Fire destroys National Motorcycle Museum

Published: 16 September 2003

A fire ripped through the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham on Tuesday night, gutting most of the building and destroying hundreds of irreplaceable bikes.

The blaze was reported to the West Midlands Fire Service at 4.40pm on Tuesday September 16 and eight fire engines were called to the scene. The smoke from the fire caused large delays on nearby roads, including the M42 and M6, making it difficult for the fire engines to get through.

The fire started outside the Britannia suite conference rooms but caught light to the wooden roof beams and spread throughout the building in the loft cavity, hiding the flames from staff until it was too late. The fire is thought to have been caused by a discarded cigarette butt that landed on a box of air conditioning filters behind the building.

The museum houses almost 900 bikes but staff managed to save less than 400 despite the help of delegates at a nearby conference.

The museums collection included the first ever BSA, a 1916 Matchless V-twin works TT racer, a 1939 Velocette 500cc works bike and a 1950 championship winning Royal Enfield trials bike, one of the first trials bikes to use rear suspension. It also housed a collection of Ariel Square Fours dating from 1935, a 1950s Triumph Twins collection and a 1970s Triumph Racers collection including ‘Slippery Sam’ Triumph Tridents.

It is not yet clear which bikes have been saved and which have been destroyed in the blaze.

Comment on this story on the News message board by clicking on the link on the right.