Could you please explain your role as a volunteer at our London Museum?
In general the Aircraft, Boat and Vehicle Team at Hendon help conserve the exhibits by carrying out cleaning and maintenance checks, repairing where needed and taking on special projects.
What exactly does the Vehicle Team do?
My personal role is to lead the vehicle team conserving “anything with wheels that wasn’t intended to ﬂ y or ﬂ oat”. So we look after everything from pedal cycles to trailers and motor vehicles. The RAF has speciﬁc storage routines for aircraft but we couldn’t ﬁnd anything similar for the vehicles. As most of them had stood for 30 – 40 years without moving we discovered that many were in danger of seizing up completely and needed some care and attention. We have developed our own conservation plan for each of the vehicles. This includes moving and lubricating parts such as engines, transmissions and hinges.
Have the Vehicle Team restored any of the vehicles displayed in the First World in the Air exhibition?
Although some people may dispute it, one of the best ways to conserve a vehicle is to run it. This ensures that the components designed to operate immersed in oil get regularly lubricated, and it prevents internal corrosion and condensation inside engines and transmissions.
The ﬁrst two vehicles we have succeeded in bringing back to running condition are both on display in the First World War in the Air exhibition: the Ford Model T Tender and the very rare Crossley Tender.
Restoring both vehicles to running order were major challenges. Fortunately, due to the large number of Ford Model Ts run in the US, almost any part was available “off the shelf”. The Crossley was a different matter as it is extremely rare – only one other Tender runs in the UK and we are not aware of another runner anywhere in the world. We had to research the best techniques to repair cracks in the irreplaceable cylinder blocks and ﬁnd a ﬁrm able to carry it out.
We also have a 1917 Triumph “H” messenger motorcycle in the workshop which has been completely stripped to get it back to running condition. This will be added to the exhibition when complete. We will then be able to demonstrate all three vehicles simultaneously during the summer.
And do you have a favourite vehicle?
It is difﬁcult to pick a favourite as there are different reasons to like each of the vehicles. I love driving the Model T and the Crossley, as they are both very different to modern vehicles: especially the T with its foot operated gearbox and clutch. I look forward to getting the Triumph motorbike running.
You were recently awarded the Going the Extra Mile award at the London Volunteers in Museum Awards. How did that feel?I was taken completely by surprise by that award as I wasn’t aware that the Museum had put me forward as a nominee. I certainly felt proud that I had been, as it is clear that the Museum respects and really values the work undertaked by all volunteers.