The Dunlop Tyre

Continuing our series of posts based on a museum exhibition from a few years ago entitled “The History of Motoring in 10 Objects”, this post gives a brief summary of the contributions made by John Boyd Dunlop, Charles Goodyear and the Michelin brothers. Yes, it’s tyres and the global demand today is approaching 3 billion every year.

It seems plausible that the word “tyre” derives from the wheelwright’s habit of referring to the steel rim around a wooden spoked wheel as the item that ‘tied’ the wheel together. Or perhaps it derives from ‘attire’ meaning a covering. Nevertheless, it is a method of construction that can be traced back over 2000 years.

In 1844 Charles Goodyear invented a means of stabilising natural rubber making it strong, flexible and suitable for solid tyres. In 1888 John Dunlop had the idea of wrapping an inflated tube of canvas around the wheel rim to create a more comfortable ride for his son’s cycle. But he was not the first to come up with this idea, 43 years earlier fellow Scot, Robert Thomson, patented and demonstrated a pneumatic tyre for use on carriages and bicycles, but it was expensive and the market was not receptive. The Michelin brothers demonstrated how this technology could be used on cars and Dunlop was able to sell his tyre to the growing automobile industry. By the mid ’50s, Dunlop had almost half of the market share in Britain and remains, along with Goodyear and Michelin, a leading brand today.

The composite image below shows just some of the enamel signage relating to tyres that is scattered around the museum.

Montage of signs

If you would like to read more about the history, construction and possible future of the humble tyre, you might be interested to download “The Direction of Travel: Motoring from The Past to The Future – Part 3 – Technological” from the museum website.

Our Austin Seven

It is good to see the museum’s Austin Seven gracing the forecourt of the museum on most days this summer. With the hard work of museum staff and volunteers, it underwent a significant restoration during the winter months and is now looking fabulous once more.IMG_20190725_164318 - low res

New for 2019

The museum opened again for the 2019 season on 16 February and our first visitors of the year enjoyed the sunny days of the school half-term that followed the re-opening. All is looking sparkling and dust free after a great effort from our museum volunteers during the preceding week. Thanks to all.

One major change that regular visitors will spot is the completely refurbished Blacksmith’s Shop.

The Blacksmith’s Shop and Woodworking Shop are now on opposite sides of the gallery and the blacksmith and wheelwright keep each other company throughout the day, chatting about their work and ‘these new-fangled motorcars’ and making very life-like movements. Don’t be alarmed, yes, you really did see them move!img_20190228_123911.jpg


Still to make a full appearance, is our new display on the “Impact of the Internal Combustion Engine”. After a fleeting look back over the first 130 years of internal combustion and its impact on both our climate and our health, it looks ahead to when the sale of vehicles powered solely by internal combustion engines will be banned. More details will be posted shortly once all material is in place.

The Internal Combustion Engine

Continuing with our series of significant objects in the history of motoring, this latest object is really a bit of a ‘no-brainer’! Vehicle technology has been dominated by the next object: the internal combustion engine. It became successful because it proved to be dependable, convenient and affordable. There was also an abundant fuel supply which could be delivered to the vehicle in seconds. Modern engines are cleaner and much more efficient than their predecessors. Today however, there are compelling reasons to find alternatives. There are grave concerns about of the effects of pollution and fears over global warming. We are aware that the supply of easily recoverable oil will not last for ever; it will become more expensive to find and extract. Governments and city authorities are setting emission-free targets and manufacturers are pressing ahead with hybrid or all electric vehicles. Yet the internal combustion engine will not suddenly disappear while issues around battery technology – like the reliance on rare metals, low range on each battery charge and excessively long recharging time – remain unresolved.


This is a standard four-stroke, four cylinder engine, as used in millions of cars around the world. This cut-away picture demonstrates the classic engine cycle showing intake, compression, ignition and exhaust – otherwise known as suck, squeeze, bang, blow! Other engines in our cars and motorcycles include the straight six-cylinder, single cylinder two-stroke, the V-twin and the V-eight, but they are all versions of the internal combustion engine.

More detail on the history of the Internal Combustion Engine, plus other topics in our series of articles on the Impact of Motoring, can be found on our website under the Exhibitions tab.

Indian Motorcycle 1915

For the second object in our story of motoring we have chosen the Museum’s 1915 V-twin engine Indian Scout. Motorcycling was an affordable gateway into the early days of motoring and played an important role in the establishment of the Civil Service Motoring Association (CSMA): owners of the Cotswold Motoring Museum and Toy Collection.


During the 1910s, Indian was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world with an impressive racing success. In more recent years the bike gained appreciation in the film ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’, released in 2005 and starring Anthony Hopkins as a determined New Zealander, Burt Munro, who ultimately sets a land speed record for under 1000cc bikes of 201.851mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the USA.

While for many, the thrill of riding a powerful two-wheeled machine could not be exceeded, for others riding a motorbike was a less expensive alternative to car ownership. Frank Edwards the founder of CSMA, along with many of the original members, was a keen motorcyclist. He had some notable success in competitive racing, but also saw the bike as practical transport. Edwards died just one year after the club’s inauguration and we have very few photographs, so the two with his 1920s Harley Davidson are special to us. Harley Davidson were direct competitors to Indian eventually surpassing them in popularity.Edwards low resEdwards Family

The Bowser Petrol Pump c1921

Tucked in a corner of the Cotswold Motoring Museum is a petrol pump which, despite being bright red and 190cm high, is not particularly imposing and could be passed over quite easily. But missing it would be a pity because this pump has earned its place as the first of ten objects in our history of motoring. Made in the 1920s by S.F. Bowser & Company, the device was operated by turning a large crank handle. The pump’s history can be traced back 40 years earlier to when the company’s founder, Sylvanus Bowser, invented a safe and efficient means of delivering fuel. The original was used for pumping kerosene for heating and lighting, but that was in 1885 and the world was about to change.IMG_2877_edited
The introduction of the motor car greatly increased the demand for fuel. In 1888 Bertha Benz set out on a pioneering 65 mile journey from Mannheim to Pforzheim in her husband’s new automobile. The Weisloch town pharmacy, which still exists today, supplied the fuel and for many it is regarded as the world’s first filling station.
The practice of buying motor fuel in two-gallon cans from chemists, blacksmiths, hardware stores, and even hotels, became the standard practise. However, as motoring became more popular and the demand for petrol increased, providing a quick and safe means of storing and delivering fuel became a priority. As a result, kerbside fuel pumps began to appear outside the newly established filling stations and ‘country garages’. Storage tanks were placed underground and the pumps were moved to a central island. Our modest, hand-cranked, machine was soon replaced by electric giants that were effortlessly capable of gushing gallons of petrol to quench the automobile’s insatiable desire for fuel.

The History of Motoring in Ten Objects

Back in 2012, the Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection held an exhibition entitled “The History of Motoring in Ten Objects”. It was inspired by the 2010 British Museum Exhibition and Radio Four programme describing the history of the world in 100 objects. We sifted through the many thousands of motor-related objects in the museum to create our own list of nine items for our own exhibition. We then asked visitors to select a tenth item to complete the selection. More than 1000 people took part, with satellite navigation winning the tenth spot by a clear margin.

Over the next few months, we will reprise the ” Ten Objects” in this blog, starting with the Bowser Pump or, as it is better known today, the fuel pump! They were not always quite as smart as today’s electrically operated, precisely calibrated dispensers of petrol and diesel.IMG_4338 edited

For more detailed information on this item plus our “Impact (of Motoring) on the World Today” exhibition, download the free eBook from our website. As well as looking at the impact that motoring has had on our planet, this fascinating book also considers the decisions that we as individuals can take to reduce that impact, with suggestions as to how the current century of motoring may unfold.