The Hammond Microcar Collection
IN 1975, JEAN AND EDWIN Hammond were living in Sidcup. Their son, Andrew, was coming up 15 and wanted a motorcycle. His parents were not happy about this and bought him a Heinkel microcar instead. Edwin and Andrew rebuilt this.
Edwin became fascinated with these small cars and made a point of visiting a microcar rally at Burford. He was hooked and according to Jean, “he started collecting willy nilly”. Around them were a lot of maisonettes with garages which the owners were not using – they housed the growing collection. Jean and Edwin helped in the start up of specialist clubs for both the Heinkel and Issetta and then Jean formed RUMcars (Register of Unusual Microcars) in 1980, especially for those vehicles that had no specialist club.
This is a genuine register for microcars, recording the vehicle rather than the owner. In 1985 they moved to an ex-pig farm in Kent which had a lot of outbuildings. Edwin began converting the outbuildings to house the still ever
growing collection and began making plans for a museum building. Unfortunately he had only just started this when he died in 1999.
As a tribute to him, Jean, his three children and numerous enthusiasts managed to complete a building about half the size of the one Edwin had planned. In 2003 the collection moved in. Jean and her band of “Friends of the Hammond Collection” continue to look after and show the collection to those who are interested. There is one open day a year each July, but you may visit at other times by prior appointment. This is an ideal destination for a car club visit or stopping off point on a run.
It’s not far from the Channel ports and Tunnel. There is a Camping and Caravan Club official campsite on the farm and the collection is a popular attraction for the campers. There is no entry fee, though a donation towards the upkeep of the collection is appreciated.
Entry to the museum is through the workshops where you can see cars being worked upon. Here there was a 4-wheel 1957 Berkeley with the 322cc British Anzani engine, one of only one hundred and forty two with this engine before they changed to Excelsior. These cars were by the Berkeley Caravan Company in Biggleswade.
Nearby, a 1985 Cursor - the first one of one hundred and three made in Dunkirk, Kent. This one had suffered a watery grave having been tipped into the River Medway by vandals in 1990 (it was brought out of the water and damaged by a none too careful crane driver). The Honda Melody engine has been restored for the collection by members of the Japanese Vintage Motor Cycle Club and who have offered to work on the rest of the car. Moving into the main building you see the 1959 Opperman Unicar of 322cc., designed by Laurie Bond. This particular one was bought as a kit by Brian Stephenson of Liverpool who used it as his only car for family transport for many years. It’s still owned by the family and is on loan to the Hammond Collection. Next to it is the 1958 Opperman Stirling 2 + 2 fibreglass coupe with 493cc Steyr-Puch engine, the only survivor of two prototypes of a four wheeled car built by this Hertfordshire tractor company.
The collections single seat Peel P50 was previously owned by an elderly lady in the Newquay area who was well known for causing traffic jams as the car struggled up local hills. The 1978 Flipper, the first one in the United Kingdom is a French make of a type “sans permis” which allowed young persons aged 14 to drive. Only six of the Gordon are believed to exist, this 197cc example was bought by Edwin as a wreck and has been restored over a long period for the collection by Rob Dobie of Polegate. The Albany Carriage Company from Christchurch made reproductions of veteran cars and vintage vans on modern chassis and running gear.
They also built a prototype microcar inspired by visits to the Hammond Collection. It was based around a Yamaha QT moped. The vehicle on show is the sole surviving prototype. The car firm Allard entered the economy car market in 1954 with the three wheeled 346cc Allard Clipper. Only twenty were made and three are known to survive. The Collection’s catalogue dubs it “splendidly hideous” - I think that’s a bit strong! Jean Hammond showed me the back of the bulkhead where you will see that it’s obviously made from an old tea chest. The 1958 Tourette was built in Purley, one of thirty five of which three survive. Other makes which caught my eye were the Goggomobil TS300, the JDN 49SL, Velorex 16/350, Lloyd LS600 and there are many, many more. A total of 43 in all.
I cannot leave without mentioning the car that started it all - the Heinkel, that was bought for Andrew, painted in a light green - it’s known as “Kermit.” Little did the family know when they purchased this car that it would lead to such a fascinating collection of those small vehicles, many of which we used to refer to as bubble cars.