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Zone Sport & Competition

Zone Sport & Competition

A breath of fresh air has been blowing through the Autoworld museum lately : new signage system, restructured interior spaces, theme-based organisation of the cars, creation of temporary exhibition areas…

This revival is reaching its peak today with the opening to the public of a brand-new scenario-based area, located on the first floor of the Museum, which goes back over the milestones of motor racing , rallies and races , since 1906.

More than 20 racing cars have been staged in an original and dynamic environment – banked turn, starting grid, old paddocks, ‘Michel Vaillant corner’, full of photographic records, period films and info-screens.
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Design Story

Design Story

The evolution of the bodywork. From horse-drawn carriages to prototypes and concept cars. A field in which quite a few Belgian designers have now carved out a reputation. A few exceptional prototypes are in the Autoworld collection.

In the early years, the manufacturer almost always supplied a chassis, where the customer could then have bodywork of his choice added, which often looked like a carriage.

From 1901 the coachwork began to evolve, and up to 1914 this could be described as a golden age for coachbuilders.

Big names in Belgium are D’Ieteren, Vandeplas and Vesters & Neyrinck. Italian specialists include Farina and Touring while Karmann and Reuter were famous in Germany, and their British counterparts were Park Ward or Mulliner.

In France, famous firms included Labourdette, Letourneur & M archand and Chapron.

 
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Workshop Ghislain Mahy

Workshop Ghislain Mahy

Thanks to the vision of Ghislain Mahy, at Autoworld we have a collection of cars right from the earliest days.  Thanks to his passion and enthusiasm, we have over 200 vehicles on display.

The whole collection of the Mahy family consists of over 950 vehicles, cars and trucks, a collection of mopeds and motorbikes, archives, radiators, petrol pumps and other Automobilia.

In this old photo, Mr. Mahy makes a final check on his car before taking the family on an excursion.  A task that his son Ivan has carried on into the present day.

 
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The Origin of the Automobile

The Origin of the Automobile

A carriage which moves on its own !
Horses dreamt of it from time immemorial but it only came true in the 18th Century when man invented it. Steam, petroleum gas, electricity or petrol (sold at the chemist’s in the beginning) started being used for driving these funny carriages.

The pioneer
Father Verbiest, a Belgian who was a Jesuit missionary in China constructed the first scale model of a steam-driven carriage at the end of the 17th Century. At the end of the 18th Century, an officer from Lorraine constructed the first steam-driven automobile. Just before 1860 in Paris, Etienne Lenoir, a Belgian, constructed an engine which used a new form of energy, viz., coal gas. He then achieved the major feat of replacing coal gas with petroleum gas. The first car running on petrol thus came into being.

Gottlieb Daimler, a German, invented the petrol engine which was later used by Emile Levassor to create the Panhard-Levassor. The Panhard-Levassor was the prototype of the car which later became popular. It was characterised by the engine at the front, a clutch box and chain transmission at the rear wheels.

 
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Coachbuilders

Coachbuilders

Locomotion has always been closely associated with the art of the coachbuilder. In the earliest days of the motorcar the manufacturer invariably supplied his client with a rolling chassis and the client then approached a horse-drawn carriage builder for the bodywork. That the result was known as a ‘horseless carriage’ was only to be expected.

With the 1901 Mercedes, longer and lower than anything that had been seen hitherto, motorcar bodywork began to evolve, the longer wheelbase enabling the rear seats to be entered from the side instead of from the rear. Then side doors and windscreens began to appear. Enclosed bodywork was relatively rare before 1914, for the additional weight of a saloon body necessitated a more powerful, and thus more expensive, chassis.

Several months was the time it normally took to equip a chassis with bodywork, and this was an expensive procedure. Thus soon before the outbreak of war in 1914 it was not uncommon for manufacturers to offer their smaller models ready-equipped with bodywork. The years prior to 1914 were the golden age for coachbuilders and a number of masterpieces, both in quality and finish, emanate from this period.

By the 1920s independent coachbuilders still existed but their work was increasingly restricted to luxury chassis or, on more mundane chassis, to special bodies requested by the client. The economic crisis of 1929-1930 marked the end of the road for a number of luxury car manufacturers, and traditional coachbuilders saw their market share further diminish with the rise of industrial bodybuilding.

They could still pick up some work in the thirties and immediately after the war, but after that they either disappeared or adapted to industrial or specialist bodybuilding. Belgium could boast several first-class coachbuilders: D’Ieteren, Vanden Plas, Vesters & Neirinck.

France had Labourdette, Letourneur & Marchand, Chapron, Franay among others, and England had Park Ward, Mulliner and Hooper. In Italy, Farina and Touring were famous and in Germany there were Karmann and Reuter.

 
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Belgians Cars

Belgians Cars

From the outset, Belgian car manufacturers played an important role in the development and history of the automobile.

Autoworld probably has the world’s largest collection of Belgian cars on display.
Famous names like Minerva, FN and Imperia.  Less famous names like Nagant, Vivinus and/or Fondu.  Cars and trucks as well as a few exceptional motorcycles.

Until the 1930s, Belgium played a trendsetting role in the Belgian car industry. Even now, the car industry employs quite a lot of people with factories in Forest (Audi), Genk (Ford) and Ghent (Volvo), Gillet-Vertigo and a reborn Imperia are among the latest generation.

 
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Pierre D’ieteren Coaches Room

Pierre D’ieteren Coaches Room

All the vehicles exhibited are part of the Royal Museum of Art and History’s collections.

Come and admire the “Gala Carriage”. Amongst some of the most beautiful vehicles, this vehicle was used as a state coach when Napoleon III celebrated his marriage with Eugenie de Montigeot.

In addition to that curiosity, you’ll also have the pleasure to admire many sports and private cars.

You’ll even have the opportunity to be enraptured by a Spider Phaeton, harnessed by its owner himself!

This exhibition was founded in 1991.

 
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Micro-cars

Micro-cars

Midget or micro-cars form the segment of compact cars.  The period when this segment flourished was the 1950s, due to fuel shortages.  Small popular cars, with the Citroën 2CV, Renault 4 CV and Fiat 500 stand out as icons of the automobile industry.

Famous German micro-cars include the Messerschmitt KR200 of 1955 and the BMW Isetta from 1962, with their front-opening doors.

 
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Public Services

Public Services

The car has played an important role in everyday life from its inception. Emergency services were quick to see the usefulness and convenience of the car.

Particularly after World War I, we see substantial expansion in the various sectors. Fire brigade, ambulances and hearses, police and gendarmerie or breakdown recovery services such as Touring Wegenhulp, etc. Taxis have also been a familiar sight in cities from the early days of the car.

At Autoworld, we have some unique specimens on displays, such as the Minerva of 1933, which was used by the fire service in Schaerbeek until the 1960s. Then there is a Delahaye of 1907, one of the first which was delivered to the city of Paris, and a Dennis Fire Engine dating from 1923 which operated in Ghent until the 1950s.

The imposing Packard ambulance dates from 1933, while the Harley Davidson motor cycle formed part of the royal escort.

 
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Eco Cars (1916 / 2011)

Eco Cars (1916 / 2011)

This description covers a number of different categories.  Electric and hybrid cars, vehicles that run on hydrogen or are driven by solar power.

The future also has its place in Autoworld, with some outstanding electric cars such as the Detroit Electric of 1916 and a small electric Peugeot of 1941.

Toyota has led the way in hybrid cars since 1997 with the Prius.  So there is nothing new under the sun as we look to the future.

 
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Royalty Corner

Royalty Corner

The vehicle fleet of sovereigns and heads of state usually contains some fine and rare specimens. Even popemobiles come into this category. Although nowadays they only ride around in armour-plated and secure cars, it was not always that way. A few fine examples of cars that once belonged to the Belgian Royal Family.

Our monarchs took more than a healthy interest in two and four-wheeled vehicles. Minervas from the reign of Albert I, the Lincoln Continental of Baudouin I. US President

John F. Kennedy was murdered in a vehicle of the same kind.
The imposing Cadillac Fleetwood Sedan was one of the cars of the Belgian Court during the 1950s and ‘60s.

 
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Motor Cycle Gallery

Motor Cycle Gallery

Besides the historic overview of automotive history, Autoworld also has a rich collection of motor cycles, with the main emphasis on Belgian-made bikes.

A number of eye-catchers: Ariel sidecar Sarolea Gilette and the FN
The motor cycle collection of Marcel Thiry from Arlon were placed in a fascinating timeline.

 
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