You can bank on a great day out at this historic venue
Words Barry Wiseman
IGNITION / A Place to Visit
‘Brooklands? Been there. Done that.’ Well, that might well be, but Brooklands is one of those places that never stands still. Apart from having a unique vintage atmosphere, Brooklands is always looking to improve itself and to welcome visitors back, knowing there will be new features to make it all worthwhile. Strangely, one of Brookland’s new features is one that isn’t there! To explain, the historic hangar on the race circuit’s finishing straight has moved, opening up the wide concrete track to the great benefit of the events days, when the museum’s exhibits are released to run up to the Members’ Banking and back, free of obstacles. The staff take pleasure in watching the faces of previous visitors who look up this straight and invariably light up broad smiles at the change. The track is rough, but recalling that dramatic old photograph of the airborne Napier-Railton, it probably always was. Well, it was built in just nine months, back in 1907.
Those who used to view the famous ‘Loch Ness’ Vickers Wellington bomber, previously in the dismantled hangar, won’t be disappointed. It is in a new home, known as the Aircraft Factory, a homage to Brooklands’ aviation past. There, the Wellington sits behind a row of light aircraft, including Bleriot XI and Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a replicas. Above is a mezzanine floor, offering views of these aircraft. Interactive stations are found there, where visitors can design their own aircraft. The Aircraft Factory is a great place for youngsters, teaching them many aspects of aircraft design: they can don a lab coat, book in and learn while having fun.
Behind the Aircraft Factory is the Flight Shed, a demeaning title for a brightly lit hangar containing wonderful fighter aircraft. These include a Hawker Hurricane MkIIA, flown in the American Eagle Squadron and then in Russia with the Red Air Force. It was found there 50 years later and sent to Brooklands where, 60,000 man-hours later, it became the beauty it is today. Appropriate, too, because it is believed that it was originally assembled there in 1940. There’s a replica Hawker Fury, too, and many others, up to and including the jet age.
In another open-fronted pavilion is the replica Vickers Vimy long-range bomber. The originals dated from 1918, when these craft were designed to carry a one-ton bomb load. The replica build began in 1994 and since its completion it has flown all over the world. For a flight to Australia, it was fitted with 7.4-litre Chevrolet NASCAR engines, and, for a South Africa run, BMW V12s were fitted.
There are other interesting aircraft standing outside, including the first British production Concorde, where for an extra charge visitors can climb aboard and enjoy the Concorde Experience. Another building houses a McLaren ‘Driven by Design’ exhibition. There’s a McLaren Senna GTR Concept and the McLaren Senna GTR Prototype. Alongside is a full-size Lego 720S, resplendent in orange.
The familiar old sheds and workshops house wonderful cars and motorcycles, too numerous to specify. Nowadays, a McLaren MP4-21 F1 simulator allows visitors to test their skill, while nearby sits a Mercedes-Benz EQ Silver Arrow 01, bringing Brooklands right up to date.
There’s plenty more – the colourful London Bus Museum, the air raid shelter, and Barnes Wallis’s Stratosphere Chamber, for instance. The staff are enthusiastic and helpful and the Sunbeam Café will be happy to cater for your nourishment needs. There’s also an excellent gift shop and, should you have energy left, it’s only a couple of minutes’ walk to Mercedes- Benz World, just next door.
From topWellington hangar was meticulously dismantled and reassembled away from the finishing straight; Lego McLaren is a recent addition; firing up the bestial Napier-Railton.
BROOKLANDS MUSEUM, Brooklands Drive, Weybridge, Surrey KT13 OSL. Opening: Daily 10am-5pm (summer), Tues- Sunday 10am-4pm (winter). Admission: Adult £20.95, seniors/students £19.95, children 5-18 £11.60. Family rates available. Price includes 10% Gift Aid (not compulsory). There are savings on tickets bought in advance. Concorde experience: Adults £6, children £3. There is an excellent website at www.brooklandsmuseum.com.