spin~
Being a parent in this day and age it seems like any activity that you want to do with children is marred with expense, and even a simple walk to the park could end up costing more than you think, especially when that ice cream truck shows up just when you thought you had got away scot-free. So with this in mind I am always trying to find different fun and interesting days out that won't break the bank, but still be entertaining for both adults and children alike. With the Coventry Transport Museum my wish had come true. With a history so steeped in automobile production through the ages Coventry is the perfect setting for the museum, along with its contribution to the car trade, the museum also manages to tie in Coventry's history during the 2nd World War, and has a number of scenes within that illustrate life around the time of the blitz when Coventry was sacrificed for the greater good during the war effort.
Even though the museum mainly focuses upon the motoring industry in general, the addition of the history of Coventry being included alongside it gives a little of something for all, as well as this there are a number of different activities around the museum aimed towards children to engage their minds along the way, and sneakily teach them something as well. The whole museum is very spacious and even during busy times such as holidays and the weekends there is no crowding in any part of the museum itself, in fact, on a few of the trips that we have taken to the museum, we have found only a small number of other visitors attending alongside us.
Prior to the museum moving into its new home, I had visited it as a child during my school days and found the day to be very educational and memorable, despite my complete lack of interest in the automobile trade and cars in general. Even now in my adult life I have no interest in present day motor vehicles and no intention of learning to drive, however, I still wanted to take my family along to the Transport Museum as a treat for my partner and my children, especially my son who has a slight obsession with all things wheeled. Although the main reasoning for the first visit was for their benefit, I was surprised to find myself intrigued and fascinated by the trip that we took back through time. My family and I have visited the Transport Museum on several occasions since, and have thoroughly enjoyed it each and every time, as there is just so much to take in all at once, a return visit is recommended, just to take in everything that you may have missed the first time round.
Since the first time that I took my son to the Transport Museum he has been fascinated with all things car related, and on each return visit to the museum he can barely contain his excitement, as he runs back and forth from car to car taking in a much as he can along the way hardly stopping for breath. The entire experience is certainly fascinating and educational, as you find out some amazing facts about the motoring industry in general, as well as learning about Coventry's history. Without a shadow of a doubt, I would whole heartedly recommend a trip to the Transport Museum next time you're about in Coventry. You never know you might be surprised at what you can learn, and remember most importantly of all, it's free, but like me don't ignore those donation boxes, as this is the type of museum that one day I hope my children will take their children to, and gain just as much enjoyment out of it as they have.
The Museum is open every day
10am until 5pm with last admission at 4:30pm
Coventry Transport Museum
[Also on ciao with pictures]
This freebie is not to be missed, the jewel in Coventry's crown. I have visited Coventry Transport Museum many times, it provides something for everyone at different stages and ages.
You will find the museum in Hales Street opposite Pool Meadow bus station. Outside you will find Millenium place an intriguing public space and contains a number of striking art works and structures, such as the Francoise Schein's 24-hour clock, the Whittle Arch and the Glass Bridge, which links the nearby Garden of International Friendship. These new
landmark structures make the approach to the museum appealing and striking. On entering the museum you will find the new coffee house, a little too expensive for me and my brood but nice for a treat with friends. I hear there is live music here in the evenings when the museum is closed.
The access to the museum is through the gift shop which warrants a tour as it sells many groovy and unusual gifts or souveniers. There are a few steps to climb but the building also has a ramp for wheelchair users or buggies. Carry on through the gift shop and you will easily find the entry to the museum.
You are cleverly guided through the large exhibitions and even if your interest isn't cars or transport, its still an interesting route. My kids love the blitz exhibition, that really seems to touch them and they can't resist a go on the Thrust. They now charge for the Thrust ride which is unfortunate but that is the only charge.
This year they ran arts and craft activities for the children at half term at £2 per child we all got involved. We brought our own lunch and spent the whole day here. They also run educational classes at the swift centre and held a fantastic craft fair this year.
On the whole this is a positive and cheap day out, mix it with different friends or relatives and it will bring a new dimension to the visit. It can be quite nostalgic and we found it a really good sharing experience.
The downside is that the route around the exhibition means that finding the exit is quite difficult. The staff are all very helpful but if you need to leave in a hurry then its frustrating as I can never find staff when I need them. I would also like to be able to treat the children to something to eat but its just too a pity as I would be willing to pay a reasonable amount.
Find out more visit their website www.transport-museum.com
As the previous dooyoo'er said this is a fab place to visit for FREE! It's a great day and to be honest you could spend a day looking around.
It's not just for boys my girls love it there, there are plenty of old cars to see and lots of interactive bits for the children. Upstairs towards the end there is an area for children, they can zoom through Coventry of the future! They can also build their own models of cars of the future using soft big blocks.
It has the Thrust exhibition - the fastest land speed record ever done. It is quite loud and to be honest my girls didn't fancy going in so I don't actually know what's in there but it looked good.
There is also a Penny farthing and bicycle section, as well as buses. Somethimes they move things round to show different vehicles so it's not the same everytime you go which is great for the kids because they see something new each time.
The blitz bit is fairly new and very good. The girls enjoyed experiencing what it was like during the war, although the older of mine 9 doesn't like things too realistic so was a little scared.
The staff are also extremely friendly we found and very helpful.
We have been a few times as it's free, during the holidays they often have crafts or things going on for the children, it's worth ringing if you're going specifically for these events.
Parking is not quite so easy! there is parking around the back of the transport museum and it's the usual car parking prices, about £1.50 for 2 hrs or so. The bus station is also extremely close and very easy to get to.
Outside the musuem, is a time clock of around the world it's a bit complicated to work out! it's on the ground but the children found it fun!
The Coventry Transport Museum is a great place to visit a. if you do not have a large amount of money and like transport related subjects and b if you have children.
Its free to get in, and is a really good day out for the kids.
I have taken my son and daughter there approx 6 times as is not far from where we live.
They have some great exhibitions especially the Thrust exhibition, its a vehicle that broke a land speed record, i think in the late 90's...im not sure but its brilliant for the kids, you sit in the auditorium and there are speakers that tell you the whole story of what happened, and some video footage also...its very dark and then the thrust car appears on the stage..... its so funny seeing the kids gasp when it happens.
The blitz exhibition is great too, although i would warn any people that have small children it can be a little scary, my daughter is three and she cried a bit as it is very dark and you can hear the sirens, she also cried because my little boy who is six tried to comfort het by telling her that grandad had his leg blown off in the blitz!!!!!!! (not actually what happened to my grandads leg....but he likes this version of the story...bless him!!!)
They have loads more aswell....there is a model collection which if my little boy had his way he would love to play with....
They have lots of bikes and motorcycles, incuding penny farthings..... they have buses....old 50's/60's/70's cars that are really cool as it made me and my hubby think back to our grandparents and parents cars.
They are open everyday except christmas eve and christmas day and boxing day and new years day. 10-5.
They have a really nice gift shop, which sells everything from pencils and nik nacks to some gorgeous model cars and buses.
They have a nice cafe with a selection of light snacks and refreshments....... although we tend to take a picnic and go to the park afterwards.
Its a great day and in this day in age with the credit crunch, its nice to take the kids out without it costing any money and have some quality time with them while expanding their minds also.
Give it a go, its really nice even if you have no kids to be honest, me and my husband enjoy it thoroughly.