When you hear someone say “Motor City”, the first place that comes to mind is Detroit, Michigan. But did you know that there is another motor city across the pond in England?
England has a rich history about automotive manufacturing and one of these places is Coventry. In the city center, its rich automotive history is on full display at The Coventry Transport Museum.
Entering the Coventry Transport Museum
The Coventry Transport Museum is open from 10 AM to 5 PM Monday through Saturday and there is no entry fee.
When you walk through the revolving doors, the first vehicle on display is a true British icon, a 1974 Jaguar E-type roadster. The E-type on display was one of the final fifty made and is also the most original example with only 800 miles on the odometer. This car was bought by the museum from Jaguar in 1975 with aid from a Science Museum Grant.
Past the legendary Jag roadster and the information desk, there is a stunning display of vintage motorcycles dating from 1868 till 1900. After the motorcycle display, you enter the automotive section of the museum.
Section 1: Pioneers 1868-1900
The earliest automobile on display in this section is an 1896 Coventry Motette.
The Coventry Motette was built by the Humber Company and was based on a Leon Bollee tricar. Humber manufactured tricars like this example in the Motor Mills. This particular example was bought by the Transport Museum in 1961 for 475 GBP.
The next vehicle in this section is an 1898 Daimler Phaeton.
The Daimler Phaeton was built at the first car factory in Britain. Motor Mills, the factory, was located in Drappers Field, Coventry. The factory was set up by Harry Lawson in 1896.
The final vehicle highlighted in this section is an 1899 MMC.
MMC or Motor Manufacturing Company manufactured the engine on this tricycle in the Motor Mills. The tricycle was manufactured by Humber in Beeston, Nottingham.
Section 2: A New Motor Industry 1900-1914
The next section focuses on how Coventry played a vital role in establishing a new motoring industry in England prior to the outbreak of the First World War.
During this era, automobile plants in Coventry manufactured many makes and models of cars. However, a 1906 Standard Motorcar stands out from the rest of cars on display in this section.
The example in the museum is the oldest surviving Standard car. This particular model was discovered in a barn in Australia in 1950. In 1959, this car was restored and returned to Britain.
Section 3: First World War 1914-1918
Automobile manufacturing in England was halted with the outbreak of the First World War. Human effort and resources were reallocated towards manufacturing of weapons and ammunition.
In 1913, Siegfried Bettmann, a native of Nuremberg, Germany, became the Mayor of Coventry. In 1914, he became a British citizen. Bettmann was also the head of the Triumph Cycle Company.
Bettmann resigned as the mayor because of his German origin and hid from public eyes during the war years. However, Triumph manufactured thousands of bicycles and motorcycles for the army and he helped Belgian refugees find homes in Coventry and assisted the British Red Cross Society.
In this section, there is one significant motorcycle on display, a Triumph Model H. The Model H was significantly used during WWI. Because of their reliability, the soldiers nicknamed them “Trusty Triumphs”.
Section 4: The Growth of the Motor Industry 1918-1939
After the war, automotive factories in Coventry were once again contributing towards the growth of the motoring industry. The first two cars in this section consist of a 1920 Coventry Premier Tricar and 1920 Alvis 10/30 Tourer.
The Coventry Premier Company was founded by William Hillman, who made his fortune by selling Premier bicycles. However by 1920, Singer had taken over the company, and continued to manufacture cars with the Coventry Premier name till 1924.
The Alvis Tourer on display is the oldest surviving Alvis. The body of this car was unusual for its time because during 1920s most cars had a wooden frame with steel panels. But the Alvis’s frame was made from tubular steel and was covered by aluminum panels. This construction method was similar to those of the aircraft built during the First World War.
Another unique car in this section is a 1927 Rover 16150. Its wooden frame is covered by stretched fabric. This style was known as Weymann and it was a popular design during the 1920s.
The final car on display in this section is a 1925 Lea-Francis J-Type.
The Lea-Francis J-Type was made in Lower Ford Street, Coventry. Compared to the earlier Lea-Francis, the J-Type benefited from front wheel brakes. The J-Type was powered by 12 horsepower 1496cc 4-cylinder engine and had a top speed of 40 mph. In 1925, this four seat open tourer retailed for 285 GBP.
This wraps up the brief walk through Coventry Transport Museum.
This walk through focused on just some of the cars on display in the museum. A cool fact is that all the cars on display were manufactured in Coventry, thus signifying the city’s contribution to British motoring industry.
So, while you are visiting Coventry, England’s Motor City, make sure you stop by the Coventry Transport Museum to experience the city’s rich automotive manufacturing history. Trust me, it’s worth it.