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By Kate Campbell-Payne on

Moving a magnificent machine

Our Rolls-Royce motorcar has a new pride-of-place spot in the museum, but how did it get there? Take a trip behind the scenes to find out.

If you came to see us over February half term this year (Saturday 15 – Sunday 23 February 2020), you will have been among the first visitors to see our Rolls-Royce motorcar at the entrance of the Revolution Manchester gallery. This is the place previously occupied by Stephenson’s Rocket (now on display in our sister museum, the Railway Museum in York) and the same gallery that Tim Peake’s Soyuz capsule and spacesuit were displayed in. The Rolls-Royce continues this series of a highlighted object welcoming our visitors to the museum.

Rolls-Royce motorcar
The Rolls-Royce motorcar in Revolution Manchester

The difference this time is that many of you will have seen this Rolls-Royce before, as it usually resides in our Air and Space Hall across the road. Rolls-Royce started right here in Manchester when engineer Henry Royce, already building engines, showed his experimental car to Charles Rolls, a motor car pioneer, at the Midland Hotel on 4 May 1904. This particular model is one of just three known to have been made and is believed to have been driven by Henry himself before being sold.

So how did we move it without turning the key? How we move large objects like this is something visitors are often curious about and the answer usually involves a lot of people-power from our Exhibitions and Gallery Maintenance teams and the Science Museum Group Conservation team, as well as specialist movers like Constantine. As this series of behind-the-scenes pictures show, the Rolls-Royce move was no exception.

Rolls-Royce on roller skates
Rolls-Royce on roller skates

1. Specialist ‘roller skates’ were used to manoeuvre the car out of its display area in the Air and Space Hall.

The Rolls-Royce being moved out of the Air and Space Hall
The Rolls-Royce being moved out of the Air and Space Hall

2. The Rolls-Royce was then put on what is essentially a pallet truck. This was used to take it out of the Air and Space Hall, across the road and into the New Warehouse.

The Rolls-Royce being brought into New Warehouse
The Rolls-Royce being brought into New Warehouse

3. Getting objects through the doors of the museum is always a careful business. Sometimes we have had to take the doors off but this time it was down to expert ‘driving’ by Constantine’s highly trained team.

Getting the Rolls-Royce into position below the crane
Getting the Rolls-Royce into position below the crane

4. Constantine then constructed a lifting crane around the Rolls-Royce to lift it onto the display box. Its fenders and wheels were covered by protective blankets just in case the crane’s chains knocked against it.

Lifting the Rolls-Royce into position
Lifting the Rolls-Royce into position

5. Another careful manoeuvre as the car is lifted and moved into place.

The Rolls-Royce on display in the Revolution Manchester gallery
The Rolls-Royce on display in the Revolution Manchester gallery

6. And here it is in all its glory.

As with any display, creating what visitors experience is a real team effort involving people from across the museum and sometimes specialists from beyond. We’ll be revisiting this very special object over the next few months to tell you more about its history and significance. Hopefully, this little look behind the scenes has given you a chance to see just what goes into moving these amazing objects and will add a little more to your enjoyment of this magnificent motor when you visit.

6 comments on “Moving a magnificent machine

    1. Hi Richard,
      Thanks for your comment. It’ll be on display for around a year but always check the website before you visit.

  1. This is a great article and you are banged on with your points about moving a magnificent machine. Be clear about what you really need and want to accomplish at this point you are right with this point.

    1. It was a great action to protect and show it pieces that are one of the most important part of worldwide car’s history. Great job! Thank you all.

  2. Your main website states that “Royce was a Captain in the Motor Volunteer Corps and it is thought that he used AX148 in connection with his duties.” WRONG! It was Charles Rolls who was in the MVC. I hope you will correct this silly error.

    1. Hi David,

      Thank you for your comment. I’ve passed it on to the relevant team who can look into it further.

      All the best,

      Mike (Web Manager)

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