A CAR museum is set to open in the centre of Taunton before the end of the year.

Businessman Pat Hawkins has pumped £4million into the venture - even though he won't make a penny out of it.

The project in the former County Stores, in North Street, will feature up to 100 classic cars from the 1960s to the early 1990s.

There will also be 150 classic and vintage motorbikes around the two-storey building.

The family-run County Stores closed early in 2019 after 186 years.

Mr Hawkins bought the building from the Duder family for around £1.25million, with repairs and alterations and the cost of vehicles taking his outlay to more than £4million.

He said: "All things being equal, I'm planning to be open by end of the year.

"I'm really excited. We've got some wonderful stuff to show people.

"I really think Taunton needs something like this."

As well as the vehicles, which will have signs showing their original prices and 'SOLD' cards, the premises will contain a mock up of a 1960s workshop and a sales office; a coffee shop; and reception area.

A lift will be installed alongside the spiral staircase, while a number of features such as the original walls and brickwork and bean decanters from the County Stores days will also be on display.

Among the cars in the museum will be a Mk II Mustang; a car that belonged to former rally world champion Marcus Gronholm; and an Austin Allegro Met Police panda car from 1980, along with its original radio and sign.

Much of the work converting the shop into a museum has been completed

But a sticking point is the future of Taunton Post Office, currently located at the back on the ground floor.

Negotiations with Post Office Ltd to relocate the outlet to the first floor are faltering.

Mr Hawkins is adamant he does not wish to run the post office himself, but finding someone to take it on is proving tricky.

"I didn't buy this building to become a postmaster," he said.

"I bought it to run as a car museum for the community.

"We've been attempting to find a postmaster to take on the post office, but nobody seems to want to. It's in grave danger of closing.

"Taunton needs the post office.

"If the post office does close, I feel sorry for the elderly people who use it and the staff, who are wondering if they're going to have jobs."

The museum will be run as a non-profit organisation and is charity registered.

Mr Hawkins dreamt up the idea of a car museum when he survived a heart scare after being diagnosed with a rare condition.

He said: "I take no salary. I'm expecting nothing out of it for me.

"I want to give something back in life."

He has signed up Andy Collard, who is well known in the rally industry, to work alongside him on maintaining the museum exhibits and assisting with the day-to-day running of the project.