Antique Vehicles: An Adventure in France

Our Visit to See Antique Vehicles at the National Automobile Museum in Mullhouse

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a tour is defined as “a journey for business, pleasure, or education often involving a series of stops and ending at the starting point.” Although as a Buzzy, we always want to tour in an antique vehicle, alas this is not always possible. While snow, wind and temperature may not alter our plans for going somewhere it certainly can change the mode of transportation taken. With that in mind the four of us started on our personal tour of France in a modern Citroën C5. Off we went in snow, wind and bitter temperatures across France culminating with a visit to Strasbourg and Mulhouse, home of the Cité de l’Automobile – Musée National – Collection Schlumpf – claimed to be the largest automobile museum in the world.

We departed Le Havre, France in the middle of a snow storm and drove over 600 kilometers to Strasbourg. Strasbourg is on the eastern border of France next to Germany. The town is known for its Christmas Festival, the oldest in France, timbered buildings and for being the home of the European Parliament. The city is beautiful, the food wonderful – both French and German – and the Marché de Noël fantastic. We sipped on mulled wine and wandered through the snow. It was easy to pretend that we had stepped back into history to visit a Christmas past.

The next day we had plans; we were off to see the National Automobile Museum in Mulhouse. The Museum covers over 25,000 square meters of space and is home to over 400 antique vehicles, including prestige, classic and race. From the moment we carefully walked across the snow covered parking lot and the footbridge over the mill stream and saw the unbelievable front with its hanging models of cars, we knew this was to be a great day. This museum is housed within the walls of a worsted woolen mill built in 1880 and fills several blocks of the town. For a nominal fee we entered the building and with the assistance of a hand held communication device (included in the entry fee) we received the history and information about the vehicle in any language required. Signage was also given in several languages. We all chose English in case you were wondering.

Antique Vehicles in the National Automobile Museum in Mullhouse

From the first view of antique vehicles and walk through the well-planned layout to the very end, we were in constant admiration of witnessing the earliest of the automobile development and history. The quantity and the quality of these antique vehicles kept us in almost gasping awe. The perfection of restoration, the beautiful visual displays and the movement through the years to demonstrate the improvement of the automobile was overwhelmingly exciting. The displays were full of richness in substance and interest. We moved through the earliest period of automotive inventions and designs to the magnificence of when other forces took place; such as for some, practicality, and for others the need for wealth to be seen with the vehicles that were owned.

The collection includes a 1878 Jacquot steam carriage, a 1893 Peugeot Type 8 phaetonnet, a 1894 Panhard and Levassor, and a 1896 Léon Bollée tricar. From steam cars on to the modern it was all displayed and identified thoroughly. Also included were the cars they called the ‘Dream Cars’ and we had to agree – 1930 Bugatti Royale Type 41, Hispano-Suiza’s, Rolls-Royce, Bentley’s and Maybachs. There were cars that we had not even heard of, like the 1907 Piccolo and a 1937 Tatra limousine. So many beautiful cars to see and so little time.

There were race cars in front of a visual effect to create the actual feeling of the cars ready to go at the signal. A 1902 Serpollet Type H, a Panhard and Levassor (a 1908), Bugatti’s, Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes, Fiat, Simca-Gordini, Lotus, they were all there. You could “hear” the roar even in the silence of the room. We can’t forget to mention an extremely large collection of authentic pedal cars that had actually been used by children. We have never seen so many children’s toy cars from so early a time. Photos also showed many of those cars with the actual young owners of many years ago.

The backdrop for the cars included enormous photographs hanging behind the vehicles which highlighted the era of the cars. The 900 lights, which are reproductions of the lights on the Alexander III bridge in Paris, and gravel that imitates the roads of old, added a wonderful ambiance to what was seen. You felt part of the time and place. In addition, children big and small had the opportunity to turn a crank to start a car and to sit in a modern car that allows visitors to test their reflexes behind the wheel. Displays that simulate car manufacturing lines and a paint shop are also available.

Also included were areas dedicated to a specific purpose. There was a children’s area with the opportunity for the young ones to get into a miniature race car and race around a track and training areas to actually work with tools for the youth. They provide a veritable children’s and young people’s paradise for learning. We must also mention the restaurant within the museum with windows overlooking the vintage area and being in France, the service and the food was great. So was the wine!!! Now a glass of wine, antique vehicles and ambiance make for a fine day. There is a large research library and archive room, a gift shop of predominately books and a restoration facility. It is almost impossible to see everything in only one day.

The acquisition of the vehicles was based on the love of two brothers – Fritz and Hans Schlumpf. The Schlumpf brothers acquired almost all of the automobiles currently in the collection, changed the building from a mill to a museum and dedicated their life and money to restoring and preserving the antique vehicles. Although the Schlumpf Collection has been a part of some major political and financial issues, France and the City of Mulhouse have worked to preserve the museum for the future and for all of those that love the automobile.

As stated in the museum:

The automobile as seen in this museum certainly creates our awareness that the automobile is costly, dirty, unwieldy, slow, irritating, ugly, intrusive, unstable, dangerous, aggressive- in a word- a liability; but that would be to forget that it can be beautiful, fast, liberating, pleasurable, comfortable, accessible, dependable, exciting, silent, economic, in other words, an indispensable asset.

Few objects in our lives have such presence for us, such complicity, such a part to play in all of our joys and woes, simultaneously freeing and enslaving us.

For the four of us it was an unforgettable experience to feel so much a part of the evolution of the vehicle and of our hobby that we enjoy so much. Our mini-tour was a great success and we made our way back to Le Havre, snow and all, with great memories of our trip!

Read more stories on antique vehicles.

Historic Preservation of Original Features Judging

Do you have an historic car that could qualify for an HPOF Badge?

Historic Preservation of Original Features (HPOF) is a very special evaluated, not judged, class for historic vehicles which are still unchanged from the way they were received from the factory by the dealer. These are exceedingly important to a restorer working on an incomplete or much modified vehicle, particularly on rare makes or models which are poorly documented in the literature. The small details are often what separate accurate restorations from the drivers. In the case of the author’s 1914 Model T Ford, none of the many pictures available showed the correct wiring harness clip or routing for the sole electrical harness or the hose routing for the gas headlamps. Only when a famous HPOF Model T (Miss Vickery) was viewed at Hershey, were these details found. That HPOF badge means a lot!

But, you say, my car is all original. The previous owner told me so! The word “original” means many things to different people. Does your car have all the original windows from the factory or have they been changed? Is the paint from the factory or have you repainted the car or parts of it? Is the upholstery from the factory, even if worn? The team is not evaluating condition of these items, just if they are unchanged from the day they left the factory. If unchanged, they are the valuable reference point. If redone, it’s a beautiful restoration.

The HPOF Team consists of experienced AACA judges having 50 or more credits, who have taken the HPOF CJE (Continuing Judges Education) course and who agree to judge the HPOF class at each meet they attend. The team reports to the Chairman HPOF Committee (Luther Dundore from Pa.) and is approved by the VP Class Judging. Their job is to evaluate the vehicle which must be a minimum of 65% from the factory original to be certified and wear the HPOF badge. The forms used can be found in the official AACA Judging Manual. While the bulk of the cars entered in this class meet the “From the Factory” standard, there are problems certifying old restorations from the 1960’s which now have faded and aged parts and may now look factory original at a first glance, new paint jobs on bodies and engines, radial tires where not originally equipped and partial restorations which destroy the value of the vehicle as a “restoration reference”. While nice to look at, many of these vehicles belong in Class Judging or Driver Participation Classes.

Interested in showing HPOF? Consider being a HPOF Judging Team Member! Check out the HPOF Class at the next National Meet you attend.

The Antique Automobile Club of America Talks about Touring

Rules of Antique Automobile Touring

Some clubs focus on car shows and meets; some clubs are known as touring clubs. The Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) offers the best of both worlds in terms of antique automobile showing and touring. Let’s talk about car touring!

There are good tours and there are better tours, I have never been on a bad tour. AACA tours seeks to satisfy all appetites. If you like brass, pre-1915 vehicles, the Reliability Tour held on even years is for your. On the odd years, the Vintage Tour for cars up to 1931 may be your era. The Founders Tour welcomes antique automobiles from 1932 to 25 years old and is held annually. If you like 1928 to 1958 cars, AACA’s newest tour the Sentimental Tour is held on even years. Then there is the grand daddy of touring, the AAA Revival Glidden Tour for antique automobiles built prior to 1942. AACA hosts the tour on odd years while VMCCA hosts on even numbered years. The aforementioned tours are generally five-day tours. For those of you who like a shorter tour AACA offers three-day Divisional Tours, for vehicles to 25 years of age. The Central and Eastern Divisions hold Divisional Tours on even years while the Southeastern and Western Divisions hold Divisional Tours on odd number days.

Now for the rules of  antique automobile touring:

The first rule of antique auto touring is to have fun!

The second rule of touring is to create memories!

The third rule of touring is to disregard the diet!

It’s great to visit all areas of our great country while touring in our cars, but all vehicles are not created equal. There are runners and there are roadside attractions, usually seen with the hood up. Some of you are chuckling. I’ve probably ridden in your backseat!

Know your car or at least make sure your buddy is a good mechanic and is not driving a roadster, as their backseat may come in handy. Seriously, nothing is better than touring the back roads with an antique auto at a leisurely speed and seeing our great country from a different view than the 4-lane super highway. The collections and museums that I have seen in many years of AACA touring make the “American Pickers” look like novices.

“Never been on an AACA National Tour”, you say! Or “How can my Region host a National Tour?”

Visit the AACA website and see what you are missing today or contact me for a Touring information brochure and a first hand account of how your Region or Chapter can host a tour in your area. You won’t regret it. Remember, AACA Touring is not just a seven-letter word.