Classic cars, buses, bikes and more at Hornby Visitor Centre in Margate

Cars of the Past: Miniature classics and McQueen’s actual Great Escape TR6 motorbike

As regular Cars of the Future readers know, we occasionally like to look back into the world before self-driving in a series we call… Cars of the Past.

Before Christmas we were delighted to be invited to the newly revamped Hornby Visitor Centre, here in our home town of Margate.

As shown on TV’s Hornby: A Model World, ‘The Wonderworks’ features a host of miniature automotive legends, including Beatles buses, Bond cars, and an Airfix model of my Dad’s favourite Bentley.

Beatles, Bond and Bentley Cars at Hornby Visitor Centre
Beatles, Bond and Bentley Cars at Hornby Visitor Centre

There was a Margate-themed Scalextric racetrack too, and, considering the lack of match practice, yours truly was quite pleased with a sub-10-second lap!

Hornby Visitor Centre's Margate-themed Scalextric racetrack
Hornby Visitor Centre’s Margate-themed Scalextric racetrack

As to the full-sized treats, they had Daniel Craig’s Scrambler from No Time To Die, and, for one day only, the original Triumph TR6 motorbike ridden by Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. It doesn’t get cooler than that!

Steve McQueen's bike from The Great Escape
Steve McQueen’s bike from The Great Escape

McQueen himself was keen to emphasise that the famous barbed wire fence jump was performed not by him but by his friend and stunt double, Bud Ekins.

No self-driving cars?

What’s all this got to do with self-driving you might ask? Well, our sector is somewhat underrepresented in the model world.

There was this Matchbox bus we covered a couple of years ago, but not a lot else. It’d be nice to change that wouldn’t it?

Self-driving on track in 1967 feat. BBC Archive footage of an amazing connected, automated, shared and electric vehicle.

Cars of the Past: BBC’s 1967 report on self-driving Alden staRRcar

As regular Cars of the Future readers will know, we occasionally like to look back in a series we call… Cars of the Past. Well, today is one of those days.

Following last year’s release of a 1971 news broadcast on “driverless cars and the future of motoring”, the BBC Archive has published another great Retro Transport report: “The Self-Driving Car Of Tomorrow”, from 1967.

The “dual-mode” Self-Transport Road and Rail Car (staRRcar), was designed by Harvard graduate William Alden in the 1960s.

The report describes it as “America’s answer to the universal problem of personal transport in congested cities – combining the door-to-door convenience of the private car with the speed and relaxation of public transport at its best.”

Self-driving on track

The battery-powered three-seater can be driven ‘normally’ on local roads, but also has the ability to join automated guideways – 8ft-wide tracks designed to be installed alongside existing road lanes.

Self-driving on track in 1967: Alden staRRcar
Self-driving on track in 1967: Alden staRRcar

Users simply press a button to select their destination, sit back and read the paper, while the staRRcar slots into a train of such vehicles, self-driving at up to 60mph.

After taking a spur exit, they can retake control and continue their journey, or leave the staRRcar at a car park, ready to be used by others.

So… connected, automated, shared and electric (CASE) – that’s pretty forward-thinking for 2023, let alone 1967.

Thanks to Dr Nick Reed, of Reed Mobility, on Linkedin for putting us on to this video.

Related articles:

Cars of the Past: Sinclair C5 race in Margate

Cars of the Past: who needs seatbelts?

Cars of the Future editor Neil Kennett interviewed Sir Stirling Moss OBE in 2011.

Video: Stirling Moss calls Tony Brooks “best driver the public haven’t heard of”

As avid Cars of the Future readers know, we occasionally like to look back to the glory days of motoring in a series we call… Cars of the Past. Well, today is one of those days.

Following yesterday’s sad news of the passing of F1 racer Tony Brooks, at the age of 90, we thought it appropriate to share this short clip of Sir Stirling Moss OBE talking in glowing terms about his former Vanwall teammate:

Sir Stirling Moss OBE talks in glowing terms about former teammate Tony Brooks

Sir Stirling Moss OBE said: “The best driver the public haven’t heard of in my mind was Tony Brooks. Tony was as good as nearly anybody, and he could do sports cars and Grand Prix cars. Fangio was not very good on sports cars – I mean, I could beat him in sports cars, but in Formula One he was the tops.”

New car tech editor Neil Kennett conducted the interview at Moss’s house in Mayfair, London, in 2011.

“I remember we recorded it the day after Vettel secured his second F1 title,” he said. “Further into the interview Sir Stirling talks about how racing helps to develop new automotive technologies, such as energy recovery systems. He and Tony Brooks were both racing legends.”

Frequently referred to as the greatest driver never to win the F1 World Championship, Sir Stirling Moss died in April 2020.

Tony Brooks won six Grand Prix, finishing second in the World Drivers’ Championship in 1959 with Ferrari. He died on 3 May 2022.

Cars of the past: Sinclair C5 race in Margate

Presenters from Absolute Radio – Andy Bush, Richie Firth, Dave Berry and Matt Dyson – lined-up for The Great British Sinclair C5 Seafront Race in Margate on Tuesday 5 February.

The Isle of Thanet News reported that the legendary 1980s three wheelers were supplied by C5 Alive, a local enthusiasts’ club run by Eddie Green and Neil Brooks, who have restored more than 30 C5s to full working order.

The C5 is a single-seater battery-assisted pedal cycle with a top speed of 20mph, described by inventor Sir Clive Sinclair as “a vehicle, not a car”.

Of 14,000 made, only 5,000 were sold before Sinclair Vehicles went into receivership. The planned follow-ups, the C10 and C15, never made it off the drawing board.

Cars of the past: who needs seatbelts?

In the week when 97-year-old Prince Philip did his best to put road safety back on the front pages – first by smashing his Land Rover into a blue Kia, then being spotted back behind the wheel but not wearing a seatbelt – the British Safety Council reminded us of the pioneering work of controversial founder, James Tye.

Tye (pictured) campaigned tirelessly for 25 years until wearing a seatbelt become a legal requirement in 1983, producing one of the first reports on the subject back in 1959. The Department for Transport estimates the humble harness now saves around 2,000 lives in the UK every year.

Matthew Holder, head of campaigns at the British Safety Council, said: “The times when critics of the seatbelt regulations accused the government of operating a nanny state and limiting their personal freedom and comfort are long gone.”

With multiple studies showing that 90% of accidents are caused by human error, how will we look back on reasons to fear driverless cars 50 years from now?