I was involved at the beginning - now at the end... DCN
For Immediate Release: October 10, 2018
WORLD’S LARGEST GRAND PRIX RACING CAR MUSEUM
TO CLOSE ON NOVEMBER 5
News is released today of the Donington Collection museum’s imminent closure. Its doors will close to the public for the final time on November 5 this year, after 45 years as an absolutely must-see Mecca for motor racing enthusiasts worldwide…
Situated at the Donington Park motor racing circuit on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire border, the Donington Collection Museum has housed the World’s largest display of purebred Grand Prix racing cars, including many rated as being amongst the most historically and financially valuable of their kind.
The Museum – full title ‘The Donington Collection of Single-Seater Racing Cars’ – was the brainchild of Leicester-based builder Frederick Bernard ‘Tom’ Wheatcroft.
A lifelong motor sports enthusiast he had first visited Donington Park in 1935 to watch motor-cycle racing on the British mainland’s very first true road-racing circuit. He would recall: “From then on I was a confirmed enthusiast. I saw most of the bike and car meetings that followed, and in 1937 and 1938 I was hanging on the fence with the best of them, watching those giant German cars running in the Donington Grand Prix”. Those two sensational races were the pre-war equivalent of today’s British Grand Prix.
After six years of wartime Army service Tom Wheatcroft launched his building business in 1946. It thrived, making him a wealthy man. In 1964 he bought a 13-year-old Formula 1 Ferrari single-seater racing car “just for fun – and I caught the collecting bug”. Over the following six years he acquired more historic Formula 1 machines, observing sagely “There’s nought so cheap as last year’s racing car”.
Initially the cars were housed in a cramped garage building at his Leicester home. But in September, 1971, he bought the circuit section of Donington Park from its long-time owners, the Gillies Shields family. His long-term plan was to restore the old circuit – unused since 1939 - for modern racing, but first he built the museum there to house his fabulous fleet of purebred competition cars.
Tom Wheatcroft opened the Museum on March 16, 1973. Core of the display were three groups of the racing world’s rarest and most valuable treasures; the BRM group preserving ‘British Racing Motor’ team cars including the legendary 1950-55 V16-cylinder design with Rolls-Royce supercharging – the Vanwall group of cars which won Britain’s first Formula 1 Constructors’ World Championship title in 1958 – and a stunning group of such truly Historic cars as the Ferrari in which the sport’s first double-World Champion Alberto Ascari scored the majority of his 11 title-qualifying Grand Prix wins through 1952-53, the Lotus 18 which Stirling Moss drove to win both the 1961 Monaco and German GPs against vastly superior opposition – and the very first Formula 1 car built and raced by triple-World Champion Driver, Jack Brabham.
With these core cars backed by many more of the World’s finest designs, including dozens loaned to the Collection by such leading still-active teams as Mercedes-Benz, McLaren, Williams and many more, The Donington Collection became an absolute magnet for a global audience. Over its 45 year career more than 2.5-million visitors have viewed its treasures.
Since Tom Wheatcroft passed away in October, 2009, the Museum has been run by his son Kevin. Today Kevin Wheatcroft says: “Closing the Museum after 45 years has been a really difficult decision, but family responsibilities simply make it the right thing to do…”
Further details will be released shortly.
Edited by Vitesse2, 10 October 2018 - 12:34.