[quote="f1steveuk"]Beaulieu, sadly not a museum anymore, just a business, they ceased being interested in it as a "museum" about the time Michael (Ware) left.quote]
I would have to agree in general with Steve's comments although the curatorial staff are well qualified in a museological sense (not trying to upset Bill here you understand) but they do seem to lack direction. They possibly need someone like the recently appointed Director of the National Railway Museum, Col. Steve Davies, who is hugely respected both within the museum and railway presrvation worlds. That role at Beaulieu was of course amply provided by Lord Montagu and Michael Ware over many years.
Richard Hammond's "Escape to the Country" Land Rover
It is noticeable that since Top Gear came to Beaulieu it is this that has become the core of their marketing effort. At the Goodwood Festival of Speed, although the Lotus 49 was there too, this aspect was very much to the fore. At the NEC last weekend too, I don't think that they brought any vehicles apart from a selection of Top Gear ones. They have also had a James Bond Experience at Beaulieu for a few years but it does not feature any of the really well-known cars and is a bit second rate.
In the meantime, and as echoed by others on this thread, a visit nowadays can be a bit underwhelming (is that a word?). My personal gripe is the whole treatment of motorsport - including record breaking - as an integral part of the overall story of motoring in Great Britain. Rightly, what had always been known as "The Castrol Bath" in former days sought to highlight Britain's pre-eminent role in the World Land Speed Record. My first ever sighting of Bluebird CN7 "in the metal" was during a visit to the Autojumble in 1972. It really hasn't changed much in nearly 40 years and like all the vehicles, the display and the cars are in isolation with only a single monitor showing the story of the LSR.
The display is also lacking the current and most recent record holders of course. Not sure if they ever went after Thrust SSC seriously but as I had something to do with the fact that Thrust 2 is in Coventry today, I was well aware that only a fairly half-hearted effort went in to trying to secure that car for Beaulieu following its display over Christmas 1983. Coventry were not only determined to make Thrust 2 their principal exhibit at the time but had put in place a display to do it justice. It was, perhaps, inevitable that Thrust SSC shopuld follow and both cars have a considerable Midlands content. Ironically, the one car they really should have from a "local" perspective is Bluebird CN7 constructed just down the road at Motor Panels! I really believe, however, that these cars do need a special place and I think that Beaulieu could and should re-invent itself in this context. Space will be the determining factor. But at least try to arrange a changing display. It was refreshing to see Babs on show earlier this year and I would hope that this kind of loan could be arranged again. The Railton Special and/or Thrust 2 perhaps?
As for the F1 cars. A few years ago, someone had the bright idea of constructing some "decking" for them. A sort of progressive sweep from the earliest cars to the present day. Maybe they were influenced by Goodwood! All well and good except that it is obviously quite difficult now to clean them and the dust is now visible from some distance (unlike the cars themselves which are really hidden away). One of the most imporatnt F1 cars of recent times is the trendsetting Lotus 78 (see pics below). This was the car that introduced "ground effect" but its significance is a bit lost on visitors seeing as you can only get anywhere close to it from the Motorcycle Gallery. The car is Lotus 78, chassis JPS16, and is Gunnar Nilsson's 1977 Belgian GP winner and is also the chassis driven to victory in the South African GP in 1978 by Ronnie Peterson.
Overall, I think that the way that all of the vehicles are presented leaves a lot to be desired. One of the criticisms of the "old" museum (pre-1972) was that "all that the visitor would see is a collection of radiators". I'm not sure whether they may have returned to that. Gaydon, and especially Coventry, does the whole thing much better.