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.
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.
The contrast with the rest of the museum is complete. We enter the world of race tracks and racing sport, a world where we can hear the roar of the powerful engines of single-seaters, F1s, GT’s and rally cars…
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.
Two automotive workshops are installed side by side. An old repair workshop, which is a reconstruction of Ghislain Mahy’s workshop, and a modern workshop with a fully working ramp fitted with all the equipment presently used in contemporary garages. The latter’s objective is to be able to make use of it during a public workshop. Above the workshops, micro-cars are displayed in types of boxes, allowing for viewing from below.
The new educational zone supports the project ‘Jobonwheels.be’
Employers in the automotive industry are struggling to attract and retain qualified personnel. However, each year studying many young people into a (car) technical direction. But too few school leavers go to work effectively in the auto sector.
The project was launched by the automotive sector and aimed at young people, by supporting their education, and by facilitating the transition from school to the workplace.
The purpose of this zone is the youth and technical schools in an interactive way and playfully acquainted with the various facets of the automotive industry, still the largest industry in Belgium.
Marcel Thiry did the same thing with motorbikes as Ghislain Mahy did with cars. During his career as a garage owner in Habay in the province of Luxembourg he collected damaged bikes, which he restored with patience and devotion. In our faithful reproduction of a “Belle Époqu”e workshop you can see some of the most beautiful machines in his collection. And of course, lots of other Belgian and foreign motorbikes are on show throughout the museum.
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.
Amongst some of the most beautiful vehicles, the “Gala Carriage” vehicle was used as a state coach when Napoleon III celebrated his marriage with Eugenie de Montigeot.
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.
This exhibition was founded in 1991 and all the vehicles exhibited are part of the Royal Museum of Art and History’s collections.
Michel Vaillant was given a prominent place in the museum’s new space; a “paddock” brilliantly guarded by one of the real Vaillant ‘Grand Défi” cars that acted out its own part in Luc Besson’s film back 2003.
This “cartoon zone” is a sort of super photographic studio, a world on the edge of reality and the comic magazine, with at its centre an F1 Vaillant, in which both young and the more mature can have their photograph taken.
Innumerable photographs and graphic reproductions straight out of Jean and Philippe Graton’s stories retrace the history of their renowned work, which more than any other extols motorsport and competition.
To mark this anniversary Autoworld has just created a new zone on the museum’s first floor: the “Media Room”, which is now open for public.
In a decidedly contemporary environment, even futuristic, contrasting with the 135 year-old historic building, this “Media Room” is comprised out of three distinct areas fitted with screens where the seated visitors will have the opportunity to view specially created informative and interactive films played in a loop. The following themes are tackled:
At the back of the museum, using sets recovered from the “American Dream Cars & Bikes” exhibition – the diner and the service-station – visitors will be immersed in the atmosphere of the 50s to the 70s, with the cars from that era from the museum’s permanent collection.