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8/3/2017, 9:26:46 PM cet

Le Mans, France, June 20, 2001

Until 1991 the Le Mans museum was housed in what was basically a warehouse within the confines of the racing circuit, with the exhibits displayed in uninspiring rows behind rope barriers. This all changed in that year, with the opening of a new purpose built museum building adjacent to the main entrance to the circuit. The architectural design of the structure is intended to convey a sense of speed and motion, and the project was a joint venture between the regional council and the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, organisers of the world famous 24 Hour Race. Apart from the museum halls there is also a separate conference hall, a restaurant with a panoramic view over part of the circuit, an 80 seater cinema, and administration offices, all under the direction of Francis Piquera, the Executive Manager.

The high ceilinged mainly glass walled entrance foyer and assembly area are a stark contrast to the museum halls, which are dimly lit and devoid of natural light, the exhibits being picked out by carefully located spotlamps, so that the view is concentrated on them rather than any peripheral trappings. Around the perimeter walls are inset illuminated display cabinets containing a wide variety of memorabilia and models, relative to the both the history of the automobile, and the Le Mans race, which obviously is an important part of the museum displays. The total floor display area is over 5000 square metres, and contains 120 vehicles, including 10 motorcycles and 30 historic racing cars, of which 11 are actual winners of the 24 Hour Race. Other features are educational working models to show how various parts of a car work, constant video screen footage of important phases in the development of automobile technology, and a glass walled museum workshop, where visitors can see exhibits being prepared or repaired by the museums craftsmen.

The range of vehicles on display is very broad, the earliest being an 1885 De Dion Bouton et Trepardoux prototype steam driven dog cart, with an armada of French cars (understandably) of all ages from the invention of the automobile up to the present day, some interesting examples of the American automobile art form, like a 1957 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado Brougham, quite a mouthful of a model name, a Ford Thunderbird from the same era, plus the original Ferrari Dino 206 GT prototype, and examples of many European manufacturers products over the years. A number of these general displays tend to be a little overcrowded, so that it is difficult to objectively view one car, as invariably another impinges on your view. However, more space is afforded to each of the racing exhibits, and this shows where the love of the museum lies.

A number of cars over the years have been specifically designed for the Le Mans race, starting with the 1925 Chenard & Walcker Tank Competition, an example of which is on display, they are often rarely seen in public elsewhere, even during their competition lifespan. Thus a visit to the Le Mans museum provides one with the opportunity to see some of these rare birds, like the 1974 Matra 670B, the 1983 Rondeau M 482, the 1998 Jaguar XJR9, the Mazda 787 B, the four rotor Wankel engined car that won in 1991, and the 1992 winning Peugeot 905 B. There are also examples of better known cars like the Ferrari 166 MM barchetta from 1949, the 1956 Lotus XI, the 1964 Porsche 904 GTS, the mid sixties Ford GT40, and the all conquering Porsche 917 from the early seventies. The majority of the cars in the museum are on loan from the collection of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, or from those of private individuals, so there is always the possibility that there is a change of vehicles on view at any one time.

The foyer contains a boutique and bookshop with a wide range of items on offer, many of which are specifically made for the museum, and cannot be obtained elsewhere, including specially commissioned postcards, prints, posters, small souvenir items like pens and keyrings, and a range of leisure wear.

If you are at Le Mans for the race, or passing through on holiday, then you will find the museum a very interesting diversion, at a very reasonable price. Incidentally, on race weekend holders of race tickets receive a reduction in the entry ticket price, so remember to take them with you.

How to find it
Situated adjacent to the main entrance to the Le Mans race circuit in Place Luigi Chinetti, south of the town of Le Mans, signposted from the town, close to the N23 road to Angers, and N138 road to Tours.

The museum is about 5 miles from Le Mans centre, 50 miles from Tours, and 125 miles from Paris.



Adults 6 € (Group + of 20 p = 5 € each)


Teenager 12 to 18 years old 5 € (Group = 4 €)


Children 7 to 11 years old 2 € (Group idem)
· Free Parking

These rates are applicable during 2002.

Opening Times
Open daily 10am to 6pm - 1st October to 31st May*
Open Daily 10am to 7pm - 1st June to 30th September**

* Closed for works during January and early February, normally still open at weekends, but check with museum for exact closure times.

** During the weekend of the 24 Hour Race the opening times are extended.

Keith Bluemel

Porsche 917 s/n 917-042
Peugeot 905 1992
Mazda 787 B 1991
Matra 670 B 1974
Jaguar XJR 9 1988
Ferrari 166 MM Touring Barchetta s/n 0014M
Ferrari Dino 206 S s/n 0840
Bugatti Type 44 1927, 3 litre 8 cylinder
Luigi Chinetti honoured by town of Le Mans with the square in front of the museum at the main circuit entrance named after him.
Goodyear"blimp" over Le Mans museum
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