Words: Keith Adams Photography: Eamonn Burnell and Nick Dunning
Disturbing photographs taken last weekend of ‘priceless’ one-off prototypes being stored in the open at the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon have been sent into AROnline. The cars – including most notably the only remaining Rover P8 prototype, booted Metro, AR6, and famous ‘pizza delivery’ mid-engined MGF clothed as a Metro.
The Rover P8 has been in hiding for many years, and for AROnline, it’s the first confirmation of the rumour that the car remains near-complete, but damaged following a trailer accident a few years ago. The car looks to have lost significant amounts of trim and fittings, but for a committed restorer it’s far from being a lost cause, even if many of the parts will be one-off bespoke items.
Tim Bryan, of the HMC confirmed that the cars had only been left outside overnight for one evening, and told AROnline, ‘I wanted to reassure you that the cars pictured were actually in transit and only stored very temporarily outside whilst being surveyed by our volunteer team and are now safely in a new interim storage building we have created pending the completion of our HLF collections building.
‘As you may know, part of the first stage of our HLF grant was to carry out a full survey of all the vehicles in the collection and we have recruited 50+ volunteers to do this. They have made rapid and excellent progress on this part of the project, checking and photographing each car.
‘This work will give us a priority list of vehicles for restoration and the P8 has already been identified as a great project for our volunteers as well as a number of other cars that have not been seen by the public for many years. The survey is part of a bid to be submitted to the HLF in the New Year, and we are making progress on generating matching funding for the project so that we can begin work early in 2014.’
For anyone who cares about the preservation of the history of these cars produced by now-defunct manufacturers, their condition must raise serious concerns over who ultimately retains responsibility – enthusiastic individuals with the resources to fully care for these cars, or museums, which find themselves forced to operate in increasingly commercial conditions.
Back in 2004, AROnline revealed that the Heritage Motor Centre, at Gaydon in Warwickshire, had run into storage issues, and was forced to store a selection of its previously-unseen prototypes unprotected, out in the open. The official line from the museum then was that the cars were being left in the open on a temporary basis while new facilities were found. The cars soon disappeared, and went back undercover in a set of secret bunkers around the country – and we can only hope that this is the same situation again in 2012.
We’ll keep you posted. But for now, feast your eyes on the P8 – was it right for British Leyland to abandon it months before it was due to go into production?