24th May 2021

The 1930’s shed at the British Motor Museum

Among the many wonderful sheds we’ve been sent as part of the Show Us Your Shed competition, Mr Carter’s Garage is a wonderful example of a classic shed sent in by the British Motor Museum in Gaydon, Warwickshire.

Assembled as part of a wider collection, and then donated to the Museum by John Carter, the garage was assembled meticulously over a long period of time to resemble what garages of the 1930s looked like. “Mr. Carter’s Garage” as shown in these wonderful images will either take you right back to the sheds of your youth, or make you wonder just how much work was involved in the earlier days of motoring.

Centered around a 1933 Ford Model Y, the garage incorporates all of the ephemera which would have formed the backbone of any small garage in the 1930’s, when the average vehicle owner would have made far more frequent trips to a mechanic for maintenance than we would ever conceive of today.

The collection of lubricants arranged across the shelves features many of the brands which we still see today, although in 1933 the owner of a Ford Model Y would have been far more used to making regular oil changes than a motorist of even the 1950s would have been. With many cars, like the Ford or its rival the Austin 7, featuring primitive engine lubrication systems without oil filters, oil changes every 2000-3000 miles were the norm for anyone wanting to avoid unnecessary wear on the engine.

The tin sign for champion sparkplugs would have been a familiar sight in just about every garage in the UK. Unlike cars of today, which need plug changes measured in years, in 1933 routine stops to change, or at the very least clean, spark plugs would have been the norm. Anyone who left a choke out for too long in cold weather, and ‘fouled’ their plugs, would soon have learned not to make the same mistake twice. As a result, a spare set of plugs, a wire brush for cleaning, a ‘feeler gauge’ and a plug spanner would have been found in nearly every car at the time, or certainly every car that did any great distance.

Perhaps the most surprising item in the garage is the can of Motoring Spirit. Although by 1933 petrol and petrol stations had become commonplace, that wasn’t always the case. In the 1900’s, Petroleum Spirit, or Motoring Spirit, was more often sold by chemists and even pharmacists than it was at the roadside. Whereas now a petrol can is more often than not for emergencies, for motorists of time it was a necessity.

“Mr. Carter’s Garage” is open to the public along with the wider museum from Monday 17th May. If you are lucky, you can meet Mr. Carter himself, who is sometimes on hand in his overalls to answer any questions that you may have about his garage. Of particular note is the scent of oil, sawdust and a hint of camphor that hangs around his workshop, foreign to younger visitors, it may take older visitors straight back to their childhood.

With special thanks to the British Motor Museum for sharing their shed with us.