Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Brussels Autoworld, Belgium 2011

In the centre of the Parc du Cinquantenaire 11, in Brussels, Belgium stands the Arc du Triomphe. Construction of the Arc commenced in 1880 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Belgium's independence but it wasn't finished in time however and a wooden substitute was used during the celebrations. Construction resumed in 1905 and was finished in 1910.

On each side of the Arc there are two massive exhibition halls, both containing impressive museums. One hall houses the Royal Military Museum with its excellent collection of military uniforms dating back to the Napoleonic Wars, tanks from both World Wars and an amazing collection of aircraft. For photos of our visit to the other museums in the complex, see here: and here:

The other hall houses the amazing Brussels Autoworld, an impressive collection of cars and motorcycles. The collection was first amassed by Ghislain Mahy, a pioneering auto dealer in Brussels in the early 20th century. He began to collect old cars, first to display in his car dealership, but his collection soon grew until it became one of the most important classic car collections in Europe.

The Mahy Collection of over 1000 vehicles makes up the core of the museum. Veteran vehicles, especially early Belgian marques form a key part of the collection.

Fiat and Renault Torpedo from the 1920s.

1925 Chrysler

A collection of Austin's. The leading car, the Swallow, is particularly handsome.

The ubiquitous French Citroen Traction-Avant

Not all Bugattis were racers or luxury vehicles.

A Hanomag Kommisbrot. Built in 1925 as a budget vehicle . Its construction was absolutely basic and powered by a 500cc single cylinder engine mounted in the rear. This was an unorthodox position for the time but allowed simplification of the drive train as it dispensed with the differential. It was a novel solution that would be followed by budget car makers in the 1930s.

A Detroit Electric. Who said electric vehicles were a new thing? Detroit Electric began manufacturing electric powered vehicles in 1906. As you'd expect, they were successful as town vehicles at a time when gasoline powered vehicles weren't particularly reliable. Not needing a large engine and radiator, they retained a very old fashioned look right into the 1920s.

The distinctive shovel nosed bonnet of the Franklin. Franklin were unorthodox in that they used an air-cooled engine. Later they would add a dummy radiator grill so that they would not stand out too much from the crowd.

Renault Torpedoand an early BSA motorcycle

1908 Renault racer

1907 Darmont Type D5. Like the British Morgan company, Darmont built in three wheeled cyclecars using engines were sourced from a variety of different motorcycle manufacturers.

1911 Opel. In the 1930s Opel would become Germany's largest selling car manufacturer, thanks to their adoption of US manufacturing techniques (they were part of the US General Motors group).

1915 Wanderer. The Saxon auto company Wanderer would later merge with DKW, Audi and Horch to form Auto Union. They originally started as a bicycle manufacturer, moving into motorbikes and family touring cars. These little 'puppchen' cars only seated two - a driver in front and a passenger behind.

A veteran three wheeler

Peugoet Bebe in the front and a French le Zebra behind.

Belgian FN motorcycles and an FN tricycle lorry.

1933 Minerva fire engine. Minerva were a Belgian company.

Bugatti roadster

1920 Delage D8-120 from France. A fine luxury marque.

1934 Cadillac and a 1954 Goggo Isaria scooter.

BMW 340. This was the model that was also built by the East German EMW company after the war.

Extremely stylish and streamlined Panhard and Levassor Dynamic. These were built from 1936 to 1939 when the war intervened. They were extremely avant-garde in their styling and featured a central driving position. Panhard is one of the oldest car manufacturers in the world, starting production in 1891. They still exist today but only build military vehicles.

One of my favourite cars of all time, the 1937 Cord 810-912.

Another of my favourite vehicles, the Tatra T600 Tatraplan from Czechoslavia powered by a rear mounted air cooled four cylinder engine. and &

French microcar - Rovin D4

BMW Isetta microcar with a Vespa car behind.

Messerschmitt KR200

1942 Peugeot VLV electric car. France's industrial capacity was diverted to the German war effort during the occupation and petrol was an almost impossibly scarce resource for civilians, so Peugeot built a couple of hundred of these little electric cars as a speculative venture.

French Simca Aronde. Simca were owned by the American Chrysler Corporation.

The Belgian version of the Royal Auto Club with a Renault 4CV

1949 Oldsmobile

The Goddess, the legendary Citroen DS. Stunning and space age in 1955 and still an icon today.

Bugatti racer

Streamlined Bugatti

In 2018 we returned to Belgium and revisited the museum. Our photos are posted here: