In March of 1983, my girlfriend and I took a one-week vacation trip to visit her sister and brother-in-law in Germany. The BIL was in the armed services for the U.S., and was stationed in Frankfurt. They had a government-assigned apartment and a room to put us up while we toured the German countryside, happily eating and drinking our way through the week. Somehow, I managed to convince my girlfriend that we should use our rental car to make a slight detour to the small town of Mulhouse, France, a short trip across the border. There in Mulhouse was the French National Automobile Museum, also known as the Schlumpf Collection.
I knew of the Schlumpf brothers and their Bugatti automobiles from numerous articles in the automotive press (especially those in Road & Track) published throughout the 1970s. For those unfamiliar with the long involved history of Ettore Bugatti, his racing and road cars, Hans and Fritz Schlumpf, their Bugatti obsession, and the brothers’ eventual downfall, further reading is recommended, as it is beyond the scope of this blog entry to cover these stories.
If you think of Bugatti only as the builder of the 1,000 horsepower Veyron, their website has this wonderful history. A brief biography of Ettore Bugatti the man is summed up here by Wikipedia. The museum itself does a decent job reviewing its own history (although not every car is included) on its own website.
Back to our visit: we showed up on a weekday morning, and the museum was sparsely attended, although there were several busloads of French students milling about. The sheer number of cars was overwhelming, and the fact that the majority of them were Bugattis in a matching shade of French blue was even more overwhelming. Try as I might to capture them with my film camera, I only shot about two dozen pictures, which leads me to conclude that I had but one 24-exposure roll with me. As I had not documented specific model information for the vehicles I photographed, the museum’s website plus Google were used to research those details. The photo captions provide the year, make and model for all but a few of the cars below.
The museum visit was a highlight, perhaps the highlight, of that week in Europe. What an honor to be able to say that I visited this tremendous collection in person. Reading the museum’s website, it is eye-opening to see that it has been changed, enlarged, and enhanced, as you might expect of any museum after so many years. It remains on my bucket list to make a return visit to what is now known as the “City of the Automobile – National Museum – Schlumpf Collection”.
All photographs copyright © 2016 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.