Fancy taking this motoring memorabilia for a spin?

Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn looks at automobile antiques...

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 11:49 am
Updated Thursday, 27th May 2021, 11:50 am

Half-term is motoring up on us, and while family time might still not involve planning to travel very far, we’re still very much a nation in love with our cars.

You don’t need to drive far to pass a wonderful vintage vehicle out for a spin, find a classic car rally, or motor museum, like St Helens’ Museum of Road Transport or Windermere’s Lakeland Motor Museum.

In 1894, the first motor car was driven on a British road. A Benz Velo, its driver Henry Hewetson was one of only two motorists in the whole country! Interest in motoring was very much a gentleman’s pastime, enthusiastically taken up by Edward VII.

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Motoring signs at the antiques centre

A great hobby for all ages, providing excuses for nostalgic trips and shopping excursions, old cars and the memorabilia surrounding them are collectively known as automobilia.

Ranging from a few pounds for a hub-cap to tens of thousands for a vintage car, for many it includes anything related to historic motoring: trucks, military vehicles, vintage motorcycles, tractors, caravans, garages, literature, advertising signs, spare parts, even tax discs (now historic artefacts in their own right).

Some collectors stick to one or two fields, perhaps a particular car manufacturer, supplier or fuel merchant. Others enjoy anything that takes their eye, such as a nice book for the collection, a vintage Castrol can to hang up in an ‘olde worlde’ garage, or some rare tools stamped by a particular mechanics workshop. This wonderfully evocative selection of mascots, signs, and radiator badges is currently on display in the centre, with prices starting at £7.50. The AA sign, denoting a garage of distinction, and rarer than the usual grille badge, is priced £22.

Original tools are often highly prized, so if you find an old spanner in a car boot sale with Jaguar stamped on it, there’s likely to be a ready market of people keen to buy it from you.

Formula One is an increasingly attractive area of automobilia. A lot is mementoes, branded merchandise and replicas, with premium prices being charged for genuine race items, from autographed gloves to exhausts and hubcaps. Ayrton Senna’s 1990 Formula 1 season helmet fetched a piston-straining £142,000 at Paris auction in 2019, nearly doubling the previous record.

I guess the trick is to find an area of automobilia that won’t end up driving you round the bend!