A small blue 1960s mini car

30 Sept 2019

With its quirky design, handlebar steering and a top speed of 50mph, it might not be a modern motorist’s first choice.

But when it comes to tales of Leeds innovation and invention, Hunslet’s very own Scootacar is certainly the wheel deal.

The bright blue, three-wheeled wonder arrived at Leeds Industrial Museum today (Friday) and is set to be one of the star attractions in an upcoming exhibition entitled Leeds to Innovation, which will celebrate some of the city’s creative and scientific minds.

The distinctive vehicles were originally manufactured in the late 1950s by Scootacars Ltd, a division of the famous railway locomotive builder, the Hunslet Engine Company.

Their diminutive design was said to be inspired by the wife of one of the company directors, who said she wanted a car that was easier to park than her more bulky Jaguar.

Set to the task of creating the ideal conveyance to meet her request, the company’s top minds began working the tricky task of creating an easy-to-park car with a high enough driving position to give the driver a good view of the road.

The typically pragmatic solution to perfecting the design was to get a particularly tall employee to sit on a box against a handy wall, set up dummy controls in front of him, and draw a chalk outline around him.

The result was a small but high car, nicknamed the telephone booth, which was produced between 1957 and 1964 with a sale price of around £275. Only around 1,000 were ever made, making the one going on display in Leeds extremely rare.

John McGoldrick, Leeds Museums and Galleries curator of industrial history, said: “The Scootacar is an excellent example of how, over the years, the city’s scientists, designers and engineers have had their impressive talents brought to bear solving some very unusual problems.

“Fortunately they have almost invariably risen to the challenge, giving the city a global reputation as both a centre of engineering excellence and the birthplace of some truly remarkable inventions and advancements.

“Bringing some of those feats of creativity together for this exhibition will give us to get a more detailed insight into how and why they were made, the people and personalities who made them and the many different ways that Leeds has changed the world.”

Looking back at 300 years of history, Leeds to Innovation will also include famous names like John Smeaton, the ‘Father of Civil Engineering’ and designer of the Eddystone Lighthouse, Dr Brian Boffey, whose experiment with hot gelatine created the popular sweet Jelly Tots and Elizabeth Beecroft, who took over the running of Kirkstall Forge in the 18th Century.

Leeds to Innovation opens at Leeds Industrial Museum on Saturday, October 26.

For more details about the museum including admission times and charges, please visit:

https://museumsandgalleries.leeds.gov.uk/leeds-industrial-museum/

ENDS

Notes:

Leeds Industrial Museum is housed within Armley Mills, a Grade II listed building which was once the worlds’ largest woollen mill. The galleries and collections tell the stories behind the industries which have shaped Leeds into the successful city it is today from weaving to steam engines and more. The textile galleries contain spinning wheels and working looms, offering insight into the wool and cloth industries which once made Leeds world famous. Tailoring galleries tell the tales behind how Leeds helped to launch high street fashion and Media in The Mill celebrates the historical importance of the creative industries, from film to photography and print making. Further museum spaces have been recreated and restored to their former glory including the Victorian school room and Mill Managers Cottage. The museum is also home to the Palace Picture House, a twenty-four seat 1920s cinema which screens family films and vintage classics throughout the year.

Address: Canal Road, Armley, LS12 2QF Telephone Number: 0113 378 3173

For media enquiries, please contact:

marketingmuseums@leeds.gov.uk