MIKE HAWTHORN MUSEUM VISIT
I think that I should 'Set the Scene'...
My Dad was born in Swinton, near Mexborough, he went to school, church and played lad type games. He then was apprenticed as a toolmaker, worked through his apprenticeship and on his 21st birthday went into the RAF as a Maintainance Engineer.
In 1945 he came out of the RAF and went to work at International Harvesters in Doncaster, initially getting to work by way of the trams & buses that plied those routes twixt work and home, then one day he decided to buy a motorbike. The first motorbike was a Triumph 3SE, which he kept for a year or so, then he bought from a dealer in Sheffield an Excelsior Manxman, which was unreliable and a bit of a handful.
In that same period, Mr Hawthorn senior had a garage in Mexborough, it's location was behind the JET Filling Station on Doncaster Road, a little way past the traffic lights at the 'Pastures' intersection. This was a part time business, his full time job was at the 'Doncaster Town Power Station' located where the VW dealer Haysledens are now. That is before they, [as a family] relocated to Hampshire and he started his motorsport involvement and garage business from the renowned 'Tourist Trophy Garage' in Farnham, Mike was still a schoolboy at this time. Mr Hawthorn snr serviced the Excelsior for my Dad and rebuilt the carburettor re-jetting it with FIAT jets, and for years it ran faultlessly. As you know I am a bit of a Jaguar fan and through my membership of the JDC [Jaguar Drivers Club] there was a day event organised to the private museum in Surrey, dedicated to Mike Hawthorn. Mike Hawthorn was Britains first GP World champion, he was born in Mexborough, there is a pub close to the Mexborough Montague Hospital named the 'Sportsman' with the outside swinging sign showing Mike Hawthorn in his Ferrari GP car. Mike died in 1959 in a Jaguar mk1 after hitting a bollard, then a truck, the kerb and finally a tree, the MK1 wrapping itself around the tree.
There are stories that the Mk1 was aluminium and not steel, hence it's rapid pace on the road and on the track. That BRG MK1 was a well known racing car as well as Mike's daily driver, and it is understood that he often used to drive up to see his relations in Mexborough in the car, doing Farnham to Mexborough in 3 hours, that was in 1954/5, not much traffic and no motorways !!!. There are stories that Mike Hawthorn having already lost one kidney through illness, had been diagnosed his other kidney would fail within 3 years which would lead to his untimely death, also that he would not be allowed to renew his racing licence. He was a fun chap and enjoyed life, racing and ladies, he was popular in France and was nic-named 'La Papillion' after his perchant for wearing bow ties.
His Jaguar Mk1 was 'recreated' several years
ago by a gentleman by the name of Nigel Webb, he ensured everything was a definate match to the Mike Hawthorn's Jaguar VDU 881, everything, even down to the ignition barrel and door locks were as Mike's, the colour was an exact match, the unusual radiator fan accessory supplied on VDU881 by Jaguar was copied along with the exact spotlights, the interior was a correct match, along with the engine and the gearbox ratio's. Today there is a bespoke copy of the TOURIST TROPHY KEYRING on the Ignition key, a pair of Mike Hawthorn's string-back driving gloves, and the green BRDC blanket on the back seat. [The recreated car is registered 881VDU, as VDU881 was a total write off that number could never be re-issued] The name Nigel Webb, may mean something to the people who follow long distance rallying, on the first 'PEKING TO PARIS' rally, organised by Philip Young, there was a Jaguar mk9 competing, reg number MKV11, this was the same Nigel Webb, who rally prepared and drove the BRG Mk9, and it is with these 2 cars that the idea of a private museum dedicated to Mike Hawthorn was established. The museum is set in a purpose built brick building, to the rear of the family farm just a little way off one of the leafy lanes that Surrey is famous for, to get an invite is special, and one I just couldn't give up. The day was reasonably sunny for the M18/M1 part of the trip, then the M25 !, we managed to hit a humdinger of a traffic jam, the outside temperature creeped up from 21*, eventually reaching 30* and in all that time we moved 4 miles.
I am so pleased that we travelled by VW and not by anything classic, as the a/c was working nicely and really did keep us comfy, eventually the TJ cleared and we passed Heathrow and carried on the M25, leaving at the Reigate exit, and there, was a BWM, [Burst Water Main]........ we got round that and found the village, and the house, and the museum. I HAPPILY parked the Passat along the side edge of the field and away from all the Jaguar's [poor relation type of park up]. We got “Furthest Distance Travelled Award”, the fact it was a Passat didn't seem to cause any issues.
But, the museum, was fab, …. a totally private museum, obviously created by a Mike Hawthorn devotee, and someone who welcomed other enthusiasts for them to view these very precious 'artefacts' once belonging to the born in Mexborough World Formula 1 Champion Driver. The journey back home was a little less frought as we just went up into London, and did a mini sighteeing tour, missing the 'Uber' bikes !!! and headed north on the M1, a fab day.