Just off the M40 motorway, north west of London, lies the British Motor Museum, home to a wonderful collection of rally cars from days gone by.
Peter Whitten visited the museum, near Gaydon in Warwick, and stepped back into rallying's bygone era.
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While on holiday in England in late January, I was headed for the famed Cotswolds region and an overnight stop in beautiful Stratford upon Avon.
Heading north west on the M40, the weather had turned bad, and heavy rained pounded the motorway. Our plans for a day of sightseeing had taken a turn for the worse.
Out of nowhere, a sign for the British Motor Museum appeared, and with nothing else planned in the rain, a quick diversion had us paying our entry fee and heading in for a look.
The British Motor Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of historic British Cars; it boasts nearly 300 cars in its collection which span the classic, vintage and veteran eras.
My interest was only in the motorsport cars on display though, and particularly, any rally cars that may have made their way into the collection.
I wasn't to be disappointed. Six famous British rally cars sat there in all their glory, covering nearly 30 years of rallying history.
Front and centre were a trio of Monte Carlo Rally winning Mini Cooper S's, the actual cars driven to victory by Paddy Hopkirk (1964), Timo Makinen (1965) and Rauno Aaltonen (1967) in the hills above Monaco.
Three Monte Carlo-winning Minis are on display at the British Motor Museum.
The Mini days were before my time, so seeing not one, but THREE Monte Carlo winning Cooper S's was something to behold. They are magnificently presented, and as much as I found it hard to keep my eyes off them, there are bigger fish to fry.
Two of Britain's greatest rally cars sat just metres away, and both conjured up memories of rallying's golden age, when horsepower and ingenuity ruled the WRC.
Tony Pond's 190bhp, 3.5-litre Triumph TR7 V8 sits resplendent in its classic British Leyland colour scheme, flanked either side by a 1959 Austin Healey 3000, and another of Pond's machines, the 1985 MG Metro 6R4 Group B monster.
The TR7 V8 variety of Triumph even made it to Australia, with Colin Bond building one that he and M-Sport boss, Malcolm Wilson, drove in the Dunlop 2GO Rally.
This one, however, has a little more pedigree, having won the Ypres and Manx rallies in 1978, and finishing an impressive fourth on that year's RAC Rally in Pond's capable hands.
The best of British ... the MG Metro 6R4 (top) and the Leyland TR7 V8.
For me though, it's the Metro 6R4 that brings back even greater memories. I never saw a "works" version in competition, but recall watching Tony Teesdale piloting his Repco-sponsored machine on the 1986 Rally of New Zealand.
All cars are in incredible condition, although the Metro is minus it's 'shovel-nosed' front wing that has been removed.
The standard MG Metro (above) was morphed into the monstrous rally version (below) under the Group B regulations.
Yet remarkably, amongst all these beauties, there wasn't a British Ford competition car in sight. Not a Cortina, a Mk1 or Mk2 Escort, a Sierra, or even a Focus or Fiesta. It seemed to be a strange oversight.
Elsewhere, jammed bumper to bumper in another area of the museum, sat Paddy Hopkirk's London-Sydney Marathon Austin 1800 Landcrab, and an Austin 1100 from the 1970 World Cup Rally from London to Mexico.
For circuit fans there were Jaguar Formula 1 cars among a collection of 300 Jaguars, a full display of Minis from the 1960s and 70s, a DeLorean from the Back To The Future trilogy, and all varieties of Range Rovers, Wolseleys, MGs and just about every other British car ever made.
Jaguar F1 cars from Mark Webber and Eddie Irvine are among the display of racing cars.
I spent about 90 minutes in the British Motor Museum, and could easily have spent the full day there reading about all the cars on display, but the Cotswolds were calling.
Nevertheless, my day had brightened up remarkably, despite the gloomy weather.
Unexpected sightings of Monte Carlo Rally winning Minis and Group B MG Metro 6R4s will do that to you!
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