Brooklands revived

I saw a splendid programme on BBC2 the other day. In his series, ‘Toy Stories’, James May is playing with old toys like Airfix and Meccano in an epic way. Last week, he revived the famous Brooklands motor racing circuit, opened in 1907 and closed in 1939.

Motor racing at Brooklands, 1927 (NMeM / Kodak Collection / Science & Society)

Motor racing at Brooklands, 1927 (NMeM / Kodak Collection / Science & Society)

Malcolm Campbell (see my previous posts) was a regular racer at Brooklands:

Malcolm Campbell racing at Brooklands (NMeM / Daily Herald Archive / Science & Society)

Malcolm Campbell racing at Brooklands (NMeM / Daily Herald Archive / Science & Society)

It wasn’t just cars. Britain’s aviation industry arguably started here with the pioneering work of A. V. Roe and others. Roe’s company went on to make Avro aircraft elsewhere, including the famous ‘Vulcan’ bomber…

Avro Vulcan radar test model, 1950s (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Avro Vulcan radar test model, 1950s (Science Museum / Science & Society)

…and our Vickers ‘Vimy’, used by Alcock and Brown in their first flight across the Atlantic, was built at Brooklands:

Vickers Vimy at Brooklands, 1919 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Vickers 'Vimy' at Brooklands, 1919 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

After the war, the site became a huge aircraft factory for Vickers and then British Aerospace (lots of Concorde was made here), and the old racing circuit was carved up, chopped off, built on and generally made into a non-circuit. Explore it on Google Maps.

How did May revive such a relic? With the aid of hundreds of  helpers, he laid three miles of Scalextric track round the route of the old circuit (flying over fences and factories, diving under roads and ditches, floating across ponds and cutting across housing estates) and, once built, pitted two tiny cars against each other in a nail-biting race to the finish. Top stuff!

You can watch it on BBC iPlayer here, and you can find out more at the excellent Brooklands museum website.

2 thoughts on “Brooklands revived

  1. Mike Bell

    I worked there in the latter stages of being a factory – in Barnes Wallis’ old hangar. The back curve (behind our hangar) was the subject of many ghost stories. There was a spooky feel to what is now the museum. Well done Mr May… and the TV helpers!

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Stories from the stores » Ninety years of the Skootamota

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