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More than manuals: Inside the Haynes International Motor Museum

It’s one of the UK’s biggest car collections, all made possible by the sales of the eponymous guides known to car enthusiasts everywhere. Here’s a look inside.


Haynes International Motor Museum

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Somewhere in the home or garage of every owner of a classic car is almost certainly a Haynes manual. These invaluable guides detail how to maintain and repair hundreds of cars from bumper to bump stops. In the mid-1980s the creator, John Haynes, founded a car museum, which is now one of the UK's biggest.

The Haynes International Motor Museum is located about an hour south of Bristol, in the adorably appropriately named Sparkford. The museum has a slight bias towards British cars, but even so there are dozens of models not normally seen at other auto museums.

From classic Jags and Jensens to opulent Aston Martins and almost-forgotten fiberglass kit cars, the museum has an impressive range. Here's a look inside.

Folded paper and silent turbos

Careful use of mirrors creates an artificial sense of space. There are certainly a lot of cars here though, just squeezed in very close. There's a theme to each room, though my path tends to wander as my eye gets drawn to different vehicles. An area with minicars catches my attention, like Messerschmitt KR200 and Trojan 200 bubble cars dwarfed by an early Smart car. Around the corner is a whole room dedicated to Minis, including one with its body cut in half so you can see all the clever packaging within.  

My eye is next drawn to an iconic example of 1970's "folded paper" designs. Not a Lotus Esprit, DeLorean or Lamborghini Countach, though they are all here as well, but an Aston Martin Lagonda. This exceptionally long sedan looks like nothing else of the era, or now. I can't get close enough to see the 40-year-old electronic dashboard, but since it rarely worked then, it almost certainly doesn't work now.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Elsewhere in the museum, angles are traded for curves. The lines of Citroen SM look otherworldly, while the '60s Jags look organic in their flowing lines. An entire room is filled with only red cars. Mostly sports cars and convertibles, it's a fascinating sight. Morgans and Alfas, MGs and Mustangs, this monochromatic room is surprisingly eclectic. 

It's not all sports cars and luxury, either. In a nod to the most-likely visitors at the museum, there are a variety of '70s-era UK vehicles that probably wouldn't make the cut in most car museums but represent what was commonly seen on UK roads for decades. Assorted sedans from Sunbeam, Standard, Singer and Triumph likely illicit fond (or perhaps not so fond) memories in many visitors. I'd never seen the almost Art Deco Austin A90 Atlantic before, which has some very interesting styling. 

You exit through the gift shop where you'll find -- brace yourself, this is shocking -- Haynes manuals. 

Museum manuals

The Haynes International Motor Museum is one of the better car museums in the UK, with an impressive variety of vehicles. I just wish it was a bit easier to get to. By car is pretty much the only option, which I guess is appropriate, unless you want to spend half a day on trains and buses. However, it's close to the Fleet Air Arm museum, and you could easily do both in a day.

The museum open every day except the days around Christmas and New Year's Day. At £15 ($18) it's one of the better priced museums, too. If you're not planning a trip to England, check out the gallery above for a look inside at some of these gorgeous automobiles.

As well as covering TV and other display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world including nuclear submarinesmassive aircraft carriersmedieval castlesairplane graveyards and more. You can follow his exploits on InstagramTwitter, and on his travel blog BaldNomad. He also wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel.