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There is a certain amount of inherent Britishness to the wonderfully odd National Bubble and Microcar Museum.
Founded in 2004, this celebration of the uniqueness of the microcar movement relocated to its current location, buried deep in the wilds of Lincolnshire, a decade ago.
However, in an interesting piece of etymology, there’s no such thing as a ‘bubble car’: it’ sjust an affectionate, generic name for all the fun little three- and four-wheeled cars that came putt-putting their way out of garages and factories all over Europe in the 1950s.
According to the museum’s passionate owner, Paula Cooper, there is method to the appeal of these charmingly basic microcars: “I think it’s an era when we had men in sheds making cars; we had a British car industry and we still should have. We make superb cars and it’s a bloody shame that it’s gone the way it has.
“My partner and I used to have a business in Somerset restoring 2CVs but he’d always used a couple of microcars to run about in, and when we moved up to Lincolnshire we bought a property that happened to come with about three acres.
“We were part of the microcar world and there was always a lot of chat among enthusiasts about how there should be a museum to preserve these cars for the next generation.”
Clearly, the next step was to put the wheels in motion and create the UK’s only museum dedicated to the little wonders.
“I’m a political party agent so I’m required to do a lot of PR,” says Cooper. “So I put my skills to good use and focused on that side of it. We got grant funding, loads of help locally, and off we went.”
The museum didn’t start out in its current home, though. “Initially, it was near Sleaford but we couldn’t expand any more on that site because of highways restrictions,” Cooper continues.
“We found this property, which is a better shape for what we needed and already had a huge building we could use.”
One of the main reasons for starting this project was to celebrate a time when British engineering ingenuity was brought to the masses.
After the Second World War, newly affluent young people wanted to be ever-more mobile. So the microcar industry really gathered momentum, explains Cooper.
“If you were a young man at that time, your life usually went along the lines of: you had the motorcycle, the Brylcreem hair,the girlfriend, the sidecar. You then got married, had your first baby, and after that you were really stuck with only a motorcycle to get around on.
“However, you could buy one of Lawrie Bond’s first microcars, for example, which you could drive on a motorbike licence because it was a three-wheeler. It took people into family-car ownership at an affordable level; the social step was enormous.”
One of the most appealing features of the time for Cooper, though, is the variety.
“Previously, all you had was two-tone and dull colours, and all of a sudden you had these cars in brilliantly crackers colours,” she smiles.
“Though they were not necessarily automotive colours, the Lovett Green and Primrose Yellow that lots of Heinkels and Isettas came in are how a car should be to me. I don’t like that over-polished effect; I hate how modern cars look now.”
All the cars on display are carefully selected to show the wide variety of makes and models that were on sale in the ’50s, with Bonds, Berkeleys and BMWs aplenty, plus lesser-known examples from those men-in-sheds makers.
But, pleasingly, none are concours-ready – and for good reason.
“We like good original vehicles,” says Cooper. “We’ve had restored cars on display, but that’s not what people want to see. They want to see what they remember.
“A chap came here who used to own an Isetta; he visited us and saw one, and asked if he could sit in it. It’s lovely to be able to do that. What they want is something they remember, exactly what they had.”
What sets this particular museum aside from the norm,t hough, isn’t just the eclectic mix of tiny cars, but also the various display cabinets and room settings that surround the museum.
“Every single thing we have is period-correct; nothing is repro. I’ve put together the collection myself,” says Cooper.
“It didn’t take that long actually,” she adds. “People bring stuff in, but it’s all available if you know where to look. It helps to put the cars into context, I think. And everything in here is relevant.”
Images: Damon Cogman
- Name The National Bubble and Microcar Museum
- Address Clover Farm, Main Road, Langrick, Boston, Lincs PE22 7AW
- Where Seven miles northwest of Boston, just off the B1192
- How much? Adults £4, children £1
- Opening hours 10am-5pm, Fri-Sun and bank holidays
- Tel 01205 280037
- Web bubblecarmuseum.co.uk