It began with the construction of a kit car 30 years ago and snowballed into a collection of lovingly restored classic cars and tractors.

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But the owner of a Suffolk museum is preparing to say farewell to the majority of his vintage vehicles next month after deciding to sell most of his hoard.

Bart Keaney opened the BK Museum at Hepworth, near Diss, more than 10 years ago after amassing more than 40 cars, motorbikes and tractors from the 1950s, 60s and 70s and hundreds of pieces agricultural and motoring memorabilia.

The 70-year-old, who has had a home in the north Suffolk village for the last 36 years, has spent countless hours restoring old classics to their former glory after buying his first restoration project - a 1961 Morris Minor 1000.

Since then, Mr Keaney’s collection has gone from strength to strength and now occupies three large buildings at the museum, which has welcomed thousands of visitors over the years.

However, the motoring enthusiast is set to say an emotional goodbye to his Morris Minor and most of his collection because of commitments in London.

Auctioneers are anticipating interest from bidders across the country and the globe when more than 600 lots go under the hammer at the museum on May 14.

The collection of vehicles, including Rolls Royce, Ford, Bentley, Mercedes, Triumph, Austin, and Ferguson have been restored to a better standard than when they first rolled off the production line and are road worthy, taxed and have MOTs.

The former apprentice mechanic spent just a year doing his chosen career after leaving Ireland at the age of 15, before retraining as a civil engineer.

But Mr Keaney returned to car mechanics 30 years ago as a hobby and never looked back.

“I first built a kit car to get my confidence up in doing it and I went on from there and started restoring the Morris Minor. It was a hobby and the idea was that I would do a couple and sell one to pay for the next and you can see what happened!”

Over the last four years, the BK Museum has staged an open weekend at Hepworth, which has attracted up to 1,000 people over the course of two days.

Some of the highlights of the auction include a 1966 Mercedes Benz 230SL, a 1960 Standard 10 Van used in the television series Hamish Macbeth, a 1949 Ford Prefect, 1947 Bentley Mark 6, 1967 Volkswagen 1300 Beetle, and 1958 Austin Metropolitan Mark 3.

Mr Keaney said it would be emotional to see the cars and tractors go. However, he was keeping 11 of his favourites and would continue to stage an open day every year.

“I live in London and come up at the weekends and I just do not get the time to do anything and I am trying to make time to drive my E-Type. There is so much to do and it is a bit annoying that I do not get the time to enjoy them.”

“It is not easy, but it has to be done. As long as I made up my mind what to keep, I had to blank out the ones that are going. It will be nice in a funny way. Once they are sold, people can sit in and drive them away.”

“I will probably gradually build it up again, but not as much. There is no point unless you can take them out,” he said.

Jeremy Curzon, of Cambridge-based Cheffins auctioneers, added: “Whilst we have done similar museum sales before, it is true to say that we have not done one where the cars that have been restored have been done to such a high standard and all have road tax and MOTs.”

View a photo gallery at www.edp24.co.uk

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