News : Great British Car Journey sneak preview

After a delayed start, the Great British Car Journey is due to open in Ambergate, Derbyshire later this month. The new visitor attraction has a collection of more than 100 British-made vehicles, and they will be on show in an airy and rejuvenated factory building on the banks of the River Derwent – and we’ve had a sneak preview of some of the cars on show.

The site, which is located just off the A6 in between Derby and Matlock, is nearing the end of an extensive refurbishment ahead of the Great British Car Journey opening on 22 May. Originally due to open in 2020, plans for the attraction had to be shelved when two of its founders both had serious health issues. Now back to full health, the Great British Car Journey is out of the garage, back on road and all set to open with even more cars joining the original line up.

The covered exhibition features vehicles from a bygone age, including Austin Sevens and Morris Minors as well as the more modern classics including the original Mini, Ford Cortina and Vauxhall Cavalier. The Great British Car Journey will take visitors on an interactive journey through the golden years of British design and manufacturing from the 1930s–1990s using a unique audio-visual device.

The cars are currently being moved into the museum area, where they will be arranged in an order to tell the chronological story, starting with Herbert Austin and his famous Seven mini car. We were allowed to root around the storage area to have a look at the exhibits before they are rolled out – and what a collection they are. You’ll understand why we’re so excited when you browse the gallery below.

In addition, Drive Dad’s Car will allow visitors to go for a drive with an instructor in a selection of over 30 iconic British cars from the Austin Seven to a Rolls Royce Silver Spirit. That old car smell and an analogue driving experience guarantees a wave of nostalgia for times gone by.

The visitor attraction is the brainchild of former Auto Windscreens and Blyton Park circuit owner Richard Usher. He explained: ‘Signing the lease was a real line in the sand and put us on track for opening in 2021. The enforced break, through both ill-health and the pandemic, means the Great British Car Journey is coming back stronger having given us the opportunity to acquire even more fantastic British made and designed classic cars.’

Keith Adams

60 Comments

  1. Looking forward to visiting this, especially as it is just up the road. Not actually in the Peak District though.

    • Yes Tim, you are correct. GBCJ is located on the edge of the Peak District. But the attraction will appeal to Derbyshire Peak District visitors. Hope that clarifies things.

  2. Sounds like this would appeal to me too! I am considering a holiday in that area this year. Showing my age when I still remember the launch of the MK2 Astra and my brother had a Minor 1000.

  3. You young lads! Launch of the Astra? That was last week! My chums round this table tonight remember the launch of 1949 Jowett Javelin!!! They call me the ‘boy’ ‘cos I can’t remember anything before the 1955 Citroen DS!
    I wish I looked like a boy though.

    • @wolseley man, I remember the Jowett Javelin when I was at infant school era. My first motoring memory was going in a Cresta PA to the Garage where my Dad was buying his first car… A Victor Deluxe F series. I would have been about 7 years old.

    • My first memories of motoring was being taken to school in a 1933 Singer 9 saloon and playing in a 1934 Wolseley 16.

  4. First motoring memory – that could be a whole separate nostalgia mine! In my case, sitting on my Mum’s knee kicking three bells out of a St.Christopher medal stuck on the dashboard of our Morris Minor split screen convertible – no seat belts or child seats in those days! First vehicle launch memory – Escort Mark 1 being announced on Radio 4, or was it the Home Service in those days?

  5. Go as soon as it opens in April, it won’t be open for long! It isn’t in a tourist hotspot. It isn’t in the Peak District,as others have said. It’s in the middle of nowhere and hard to get to from the M1. How many people are going to make the effort to see a small collection (30 apparently) of average/rubbish cars? Probably one of the 3 people who watch the repeats of “George & Mildred” on daytime tv on a Freeview channel you’ve never heard of!

    • Hi Lucy – thanks for your interest.

      Great British Car Journey features over 100 significant cars and visitors will be guided through them by a revolutionary interactive guide. It is the story of how British entrepreneurs and engineers contributed to the global ownership of cars by families all over the world.

      Although the journey features failure as well as success, it celebrates truly inspired designs such as the Austin 7 and the Mini and features remarkable survivors of rarer machines such as the Morris Marina and Austin Allegro. It’s a trip through childhood memories. It’s a trip that reflects on a romantic nostalgia for Britain’s past.

      Although GBCJ is not in the Peak National Park, it is right on the edge of the A6 which remains one of the key routes into the beautiful Derbyshire Dales, following the River Derwent from Derby up to Matlock, Bakewell and beyond.

      The interest we’ve had already is truly phenomenal, and far more than we’d originally hoped, and we’d love to have you come visit us Lucy.

      • Sounds a great place to go when it opens on the 22 May 2021 a real nostalgic trip for many and I wonder who will see a car they once actually owned too?
        Also the day before again in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Museum of Making is opening in Derby ( Derby Silk Mill, regarded as the worlds 1st modern factory ).
        Great for a weekend and visit both places if not local.

    • For all those interested, GBCJ is located on the A6 just 20 minutes from Jct 28 M1. It is in the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage site which attracts international as well as local visitors. Attractions include the National Tramway Museum at Crich, Heights of Abraham, and Cromford Mills – as well as Chatsworth House and Haddon Hall just 15 mins away. Too much to do in one day! Finally the headline to this piece is accurate. 100 cars to see, and 30 cars in the Drive Dad’s Car experience.

    • If you think that what the hell are you doing visiting this website then you miserable bugger! – Looks fantastic to me and I cant wait to visit – and the last time I watched George and Mildred was in 1978!

    • @ Lucy, millions of people owned these cars in the seventies and eighties and to say they are all rubbish is nonsense. The Mark 2 Cavalier and Mark 1 Astra were highly competent and popular cars that still look good now and even something like the Chrysler Avenger was a decent enough family car for its time. Not everyone 40 years ago could buy an Audi Quattro or trade up their Avenger for a Volkswagen Golf GTi.
      Also nothing wrong with George and Mildred, it’s a classic Briitish comedy about the class system. While this is still repeated now, who in 2061 is going to remember drivel like Love Island.

    • Lucy Palmer sounds rather like a London Bubble person. GBCJ (collection of 130 cars plus a fleet of 30 you can book to drive) is at Ambergate in the Derwent Valley with easy access from J26 or J28 of M1, as well as A38. The whole of the Derwent Valley is a key UNESCO World Heritage Site and close to the Peak District National Park.
      Local Residents welcome enthusiastic and knowledgable visitors, but are not overly keen to become a tourist hotspot. If she thinks Ambergate is the ‘middle of knowhere’, I can arrange this…

  6. I like Bakewell, Chatsworth & Haddon Hall so adding GBCJ to the list of attractions sounds worthwhile…

  7. Sad news, though as an exhibit to me its appeal seems slightly niche when you consider the cost of exhibiting all these vehicles.

    Gaydon works as they have the “flashy” stuff to appeal to the casual public, but also have the more obscure stuff for us anoraks!

  8. This looks interesting, I visited the Trabant museum in Prague and I found the production figures interesting. Under communism it was the production figures that mattered, not the sales as it was a captive market almost. I would be interested in market share, prices of competitors and reliability of the cars. I hope it gets off the ground at some point.

  9. sure the directors can be replaced, they do it all the time in business, and as for funding not now being available, there is more to that statement than they are letting on, maybe the area has been flooded and the banks or personal investors are not prepared to invest in a project that can be devastated one year down the line, as insurance will now be impossible to get at reasonable rates.

    What about a one of those online fundraising sources, i am sure that a lot of car orientated businesses could be persuaded to offer some pennies, as well as car fans.

  10. According to the Derby Telegraph today, this project has been revived and is due to open on May 22nd this year (plague permitting!).

  11. Even though I wasn’t born when it was made, I think the best looking motor in the behind the scene pics is that gorgeous red Vauxhall Victor/Ventora FD. It is stunning. Love the Crawford Fiesta too, that is very rare.

    • Too right, this was the best looking mass produced British car 50 years ago and a clever form of badge engineering that went from the more basic Victor models, to the sporty VX 4.90, to the six cylinder luxury Ventora, all in the same body.
      Another nice one to see, a Chrysler Avenger, even rarer than the Hillman, yet a common sight 40 years ago and the last of the old Rootes engineered cars.

      • Yes the FD Vauxhall shown is a VX4/90… takes me back to when it was launched and still have the brochure. All the exhibits revealed here look great and this museum will be on my bucket list!

        • At second glance I think the FD Vauxhall is a Victor that has had Rostyles and coachlines added a’la VX4/90

          • The Victor badge in script on the front wing is a bit of a giveaway; the VX4/90 badge was in block text and looked a bit more upmarket. This car has the shiny (stainless or aluminium) sill strips which were only standard on the VX and Ventora, and a locking fuel cap; but does not have the stainless steel stone guards on the rear wheel arches. These looked very flash, but trapped water behind them and caused the arches to rot; like the plastic front wing liners on the 18-22 Princesses.

      • I remember being blown away as a 10 year old when I saw my first FD – it was a White Ventora owned by a family just up the road from where I lived. And later, the real disappointment I felt when the FE came along. Such a dull looking car. I even remember Vauxhall’s press adverts trying to big-up the fact it had bonnet flutes just like the Vauxhalls from the 1920s. I guess the marketing guys were feeling just as desperate as I was seeing their beautiful FD slip off into history.

        • Vauxhall managed to get some FDs used in Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and Department S in the late 1960s.

          • The Randall car was a Victor 2000 reg RXD 996F and Dept S was a Ventorta RXD997F

          • Unfortunately a Victor was heavily dented and a Ventora written off in The Professionals. Cheap, big, and quite fast at the time. One episode of R&H Deceased had the police sampling the dust in the exhaust tailpipe of Randall’s Victor to check where he’d been. It was parked in the police garage behind a PB Cresta estate, which was always a rare car (although one of my colleagues now owns one of the few surviving PA estates)

  12. Now if they had Sarah Crabtree showing visitors around….. Might be an opportunity for a Yesterday channel spinoff special…

    • As a result of your comment , I discover that Sarah has been made redundant by Mathewsons . It must spell the end, because she was the only one with any brains in the whole outfit . The male members of the family are just a joke !

  13. I’ll have to try to make it here when it fully opens.

    At the Scottish Transport Museum it was interesting to look around their collection of ordinary cars.

  14. Joy to my ears that other folks appreciate the brilliance of the FD. When one first drove into the yard at our main dealer where I worked, we couldn’t believe it was really for us to sell – it looked so good. We already had the gorgeous PC Cresta at a time when the key opposition was an aircraft carrier – sorry, I meant the Ford Mk 4 Zephyr.
    Can’t wait to get to this new venue – we are a mere 4 or five hours away – so we consider that quite local! Well done everyone involved.

    • The FD looked really good when it came out, like an American car without the chintz, and quite upmarket with four headlamos like its more expensive rivals. Of these, the VX 4/90 was always the best, better equipped than the Victors and capable of over 100 mph, with overdrive to make long distance driving a pleasure.

  15. My Dad had a FC VX4/90 (boxy) so the FD series that followed was futuristic for its time. My favourites would be the VX again and Ventora. The Ventora in particular looked good with vinyl roof, special grille & smart wheeltrims. I’ve still got a brochure. Happy times

  16. Glenn… I agree, the Rostyle’s on the VX 4/90 added to its appeal too. I don’t think the entry level Victor 1600 was popular though.

    • The Victor 1600 was poor and early ones had an ancient three speed transmission on the steering column that harmed refinement, driving enjoyment and economy. You really needed the 2000 or the VX 4/90 to enjoy the car and get the performance to match the looks.
      One Victor FD I do remember was a K reg one, probably one of the last to be registered in 1972, that an old man next door to my grandparents bought as a retirement present from the Vauxhall dealer that conveniently was five minutes away. The car never seemed to go very far and was well looked after, and I do remember him hanging on to it until 1984 when it was too uneconomical to repair and rust was killing it. However, good effort for a car that was usually on its last legs at nine years old.

      • @ Glenn… yes I remember the column gearchange and drum brakes + bench front seat on the 1600 Victor. The engine put out 83 bhp I think, same as the Viva HB 1600. As said here, the 2000, VX and Ventora were better options..

        • Penny pinching and a shame as the Victor could have done better with a more powerful and better equipped 1600 model, as it was being marketed as a bigger and more upmarket alternative to a Mark2 Cortina.

  17. And the Estate version of the FD was one of the best looking estates produced by anyone.

    • Daveh : I remember that advertisement ( which actually described the car quite well ) and I remember trying a Ventora out as a result . What made me giggle inwardly a bit was that the salesman kept assuring me that the “exhilaration” was fantastic . I think the Ventora in its first guise was an underrated car, but its problem was that it was up against the Triumph 2.5 PI and at a slightly higher price level the Rover 3500

    • I also have a Ventora Lazy Fireball brochure. Must have been 1968/69 when launched. Car launches seemed more exciting to me in those days.

  18. I’ll go along with that. As a youngster I was very interested in the launch of the Cresta PC, Victor FD, Cavalier MK1 and Ford’s of course! Nowadays launches are less exciting due to the leakage of images and stuff on the web.. Paper brochures seem to be a thing of the past too… cheaper to refer buyers to websites

  19. Another nice find on here, one of the last Vauxhall Chevettes, which by 1983 was selling on price and mechanical simplicity as its Viva drivetrain and rwd layout were a bit old fashioned, considering the smart money had moved on to the Astra. Yet the small Vauxhall probably saved the British side of General Motors in the seventies by proving they could produce a competitive car and could build it quite well.

    • Agreed Glenn… the later Chevette Hatchback, saloon and estate were a reasonable choice for those wanting a simple / cheaper car. The final models also had the benefit of Cavalier style headlamps.

  20. My wife saw this on BBC Breakfast this morning and she wanted to go! Looks like we will be heading there sometime….

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