The museum’s vehicle collection, and Vehicle Restoration Group

The Black Country Living Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of Black Country-made vehicles, which are lovingly cared-for, and restored by the museum’s Vehicle Restoration Group.

Ian Walden and Ray Jones.

The museum had a small collection of vehicles, which was greatly enlarged in 2001, when the Chief Executive at the time, Ian Walden, managed to acquire a large number of Black Country made cars, motorcycles, and even a fire engine, for the museum.

The collection was purchased from the Marston Wolverhampton Heritage Trust.

Ian realised that in order to run some of the vehicles around the museum site, they would need proper attention, and so the Vehicle Restoration Group was formed.

The group of volunteers was originally led by the museum’s Honorary Curator of Vehicles, Ray Jones, who has an in-depth knowledge of everything to do with locally made vehicles, from the manufacturers and their various models, to engines and mechanical intricacies.

Under Ray’s leadership, the group restored and overhauled many of the vehicles in the collection, and they became a familiar sight at the museum. The vehicles were originally on display in hall 2 in the Rolfe Street baths building, and were always a popular sight. The group also occasionally opened the bicycle shop, which was in the museum’s village.

Some present and past members of the Vehicle Restoration Group. Left to right: Brian Rollings, Stan Davis, Malcolm Webster, Beryl Jones, Ken Norton, Audrey Spencer, John Vincent, Ray Salisbury, Derek Spencer, David Beere, and Maurice Withers.

Ray and the group were also involved in several projects at the museum. The first project was the building of a replica of Conway Garage, which was run by ex-Sunbeam racing mechanic Alec Broome, at Fighting Cocks, Wolverhampton. It opened in July 2008 and is an impressive exhibit. A typical Black Country garage of its time. It houses several of the vehicles from the collection.

Conway Garage. In the doorway is Ken Norton and Stan Davis. Ray Salisbury is at the pumps, and Derek Spencer is in the driving seat of the A.J.S. car.
The next project in 2008 and 2009 was the Bradburn and Wedge garage, which now houses the bulk of the vehicle collection. The garage, based on the Bradburn and Wedge garage that stood in Darlington Street, Wolverhampton, opened in February 2009. As well as the collection, it houses the up-to-date workshop that is used for vehicle restoration. The last project, a replica of A. Hartill & Sons motorcycle shop, which was at Mount Pleasant, Bilston, opened in July 2010. It is part of the development in Old Birmingham Road, which includes several new shops, and the new fish and chip shop. The new motorcycle shop houses some of the motorcycles from the collection.

The motorcycle Shop.

Ray Jones retired in September 2010, and the leadership of the group was taken over by Brian Rollings. The group continues to restore and overhaul many of the vehicles in the collection, to ensure that they will continue to be a familiar and impressive sight, travelling around the museum. The vehicles can sometimes be seen in action on Thursdays, when the group meets, and on the first Saturday in every month, from March to October. They are also used on special occasions, and functions at the museum. The group also helps to organise the museum’s annual vehicle rally which is held in July.

The Museum’s Briton 10/12 car

The Briton Car Company was founded in Wolverhampton in 1909 as a subsidiary of the Star Engineering Company, which produced vehicles under the Star name. In 1913 Briton moved to a new purpose-built factory in Lower Walsall Street, Wolverhampton, where the museum’s Briton car was built. The car, a 1914 Briton 10/12 hp. 4-cylinder, Special Car, with a streamlined body, is the only known survivor of its type. As far as is known only 12 Briton cars survive, six in the UK, and six in Australia and New Zealand.

Brian Rollings at the wheel of the Briton car.

From the 1914 Briton catalogue.

The car’s early history is unknown.

Throughout the First World War Briton made many military vehicles. During restoration, a W.D. sign was found on the crank case, so the car could originally have been a military staff car.

The car was purchased at auction by Marstons around thirty years ago. It is believed that the previous owner lived in London.

Some work was done on the car during its time at Marstons, but when it was acquired by the museum, it was partly disassembled, and many parts were missing. This led to a challenging restoration.

The restoration

Several members of the Vehicle Restoration Group were involved in the restoration. They are David Beere, Ray Jones, Ken Norton, Brian Rollings, Ray Salisbury, John Vincent, and Malcolm Webster.

Some time before restoration began, the car was removed from a container, in which it had stood for several years.

This was a difficult project, because no photographs or drawings of this model survive, other than a relatively poor illustration in the Briton catalogue.

Missing parts included the running boards and mudguards, and so Brian Rollings produced drawings based on the catalogue image.

He also produced a drawing of a scuttle-mounted petrol tank, after discovering that a replacement was necessary.

The front of the car before restoration began.

Mechanical overhaul and rebuild

Luckily the group includes several extremely skilled engineers, who were able to construct the missing parts, and adapt other parts to fit. The chassis was in good condition, and some work had previously been carried out on the engine, including a rebore, and new pistons.

Awaiting restoration in the Bradburn and Wedge garage.

The crankshaft had been reground, and the bearings re-metalled, but new valves had to be found, ground-in, and fitted. The water jackets also had to be assembled. Most of the work on the engine, gearbox, clutch, rear axle, and brakes was carried out by Brian Rollings and Ray Salisbury.

Unfortunately the timing gear was missing, but luckily David Beere, an exceptionally skilled engineer, was able to make a replacement. Another missing part was the magneto. A suitable one was found, and David adapted it to do the job.

It was found that the rear axle had previously been taken apart, and assembled back to front. So this had to be taken apart and correctly assembled.

New thrust bearings, and withdrawal mechanism were made for the clutch, the gearbox was fitted, and the oil pump completely rebuilt. A new silencer was made by Malcolm Webster and fitted by Ken Norton.


One of the group members, Malcolm Webster, is an exceedingly skilled metalworker. He carried out a lot of work on the body, including fabricating new mud guards, fitting new running boards, restoring the side panels, and the bonnet, and re-skinning the doors. The missing woodwork was made by Ken Norton, and a missing door was made by Ray Jones.

John Vincent at work on the nearly finished car.

The completed body was painted by Ken Norton, who applied, and rubbed-down 15 coats of paint. John Vincent fitted the internal vinyl, and Malcolm Webster brazed the broken brass frame holding the windscreen, and fitted the windscreen.

The car's first public outing at the 2011 Festival of Black Country Vehicles.

All-in-all it was a fantastic team effort. When everything had been done, the car was towed for 10 yards, and it started first time. This was the group’s first complete car restoration at the museum. They are an extremely enthusiastic and versatile team, who will no doubt continue to ensure that the museum’s unique vehicle collection will be well-cared for, in years to come.

Current members of the volunteer group are Roger Marks, Ken Norton, Keith Peckmore, Brian Rollings, Ray Salisbury, Audrey Spencer, Derek Spencer, John Vincent, and Malcolm Webster.

A final view of the car in action at the museum.

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