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Louwman Museum – Profile and Photos
Report and photos (unless noted) by Peter Helbach
The Louwman Museum was opened by HRH Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on July 2, 2010. This opening marked the culmination of eight years of very hard work by Mr. Evert Louwman and his management team, led by Museum director Ronald Kooyman. Regulations being what they are, this was the time it took, from the first application to build a museum to the actual opening.
Beginning on the Louwman Collection
Mr. Louwman’s father, Piet Louwman, started collecting cars as early as 1931, when a client (Mr. Louwman Sr. was in the business of importing and selling cars in Holland, among which Dodge) traded in his Dodge 1914 model (a car with all mod-cons) for something newer. This car is “the mother lode” of the Museum and takes a place of pride. The car collecting bug had found very fertile ground and Louwman never looked back. Now the Museum itself houses 236 cars of a great variety and is considered to be one of the finest all-round collections in the world.
The collection grew over the years, either by buying individual cars or by buying whole collections. With Dutch car manufacturing being a small industry, particular pride was taken in buying Dutch cars such as Spyker, of which the Museum has thirteen of the surviving sixteen! The most recent acquisition was the Bianco Rosso collection, formerly based in Asschaffenburg, Germany, owned at that time by Maserati enthousiast Peter Kaus. This collection, mostly twoseater sports-racing cars, is now a prominent part of the Museum.
The building, on the edge of The Hague, a town which houses among others the seat of the Dutch Government, is located in a prominent place next to the N44, the main road out of town towards Leiden and Amsterdam. It was designed by the well known American architect Micheal Graves, who also designed the Ministry of Education in The Hague. The layout is vaguely reminiscent of a large country house, many of which were located in that area in the past. The exhibition space is around 10,0000 sq. m. In addition to that there are function rooms and a full-blown theatre. So, if you want to have a party and see cars, THIS IS IT. The building is surrounded by a landscaped garden which, once fully grown, can only enhance the surroundings.
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As said, 236 cars are shown spread over three floors. In addition there is a very sizeable collection of automobilia and original paintings, notably by the famed English artist F. Gordon-Crosby and American Peter Helck. Walking through the Museum covers about 1 kilometer 0.6 miles)!
The Spirit of Motoring
Over the years, the Louwmans (former and current) has amassed a great variety of cars ranging from the second oldest vehicle in the world, a de Dion Bouton Trepardoux steam car of 1887 vintage to cars from the mid-seventies. The odd one out in this regard is the 2009 Toyota Formula 1 car as driven by Jarno Trulli, this being a given by Toyota. One should never look a gift horse in the mouth!
The main feature of all cars is that they are all original and quite a few in unrestored or lightly touched-up condition. They may not look like a million dollars but some are certainly worth that. Furthermore, most cars are in a running condition, as is shown by the fact that every once in a while some are “playing outside” like for instance taking part in the Mille Miglia or the London to Brighton Run in England, to name just a few
As seems to be the habit nowadays, the Museum starts on the top floor with the oldest cars. Among those well known names like Peugeot, Daimler and De Dion Bouton.
It should be noted that all these “oldies” are displayed in large booths, specially air conditioned to retain, among others, their patina. It takes up a fair amount of space but the Museum considers this to be the only proper way to display this motoring heritage. If this is not enough, this is followed by the largest collection of Benz cars on the World. Eight in total, including of course the Patentwagen. This car however is a reconstruction made by Daimler Benz some time ago, but it works like the real thing, which, unfortunately, does not exist anymore. The others are original and unrestored.
The London to Brighton Run is one of the features in this part, so they are very proud to show the two cars which featured in the movie (or film as the English would say) “Genevieve”, a semi-romantic comedy based on the event. The two protagonists, a Spyker and a Darraq are proudly displayed. These two as well as a number of the early cars have participated in this event.
After this a large gallery shows the evolution of the Motor Car, from the A Ford (a very early example), a Mors and so on. All in all about 20 cars on one side of this gallery. On the other side various attributers like clothing and toys are shown to enhance the “feel” of that period. It all ends with a collection of a number of small post WW2 cars “for the masses”, like the Mini , Citroen 2CV and the like.
Attention is also given to alternative modes of propulsion like steam, electric and hybrid. Yes, the Americans, despite their propensity to burn petrol in huge amounts, were the first with a hybrid car, a 1917 Woods Dual Power car, on show in the Museum.
Moving through a bewildering variety of cars, there is a section with some historically important cars, such as the ex-Kaiser Wilhelm II Mercedes (with its armour plates it totals 3000 kg, the heaviest saloon in the collection) as well as Sir Winston Churhill’s Humber staff car with a huge ashtray to accommodate his favorite cigars. There is also a Cadillac from “The King” Elvis Presley on show, the longest of all saloons on this floor.
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Automobilia and Racing
On this, the first floor, we find a large collection of all-original posters a was as a number of significant paintings. The works of F. Gordon-Crosby are plentiful and highly recognisable. Evocative scenes of classic Grand Prix racing makes you want to look at them for ages but there is still a long way to go in the Museum! American artist Peter Helck is also well represented. Various items with motoring motifs are displayed, these being more curio”s than significant contributors to automotive history.
Leaving this area we cross a wide open space where a pre WW1 plane is suspended. This is a replica of a French Farman plane, as used by the fledgling Dutch Air Force. Spyker, of which more anon, built this plane under license during WW1. It therefore deserves a place in the Museum.
Next is the sports/racing section, starting with the 1904 Napier, which participated in the 1904 Gordon Bennett race. It was prior to this race that the “racing colours”, like British Racing Green and French blue were determined.
There is a strong Le Mans feel about this first part with three actual winners (Chenard Walcker 1923, Lagonda 1935 and Jaguar 1957) being displayed. Other cars on show have either finished or taken part in various other Le Mans races.
Early seventies sports cars are there as well, among which the Can-Am series winning McLaren M8F of Peter Revson (the real McCoy this one) and a 707 Can-Am March.
A small section of Indy cars is provided, a “works” Hudson and a Watson roadster. This section will be expanded in due course. Racing Red is well represented with Maserati, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari, which you better go and see for yourself! There is no point in telling everything!
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The first floor is the part where luxury cars are shown. Examples of “Grand Marques” such as Hispano Suiza, Isotta Fraschini, Minerva and Daimler are all there as well as some very nice Cadillacs and a sixteen cylinder Marmon.
After this hall we come to one of the prized parts of the Museum collection. Nine Spyker cars of varying vintage, including the first four-wheel drive , six cylinder car in the World, a Spyker racer initially built for the 1903 Paris-Madrid race, The car did not compete in this event as the novel drive system did have some teething troubles! This is a wonderful part of the museum showing all these Spykers, a marque not that well known to the general public OUTSIDE Holland.
Next up are some wonderful English cars, the 1953 London Motor Show model by Daimler, rather vulgar but distinctive nonetheless. The second oldest Rolls Royce with an original body and two so-called Maharadja cars from India, another “Roller” and the infamous “Swan” car.
This is followed by three exquisite Mercedes Benz cars, a “K” with a very neat Saoutchik dual phaeton body, a SSK (matching numbers and a British bodywork) and a 500K Spezial Roadster (aka The Butcher Car).
Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg are well represented with the place of pride taken by a “Deusy” SJ. This is the only SJ fitted with the LaGrande dual-cowl Pheaton bodywork.
The oldest Toyota in existence is slightly hidden away. Even the parent company did not know this car still existed, but it was in Wladiwostok (Russia). Used on a farm it is not totally original but still….Toyota would love to have the car, or so we are told.
Walking past some very nice “woodies”. We come to no less than four stunning French “Grand Tourers”, three Talbots and one Delahaye, all of them fitted with dramatically stylish bodies. They are by Figoni and Falashi Teardrop, Chapron, Saoutchik and Pourtout. Imagine yourself motoring along the French roads in one of these cars! Now that is the real “Spirit of Extacy”.
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Last but by no means least, there is a nice mix of six Bugattis, ranging from the “Black Bess”, the well-known Roland Garros car to a Type 57, the show model of the Salon de Paris of 1934, with a body by Gangloff. There is also a Type 43 and a Type 50.
This ends the tour of the Museum, but there are still lots of other things to see, like old shops and the like.
If you feel rather tired after all this, which is quite likely, you can get some refreshments from the “Museumplein”, a reconstruction of a small market square, looking French but very much in Holland.
Louwman Museum – Additional Photos (click image for larger picture)