Famous cars from TV and film aren’t the only stars at Britain’s National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

From the most famous (infamous?) Top Gear creations, to legendary cars from around the world, here’s a look inside this impressive museum.

Geoffrey Morrison
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Geoffrey Morrison
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On show

During the summer, weather permitting, there's a short daily parade of antique cars. It's great to see these old machines moving, like this 6 horsepower, 1903 De Dion-Bouton Model Q that was owned by the museum's founder.

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National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

When you first enter the grounds you're greeted by an unexpected sight: a monorail. The first in England, actually. 

For more about this tour, check out Car stars of the big and small screen at Britain's National Motor Museum, Beaulieu.

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It's a car! It's a boat! It's... not really great at either but still cool Amphicar

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Only Fools and Horses

This is the original Reliant Regal from the British sitcom Only Fools and Horses.

Of the 8 cars in the parade, nearly all were over 50 years old, and most were way more than that. The only one that didn't start? A 2002 Jaguar XKR. Though in its defense, it was a highly modified one from the movie Die Another Day.

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New Chitty

A spot-on reproduction of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. One of the cars from the movie is inside.

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Did you know the movie was based on a book by Ian Flemming (he of James Bond fame), with a script written by Roald Dahl? The '60s were wild, man.

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The grounds also include the ruins of an ancient abbey, but we're more interested in the "ancient" vehicles.

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The elegant lines of a 1935 Auburn 851 Speedster

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1 liter

One of only 250 of Volkswagen's ultra-high-mileage XL1s, capable of 0.9 liters per 100 kilometers, or about 260 miles per gallon.

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Packed in

Though the footprint of the museum isn't huge, they pack a lot in. On the right, the iconic Citroën 2CV.

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Another Regal, but the first generation, from 1953. Sixteen horsepower!

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One of only 3 known Crossley-built rear-engine Streamline cars from the early '30s.

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Beautifully British

There is just something about the Series I Land Rovers that screams "adventure" to me. The Defender, the eventual successor to the SI, is getting a new model soon.

This example was the 4th off the line of the initial pilot run and is one of the oldest surviving Land Rovers.

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This is one of the engineless cars they used for the green screen (back then they were blue) in the movie.

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Ford vs Vauxhall

On the right, a Ford Model T from 1914. Next to it, a Vauxhall C-Type from 1915, aka the Prince Henry. The latter was only used for eight years, then stored. It's largely unrestored but in surprisingly great condition. 

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Racing line

The Jag on the left is a replica, but the Allard J2 on the right is original and was raced by Sydney Allard himself.

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Bevvy of bikes

A 148 mph Suzuki GSX-R750, next to a Ducati 998R from 2002.

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Certainly one of the most recognizable British vehicles, this is an AEC Regent III RT from 1950.

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Mid-century modern

Designed before WWII, the RT was long-lived and very successful. This example was in service until 1976.

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Have a seat

More Regent III RTs were built than the more famous Routemasters.

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Orange you a car?

Six of these oranges were built for publicity for Outspan Orange company. The wheelbase is 60% of the Mini it's based on. Apparently 200 pounds of ballast was needed to keep it from flopping over in any sort of turn.

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Rowland Emett designed the oddball machines of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang film. The museum has a collection of his machines on motion-activated switches.

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The Humbug Major was the biggest of the machines made for the movie. It made candied apples and lollipops.

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Little dragon

The Little Dragon Carpet Sweeper is clearly the precursor to the Roomba.

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Two Rolls Royces, one from 1968 and the other from 2018.

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Need for speed

This is the Bluebird-Proteus CN7, a land speed record holder, topping out at 403.1 mph (648.7 kph). It's powered by a 4,000-hp gas turbine.

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1000 HP

Another land speed record holder, the Sunbeam 1000 HP from 1927. It was the first car to go over 200 mph (322 kph). It was powered by two 22.4-liter V12 aircraft engines. It had, despite the name, around 900 hp.

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Morgan 3

The 1927 Morgan Aero, on the right, isn't much different from the 3 Wheeler you can still buy today. We saw them build the new ones during our tour. On the left is a Dellow Mk II.

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Rally classics

The Escort RS1800 on the right was raced at the RAC Rally in 1981. The Audi Quattro A2 on the left won the Argentina Rally in 1984.

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The bug eyes of a Triumph TR2, with a Series II Lotus Elite right behind. The TR2 only had one owner.

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One of the best Anglo-American hybrids, the AC Shelby Cobra. The 7-liter engine developed around 425 horsepower.

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This example raced at a number of UK and European races, including the 1966 Targa Florio.

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Not my Lotus

On its own, I'm sure the '80s redesign of the Lotus Esprit would look fine, but compared to the all-angles original? Seems bland in comparison. This is undoubtedly a better car, however.

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Personally, this is my favorite Anglo-American matchup. I guess, Anglo-Italian-American is more accurate. With the still-stunning Vignale-designed body, a massive Chrysler V8, the Jenson Interceptor (also, great name) is one of my favorites and always a stunner.

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A stunning Series I Jaguar E-type from 1962.

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The timeless lines of a Jaguar XK 150.

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A GT40 (of course), chassis No. 1,071, which was raced in club events by the original owner.

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Top Gear

One of the coolest parts of the museum is the collection of Top Gear vehicles. You might recognize this as the Ski Jump Mini from 2006's Winter Olympics Special.

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Three rocket motors launched the Mini.

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Jeremy's stretched limo from 2007.

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Caravan airship

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Almost liftoff

This is an additional Reliant Robin built for the 2007 episode where they launched... and then augured in the Top Gear Space Shuttle.

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Indestructible Toyota

The amount of torture they put this poor Toyota through is just mean.

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The very amphibious truck they used in 2007 to cross the English Channel.

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Dampervan MkII

The van from the same challenge, just fished from the sea.

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Jeremy's super-small P45 microcar from 2013.

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It's THE Hammerhead Eagle i-Thrust electric car from 2009.

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Lotus campervan

James's Lotus Excel Campervan from 2010.

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Sports train

The TVG12 Jag-to-train conversion from 2011.

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Riding the rails

Amazingly, it actually worked.

For more about these cars, the museum, and our tour, check out Car stars of the big and small screen at Britain's National Motor Museum, Beaulieu.

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