Having already journeyed through 1,380km of their European motor museum tour, the three Dutch friends – Dik Boosman, Jan Mol and Pim van der Veer – were now on the fourth day of the tour. And the challenge for the day… To visit three museums in 24 hours. Admittedly there were only 160km of driving involved, but it was an exciting challenge nonetheless.
So on 25 June, following the guidance of our sat nav, we arrived at a large scrap dealer. There, Massimiliano Righini showed us shelves upon shelves with rare antique engines and other fascinatingly large components. Anyone who might be restoring a Lancia Theta from the First World War or perhaps a more ‘recent’ Flaminia would be able to find new engine blocks here. ‘Max’ Righini then took us in his Alfa Romeo through the narrow roads to the ancestral house of the Righini family. Within the walls of Castello Di Panzano (in Panzano di Castelfranco Emilia, Modena) was an old hall by the name of ‘Auto Epoque’, housing a large number of classic cars dating all the way back to the 19th century. There was even a replica of the very first Mercedes-Benz. The atmosphere in the hall was completely contemporary with a whole host of Italian classic cars from the period between the two world wars.
This is the location where Enzo Ferrari worked. Not only was he a renowned racing driver, but he founded the revolutionary Scuderia Ferrari in the thirties, and in 1947 he started manufacturing cars. The museum is full of historic vehicles, which played a major role in Enzo’s career. More recently Maserati was added to the Ferrari display and as of 19th June 2014, an exhibition marking ‘100 Years Maserati’ is being hosted in a futuristic-looking building next to the Museo Enzo Ferrari. The exhibition displays a historic film about the life and work of Enzo Ferrari through no less than 19 projectors, onto a 360° wide screen.
In this town, just 20km from Modena, Ferrari has its head office and factory. It is also the location of a large-scale, state-of-the-art museum. Everything you could possibly want to know about Ferrari – past or present – has been displayed here in all its splendour. A great deal of attention is given to the start of the company back in 1947, but there are several other sections devoted to the company’s participation in Formula 1, as well as other motorsport events. You’ll even find a section on the US market and engine design. And to ensure the industrial ingenuity and competitive perfection are passed on to younger generations, the museum also puts on guided tours for school children.
26th June took us to the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile. Dating back to 1933, this National Motor Museum has had a tumultuous history. The leading role in the museum’s creation was played by artist and illustrator, Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia. With many ups and downs it was finally opened in 1939, but Biscaretti was far from satisfied, as the temperature of the museum fluctuated too greatly – in winter it was too cold and in summer it was too hot. After the Second World War, plans were made for a new building, but because of post-war economic complications, the National Museum was only opened in 1960. On the suggestion of Giovanni Agnelli, it was named after Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia, but sadly he died the year before it reopened.
In 1980, an earthquake in Turin caused so much damage to the building that a completely new building was needed. This new multifunctional museum opened in 2011. We spent many hours in this monument of architectural and automotive passion. During our visit, a special theme exhibition about the IED design house was being organised. Our arsenal of superlatives is, however, too limited to be able to express our impression in just one sentence.
The following day we continued our European motor museum tour, driving the 307km to Turin. Even here, at Centro Storico Fiat, words are simply insufficient to describe what awaits a visitor. Over 100 years of Fiat’s history are exhibited in a most appealing fashion in this art nouveau building. Alongside the Fiat cars, right from the first 3½ HP model, are numerous informative panels, memorabilia, miniatures, advertising posters and films, giving a detailed portrayal of each model. It was, in fact, on this very site that the Fiat production started over one century ago.
However, a permanent exhibition was opened in 1963 as an illustration of the technological, social and economical development of Fiat (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino). The exhibition comprises (besides just cars) the company’s extensive activities in the fields of aircraft, marine engines, agricultural machinery, trains and household appliances. The building was considerably modernised and enlarged in 2011. Down in the basement is Fiat’s hugely impressive archives, along with associated brands. This consists of 9.4kms of racks, 5kms of file boxes, 300,000 technical drawings and 5,000 historical magazines and books covering automotive and industrial subjects. The audio-visual section contains six million pictures and over 200 hours of motion pictures – both hard copies and digital versions.
Our final day (28th June) saw us travelling across the border, back into Germany… Again a modern building, the Autosammlung Steim was opened on 26 May 2007 with over 110 years of motor vehicle history, giving ample information on every exhibit. The focus at the Peugeot museum was on French cars, and of course it was on Italian cars in the seven museums and collections we’d visited in Italy, but here in the heart of the Black Forest, a wide variety of nationalities were represented.
It was the hobby of impassioned collector Dr.-Ing. Hans-Jochem Steim to bring all these rare, valuable and often greatly restored automobiles into a foundation, and to make them accessible to the general public in a museum. With 130 cars and firefighting trucks displayed in this 3,000 square metre facility, an experienced and knowledgeable automotive historian will be far from bored. The village Schramberg, next to Autosammlung Steim, offers other museums which we did not get the chance to visit: ErfinderZeiten car and clock museum, Dieselmuseum (Rudolf Diesel) and Eisenbahnmuseum Schwarzwald.
An additional attraction is the local hospitality for tourists, such as charming hotels. Hotel Holzschuh (Wooden Shoe) was a fitting last overnight stop on our journey home to the Netherlands.
Written by: Pim van der Veer