Belgium at Autoworld
The new zone that’s all about Belgium’s love of cars
Since April 24th, the Autoworld Museum has been enriched with a brand-new permanent exhibition whose rightful home could only be this Belgian museum.
With the ‘Belgium at Autoworld’ zone, the museum is highlighting our automotive heritage and the many Belgian vehicles in its collection. It’s also paying tribute to Belgian know-how in this domain, a knowledge that developed at the end of the 19th century in one of the most avant-garde countries of the automobile.
Via over twenty vehicles on display and a very extensive iconography, ‘Belgium at Autoworld’ recounts the history of the automobile in Belgium. With richly illustrated modules, the exhibition covers a wide range of facets: the origins, the inventors, the industrialists, the engineers, the craftsmen, the designers, the race courses, the race car drivers, the racing teams… Everything that makes Belgium an exceptional country in the history of the automobile, both yesterday and today.
Few may remember, and yet…
- It was a Belgian, Father Ferdinand Verbiest, who in 1677 described the first steam-powered vehicle.
- At the end of the 19th century, Belgium was one of the greatest industrial powers on the face of the earth. In 1902 and 1903 our country was number 2 in the world with regard to industry and automobiles.
- In 1900 the threshold speed of 100 km/h was surpassed by a Brussels designer, Camille Jenatzy, with an electric vehicle, the ‘Jamais Contente’.
- Before the First World War, Belgium counted almost 200 different manufacturers. Between 1900 and 1914 Belgium produced such renowned cars as the Minerva, Imperia, FN, Excelsior, Pipe, Germain, Nagant, Métallurgique… and exported three-fourths of its production throughout the world (the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Scandinavia, the United States, Latin America and countries in Eastern Europe).
Today the situation has completely changed, but the auto industry continues to play a major role in the economic life of our country, with almost 265,000 employees in sectors that are linked to the production and assembly of vehicles, but also in peripheral activities such as sales, rental, maintenance, sub-contracting (spare parts, etc.), fuels, transport, road construction and so on.
Welcomed by a goddess!
Upon entering the Belgian zone, the visitor is greeted by a bust of Minerva. It’s positioned in front of a large map of Belgium that indicates the various makes which made our country such an essential player in the history of the automobile.
Every two months a turning plateau will display a historical or contemporary vehicle that is linked to Belgium. This could be a car that had a Belgian designer, was driven by a Belgian race car driver or was produced in our country…
To start with, three cars are being presented with colours that evoke the Belgian flag: a black Audi A1 from 2009, a yellow FN from 1920 and a red Volvo.
Vehicles and a historical gallery
Twenty emblematic vehicles, including the Minerva, FN, Imperia, Belga Rice, Excelsior, Sarolea… lead the way to a pavilion where the visitor will discover thematic modules with all kinds of information, documents, display cases, books, objects, posters, miniatures and other automobilia…
The following themes are presented:
- 1863 Etienne Lenoir
- Camille Jenatzy
- Father Verbiest
- The Circuit of the Ardennes
- The Belgian coach-builders
- The makes that are produced in Belgium, from A(udi) to Z(elinski)
- The Belgian designers, with ; for the 10 most important ; a touchscreen presentation of their achievements
- The engines
- The Belgian race tracks (Zolder / Francorchamps / Mettet / Nivelles)
- The Belgian national team
- Total in Belgium
A 45-minute video brings the Belgian Grand Prix of 1953, driven on the Francorchamps race course, back to life.
Finally, in order to leave visitors with a bit of optimism, information on the present and future will explain why the Belgian automotive sector still has beautiful days ahead of it…
With this new permanent exhibition, the Autoworld Museum which beginning in 1902 served as home to the very first car shows now has one of the most important (if not the only) zone devoted to the Belgian automobile, and this on an international level!