THE owner of a 40-year-old vintage car museum is sad at having to break up and sell his unique collection.

James Peacop is closing Mouldsworth Motor Museum because building owners United Utilities want him to sign a new lease which would increase maintenance costs.

He had hoped to find a buyer to take on the museum, which was set up in 1971 in an old water softening plant, but to no avail so the collection will now be sold off at auction.

The car enthusiast from Frodsham, who turns 69 next month, said: “The last three years have been the most successful. That’s the most annoying thing.”

James said United Utilities had been good to him over the years but, in the climate of austerity, the company could no longer cover repairs and intends to mothball the building.

“They could make me put a new roof on and that would bankrupt us. We only open on Sundays and Bank Holidays and there has been no change to the admission fee for 10-15 years,” added James, whose wife Christine helps with the administration and whose grown-up children Alex and Charlotte are also motor enthusiasts.

James, who compares the closure to a bereavement, added: “It’s very tough seeing the fellas from the auctioneers going through the cabinets.”

The collection includes a 1964 Ford Anglia like the one which featured in the film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, an E-type Jaguar, a red 1932 McEvoy Special and a 1950s Heinkel bubble car preserved in the garage in which it was discovered.

A recent and popular addition is the collection of Art Deco teapots by Sadler of Stoke on Trent.

James, a former graphic designer, still has ambitions of setting up an motoring-themed art gallery featuring whatever is left of the collection at somewhere like Castle Park near his home but at the moment this is just an idea.