Classic American


Paul Bussey checks out one of the UK’s most interestin­g vehicle collection­s – it might just appeal to those looking for something unusual to entertain young petrolhead­s over the half-term holiday!

- Words and photograph­y: Paul Bussey

Nothing quite prepares you for a visit to this stunning collection, located very close to the seaside, a stones’s throw away from Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. Okay, so the advertisin­g leaflet states that the display area has recently been increased from 25,000sq ft to 35,000sq ft, but how many people can actually visualise that in their head? An enthusiast has posted a photograph of the display buildings taken from the top of Caister Castle on the internet, but it’s not until you enter the building and work your way around the exhibits (most, but not all, enjoy natural daylight from the side windows) that the true ‘wow’ factor starts to grow. While there are a good many motor and transport museums throughout the UK, this one differs from the rest as it isn’t run by a local council, borough, or a business – it’s still very much privately owned and could possibly be the largest of its kind in the country…

Back in the mid-Sixties Dr Peter Rowland Hill JP, DTech, CC (1913-2000) purchased Caister Castle and founded the collection, which was housed in purpose-built buildings, to the west of the castle grounds. Peter, a businessma­n from Leicesters­hire, had a background in the food industry. It was an impromptu meeting with a few veteran car owners at an open day at Belvoir Castle, Nottingham­shire, that proved to be the catalyst for collecting veteran, vintage and classic cars and what a collection he built up.

He had the perfect place to keep and display them at Caister Castle and founded his collection there in 1966, with the very first vehicle being a 1902 Napier. Dr Hill found this in bits under a boat in Brighton! Sadly, he died in 2000, but the collection remains in his family ownership. Over the years it has grown considerab­ly and boasts in excess of 120 cars, 100 motorcycle­s, bicycles, mopeds, pedal cars, horse-drawn carriages, models, interspers­ed with some fine porcelain china and agricultur­al implements. There’s even a 1921 Manning Wardle N0 2010 steam engine, ex-Harlaxton Quarries ironstone mine in the East Midlands, parked up outside the tea rooms! While the collection is made up of an incredibly eclectic mix, most of the vehicles are kept in the condition that they arrive in, be it concours or original and highly patinated. It’s all about conservati­on and preservati­on, rather than restoratio­n. It really does make for the most fabulous legacy, one that will be enjoyed for a great many years to come.

There’s plenty on display to whet the appetite and fascinate American car enthusiast­s, with the earliest exhibit being a 1900 Locomobile steamer two-seat runabout. This simple early steam car features a tiller for steering, chain drive and the boiler is located under the driver’s seat, which needs replenishi­ng every 20 miles. It’s one of a number of early steam cars on display, which also includes a 1904 White steamer, with a two-cylinder engine rated at 18bhp, with a semiflash boiler for a faster warm-up. This car is said to pull very well, is reliable and identical to one used by Roosevelt during his presidency at the White House.

There’s also an example of the well-known Stanley steamer. The model on display is a 1913 twoseat and rumble. Twins FE and FO Stanley commenced building their cars in 1897 and on January 26, 1906, a Stanley steamer (with cigar tube style bodywork, dubbed The Rocket) set a new world land speed record at 127.66mph, at Ormond Beach, USA, with Fred Marriott behind the wheel. Scary or what?!

Moving further down the line of steam-powered cars, we come to a real rarity, a 1924 Doble E10, though it’s recorded on the original register as built in 1927, with chassis frame number E9 and engine number 12. Manufactur­ed by Abner Doble, these were regarded as the RollsRoyce of steam cars and the most expensive car available in period. Howard Hughes owned two of them! They were guaranteed for three years or 100,000 miles. Only 15 are known to exist, two of which reside in the UK. The body on this example is not original and was changed from a Standard Murphy to a two-seater and later to the current four-seater by previous owner Harman Lewis.

The Doble E10 was pretty nippy too, with a 0-40mph time of eight seconds. Next, we have a 1935 ASAC (American Steam Automobile Company) two-seat tourer, which was the successor to Stanley. It was imported new to the UK and used by a Dr Winter as his sole car up until 1942.

Other petrol-driven American cars on display range from a 1919 Ford Model T butcher’s delivery van, right up to a 1951 Cadillac. Perhaps the most interestin­g Cadillac – well, its original owner anyway, probably more than the car – is a 1959 convertibl­e, owned from new by Peter Rachman. It came to light after the 1963 Profumo affair that Rachman (a notorious London landlord and property developer) had Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies as his mistresses. When he wasn’t out driving his Cadillac, he was chauffeure­d around London in a Rolls-Royce, puffing away on a huge cigar and wearing dark sunglasses and was at ease with anyone from prostitute­s to aristocrac­y. He died in 1962 aged 43.

Perhaps the strangest car on display is a 1920 Briggs & Stratton Flyer, a kind of side-byside seating cyclecar sans bodywork (similar to the Orient Buckboard) and powered by a tiny rear-mounted single cylinder engine. A O Smith founded the company in 1915 and named the car the Smith Flyer until it was purchased by Briggs & Stratton in 1919. Also on display is a highly patina’d 1936 Chrysler sedan, a 1922 Buick ‘fold flat’ sedan, with interestin­g folding coachwork, a 1937 Buick McLaughlin and a 1913 Hupmobile.

Of the many motorcycle­s on display, including Harley-Davidsons, perhaps the rarest and most interestin­g is a 1915 Henderson Model E, with a four-cylinder engine rated at 1068cc. William G Henderson and his brother Tom W Henderson produced motorcycle­s from 1912-1931 and built up a reputation for advanced and powerful motorcycle­s that could cover great distances. They were especially popular with police department­s for traffic control as they were so fast! The example on display is in mint condition. Other star cars from the collection include Jim Clark’s 1966 Lotus 33 ‘14’ race car, the exGraham Hill and Jackie Stewart 1966 BRM H16. There’s also a 1921 Stoewer, 1922 La Buire and 1913 Delauncey-Bellville. That’s just scratching the surface of this fascinatin­g collection.

Allow plenty of time to peruse the exhibits, it’s simply a ‘must do’ if you’re in the area!

■ Address: Caister Castle, Castle Lane, West Caister, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR30 5SN

Just off the A1064, a couple of miles west of Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk

■ Opening hours: mid-May to end of September, 10am-4.30pm daily, except Saturdays when closed.

■ Admission: adults £17, children (aged 5-15) £8, (under five) free, senior citizens £15, family ticket (two adults, two children) £45.

■ Website: wwwcaister­

■ Tel: 01664 567707

 ?? ?? 1913 Stanley steamer two-seater and rumble.
1913 Stanley steamer two-seater and rumble.
 ?? ?? 1900 Locomobile two-seat steamer.
1900 Locomobile two-seat steamer.
 ?? ?? 1915 Henderson motorcycle.
1915 Henderson motorcycle.
 ?? ?? 1904 White steamer.
1904 White steamer.
 ?? ?? 1913 Hupmobile tourer.
1913 Hupmobile tourer.
 ?? ?? 1920 Briggs & Stratton Flyer.
1920 Briggs & Stratton Flyer.
 ?? ?? 1922 Buick ‘fold flat’ saloon.
1922 Buick ‘fold flat’ saloon.
 ?? ?? 1915 Henderson motorcycle.
1915 Henderson motorcycle.
 ?? ?? 1919 Ford Model T butcher’s delivery van.
1919 Ford Model T butcher’s delivery van.
 ?? ?? Ex-Peter Rachman 1959 Cadillac convertibl­e.
Ex-Peter Rachman 1959 Cadillac convertibl­e.
 ?? ?? 1951 Cadillac.
1951 Cadillac.
 ?? ?? 1937 Buick McLaughlin.
1937 Buick McLaughlin.
 ?? ?? 1937 Ford V8 Woodie, one owned by Colmans of mustard fame.
1937 Ford V8 Woodie, one owned by Colmans of mustard fame.
 ?? ?? 1924 Doble E10.
1924 Doble E10.
 ?? ?? 1935 ASAC steamer used by Dr Winter as his sole car until 1942.
1935 ASAC steamer used by Dr Winter as his sole car until 1942.
 ?? ?? 1936 Chrysler.
1936 Chrysler.

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