FIFTY years ago they were state-of-the-art cars that took pride of place in showrooms across the country.

Today vehicles from the 1970s converged on the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu to help the attraction celebrate its golden jubilee.

Classic cars from even earlier in the 20th century were also on show.

Daily Echo: Stephen Harrison drove visitors around the attraction in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.Stephen Harrison drove visitors around the attraction in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Lord and Lady Montagu cut a celebratory cake in a marquee reserved for VIP guests, some of whom were present when the Duke of Kent opened the 70,000 sq ft museum in July 1972.

The complex can trace its origins back to 1952 when Palace House, ancestral home of the Montagu family, opened its doors to the public.

Lord Montagu's late father, Edward, Lord Montagu, knew the house needed an added attraction and displayed a handful of cars in the front hall.

His collection continued to expand, resulting in a small museum being built in the grounds in 1956.

Recalling the event many years later he said: "The collection had grown to fill every available nook and cranny in the house and I had to decide whether to stop collecting or build alternative accommodation.

"It was either my collector's instinct or good business sense that led me to choose the latter course.

"I was also tired of the house smelling of oil."

Daily Echo: A child-sized caravan used by Prince Charles and Princess Anne in the 1950s.A child-sized caravan used by Prince Charles and Princess Anne in the 1950s.

In 1959 a larger museum housing more than 200 veteran and vintage cars and motorbikes was opened by Lord Brabazon of Tara. The current complex followed 13 years later.

Today families flocked to Beaulieu to celebrate 50 years of motoring magic.

Some took the opportunity to be driven around the attraction in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang while others boarded an old-fashioned double-decker bus.

They were also able to view a new exhibition called The Story of Motoring in 50 Objects.

Items selected from the vast collection cared for by the National Motor Museum Trust have been woven into existing displays at the museum, Palace House and Buckler's Hard Museum.

They include a child-sized caravan used by Prince Charles and Princess Anne in the Buckingham Palace gardens in the 1950s.

Daily Echo: A statue of Edward, Lord Montagu, outside the entrance to the National Motor Museum.A statue of Edward, Lord Montagu, outside the entrance to the National Motor Museum.

In a speech to guests Chris McGowan, chairman of trustees, said plans were being drawn up to ensure the next 50 years were as successful as the museum's first half-century.

Lord Montagu paid tribute to his father, saying describing the creation of the museum as a "tremendous achievement".

He also thanked everyone who had helped the museum achieve such an important milestone.

 

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