Cité de l’Automobile – The City of the Automibile
I’m not a big car person. Well, I’m not a car person at all. I’ve only owned one car (and it was used) my entire life and I’ve had a driver’s license for, ahem, more than 20 years now. It’s been nearly 10 years since I had my own set of wheels and love it (mostly, except when I just want to be lazy and get a ride somewhere!).
So when I was in the Alsace region of France recently and found myself in the smallish city of Mulhouse (it’s French not German…so don’t pronounce it MUL-houz, like I thought, but more like muh-LOOZE), I wasn’t too excited about visiting the Musée National de l’Automobile, until I got there.
If you like cars even a little bit, you will love this place. For me, just seeing the old designs and ‘moods’ from the 30s, 40s, and 50s was a treat. Plus check out those cool lamp posts in the main hall. They are replicas from the ones in Paris on the Pont Alexandre III, one of the bridges spanning the Seine.
Nearly 500 cars are on display here at what is the largest car collection in the world. Even for non-auto lovers, it’s a neat escape back in time to some of the most striking autos from the 30s to the 60s and includes two Bugatti Royale (of only six produced), one of the largest, most expensive cars in the world.
There are one hundred different makes of cars. Plus the story behind this place should surely be made into a movie.
Eccentric Brothers Go Car Crazy
Fritz and Hans Schlumpf, an eccentric pair of brothers, started making a fortune in the textile industry— wool-spinning to be more exact. They used their fortune to amass a huge car collection. Like serious collecting. Not just one Bugatti, not even two, but 122 of them, amassed somewhat in secret alongside hundreds of other rare and expensive cars in their textile mill warehouses between 1957 and 1976. Clearly, they were obsessed. Fritz even sent a letter to all Bugatti owners on the club register, offering to buy all of their cars. In 1962 alone, he bought nearly 50 Bugattis.
Unfortunately, at that time, the textile industry began its decline as work was moved to Asia. They started to layoff hundreds of employees and many workers went on strike, eventually storming the warehouse and discovering the massive car collection, on which the Schlumpf brothers had spent their profits and earnings.
The brothers fled the country owing taxes and wages. Their HUGE collection is now owned by the state in a public/private conglomerate and has been turned into a museum.
Disclosure: My trip was supported by Eurail Group, KLM, and the Upper Rhine Valley, as always all writing and opinions are my own.