Peruse this photo essay and intro to the Mulhouse Car Museum. The Cite de L’Automobile was amassed by two brothers & is the largest car collection in the world!
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 30 years now. It’s been more than 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!). But now with services like Uber and Lyft, I simply don’t need a car.
Cité de l’Automobile – The City of the Automibile
So when I was in the Alsace region of France (taking a tour of the German wine route) 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.
Mulhouse Car Museum
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.
History of the Museum – The Eccentric Schlumpf Brothers
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.
Mulhouse Car Museum Info
You can buy tickets online or in person. The full tickrt price is €14 . It’s reduced for students and seniors. For a self-guided tour of the permanent collections, you are offered a free audio-guide on your arrival at the Museum. You will learn about the history of 250 cars in the collection. The audio guides are available in six languages: French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Hebrew.
The Museum is open everyday (except 25 December). Winter hours are shorter. Check online for exact times.
More info: Mulhouse Car Museum
Disclosure: My trip was supported by Eurail Group, KLM, and the Upper Rhine Valley, as always all writing and opinions are my own.