Meet our founder - Don Sidebottom

Don SIdebottom, pictured inside the museum

Don Sidebottom admits he’s something of an addict when it comes to collecting classic cars and historic automobilia.

Anyone who visits our famous museum will see the result of that lifelong addiction – in its collection of over 30,000 items.

Don is the man who founded the museum. And it all started way back in the late 1950s and early 1960s when he snapped up a dozen pre-war American cars that were being used as taxis in his hometown of Blackpool.

Don with some of the cars in the collection

“When petrol rationing came in after the Suez crisis, the taxi drivers all started selling their old pre-war American vehicles because they used so much fuel. They were going for a couple of hundred pounds. So, I bought a dozen!” explains Don.

“There were Chevrolets, Oldsmobiles, Chryslers, all sorts. Me and a pal used to do them up, restore them. Then I just started collecting anything to do with cars, automobilia, speedometers, badges, headlights. I suppose you’d say I was a collecting addict – I loved it.”

Don with one of the first cars in his collection

Don, who is 84, is perhaps best known as the entrepreneur who, in 1959, founded the Blackpool based Glasdon Group. It’s now a world-famous brand making and selling street furniture like benches, bollards, shelters and recycling bins to 115 countries around the globe. It employs nearly 500 people across the UK, France, Sweden and the USA.

While Glasdon was work – Don’s growing collection of classic cars was his pleasure. “It was a lovely release from the pressure of running an international business,” says Don. “I needed a diversion and for me that was digging out old cars, barn finds, which were bargains. Then doing them up and building up the collection.”

The museum at its present site in the Leven Valley, Backbarrow.

“I used to love skydiving and did 570 jumps at Cark airfield in South Cumbria,” says Don. “One day Lord Hugh Cavendish, whose ancestral home was in the area, came down to the club. He asked if anyone would like to parachute into Holker Hall, his family home, as it would be an attraction for visitors. We said yes and it became a regular thing and over time we got to know each other.

“In one conversation he told me he could really do with a new attraction at Holker Hall,” says Don. “I already had the collection of cars by then and I suggested his Shire Horse stable yard and old sawmill at Holker could make a lovely motor museum!”

That was in the 1970s. The rest is history.

The first incarnation of the museum - at Holker Hall

The Lakeland Motor Museum remained at Holker Hall for more than 30 years, with a highlight in 2000 when it won the English Tourism Council’s award for Best Small Visitor Attraction. In 2006 a new era began when the collection was purchased by Winander Group Holdings – the owners of another popular Lake District visitor attraction – Windermere Lake Cruises. The new owners recognised the value and cultural importance of Don’s collection and made significant investments. In 2010 they purchased and relocated the museum to its current purpose-built home at Backbarrow – the historic, scenic, riverside site of the former Reckitt’s blue Dye Works carton packaging sheds.

After all those years collecting you might be surprised to learn that Don’s favourite vehicle is not a Daimler, Bentley or Jaguar.

“It’s a 1970s Citroen DS which I bought in the 1980s!” says Don. “It was the most advanced car in the world in its day – with an incredible suspension system and futuristic design. I liked it so much I paid a lot of money for it!”

Don's favourite vehicle - the Citroen DS

Under its new owners, the Lakeland Motor Museum has evolved and is constantly improving and changing. But Don Sidebottom was the driving force behind its initial creation.

“It’s a real joy to walk around and to know it’s a collection I played a large part in bringing together,” says Don. “I’m happy that it’s admired, that people love to visit and I’m happy that it is safe and not going anywhere,” says Don. “I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that people get so much enjoyment out of it. It’s a nice legacy.

And as for collecting so many wonderful items over so many years? “I loved every minute of it!” says Don, with a smile.

Don outside the modern-day Lakeland Motor Museum

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