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 Musée National Cité de l'Automobile - Schlumpf Collection

Musée National Cité de l’Automobile – Schlumpf Collection

When I first visited the Schlumpf Collection many years ago, it was known as the Musée National de l’Automobile, and the entrance was in the original 19th century mill building on the Ave de Colmar in Mulhouse. It was a discreet entranceway in a rather nondescript lofty red brick structure, which gave no indication of the treasure trove that lay within, Thus, it came as quite a surprise, when I decided to pay a return visit in December 2008, that there was an enormous modern new entrance complex, accessed by a pedestrian bridge across the river L’Ill from the car park area, off of Rue de la Mertzau.

Perhaps a little history lesson is in order at this juncture for those who either don’t know, or have forgotten how the collection came into being. The Schlumpf Collection is almost certainly the most prestigious car collection in the world, and was built up mainly during the sixties by the wealthy Swiss born textile industrialist brothers Hans and Fritz Schlumpf in almost total secrecy, Fritz, the younger brother being the driving force behind the collection. Their large cloth mills were based in Mulhouse, in the Alsace region close to the Swiss border, which has been the home of the collection all its life.  Fritz was an avid car enthusiast and sometime amateur racer during the fifties, who was also passionate about the Bugatti marque, having bought his first example prior to World War II. His Bugatti love affair is not surprising, as the marque was also Alsace based, in Molsheim, about 100kms north of Mulhouse via the N83 Route Nationale, as there was no A35 Autoroute in those days.

The collection started to develop around 1960, when they had amassed considerable wealth during the previous decade, and when prices for pre-war cars were relatively low, as the newfound wealth of the masses meant that the majority of people were only interested in the latest products from manufacturers, whether it was cars, hi-fi, fashion or furniture. In that year they bought no less than ten Bugattis, plus a trio of Rolls Royces and a pair of Hispano Suizas, thus the collection started to snowball, and by the middle of the year they had around forty cars. They converted the mill at 192 Rue du Colmar into a place to restore and store the cars, which was eventually to become the fantastic art deco display emporium that largely remains intact today.

 Through the sixties they continued buying, sometimes paying well above the market price to prise a particular car out of the owner’s hands. All the purchases were European cars, and not all were luxury limousines or gentlemen’s sporting carriages, they ranged from examples from the dawn of motorised transport, through transport for the masses like the Citroen Light Fifteen, to monoposto and sports racing cars from the likes of Ferrari, Gordini, Maserati and Porsche. Eventually the Schlumpf brothers had acquired no less than 150 Bugattis, the largest collection in the world, including two of the seven Royale models built, in a private museum now housing over 430 cars, spanning 97 different marques. Unfortunately, all this came at a price, as the earnings from the textile industry in Europe were drying up, as buyers found cheaper alternatives in the Far East. In 1971 they bought out one of their ailing local competitors, but trouble started with the workers there who went on strike, and at the same time the existence of the brothers collection leaked out, leading to the strikers storming the building, although they were repelled by the police. The trouble with the workers at their recently acquired mill continued, and they gave it up as a lost cause in 1976, by which time their own business was also failing. They were beleaguered by strikes by their own employees, who staged a sit-in early in 1977, which lasted for two years, ending when the brothers declared bankruptcy, returning to Switzerland to live.

The striking workers opened the Museum to the public during their sit-in, and the full extent of the collection became known for the first time. Fortunately the strikers, had an eye for the historical importance and value of what they had held to ransom, and none of the vehicles or the décor was damaged during their occupation. This lasted until 1979, when the liquidator ordered its closure, and the sale of the assets. The building and its contents were sold to a consortium including the Mulhouse town council, the Alsace regional government, the Automobile Club de France and the organising committee of the Paris Auto Show. At the same time the French government listed the collection as a “National Heritage”, which means that it cannot be broken up or moved out of the country, thus safeguarding its future as an entity.

However, there was a lack of investment over the years, the cars weren’t maintained, and sometimes not even cleaned, thus making it a rather sad experience for visitors, to see these once wonderful automobiles slowly deteriorating. This all changed in 1999, when management of the museum was put in the hands of Culturespaces, who manage numerous historic sites in France. They closed the museum for a while to effect renovation and the construction of the new entrance complex, added some more modern cars, to bring it up to date, and reopened to the public in March 2000. The latest model to grace the premises is, unsurprisingly, a Bugatti Veyron, named after the racing driver Pierre Veyron, who was a works driver for them in the thirties, and winner of the 1939 Le Mans 24 Hour Race with Jean- Pierre Wimille in a Bugatti Type 57C.

The new section of the building incorporates a boutique and bookshop, whilst other facilities added include an audio guide facility, a children’s area where they can experience Go-karts plus practice being a mechanic, displays like the robotic welders supplied by the local Citroen Peugeot production plant, and a refurbished “Grand Prix” restaurant and bar. This museum should be on every motoring enthusiasts “must visit” list, it is truly eclectic, spectacular, and the story of its foundation absolutely fascinating, so put a note on your things I must do list now!

Details of opening hours, entry fees, etc, can be found at

Keith Bluemel


Alfa Romeo 8C 2600 Touring Spyder sn.2311226
Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 A Pinin Farina Spyder/Coupé sn.412004
Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B sn.412032
Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B sn.412034
Alfa Romeo C52
Alfa Romeo Tipo 412 sn.412152
Amilcar CGS
Amilcar Monoplace Decalee CO
Ballo 3/8 LC
Ballot 2 LT
Bentley 8 Litre Saloon
Benz Phaeton Type Velo 1896
BNC 527 GS
Brasier KD Coupe Chauffeur
Bugatti T101 Berline prototype sn.101500
Bugatti T101 Cabriolet sn.101503
Bugatti T101 Coupe Gangloff sn.57454-3
Bugatti T13 Biplace Course sn.2385
Bugatti T251 monoplace by Colombo sn.251001
Bugatti T30 Torpédo
Bugatti T32 Tank sn.4061
Bugatti T35 A Grand Prix sn.4565
Bugatti T35 A Grand Prix sn.4753
Bugatti T35 B Grand Prix sn.4868
Bugatti T35 B Roadster sn.37328
Bugatti T35 C
Bugatti T35 C Grand Prix sn.4928
Bugatti T35 C Grand Prix sn.4934
Bugatti T35 Grand Prix sn.4612
Bugatti T37 A Grand Prix sn.37314-2
Bugatti T37 A Grand Prix sn.37373
Bugatti T37 A Grand Prix with Engine Type 51A sn.37350
Bugatti T38 Roadster by Fischer sn.38404
Bugatti T40 A Roadster sn.40673
Bugatti T40 Sahara sn.40811
Bugatti T43 Cabriolet sn.43173
Bugatti T43 Grand Sport sn.43206
Bugatti T43 Roadster by Graber sn.43258
Bugatti T44 Coupe Fiacre by Gangloff sn.441205
Bugatti T46 Cabriolet Letourneur & Marchand sn.46125
Bugatti T46 Limousine by Gangloff sn.46188
Bugatti T46 Roadster sn.46287
Bugatti T46 S Berline by Gangloff sn.46560
Bugatti T49 Berline Gangloff sn.49576
Bugatti T51 A Grand Prix sn.51142 ex 4827
Bugatti T51 Grand Prix (ex 4594) sn.51124
Bugatti T57 C Berline Galibier Gangloff sn.57636
Bugatti T57 Cabriolet Saoutchik sn.57417
Bugatti T57 S Roadster Vanden Plas sn.57572
Bugatti T57SC Coupe by Carrosserie Ghia sn.57561
Bugatti T59/50B Grand Prix
Bugatti Veyron
Bugatti T35 B Grand Prix sn.4933
Bugatti T41 Royale Coupé Napoléon sn.41100
Bugatti T41 Royale Esders Roadster Replica
Bugatti T41 Royale Saloon body by Park Ward sn.41131
Bugatti T43 A Roadster sn.43288
Bugatti T46/50 surprofilé Jean Bugatti sn.46482
Bugatti T55 Coupe Gangloff rebuilt in Roadster sn.55225
Bugatti T55 Coupe Jean Bugatti sn.55204
Bugatti T55 Coupe Jean Bugatti sn.55212
Bugatti T55 Coupe sn.55203
Bugatti T55 Super Sport Jean Bugatti sn.55237
Bugatti T55 Super Sport sn.55215
Bugatti T57 C Atalante Gangloff sn.57539
Bugatti T57 Coupe Labourdette Vutotal sn.57457
Bugatti T57 S Atalante Gangloff sn.57481
Bugatti T57 S Atalante Gangloff with "Aravis" type rear end sn57471-2
Bugatti T57 SC Atalante Gangloff sn.57383
Bugatti T57 SC Atalante Gangloff sn.57451
Bugatti T57 SC Cabriolet "Aravis" Gangloff sn.57543
Bugatti T57 SC Cabriolet "Aravis" Gangloff sn.57571
Bugatti T57 Ventoux sn.57356
Bugatti T57 Ventoux sn.57611
Bugatti Type Phaeton 1931
CD Coach Le Mans
Cisitalia D46
Darracq 55 20/28 Coupe Chauffeur
Delage Type F
Delahaye 135M Coach
Dufaux Biplace Couse 100/120 PS 1904
Ferrari 156B F1 sn.004
Ferrari 166 F1 1948
Ferrari 212 F2 1950 sn.0110
Ferrari 250 GT PF Coupe
Ferrari 250 LM sn.5975
Ferrari 250 MM sn.0230mm
Ferrari 312 B sn.002
Ferrari 375 MM sn.0450am
Ferrari 500 TRC sn.0692mdtr
Ferrari 500/625 F2 1952
Gordini GP Type 16 1952
Gordini GP Type 16 1953
Gordini Type 265
Hermes/Mathis designed by Ettore Bugatti
Hispano-Suiza Sport Alphonse XIII
Hispano-Suiza J12 Cabriolet
Horch 670 Cabriolet
Isotta-Fraschini Type 8A Beline ex.Rodolfo Valentino
Isotta-Fraschini Type 8a Landaulet Lancefield
Lotus 24
Maserati 250 F
Maserati 300S sn.3065
Maserati 4CL 1939
Maserati 8 CM 1933 sn.3010
Maserati Biplace Sport 2000
Maserati GP 1936
Mercedes Type 28/95 Torpedo
Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR
Mercedes-Benz 38/250 SS
Mercedes-Benz 540 K Cabriolet B
Mercedes-Benz 540 K Cabriolet by Erdmann&Rossi
Mercedes-Benz 720 SSK
Mercedes-Benz W125
Monet-Goyon Torpedo Type MV
OM 665 MM Roadster
Panhard-Levassor 35CV Monoplace
Panhard-Levassor Biplace Course
Panhard-Levassor Monoposto
Panhard-Levassor Type U1 Coupe Chauffeur
Panhard-Levassor Type XS Berline
Panhard-Levassor X8 Coupe Chauffeur
Piccolo 7HP Coupe Landaulet
Porsche 908 Langheck
Porsche 956C
Porsche 962C
Renault Tonneau 1900
Renault Type AX Torpedo
Rochet-Schneider RS Phaeton
Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost
Senechal Sport Roadster
Serpollet Type H
Simca-Gordini 15S Coupe
Sizaire-Naudin 12HP
Talbot 26C GP 1949
Talbot-Lago Grand Prix

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