GM's Craig Cheetham on the Heritage Centre Craig Cheetham, GM UK Communications Manager
We have become aware of rumours about the future of the Luton Heritage Centre which appear to stem from radio and press reports about the use of a US agency to process some of our archive material. We are using a free service set up by the GM Media Archive in Detroit for the transferral to digital of some of our archive material and that is really the beginning and the end of the “story”.
The Heritage Centre is not in imminent danger of closing - in fact, it's thriving. Over the past 12 months, we have restored three exhibits (PC Viscount; Rascal, HS Chevette - this one's still in progress) and added four new vehicles to the collection (an HP Firenza at last, a Vivaro (Luton-built), the Rascal - again Luton built, and a Monaro VXR 500), we are held up as a model for GM Europe to base its own collection on as they are rarely seen, and are taking part in more events than ever before.
My brief as communications manager for the centre (and budget holder) is to constantly improve the visibility of the Heritage Centre both inside and outside the company. We support various GME initiatives (four cars are off to Germany next week for a GM History event), I actively promote our collection to the classic motoring media (note how many times you now see our cars in the key enthusiast titles these days) and I make a point of making us more accessible to the local community (hence Drive it Day and involvement with local schools etc).
As for the archive, the digitisation programme currently ongoing in Detroit was set up with Andrew Duerden's participation - we took advantage of an offer from the GM Next centenary team to transfer all of our cine reel onto a digital format, and also to host some of our old press and publicity images on the GM Archive website free of charge. The free of charge part was the clincher - it's much easier than keeping the material in the UK and paying someone else to do what will ultimately become essential anyway. The material does not stay in the States, we get it back. Our archive isn't under threat. We are not 'shipping it out to the States'. It will continue to be here in Luton, and Andrew will continue to look after it.
To answer rumours about selling cars, it's true that the Heritage Centre only has a finite amount of space in which to operate and is approaching full capacity. It's also true that there are restoration projects in the collection that, ultimately, may never be restored. This is largely as I have to justify any expenditure on vehicles to the board, on how the cars will be used to generate publicity, interact with the local community or tie-in with our current model range. With some older cars, this is incredibly difficult, whereas icons of more recent memory, such as our newly-acquired Droop Snoot, our Astra GTE or any of the Vivas/Victors etc that have an obvious link to the modern Vauxhall family are much easier to use in context. I can confirm that we have considered selling a couple of our non-display cars within the enthusiast community, but any money realised will be reinvested in additions such as the HP Firenza, and not retained by the company.