Microcars have always been considered a bit left of field, forming a very small, quirky part of the larger classic car community. They had a brief period of popularity in the 1950s/60s and then, as society moved forward, they were almost forgotten about. Despite their fall from the public eye, Microcars retain a loyal following with some going out of their way to rescue and even collect these fascinating creations. And that is where Edwin Hammond and his wife Jean stepped in.
I first met Jean Hammond back in June after receiving an invite to the Hammond Microcar Collection open day. Curious to know more about this private collection, I made my way down from London to a little museum tucked away in the Kent countryside.
As a classic car enthusiast, I have been aware of microcars and had come across a few Messerschmitt Kabinenroller K200s and FMR Tg500 Tiger’s in my time. I always found them interesting and a bit quirky, a fascinating slice of automotive development. But never had I seen so many under one roof before. The Hammond Collection currently has 44 Microcars resident at the museum. Some were purchased by Edwin Hammond over a period of many years and others were donated/loaned to the collection.
One of the things that struck me the most was how many little vehicles could be housed under one roof. In that same space one could probably squeeze roughly 12 medium sized classic cars. Which as a collection would be impressive in itself. The large L-shaped building was filled with so many weird and wonderful shapes, some round some angular. Some looked like normal cars, just a tad smaller that their compatriots of the period. And others would have felt at home on any 1960s science fiction movie set. On the walls and hanging from the ceilings was a whole host of Microcar related automobilia and collectables. It was all very impressive indeed.
As Jean showed me round she pointed out the many different cars that her husband had collected over the years. Each one had a story to tell and I realised, as she explained how Edwin came to acquire so many, that there was a story here that needed to be told.
Every so often we come across an enthusiast who goes above and beyond the call. Some dedicate themselves to saving a single marque, others to saving a whole category of the classic car world. Edwin took it upon himself to rescue as many microcars as he could, saving more than one from the scrapheap. He was the right man at the right moment in time as during the late 1970s and 1980s, microcars were generally unloved by the wider car community. As Jean mentioned in the film, most people were just glad to get rid of them. Edwin was on hand and he was more than happy to whisk them away. And slowly but surely the collection grew.
As more and more little cars were acquired, Edwin planned to construct a large museum to house all his cars. His aim was to show microcars to the public, in their original condition and not as over restored, concours museum exhibits. Unfortunately faith had other plans when Edwin was diagnosed with cancer and sadly passed away in 1998.
In many cases of bereavement, material items such as cars fall by the way side, with collections often sold off and broken up as families struggle to manage them. Jean was determined for this not to happen. With the help of her family, friends, fellow microcar enthusiasts and “The Friends of the Hammond Collection”, Jean pushed forward with her plans to see Edwin’s dream come to fruition. And in 2003 that dream became a reality when the Hammond Microcar Collection moved into its brand new purpose built museum.
Not many people would have seen such a task through. Taking on the care of a collection of some 44 rare micro cars, associated parts, spares, a broad selection of automobilia and not to mention an extensive archive of historical micro car documentation, is a quite a task. Too much for some. Jean’s dedication and commitment is therefore to be commended. The museum is Edwin’s legacy, a legacy that brings microcar enthusiasts together from all over the world. And seeing so many people with their own little microcars, with their friends, family and children coming together for the annual museum open day, it really drives home the important that legacy is.
The microcar community is very much alive here. And while some microcars have become coveted by investors and wealthy collectors around the world, there was no sense of the exclusiveness or the egotism that usually goes hand in hand with that part of the market. The Hammond Microcar Collection was created by a family and it has become one itself. And that’s what makes this museum special.
The Hammond Microcar Collection is a private museum based in Kent, England. Viewings can be made by appointment only. If you would like to help the museum in any way via donations or to assist with the charitable trust archive project mentioned in the film, then please email Jean Hammond at the following address: Jean@rumcars.org