Nestled away in unsuspecting Mulhouse, France in the Alsace region, is considered to be the largest museum display of automobiles, and with in it the largest and most comprehensive collection of Buggattis in the world. The Cite De L’Automobile was had quite a unique and storied past, but it’s present looks incredibly bright. The Schlumpf brothers were extremely driven in all endeavors. Titans of the mill industry at the time, the two began a secret car museum in a closed wing of their manufacturing plant. Their secrecy would be termed “the Schlumpf Obsession” and only a few favored or select would be admitted to see the collection. It was a secret treasure trove of collectible vehicles.
With the global shift of textiles to Asia from the Americas, the Schlumpf brothers found their profits dwindling and made massive layoffs. Riots broke out and over 400 policemen attempted to quell the crowds. The rioters were not to vanquished and they fought their way into the factory. You can imagine their surprise when they opened one of the closed wings of the mill to find an elaborate and extremely large car collection.
In 1977, the brothers fled in desperation to Switzerland while being accused of wage and tax evasion. They would permanently reside in Drei Koenige Hotel in Basel. During this time the textile union would occupy the factory to create and run the ‘workers factory’ in order to recoup employees lost wages. The workers union maintained and opened the collection to the public admitting over 800,000 visitors to the museum during their two year occupation.
Under great pressure from liqudiators the Mulhouse factory and car collection was finally sound to a conglomerate of organizations called the National Automobile Museum Association (NAMAoM) which comprised the City of Mulhouse, the Regional Board of the Alsace Region, the organizers of the Paris Auto Show and the Automobile Club de France.
They museum houses an extensive array of early automobiles of the brass era. The brass era for me is most enchanting and eye catching, so many interesting uses of design and engineering. Slowly wind down each wing in the mirrored collection hall, lined with Pont Alexandre III lamp posts, in a veritable sea of cars arranged in a historical timeline.