Musee Nationale de l’Automobile – Collection Schlumpf – Mulhouse (F)

As an antidote to the short days of western Europe at this time of year, I spent last Sunday at what is now called the “Cite de l’Automobile”, also known as the “Musee Nationale de l’Automobile – collection Schlumpf”. What an absolute stunner this place is. Unquestionably one of the most impressive auto collections anywhere in the world. I took 183 pictures!  It is for Bugattis that Schlumpf is really famous. The brothers were secretly buying up as many cars as they could and storing them in the old mill warehouse in Mulhouse, until they went bankrupt, and the workers broke in and discovered an absolute treasure trove.

The collection is now part of the “patrimonie” of France, and has been augmented still further. The main part of the collection is arranged down several lines, ordered roughly chronologically, well spaced out, and with ample lighting. There is a separate, and rather less well lit hall for the really valuable stuff, called “les grands oeuvres”. This is where two of the world’s Bugatti Royales can be found, along with several other Bugatti, and various Rolls Royces, Hispano Suiza, Isotta Fraschini. Not content with 2 x Bugatti Royale, there is a third example, actually created in 1990,  that is on display outside the main hall and was one of the first cars I came to.

The other 2 Royales are rather more dimly lit, so apologies that these photos are a little on the dark side. Look carefully at the rather brash interior of one of them, too.
There were some other Bugattis in this hall as well, including these:
Also in a special display area were a series of Type 57s…….. just savour these:
Yet another display hall is all about the Schlumpf brothers, and this contains just a small number of cars, including one of the Type 35s:
One of the other special display areas is a “racing” section. Among many highlights are a line of racing blue Bugattis, mainly Type 35s. What an impressive sight this is:
One of the more unusual items is the Type 32, known colloquially as “The Tank”
Otherwise, there are just Bugattis everywhere you look. Some are more familiar than others. I did not write down all the Types (shame on me), so just enjoy the pictures.
This one is a Type 43, I think
And I am pretty sure this is a Type 44
Some of the more unusual cars were the very late models.
The green one here is actually a 1951 body on a pre-war Type 57.
The very last Bugatti before they ceased production.
A couple of Type 101s:
Bringing the story bang up to date, there is, of course a Veyron, resplendent on a turntable, and looking very much like the worthy successor to the fabulous machines of an earlier age.
There are a whole array of other vehicles on show, ranging from the very earliest, through some more mundane, but now rare family cars from the 1950s and 1960s. So, let’s start there: One of my favourites – the first Alfa saloon, a 1900, from 1953.

Notice how similar the 1955 Peugeot 403 appears. This was a very popular car for the Bourgeoisie of France at the time:
Replacement for this was the 1960 Peugeot 404:
Renault changed the game with the R16, launched in 1965. This is the TS model from 1968
Changing the game was actually something that Citroen did, with the lovely DS. The museum has one of the very last cars, a DS23 from 1976
And nestling alongside it was an SM……. after failing to photo the white one at Haynes the previous weekend, I had to make amends here!
Peugeot had much success in the 1960s with their 204, their first front wheel drive model
Also in this display area was a cheeky Fiat 500, still on plates from the provinizia of Udine
Rather more exclusive was the Panhard 24CT – the last car that they made, before giving up.
Of course, Citroen had shocked the world 20 years prior to the DS, with the Traction Avant range, and a couple of these were on show:
For those who could not afford such a large car, the Renault Juvaquatre was more affordable
Many of the pre-war family cars lived on long after hostilities ceased, so these were grouped in the same display area.
Peugeot 201:
Peugeot 202
And the Renault Celtaquatre
Once the materials shortages after WW2 were over, new cars appeared thick and fast. Some of the 1950s offering included these:
Citroen 2CV
Peugeot 203
Ford Vedette
The Panhard Dyna
A later update to the Panhard saw more aerodynamic body style adopted
More unusual was the Hotchkiss
After Bugatti, I think the museum probably numbers Mercedes as the next most displayed manufacturer. These 300SCs are subtly different, as the later one came with fuel injection – a real novelty in the 1950s!
No collection of such treasures would be complete without a 300SL, and there is one, on a rotating turntable, which coupled with the mirror behind gave some great views.
Among the grander vehicles was this special bodied 770, from the mid 30s
Mercedes was a formidable motor sport competitor in the 30s, and the SSK and SSKL came from this era:
Mercedes also tried a small car in the 1930s the 170 Model. Not exactly a success, though you can see where a certain rather more successful car got its styling cues from!
At the time, Merecedes was doing better selling cars like these:
The 1930s saw the emergence of some famous names, who made their reputation racing.
Notable among these was Alfa Romeo:
And Maserati.
Fiat was doing well selling practical cars to the masses, but even they tried a sports car, with the rather delightful Ballila
It was in the 1930s that the Swallow Side Car Co was transformed into Jaguar. This is an SS1 model:
Although it might seem hard to believe now, Lancia built a reputation for advanced engineering, much of which derives from the ground-breaking Lambda models. Of the two cars shown here, the red one is the larger DiLambda, and it was noticeably larger in very dimension than the regular model
There were plenty of other very grand cars, too. A Bentley Mark VI – one of relatively few survivors, as most of these rusted away, long ago
This is a Hispano Suiza:
And these are Maybachs
Harking back to an earlier age are all sorts of cars, many from makers who had a short life, and no longer well known at all. Here are just some of the display cars:
An early Peugeot – the so-called “Bebe”
One of the long lines of cars contained some unusual sports cars from the 1950s and 1960s……. A Ferrari 250LM (yes, a real one, not a replica!)
Another couple of early Ferrari’s:
The Facellia – an attempt to increase sales by introducing a cheaper car, but plagued by disastrous reliability issues, which sealed the company’s fate completely
And an Alfa
A small display of 1980s rally cars shared a hall with the Veyron, and a tv screen showing some historic footage of rallies from the 80s
Along with the Bugattis, the racing hall had some fantastic displays of racers from the 1930s to the 1960s, and two long lines, pit-lane style of true racing cars:
Something rather different is this Aston Martin DB5, made solely out of cardboard. I saw pictures of this in a magazine recently, and I have to say the real thing is actually surprisingly realistic!
More details can be found at:
2009-12-18 13:44:16

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