While studying at Oxford just after the war, Montagu drove a Hillman Minx that was nothing like as grand or sporting as the cars driven by his contemporaries. Indeed, at that point, he just wasn’t that interested in cars — unlike his father, John Montagu, a pioneer motorist who raced an 1899 Daimler and was the first Member of Parliament to drive a car into the yard of the House of Commons.
Edward John Barrington Douglas-scottMontagu, the third Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, had little chance of sharing his dad’s enthusiasm for cars, since he was only three when his father died in 1929. In 1951, at the age of 25, he assumed responsibility for the Beaulieu estate, which had been the family seat for 400 years. The place needed a lot of money spent on it, and its annual income was minimal. Montagu had been working in a London advertising agency — “to keep the wolf from the door”, to use his own words — but realized that, to remain viable, the house needed to be opened to the public.
Lord Montagu remembered his father’s early motoring connections and reasoned that a display of early or special cars might be an added attraction for paying visitors. Thus, together with helpers, he knocked a hole in a wall and winched the family’s five veteran and Edwardian cars into the front hall of Palace House at Beaulieu. Some of the cars were so tall that the tyres had to be let down so they would fit under the door jamb. It was a small but impressive collection — a 1903 De Dion Bouton, an 1896 Leon Bollee tracer, an 1898 Benz, a 1904 Vauxhall, and an 1898 Daimler.
With such an incredible array of machinery on display, highlighting Beaulieu’s exhibits is no easy task. Sir Henry Segrave’s recordbreaking Golden Arrow is a chief attraction — a 930-horsepower car that achieved 231mph at Daytona Beach in 1929 — while the late Jumbo Goddard’s 1954 D-type Jaguar is the same car that Duncan Hamilton and Tony Rolt drove into second place at Le Mans 61 years ago.
In later years, grants allowed the museum to buy really important cars, such as the 1903