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Britain's Donington Collection Museum closing after 45 years

Discussion in 'Vintage (thru 365 GTC4)' started by Doug Nye, Oct 11, 2018.

  1. Doug Nye

    Doug Nye Karting
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    Jan 21, 2008
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    Just in case any Ferrarichat community members were thinking of visiting Donington Park to view the Collection museum there - be quick...

    DCN (yesterday's press release follows)

    WORLD’S LARGEST GRAND PRIX RACING CAR MUSEUM TO CLOSE ON NOVEMBER 5

    News is released today of the Donington Collection museum’s imminent closure. Its doors will close to the public for the final time on November 5 this year, after 45 years as an absolutely must-see Mecca for motor racing enthusiasts worldwide…

    Situated at the Donington Park motor racing circuit on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire border, the Donington Collection Museum has housed the World’s largest display of purebred Grand Prix racing cars, including many rated as being amongst the most historically and financially valuable of their kind.

    The Museum – full title ‘The Donington Collection of Single-Seater Racing Cars’ – was the brainchild of Leicester-based builder Frederick Bernard ‘Tom’ Wheatcroft.

    A lifelong motor sports enthusiast he had first visited Donington Park in 1935 to watch motor-cycle racing on the British mainland’s very first true road-racing circuit. He would recall: “From then on I was a confirmed enthusiast. I saw most of the bike and car meetings that followed, and in 1937 and 1938 I was hanging on the fence with the best of them, watching those giant German cars running in the Donington Grand Prix”. Those two sensational races were the pre-war equivalent of today’s British Grand Prix.

    After six years of wartime Army service Tom Wheatcroft launched his building business in 1946. It thrived, making him a wealthy man. In 1964 he bought a 13-year-old Formula 1 Ferrari single-seater racing car “just for fun – and I caught the collecting bug”. Over the following six years he acquired more historic Formula 1 machines, observing sagely “There’s nought so cheap as last year’s racing car”.

    Initially the cars were housed in a cramped garage building at his Leicester home. But in September, 1971, he bought the circuit section of Donington Park from its long-time owners, the Gillies Shields family. His long-term plan was to restore the old circuit – unused since 1939 - for modern racing, but first he built the museum there to house his fabulous fleet of purebred competition cars.

    Tom Wheatcroft opened the Museum on March 16, 1973. Core of the display were three groups of the racing world’s rarest and most valuable treasures; the BRM group preserving ‘British Racing Motor’ team cars including the legendary 1950-55 V16-cylinder design with Rolls-Royce supercharging – the Vanwall group of cars which won Britain’s first Formula 1 Constructors’ World Championship title in 1958 – and a stunning group of such truly Historic cars as the Ferrari in which the sport’s first double-World Champion Alberto Ascari scored the majority of his 11 title-qualifying Grand Prix wins through 1952-53, the Lotus 18 which Stirling Moss drove to win both the 1961 Monaco and German GPs against vastly superior opposition – and the very first Formula 1 car built and raced by triple-World Champion Driver, Jack Brabham.

    With these core cars backed by many more of the World’s finest designs, including dozens loaned to the Collection by such leading still-active teams as Mercedes-Benz, McLaren, Williams and many more, The Donington Collection became an absolute magnet for a global audience. Over its 45 year career more than 2.5-million visitors have viewed its treasures.

    Since Tom Wheatcroft passed away in October, 2009, the Museum has been run by his son Kevin. Today Kevin Wheatcroft says: “Closing the Museum after 45 years has been a really difficult decision, but family responsibilities simply make it the right thing to do…”

    Further details will be released shortly.

    ENDS
     
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  2. Jack-the-lad

    Jack-the-lad Three Time F1 World Champ
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    I regret that I never got to see this museum. Perhaps some of the cars will be sold to owners who will recommission and publicly display or even race them.

    I hope there are not similar plans for the circuit.
     
  3. Nembo1777

    Nembo1777 F1 Rookie

    Nov 4, 2006
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    Pity. The building is supposedly shaped like a crankshaft, I remember visiting it in 1988 with a teammate during a test day when I was racing in Formula Ford, he did rather better than me in subsequent years: Gil de Ferran. Like me he was in awe of the sheer quality and quantity of F1 cars there. TW was an extraordinary man, sad to see his crown jewel be dismantled.
     
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  4. merstheman

    merstheman F1 Rookie

    Apr 13, 2007
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    Sad. Will they sell the cars? That such a collection was built up and kept together for long in the first place is incredibly impressive....
     
  5. BigTex

    BigTex Six Time F1 World Champ
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    Dec 6, 2002
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    Read Tom Wheatcroft's book.

    What a life well lived.
    I am sure his son is in a bad spot, to continue museum/track operations (pure expense) , or realize his father's foresight and make huge cash on the sale of the cars (pure profits) .
    Most of them ARE operational I believe???

    Thanks for the heads up Doug Nye.
     
  6. Timmmmmmmmmmy

    Timmmmmmmmmmy Formula 3

    Apr 5, 2010
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    There have been two previous sell offs at Donington, one a period around 1990 - 1994 when several F1 cars were offered at various auctions incl. Bonhams first Monaco sale in 1990 and even a unique Barrett-Jackson (IIRC) sale in 1992/3. The second period was in the 2000s when many of the classics were sold via Hall & Hall and others incl. the Ferrari 125 Thinwall Special #0114 that is believed to be based on the first monoposto Ferrari ever made which was sold to an unknown Austrian and into the care of Egon Zweimuller, written up by Classic & Sportscar Mag. I also vaguely recall a swag of BRMs, Lotus and Vanwalls changing hands and I know at least the 2nd of just 2 Porsche designed Cisitalia 360 GP cars was sold.
     
  7. BMW.SauberF1Team

    BMW.SauberF1Team F1 World Champ

    Dec 4, 2004
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    Most if not all of the McLaren and Williams cars are on loan, correct? Same for the Brabham cars as far as I know.
     
  8. Marcel Massini

    Marcel Massini F1 World Champ
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    Mar 2, 2005
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    Here's #114 in Austria 13 years ago.
    It is 114, not 0114.

    Marcel Massini

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  9. Lowell

    Lowell Formula Junior
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  10. Marcel Massini

    Marcel Massini F1 World Champ
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    Don't think so.

    Marcel Massini
     
  11. kerrari

    kerrari F1 World Champ
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    What a shame...
     
  12. Lowell

    Lowell Formula Junior
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    Apr 17, 2005
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    Many years ago before American slang became better known, there were instructions from an Asian company on how to hook up their electronic device. They were essentially: Connect cable A to port X and attach wire B to box Y, etc,

    AND THEN SCREW IT ALL UP.

    Why is it that so many owners of rare Ferraris have no regard for originality or taste?
     
  13. Ferrari27

    Ferrari27 Formula Junior
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  14. GordonC

    GordonC F1 Rookie
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    The closing is a real shame. I was fortunate to visit the collection in 2002, before some of the cars were sold, and it was incredible to see all that F1 history in one place.

    I saw an article last week that the McLaren and Williams F1 cars were already removed - most, if not all, of those teams' cars were on loan from the teams to the Collection.
     
  15. 375+

    375+ F1 Rookie
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    Dec 28, 2005
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    Probably to be sold by their respective teams.
     
  16. PG1964

    PG1964 Formula Junior

    Nov 2, 2010
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    Torino, Italy
    It's sad to say, but it's true: 2.5 million visitors or more in 45 years are nothing for a museum. The MAUTO of Turin makes about 200.000 every year.
     
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  17. Namerow

    Namerow Rookie

    Feb 23, 2008
    1
    I first saw the collection in 1978, while visiting the UK to take part in a then-annual end-of-season competition staged by the Jim Russell racing school at Snetterton circuit. I was back in England this September to take in the Goodwood Revival event and decided to re-visit the Donington museum -- forty years later, almost to the day -- for what I figured would be a second and final time. Too true, as it now turns out.

    I have to confess that, this time around, I found most of the collection a bit monotonous. There's not much to distinguish one recent-era F1 car from another, save for small details that only the avid technical fan would seek out. That said, there were -- as noted by others -- some truly unique and significant cars and memorabilia that made the visit worthwhile. As some will know, Mr. Wheatcroft was closely tied to the career of British racer Roger Williamson (killed during the 1973 Dutch GP) and the displays in Williamson's honour were quite poignant. Ditto for a much smaller display nearby featuring trophies and the driving suit of another promising British racer from the 1970's, Tony Brise, who was killed along with his team manager, Graham Hill, in a private plane accident. The late Mike Hailwood also receives attention. The Vanwall and BRM display vehicle and items are, or were, unique (including a coin-operated, motorized cutaway example of the BRM V16 engine and, IIRC, the one-and-only Vanwall 'streamliner' GP car).

    Wheatcroft was also a military equipment buff. The first of the several buildings that make up the collection is filled with a huge assortment of personnel carriers, scout cars, motorcycles, small-bore artillery, and the like (of both British and German origin, along with a smattering of American bikes). Not my cup of tea, but a big draw nevertheless.

    Sad to see the collection being broken up. However, these privately-created museums tend to be the labours of love of the individuals who put them together. The Peterson Museum in Los Angeles was fortunate to survive and prosper after its founder died, but that's the only such example I can think of.
     
  18. 67bmer

    67bmer Formula Junior

    Oct 28, 2015
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    This is a tragedy! I was lucky enough to visit in June 2017. It was second to only my visit to the Ferrari museum that had an exclusive formula-1 theme while we were there. I was in "heaven" and probably have a photo of virtually every F1 car present at the time. Spoke to one of the museum staff cleaning the McLarens and was invited to walk around them and he took my photo. Maybe UNESCO can mark this a world heritage site...

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  19. 67bmer

    67bmer Formula Junior

    Oct 28, 2015
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    It was sad to see the photos of the cars (McLarens) as they raced on the wall, but the display cars had all tobacco markings removed (these cars are on loan - not the museums doing). Also, as he pointed out, McLaren removed references to Lewis Hamilton and replaced him with Jensen Button (totally bogus in my opinion). Combined with another experience, I have no sympathy for their current plight. They deserve it...
     
  20. merstheman

    merstheman F1 Rookie

    Apr 13, 2007
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    Tom Hartley Jr was driving some Williams GP cars the other day...
     
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