Cars Cars Cars, Oh And Bikes and Buses. 2nd August

Coventry Basin

P1370635smLast night we treated ourselves. From the basin it is only about a fifteen minute walk to  the big blue and yellow building through the city centre, possibly the closest Ikea to a canal. We’ve been needing to replace some wine glasses for a while now so this gave us our excuse. It’s quite refreshing knowing exactly what you want so therefore being able to bypass all the living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens laid out and instead head straight for the marketplace. Only one impulse purchase was added to our yellow bag and that was some large bag clips.

P1370651smP1370657smWe made it round the store, me pausing to check on prices of their smaller carpets, leaving enough time to head back to the top floor for some food. Our plates of meat balls came with Swedish flags stuck into them, we ate them whilst looking down over the many roof top car parks of Coventry, we know how to live it up!

P1370668smAround the corner from Ikea is Spon Street. Originally it was a main route into Coventry where dyers worked their smelly magic, watch making took over in the Edwardian period which in turn gave way to bicycle and motorbike manufacturers. After the major bombing of the city during WW2 medieval timber buildings from around the city were relocated to the street in an attempt to preserve them as the city was redeveloped. Now the street is full of bars and restaurants up to where the ring road cuts it in half.

We’d heard that the Transport Museum was the place to visit in Coventry, so it was top of our list to visit today. We didn’t realise at the time that it would be the only place we’d visit today, it is vast!

P1370729smP1370733smDuring the 1850’s and 60’s the main industry in Coventry was silk ribbon and watch making. There was also a small sewing machine industry. The Coventry Machinists became the first place to build bicycles in Coventry and the first to mass produce them in the country. Factories were set up by pioneers who furthered the design of cycles from push along to Penny Farthings to Safety bicycles. The diamond frame, chain, gears and break systems all developed in the city.

P1370744smP1370769smBy 1900 companies such as Swift, Rover, Singer, Humber were all experimenting with motorcycles and car manufacturing.

P1370740smP1370749smThe first cars were expensive costing 100 times the weekly wage of the average man, cars needed to be cheaper to reach a wider audience. Standard released a car a quarter of the price and more than 2000 were sold. WW1 came along and the many factories that filled Coventry moved into producing vehicles and munitions for the forces.

P1370896smHenry Ford started to mass produce cars and between the wars Coventry’s car industry followed suit. During the 1930’s private car ownership doubled to 2 million vehicles on the roads. Cars now could reach speeds of 70mph, the speed limit of 20mph was scrapped as it was hard to enforce. Deaths on the roads rose in number with over 7000 people being killed in 1934, style was far more important than safety.

P1370796smP1370803smArt Deco designs with angled windscreens, sweeping wing lines, curved roofs became fashionable, Jaguar were one of the first manufacturers to recognised the appeal.

P1370823smP1370829smWith the outbreak of WW2 Coventry turned back to war work many companies working directly for the government. The many factories made Coventry a prime target for the Germans and on 14th November 1940 the city was devastated when 515 bombers dropped 36,000 incendiary bombs, destroying 4,300 homes and leaving around two thirds of Coventry’s buildings damaged. Even though a third of the factories were damaged full production was back in a few months.

P1370831smP1370835smDecimated Coventry was redesigned from a medieval city into a model of modern brutalist architecture during the 60’s. The car industry continued to grow, by 1950’s the UK had the second largest car industry in the world and was the leading exporter of cars.

P1370715sm‘Motor City’ attracted many workers from around the world, the average wage here being 24% higher than the national industrial average. But by the 70’s the Europeans and Americans had advanced their production lines and the British car industry took a slump in trade. By the 80’s many factories had closed others reduced their labour force by half. At the time unemployment in the UK was around 24%, in Coventry it stood nearer 47%.

P1370708smP1370856smThe number of cars in the museum is vast, room after room of shiny bodywork. Buses, motorbikes and of course bicycles all stand side by side taking you thorough their history.

P1370723smP1370757smThe displays are well thought out, just enough information to keep you interested. Animated displays fill you in on the history of each era.

P1370852smYou can decide which planes are friend or foe in the skies above Coventry (one lad did manage to shoot down Mick’s Dad’s plane though) and a ride around the city in the back of a black taxi shows you where the factories once stood with tales from the workforce.

P1370910smP1370917smThe older cars have far more appeal to me, the deco lines of a Jaguar or Armstrong Sidley cannot be beaten.

P1370777smP1370884smWe tried choosing a suitable sized car to have on Oleanna’s roof and ended up with a few possibilities, although we’d never get out of the basin here.

P1370844smP1370863smMick spotted a few cars he’s owned and the previous model to our last Peugeot (the last to come off the production line) was on show.

P1370851smP1370920smCars, bikes and motorbikes that have travelled the world, come first in famous races are on display. The final section is all about speed, the fastest cars ever built.

P1370923smP1370934smThrust 2 and Thrust SSC are on display, basically jet engines with space for a pilot. The current land speed record stands at 763mph. The next car is in design.

P1370892sm0 locks, 120ft in reverse, 7 day mooring, (it’s still s**t!), 5577 cars, 243 bikes, 312 motorbikes, 5 hours full, 1 museum seen, 1 slightly noisier evening on the basin.

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