Festival of black country vehicles – Event report

Posted on July 30th, 2014 by Rob Marshall

showBean, Star, AJS, Guy… mostly businesses that sank, without a trace, soon after the Great Depression. Even the brands that survived a little longer, such as Sunbeam, Turner and Swallow, are long forgotten in the public psyche. Yet, all of these once well-known companies (and more) were celebrated at their Black Country birthplace, by the Living Museum last Sunday, all of which made a refreshing change to the usual Triumphs, Austin-Morris‘s, MGs and Rovers that populate the majority of classic car shows up-and-down the country.

Yet, this was not a series of dull, static displays. For car buffs, like me, there were two garage buildings to peruse, brimmed with an eclectic collection of vehicles that were built in the local area, including Clyno that was once the UK’s third largest carmaker, and both AJS and Sunbeam that achieved world-wide notoriety in motorsport and land speed record arenas. Enthusiasts also brought along their treasured Black Country-produced vehicles, which included later models from the 1980s and 1990s, such as those made by Quantum and Westfield. All of them, along with vintage bikes and trucks, were driven by the proud owners, around the museum grounds, in a celebratory cavalcade.

Naturally, the activity was held alongside other events that the whole family could enjoy (mine left me in one of the aforementioned garages!) which included the chance to participate as a pupil in a Victorian classroom, to visit a 1930’s travelling fairground, to experience some retail therapy in authentic shops that varied from gentlemen’s outfitters to a confectionary shop, to view a silent movie, or tuck into fish and chips (fried freshly in the traditional beef dripping), as well as seeing where and how the typical Black Country inhabitant lived and worked. In a neat touch, vintage buses ferried visitors around the 26-acres site, all of which form part of the museum’s substantial collection, but it was all the more pleasing for me to see them being used, rather than shut away.

For anybody that missed this year’s festival, it will be repeated next year but many of the museum’s attractions (a number of which I have not even mentioned) will remain open throughout the school holidays. Yet, the highlight for me was seeing vehicles being recognised and enjoyed in an event that was appreciated by everybody present, of all ages, and not just car enthusiasts.