A classic car addict from Blackpool was the man behind the famous Lakeland Motor Museum – we find out how it began through a chance meeting

Blackpool’s Don Sidebottom admits he’s something of an addict when it comes to collecting classic cars and historic automobilia.

By Claire Lark
Saturday, 23rd April 2022, 4:55 am

Anyone who visits the famous Lakeland Motor Museum in Cumbria will see the result of that lifelong addiction – in its collection of over 30,000 items.

Don, who founded the Glasdon Group in Blackpool, is the man who set the wheels in motion for the museum. And it all started way back in the late 1950s and early 1960s when he snapped up a dozen pre-war American cars that were being used as taxis in his hometown of Blackpool.

“When petrol rationing came in after the Suez crisis, the taxi drivers all started selling their old pre-war American vehicles because they used so much fuel. They were going for a couple of hundred pounds. So, I bought a dozen!” explains Don.

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Blackpool's Don Sidebottom who created the Lakeland Motor Museum for his incredible classic car collection

“There were Chevrolets, Oldsmobiles, Chryslers, all sorts. Me and a pal used to do them up, restore them. Then I just started collecting anything to do with cars, automobilia, speedometers, badges, headlights. I suppose you’d say I was a collecting addict – I loved it.”

The thousands of visitors who flock to the Lakeland Motor Museum in South Cumbria every year are obviously very happy he loved it so much as the museum is one of the Lake District’s most popular attractions.

Don, who is 84, is perhaps best known as the entrepreneur who, in 1959, founded the Blackpool based Glasdon Group.

While Glasdon was work – Don’s growing collection of classic cars was his pleasure. “It was a lovely release from the pressure of running an international business,” says Don. “I needed a diversion and for me that was digging out old cars, barn finds, which were bargains. Then doing them up and building up the collection.”

The museum itself might never have come about but for a chance meeting sparked by another of Don Sidebottom’s passions – skydiving.

“I used to love skydiving and did 570 jumps at Cark airfield in South Cumbria,” says Don. “One day Lord Hugh Cavendish, whose ancestral home was in the area, came down to the club. He asked if anyone would like to parachute into Holker Hall, his family home. We said yes and and over time we got to know each other.

“In one conversation he told me he could really do with a new attraction at Holker Hall,” says Don. “I already had the collection of cars and I suggested his Shire Horse stable yard and old sawmill at Holker could make a lovely motor museum!” That was in the 1970s. The rest is history.

After all those years collecting you might be surprised to learn that Don’s favourite vehicle is not a Daimler, Bentley or Jaguar.

“It’s a 1970s Citroen DS which I bought in the 1980s!” says Don. “It was the most advanced car in the world in its day – with an incredible suspension system and futuristic design. I liked it so much I paid a lot of money for it!”

Many of the exhibits at the museum, hold special memories for Don. “It’s a real joy to walk around and to know it’s a collection I played a large part in bringing together.”

The Lakeland Motor Museum houses a fascinating collection of over 30,000 exhibits that trace the development of road transport throughout the twentieth century - cycles, motorbikes, motor cars and automobilia.

Housed in a converted mill in the heart of the Lake District, just minutes from Windermere, it’s more than just a motor museum, with local history and period shopping displays, authentic recreations and picturesque riverside cafe making it a great day out for the whole family.

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