Bugatti Cars at the Schlumpf Museum, March 1983

The goddess watches over the French collection
The goddess watches over the French collection

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.

Portrait of the car enthusiast as a young man
Portrait of the car enthusiast as a young man

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.

Most of their Bugattis were restored by the Schlumpfs
The Schlumpfs restored most of their Bugattis

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.

The Parisian street lamp motif is especially noticeable here
The Parisian street lamp motif is especially noticeable here

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 BUGATTIS

 

1929 Bugatti Royale Coupe Type 41
1929 Bugatti Royale Coupe Type 41 (photos cannot convey the enormity of this thing)

 

Bugatti Royale Coupe from rear
Bugatti Royale Coupe from rear

 

1930 Bugatti Type 43
1930 Bugatti Type 43

 

1937 Bugatti 57 Coupe Atalante
1937 Bugatti 57 Coupe Atalante

 

1938 Bugatti Coupe Type 57 SC
1938 Bugatti Coupe Type 57 SC

 

1939 Bugatti Type 64 prototype
1939 Bugatti Type 64 prototype

 

1942 Bugatti Type 68
1942 Bugatti Type 68 (micro Bugatti prototype)

 

1947 Bugatti Type 73
1947 Bugatti Type 73

 

Possibly a Type 57 with alternate coachwork
Possibly a Type 57 with alternate coachwork

 

1957 Bugatti Sport Type 252
1957 Bugatti Sport Type 252

 

A Bugatti of unknown vintage; note the EB on headlight bar
A Bugatti of unknown vintage; note the EB on headlight bar

 

Not all Bugattis are blue
Not all Bugattis are blue

 

OTHER MAKES

Pre-war cars at the Schlumpf
Pre-war cars at the Schlumpf

 

Red cars (mostly of the Italian racing variety) are here too
Red cars (mostly of the Italian racing variety)

 

M-B 300 SLR
Mercedes Benz 300 SLR racer

 

1953 Gordini 17S
1953 Gordini 17S

 

A pair of Ferraris
A pair of Ferraris

 

1951 Alfa Romeo Disco Volante
1951 Alfa Romeo Disco Volante (greatest car name ever: “Disco Volante” means “flying saucer”)

 

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.