A Very Different A3!

previous    ⬆intro    next

Day 5 - Monday 4 September

Off on our bicyles again!

The idea is to take the cycleway that disappeared to the south in the opposite direction, hoping it will go a bit further. There's a motor museum that sounds very interesting, and the northernmost point of the island, and those are what we plan to visit.

And here we are, at the Isle of Man Motor Museum. Very eco, with all the EV charging points, though no actual EVs... Huh! We are properly eco on our bicycles. We're pretty much on the dot of opening time, though, so maybe some more techno-eco-warriors will turn up later.

Despite the name, it's privately owned. There was this chap who liked his cars and bikes, and it all got a bit out of hand, and he ended up with lock-ups here and warehouses there, and his son got sucked in, and eventually they realised that they needed to get themselves a bit more sorted. This place is the result. I should warn you that if you are not into this sort of thing, you should probably fast-forward a bit...

That really is as small as it looks, but it was once a real production car. It's a Peel Trident, made on the Isle of Man, and one of only 45 ever built. Google tells us that five years ago, you could have one for a trifling £80,000 or so. It's not quite the smallest car ever made: its predecessor, the P50, is the Guinness Record holder, but there's not much in it.

I dimly remember that my paternal grandfather had a "bubble car" in the early 60s, but I don't think it was a Peel. The most common examples from that time seem to be Messerschmidts, but I'm pretty sure German cars would not have been popular so soon after WW2, and the pictures I've found don't look quite right. I'm thinking the Italian marque Isetta, which had models built under licence in the UK, fits my recollection best. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isetta.

Now, read this carefully...

and be prepared for what it impiies...


But the whole car is ugly!

Sorry, don't want.

Free? No. Pay me to take it? You can't afford it!

But of course, the point of a museum is not to show only the pretty things. This is a real part of history.

Speaking of 'real parts of history', this museum is happy to show some of the wrecks and near-wrecks that still tell a story. Some of their cars are only restored at the cost of others, and they don't try to gloss over that fact. I have to say, I can't immediately think of another motor museum with this ethos: certainly not Brooklands, certainly not Beaulieu...

All but disintegrating.

The descriptive plaque is totally unreadable here, but modern cameras are so stupidly good I can easily read the whole thing in the original image. Fascinating facts: this car was built in July 1963, then a few months later it was exported to Kenya. In 1966 it came to the Isle of Man, and then in 1976 or so, it was put into storage pending a brake repair. Clearly that brake repair has been delayed by the best part of half a century.

I know I'll get drummed out of the Old Motor Codger's Club for saying so, but I've never been convinced by the E-Type: that huge great sticking-out front half just doesn't do it for me aesthetically, and it's got to be vying for the Stupid Prize in terms of raw practicality. TBF, in its day it was astonishingly good performance for the money, but these days, our 'mere' Fiesta ST is better and cheaper.

[I say 'mere': when we were on holiday in Ethiopia a few years back, our lead driver, Nabhan, had been a semi-pro rally driver in his past, and might have gone fully pro if he'd been able to get sponsorship. Talking about cars, Amanda said something like, "We just have a Ford Fiesta" and I added, "But it is an ST..." and Nabhan's eyes totally lit up! "I could teach you how to drive that!" he exclaimed.]

I don't quite understand the space connection. I have no problem with it just being that Denis or Darren Cunningham found it cool, though; I'm sure I'd have spaceships in my motor museum if I had a motor museum.

"Excalibur Almaz Limited (EA) is an international commercial space transportation company based in the Isle of Man. Its goal is the affordable and reliable transportation of humans and cargo to Low Earth Orbit, libration point, the Moon and beyond."

Well that was a surprise to me too!

Oh, you might wonder what a "libration point" is. Also known as a "Lagrange" point, after the scientist who discovered them, and not to be confused with a "libation" point, which is basically a pub, it's a point in space where the various gravitional pulls of all nearby bodies (eg, Earth and Moon, etc) cancel out. The most obvious one is the point directly between the Earth and the Moon where the two gravitational forces are equal and opposite, but that's pretty useless for most purposes because it's not stable. If you are at exactly the right place, you are in balance, but move just a tiny fraction closer to either the Earth or the Moon and you'll be pulled more in that direction than back, so you'll end up accelerating more and more until you crash into whichever of them got that initial advantage.

There are five such points in total for the Earth and Moon, although the others are a bit harder to understand and only two of them are stable; which is to say that if you are close enough to one and floating freely, you'll stay close to it and won't drift away. That makes L4 and L5, as they're known, very useful as a place to put satellites for scientific missions that don't want to be in simple Earth orbit. I'm not sure that people particularly want to go there, but that might change if a major space station was placed there.

Here, read about an example of the fuzzy line between science fiction and possible future science fact: Wikipedia's article about Lagrance Point Colonisation. And for an example of fictional use, Babylon 5 "was constructed in the L5 point in orbit around planet Epsilon III" (see https://babylon5.fandom.com/wiki/Babylon_5)

Oh yeah, if we can have spaceships in a motor museum, we can certainly have self-propelled guns!

(Not a tank, you understand. This is an Abbot self-propelled gun, which you can read about here.)

So why isn't it a tank? Well basically, tanks are designed to fight directly on a battlefield and have heavy armour to withstand opposing fire. Self-propelled artillery are bigger guns with relatively light armour intended to be used at much greater distances.

Again, I think the logic of the exhibit is something like, "This is a private collection and who cares about thematic purity when you can have cool stuff like this!"

Are we going from the sublime to the ridiculous now, or is it more than that? This is a hearse!

It's a 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood Dragon Hearse, to be precise. Beyond that, words fail me.

What is it you resort to when words fail? Well whatever it is, it's failed too.

There are many more weird and wonderful things to be seen here, but I think I've peaked. If you go to the IoM, I think you will be badly missing out if you don't visit the Motor Museum. Oh, and I should mention that the staff and volunteers are all worth talking to, and if your wife gets bored and goes off to sit in a corner somewhere, well, you know, you can't have everything.

So, back to our general plan of heading North.

We stop for a picnic lunch (that we prepared earlier) a few miles short of our northernmost point destination, but within clear view of it from a hill. I don't think I've mentioned it before, but I'm trying out my new toy, a Canon RF600 f/11 lens. Now if you're into cameras but don't know the latest Canon range, you might well think "600mm... f/11... WTF?!!!" and your thought would be entirely understandable... but wrong. For the non-techies amongst you, I mean that a lens which is only fifty times bigger and heavier than anything normal people would be prepared to carry is now able to do things that previously needed two or three hundred times bigger.

Anyway, that lighthouse is where we're headed.

Nearly there!

Ah, seems we need a small diversion. [Later, we will find ourselves coming back out on the 'private' road without ever having seen any restriction. Heaven forfend that that they should be shading the truth here to keep the tourists to the correct path.]

Altogether now: "BUUUUHHHHHHHHH" It's a forghorn.

One of the two lighthouses. Sailors could better determine their own location and course by observing the relative positions of the two lights.

Seals and birds out to sea are captured by my big (small) lens.


On the assumpton that this blog hasn't gone viral and is being read by biliions of total strangers, most of you have seen my 'big' big lens. It's twice as heavy, twice as big, quite a lot more than twice as expensive, and until recently was the only game in town in some ways. This new lens is a bit less versatile, but within its limits, it's bloody amazing!

If you want to get into high-end cameras (and no matter how good modern phones are, they are limited by physics in ways that good photographers will outgrow) the Canon EOS-R range is hard to beat. Not to say that other manufacturers don't make good gear, just that Canon is what I know.

I became a Canon boy by little more than accident. In 1994, we had booked what turned out to be our first of many exotic holidays, in this case a South America trip including an Amazon river cruise and visiting several of the Galápagos islands. I thought it deserved something better than the good but basic point-and-shoot camera I had at the time, so went into my local Jessops. I said, "Hi, I'm looking for the smallest and lightest camera that is still going to take proper photos." The young lady behind the counter said, "Aha! You need..." and showed me an entry-level Canon EOS with a couple of consumer-grade zoom lenses covering something like 24-300mm total. At the time, it was indeed the smallest and lightest 35mm SLR on the market, so perfect for travelling. And that's where the slippery slope began...

[End Digression]

Sticks and stones may break my bones.... But these stones are far too pretty to be gratuitously violent, surely?

And back home for dinner.

And look! Yes. it's a bit of a crap blurry phone pic, but it's an actual Manx cat!

Gosh, there's me thinking these are just cats with no tail! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manx_cat. This is a Rumpy or possibly a Riser.

previous    ⬆intro    next