On the last Saturday in March, I decided to take the kids down the A17 to the Newark Air Museum. Like most boys, my children are obsessed by anything with a motor, so on the way we decided to stop off at the Bubble Car Museum, which is just off the A17 at a place called Byards Leap, between Sleaford and Newark.
So many car collections are obsessed with the rarest, the biggest, the fastest and the flashest, that it is nice to know that the less spectacular and glamourous cars of this world have a loyal band of enthusiasts that are able to keep alive the memory and share the reality with the next generations. And at the Bubble Car Museum they really do share the whole experience – on certain days they even let you pootle around the grounds in some of the exhibits – they don’t let you do that at Beaulieu!
Bubble cars are so evocative of the 50s and 60s, and such a rare sight on our roads these days, that it is easy to think that they are unimportant in the modern world, but as environmental concerns, fuel economy and a rising number of empty nesters and single young people, tiny cars are making a comeback, witness the Smart, iQ, i10 or G-Wiz among others. You’ll find their ancient microcar ancestors – Bonds, Heinkels, Reliants, Messerschmitts and Trojans – in abundance at the museum, along with thoughtfully constructed dioramas recreating a more innocent age of motoring.
There are some fascinating and iconic vehicles on display, including a BMW Isetta, an Enfield Electric, and the Bond Bug, as well as classic scooters, like the Trojan and Zuendapp, which had such a strong influence on the beginnings of the Bubble Car period.
I can’t recommend it highly enough, particularly if you want somewhere more interesting than a Little Chef to break a long journey which involves the A17. The volunteers who run it outnumbered the visitors when I visited and their obvious passion for motors is even evidenced along the driveway, with a fascinating menagerie of retro cars in various states of restoration, including a BX GTi, a Matra Simca and a really old Volvo!
How to get there
Byards (or Bayard’s) Leap is named after a local horse of Lincolnshire legend and is kind of hard to find. You need to look for the turning for the B6403, just west of Cranwell, take this road, then immediately double back on yourself past a BMW garage and a Café and continue right back towards the A17 down a driveway. Here’s a map.
Entry is ridiculously cheap, really, only £2.50 for adults, children 75p and under 5s free.