A LITTLE red Vauxhall Corsa’s elevation to surprise star attraction at a Cumbrian museum is a wish come true for the family who donated it.

Paul Harding, from Morpeth handed over the flame red car, to Lakeland Motor Museum, in memory of his late father, George Harding, who had a lifelong wish to see a car of his own end up in a museum.

The arrival of the Corsa at Lakeland Motor Museum spread across TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and social media like wildfire last November – reaching a combined audience of nearly seven million people in just a few days.

But few visitors will be aware of the heart-warming reason why it found a home at the Backbarrow attraction.

The car was bought brand new back in 1995 by George Harding’s widow Irene – a few years after her husband’s death. In honour of George – and his life-long love for tinkering and looking after cars, they cared for it immaculately. It never failed an MOT and after 26 years with the family it had less than 33,000 miles on the clock.

Paul Harding then set out to make his father’s dream – of seeing one of the family’s cars in a museum – come true.

Paul, a retired college lecturer from Morpeth in Northumberland, has just visited the museum at Backbarrow to see the Corsa on display. He says: “My father spent a lifetime tinkering around with cars and always said he would love one of his vehicles to become a museum exhibit. He died in 1988 but I never forgot the wish he had.”

When the time came to part with the car they call ”Corrie the Corsa” Paul was determined it should go to a museum.

“I didn’t want to sell it off and see it get raced and rallied around,” explains Paul. “My father used to love visiting the Lake District and the Lakeland Motor Museum and we were thrilled when they said they would happily accept our donation.

“We’re so pleased it will be looked after – and that my father’s wish, in a roundabout way, has finally come true.”

The Lakeland Motor Museum is better known for its collection of some of the most iconic vehicles of the past 100 years. Its decision to exhibit the 1995 Vauxhall Corsa – one of the most common cars of the past three decades - raised a few eyebrows.

But the Museum has predicted that given the Corsa’s rapid decline in popularity, this model could be extinct in as little as five years. The new exhibit has quickly become one of the Museum’s most talked about exhibits.

George Harding’s wife Irene, who lived near Durham, bought the 1.4Si GLS new in 1995 for £11,360.

Paul says: “Many memories from my childhood are of my dad pottering around with cars. He used to get emotionally attached to his vehicles. So, I’m chuffed to see our family Corsa here at the museum.”

In recent years it was driven by Paul’s wife Carole. “She was a nippy little car and wherever we went people would stop and look at her!” said Carole. “I shed a little tear when we handed her over, but I’m so pleased she will be well looked after. It’s a lovely new home and a fitting way to meet the wishes of Paul’s dad.”

Chris Lowe, Lakeland Motor Museum’s Operations Manager, says: “We were delighted to accept the donation of the Corsa from Paul and his family. They know they can trust us to look after a car that obviously means a lot to the family.

“It may not be the great age of many exhibits here but it is the sort of vehicle to spark nostalgic memories for so many visitors.”

The museum has a collection of more than 150 classic cars and motorbikes including Donald Campbell’s Bentley, a DMC DeLorean made famous by the Back to the Future movies, and the classic Ford Model T.

While the 1995 Corsa may be less exotic, it has attracted international attention. It’s appeared in national newspapers including The Guardian, on lifestyle websites in places as far-flung as Singapore, featured several times on BBC TV and radio news, as well as in classic car magazines and the local media.