Beaulieu enraptures a new generation of Clements

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Author: Alastair ClementsPublished:

We never saw eye to eye, my sister and I, but looking back now I do feel rather sorry for her. Every Bank Holiday, half term of Easter break, when my dad was off work he would utter the magic words: "Where shall we go today?"

Before Jo had drawn breath, I'd be straight in there: "Beaulieu!" With Dad also being a car-man, often as not I won, and Lord Montagu's Post-Modernist garden shed – which marks its 40th birthday this year – became a second home.

The National Motor Museum's Lowlight Morris Minor influenced my choice of project car when I was in my early teens; it fed my passion for old cars and added knowledge to accompany the raw enthusiasm. Until then I was just a car-nut, but Beaulieu gave me a passion for motoring history.

I have always pictured myself taking my kids along one day, showing them the cars that once stoked my fires (still do, in fact) and taking them on the Wheels ride through the ages – in my childhood a state-of-the-art attraction, now a charming anachronism.

Now I am a father, it's fair to say that neither of my daughters particularly shares my passion for all things automotive, so I was slightly concerned as I drove the whole family down to Hampshire for Beaulieu's new Bond in Motion exhibition.

I needn't have been, of course. Their wide smiles and chattering fascination as they ran around 'Daddy's Museum' was everything I could have hoped for.

Just as I had been all those years ago, they were wowed by Bluebird and the Golden Arrow LSR cars, had their photos taken beside Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, ran from car to car firing questions and pointing out favourites, then nearly exploded with excitement at the prospect of a ride on the Monorail.

It was a trip down memory lane for me. Oddly, the museum that once seemed so vast now feels quite small compared to the European behemoths, yet as always it offered something new (in addition to Bond), told me something I didn't know, and added a couple more to the must-drive list.

Wheels is still there, too, its mechanical dioramas a delight in an age where digital reigns supreme. My only disappointment was that the Lowlight Moggy is currently in storage as part of the effort to make room for the boats, 'bikes and cars of Messrs Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan and Craig.

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