Five leading national motoring museums in Europe, all with varied multi- make collections that complement each other, have decided to join forces. Without exception these museums not only show the motorcar as one of the most important technological achievements ever, but also its substantial influence on – and its part in – society as a whole. Apart from history and technology these five museums offer the visitor a variety of views on the automobile phenomenon, such as coachwork design, culture, sports and competition, luxury, safety, alternative power and the future of mobility. It is for that reason that these collections, totaling around 1,500 motorcars, form an important part of cultural heritage, each collection displaying this in its own way.
An impressive historic building in Brussels, linked with automotive history, is home to Autoworld, the Belgian National Automobile Museum. Situated in the ‘Parc du Cinquantenaire’, the neo-classical building commemorated the 50 th anniversary of the Kingdom of Belgium in 1880. From 1902 to 1936 it hosted motorcar and motorbike exhibitions. Since 1986 it has treasured the major part of Ghislain Mahy’s renowned classic car collection. Over 250 vehicles, ranging from cars and trucks to motorcycles, are on permanent display. From the earliest models of the distant past to contemporary cars that prefigure the automobile of tomorrow, visitors are guided through the motorcar’s history dating as far back as 1896. Various cars representing the most exciting years of the automobile history since 1960 can be approached and admired from close by, thanks to a brilliantly designed scenography. Special sections focus on Sports and Competition, cars owned by the Royal Family, micro and bubble cars, and car design. The Belgium at Autoworld section is dedicated to the roots and history of the Belgian car industry, including such prestigious marques as Minerva, FN and Impéria. Autoworld is a museum on the move, with temporary exhibitions taking on various automotive themes organised throughout the year. Every two years Autoworld organises a major exhibition. Past themes have ranged from Bugatti 100 Years, Belgian Racing Legends, Ferdinand Porsche and more recently Italian Car Passion.
Although famous for its display of the largest Bugatti collection in the world, the Cité de l’Automobile has much more to offer. Behind its impressive entrance you will find historic cars of 100 other European manufacturers, spanning the 20 th century. Apart from more than 100 Bugattis the museum shows luxury and competition cars like Rolls- Royce, Bentley, Ferrari, Maybach, Voisin, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Mercedes- Benz, Lotus and Gordini. The three main parts of the exhibition are: ‘the chronological development of the motorcar’, ‘motor racing’ and ‘coachbuilders’ masterpieces’. Each car shows its own identity by its individual history. The museum tells the stories of people who created, dreamed and used cars from the pioneers to the present day. Different creators built or showed their own ideas of an automotive society. The museum opens the way for other points of view, as different as people are. In the 1960s the Schlumpf brothers started collecting the cars, creating this museum on the site of their wool-spinning factory. Both were very interested in automotive history with a penchant for the famous Bugatti marque. After Bugatti ceased production in 1962, the Schlumpf brothers tried to save as much of the Bugatti heritage as possible. During the years the museum has been enriched by the Jean-Albert Grégoire, Germain Lambert and Philippe Charbonneaux collections as well as the Dutreix collection of over 300 car mascots and the Jammet collection of over 150 pedal cars. All these collections show different aspects of automotive heritage and its cultural message.
In 2013 The Times included the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile in its list of the 50 best museums in the world, emphasising its educational and scientific value. Major architectural refurbishment in 2011 gave the MAUTO – as the museum is briefly called – a contemporary, futuristic look. Since 2014, thanks to the new digital technologies, the MAUTO is able to provide visitors with a wealth of data that has been collected and indexed over the years: historical analysis, archived images as well as data sheets on cars and coachwork that can be consulted during the visit on personal smartphones or on the multimedia totems. Founded in 1932, the collection of the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile is among the rarest and most interesting of its kind. It includes more than 200 original cars of 80 different marques. Thirty sections provide the visitor with a clear narrative journey from the beginnings to the present day. Vehicles that haven’t found a place among the main exhibits may be visited (on prior reservation) in the Open Garage, which accommodates the workshop and restoration school where cars can be serviced, restored and preserved. Of course there is also a section dedicated to Design, presenting spectacular analyses aimed at promoting a broader understanding of car design and how it has evolved. In the Learning Centre the youngest among us can learn by playing. Lively, captivating staging combined with thorough thematic analysis makes the MAUTO a space to be shared, a workshop of ideas and partnerships, an interactive, instructive, participatory and creative place to be.
Starting in 1952 as a display of five cars in the entrance hall of Palace House – the Montagu family home – The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu now features over 250 vehicles, telling the story of motoring in Britain from the pioneering origins in the 1890s to the present day. From the earliest motor carriages to legendary Land Speed Record holders, the National Motor Museum Trust’s collection of vehicles is world-famous, along with its extensive motoring artefacts and archives of film footage, images, documents and books. In the museum, iconic record breakers include the 350hp and 1,000hp Sunbeams, Golden Arrow and Bluebird CN7. A Chequered History celebrates the adrenaline-fuelled world of motor sport devoted to Grand Prix Greats, which puts F1 on a pedestal with phenomenal machines such as the 1950 BRM V16 and Lotus 49, while Road, Race & Rally includes sports cars on the road. Driving Change tells the story of motoring innovations, technologies and safety and makes predictions for alternative power. Other popular features include The Motorcycle Story, a recreation of a 1930s garage, the World of Top Gear and On Screen Cars. Beaulieu is also home to a calendar of internationally acclaimed events including the International Autojumble, which celebrates its 50 th year in 2016, and a range of rallies for marques from Ford to Aston Martin. The museum is set in the picturesque grounds of the Beaulieu Estate. The attraction includes entry to Palace House and to the historic ruins of the 13 th century Beaulieu Abbey. It also includes rides on the high-level Monorail and replica 1912 open-topped London Bus.