A Derbyshire museum is on the hunt for more information about a recent purchase after acquiring a 1974 Vauxhall Victor with a mere 86 miles on the clock and no clear history. The unusual discovery follows the death of the previous owner, who museum staff suspect may have been part of some clandestine Cold War antics.
While the theories are purely speculative, the condition of the car and the lack of knowledge by the family have a touch of the John le Carré about them. The classic barn find was the property of a Mr Peter Milner, who - the pristine paperwork shows - bought the vehicle new from Mercury Garage, now part of the Smith Motor Group, in Ilkeston.
The '70s car appears to have seen very little action over the last five decades, being driven only to Derby for Ziebart rust-proofing in 1981, but otherwise being stored in a shed. A Haynes manual, several petrol containers and various service parts made up a comprehensive potential ‘getaway’ package. Yet, the chrome was removed and wrapped protectively, despite the car itself not having a cover.
On the back of the interior mirror, a blue Dymo label cites a six-figure number, with no explanation. Speaking with Richard Usher, founder of The Great British Car Journey museum in Ambergate, the car’s history is enigmatic. Usher says wryly: “Mr Milner had a few cars in the garden, which the family were aware of, but no one knew anything about the Victor. We think he may have been Derbyshire’s very own ‘George Smiley’. He was a telecoms guy... when I was speaking with his nephew at length, he suggested that [theory] might not be so far from the truth!” That said, other suggestions as to what happened include Mr Milner disliking the vehicle and storing it as a result, or buying it for someone who subsequently passed away and being too heartbroken to sell it on. Oh, you romantic lot, you.
What we do know is what we're up to this weekend. The Great British Car Journey museum opened in May 2021. With its narrative-based interactive tour, it follows the British motor manufacturing story, told through the 200-strong car collection. Many of the vehicles owned by the museum have unusual back stories, with several iconic models being in the last run of production ever such as the BMC Mini, MG Metro and Morris Minor.
This brilliant-sounding exhibition has 20 ‘special story’ cars, which include Wembley Stadium owner Arthur Elvin’s Daimler ‘AGE 1’. Open only at weekends until April - with the exception of the February half-term fortnight - the museum is also home to ‘Drive Dad’s Car’ experience, where punters can drive various classics on private land to experience life before mod-cons.2023-02-08T13:07:24Z dg43tfdfdgfd