Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Petrol-Head Heaven

Robin was in petrol-head heaven in the weekend. We visited Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand, our wonderful modern museum which is situated (very conveniently for us) on the water-front in Wellington. On show were Formula One racing cars, so it was a “must see” exhibition for Robin, he just loves motor sports. I did my wifely duty and tagged along too. Even before we entered the Museum there was plenty to see. Lined up on the courtyard were a whole collection of racing cars and replicas, built by the enthusiasts of the Constructors Car Club. These all seemed very low slung to me, and Robin spent quite some time drooling over them all.

DSCF1754 Robin pondering which of these he would really like to have – the blue or the yellow?

We collected our Senior tickets and entered the Platinum Gallery. This exhibition traces the development of the Formula One racing car from the 1950s to the present time. Each of the iconic cars were well set out on a platform, so bystanders could walk right around and view the cars from any angle. There were cars from each decade on display; from a Cooper, Lotus, BRM, McLaren-Honda, Williams, Ferrari and a McLaren-Mercedes. Looking at all these wonderful cars of racing history had Robin entranced.

The display walls told the story of how design and technology changed how the cars were built as the years went by. Film of various races played continuously – handy for people like me who wanted to sit and rest those weary feet. We were permitted to take photos of the cars, but not of any of the display walls, trophies or memorabilia. Tucked away at the back of the exhibition was the newest car on display, a bright red 2006 McLaren MP4-21 dressed up in 2009 livery. All red, silver and black, this seemed quite a different design to the older cars, and drew a very appreciative crowd of admirers. This car is one of only 7 produced. It was interesting to note that 90% of the car components were changed from the previous model.

DSCF1758 The 2006 McLaren on display, 1 of only 7 made

New Zealand produced three Formula One drivers in the 1960s and 1970s; Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Chris Amon. The 1967 Monaco Grand Prix was New Zealand’s most successful race. Denny Hulme won first place driving a Brabham, Chris Amon came third in a Ferrari, and Bruce McLaren took fourth place in a McLaren. Memorabilia belonging to these great drivers was on display. It was interesting to note how basic the fire retardant clothing and helmets were in the early years, nothing like the high-tech articles around today.

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1966 Brabham BT20

I needed a coffee break so left Robin to listen to a “Floor Talk” by three experts. This talk walked us through the evolution of the formula one cars. In the beginning F1 cars were really only planes with wheels and the cars in each of the decades represented had design improvements over those before. The big jump in design came with wind tunnel testing and 3D CAD system design which made for better aerodynamics. When explained these dramatic changes were very evident. This is illustrated by the McLaren MP4-21 which looks so very different to all the others.

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It was an interesting display with many men intently studying all these racing cars. And no wonder, Formula One is among the world’s most popular sport.

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