Isle of Man Motor Museum, Jurby, Isle of Man
The Isle of Man Motor Museum located in Jurby, has become the permanent public home for the Cunningham Classic Cars collection of the father and son team of Denis and Darren Cunningham. Cunningham Classic Cars began as a small collection of Denis Cunningham’s classic cars, the love of which was passed on to his son, Darren. In May 2015 their dream came true with the opening of the £5m, purpose built museum building, with an amazing 70,000 square feet of exhibition space. It is their pride and joy and has become a Mecca for enthusiasts and a real show piece for the Isle of Man.
The Museum features a collection of over 250 unique vehicles from around the world, which includes: Classic cars and motorcycles; rarely seen private motorcycles and a steam collection. The Cunningham’s pride themselves in displaying several unique “one-off” vehicles, some of the highlights of the collection being a coach built 1954 Humber Super Snipe (purposely built and used by Queen Elizabeth II for her Coronation Tour of the Commonwealth), and an ex-White House 1965 Lincoln Continental limousine (used by Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara).
The museum also houses the first Monica, a vehicle that we had previously never even heard of! After a little research it appears that this short-lived brand of luxury cars was created in France in the early 1970’s by Jean Tastevin (named after his wife Monique), but with help from London’s,Chris Lawrence. The Monica was a relatively unknown, sleek, handmade 4-door sedan, of which only about 30 cars were built, (8 production and 22 prototypes). A high quality, excellent but expensive car, with a large American “gas guzzling” engine, it was doomed to failure at a time of fuel rationing with the 1973 oil crisis, the factory closed in 1974, the Company went bankrupt in early 1975.
The car shown here belonged to the late Chris Lawrence and was sold in 2011 for £55,000. The museum also houses Monica #2 and Monica #6. More of the museums unique collection includes a prototype right-hand drive DeLorean and a 1954 GM PD4501 Scenicruiser Greyhound Coach.
The Motor Museum’s 2016 Joey Dunlop Exhibition
The Dunlop family very kindly and generously loaned a unique and poignant collection of machines and personal items to the museum. There were 7 of the famous racing bikes in all, 3 of which are permanent fixtures at the museum, plus Joey’s much-loved Mini. The Motor Museum’s display also included around 30 sets of leathers and 20 of Joey’s helmets (including his first, still adorned with black tape).
The exhibition marked 40 years since Joey first competed in the IOM TT, his achievements include three hat tricks, in 1985, 1988 & 2000 and he went on to win a staggering 26 TT races in total, a record that John McGuinness is hot on his heels and keen to better.
Joey was awarded an MBE in 1986 for his services to sport and a decade later he was awarded an OBE for his humanitarian work for children in Romanian orphanages, to which he had delivered clothing and food.
The Joey Dunlop exhibition opened just prior to the 2016 TT and ran throughout the summer months, to include the Manx Festival of Motorcycling. This was not one to be missed.
We are sure that the Dunlop family would also like us to mention the Joey Dunlop Foundation (established 2001), which is an Isle of Man Charity whose main aim has always been to create specialist accommodation that will open up the Isle of Man to visitors with disability. Braddan Bridge House, located in the islands capital, Douglas, hosts apartments available for the needs of all disabled guests and allow them to experience the beauty of the island and the excitement of the TT street-bike races.
For more information, please visit www.joeydunlopfoundation.com
Visitor facilities at the Isle of Man Motor Museum include a car club display area, coach parking, coffee kiosk, gift shop, toilets and disabled access throughout. Next door is the Guard House Café, housed in a restored WWII RAF building. The museum also incorporates a library and maintenance and restoration facilities, where visitors can see vehicles undergoing restoration as the museum is hoping to restore several vehicles per year to add to the collection.
Opening later this summer (2016) is a period machine workshop featuring a variety of stationary engines and belt driven engineering machinery.
The museum is happy to exhibit motorcycles, classic and racing vehicles and other items of interest on loan from their owners in a rotating basis to keep their displays fresh and interesting.
Although it is not our usual custom to recommend an attraction before actually experiencing it ourselves, it is our intention to do so when we are over for the 2016 Classic TT and Manx GP, however after in depth consultation with the owners we consider its early inclusion into our website well and truly justified and we welcome the Isle of Man Motor Museum into our “Friends of Johns Motorcycle News”.
As was our intention, we made arrangements to visit the museum during our stay at the 2016 Classic TT and Manx GP and so, in late August 2016, although unfortunately (due to both of our busy schedules) we never got to meet Janeen, we got to meet Denis and Darren Cunningham and to have a look around their fantastic museum, which really did exceed all of our expectations!
Their museum really is ultra modern, scrupulously clean and well laid out, with an unbelievable array of vehicles, large and small, with many “one-off” examples unique to this museum.
Some of the,many, more unusual exhibits included a beautiful replica Senior TT Trophy carved by Xtreme Chainsaw (07766 604291), a steam motorcycle (kerosene fuelled), multi cylinder Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines in transportation pods and a cut away demonstrator model, a massive trike, a fantastic yellow Isle of Man, Charabanc (made from an American fire truck), huge American hearses, American ambulances and stretched limo’s and a fantastic array of motorcycles, large and small, new and old. You can see more at www.facebook.com/isleofmanmuseum
Which means that you can get up close to each exhibit and if you really do need to see what’s under the bonnet (as a couple did whilst we were there) Denis or another member of staff are quite willing to show you. All that they ask is that you respect their property and refrain from touching the exhibits.
The museum covers a truly massive area; the ground floor is mainly dedicated to motor vehicles and engines along with (currently, 2016) the Joey Dunlop exhibition that has to be seen to be believed. Joey’s race motorcycles, his boots, leathers, hundreds of trophies, medals, certificates and even his toolbox are there for all to see, in a dedicated display just off the main hall. It is believed that not even the Dunlop family has had all that is within the museum on display at any one given time, and when eventually these items are returned it is highly probable that they may never all be seen together on display again. So, if you do get a chance to see the Joey Dunlop display, make the most of it!
There are two mezzanine floors in the museum (accessed by both stairs and lifts) that are the home to a further collection of motorcycles spanning many decades. These floors also offer visitors a superb view of the ground floor exhibits beneath.
Denis and Darren made us very welcome and we felt very privileged to be treated to a guided tour around their restoration area (which is not open to the public) by Denis. Inside the restoration area they are continually working on new projects of vehicles that they have scoured from around the world to bring back to the Isle of Man.
Anyway, we don’t want to give away too much, so if you are in the Isle of Man we really do highly recommend that you take time to visit this fabulous museum. Don’t expect to see it all in a short space of time; you will need to allow plenty of time to see it all. There are chairs dotted around to offer a place to rest, toilet and washing facilities and you could always have a break (like we did) to nip next door to the Guard House Café for a bite to eat and a cuppa.
What more can we say?
2017 UPDATE to the above ARTICLE
We welcomed the invitation from Denis and Darren to return to this museum in 2017 and we could see just how busy they had been during the year.
We picked a race day to visit, as we knew that the museum would be much quieter. Once again the lads have excelled themselves in providing variety and unusual exhibits, that you are unlikely to ever see elsewhere.
The early 1900’s “belt driven” workshop had been completed on schedule and was very authentic. The museum had acquired some unusual compact, tiny cars, like a replica Peel P50 (with disc brakes on all 3 wheels to cope with the massive 50cc engine!) and where would you ever see a 5-wheeled, Gull-winged door micro car? In actual fact its a French Mini Comtesse (with stabilisers) and a body so flimsy that there would be nothing left of it after a crash test.
These are just a very small sample of the unusual vehicles that Darren and Denis have sought out to put on display.
We were lucky to be able to meet Chris Proctor who was busy working on their new super bike scheduled to run at the Bonneville Salt Flats in August 2018.
Chris has engineered some tremendous modifications to this 600cc Yamaha Thundercat, with centrifugal clutch, re-designed oil pump, lead filled swinging arm, iced intercooler to name but a few.
Alongside this was the 600 Manxman bike that Chris had unfortunately been thrown off (at 175 mph) during the August 2016 runs at Bonneville, sustaining leg injuries, which he has thankfully recovered from. This bike is now a museum display, having been brought back from the USA in an “as is” , crashed, state, still completely caked with Bonneville salt.
John took the opportunity to interview Chris and Darren on several occasions for Facebook live whilst walking around the museum, which proved very popular with guests from as far as Australia.
We also came across an old Daihatsu, with a tale to tell – according to Denis this was swopped for a bag of crisps in a pub and the owner later drove it all the way over to Mongolia and back, as can be seen from the map on the back of the car. It is truly incredible what some people (and cars) can actually do !
It is on loan to the museum, but Denis thinks that she may want it back sometime, as it is her day by day transport.
Just outside the Guardhouse Cafe across the road from the museum was a crash landed (mock) spitfire, that was on course for the museum. Another great and rather unusual display to come across!
The museum have installed a brilliant new feature for 2018, a three tier heavy duty mesh racking right along their inside wall designed to display another 100 motorcycles. It was currently graced with 3 of Joey Dunlop’s bikes AND Guy Martins actual “Wall of Death” bike, which you can read more about in our 2017 Festival Article and our article about Guys Wall of Death within our “News and Interest” section.
Make a diary note to visit this Museum and see these additional bikes in 2018.
NB: The Museum has built up a very substantial Archive of reference Books, Handbooks, Magazines, Newspapers and various other Historical Records, so if you are having a loft or garage clear out and you think there is something that they may be interested in, why not give them a call?
Highly recommended to all, contact details: –
During TT fortnight: 7 Days a week from 10am to 4pm
March – October: 10am – 5pm (Closed Wednesday) (final admission 4pm),
Winter Season: Check website for opening hours
Jurby Industrial Estate
Michael W George (& John Abram)