A virtual museum of a virtual museum: Big Five at the Interclassics 2017

50w ago


The upcoming Interclassics Brussels provides an excellent opportunity to recall the Big Five theme of last year’s event. The Interclassics Brussels was held for the third time last year but quickly established itself, thanks to the very active classic car culture of the region. In 2017, the organizers raised the bet considerably: under the Big Five thematic, five major European national car museums were invited to contribute with a delegation of their favourite and most cherished cars.

These five museums are featured in every top list, and I also managed to visit four of them already. Except for the British National Museum (Beaulieu), I could attend so far the Dutch Louwman Museum in the Hague,

the Schlumpf Collection in Mulhouse,

the Italian National Automuseum in Turin,

and of course the local Autoworld, that I visited several times.

Each museum sent three memorable cars like a Talbot Lago from Lowmans, a Bugatti from Mulhouse, a Cisitalia from Turin, or a Minerva from the Autoworld. As most classic car shows, Interclassics is also about trading cars of all price ranges, era and classes, but car spotters can also expect treasures like a Venturi, a Sbarro remodeled Ferrari, the race version F40 LM, or the Bentley Speed 8, revamped during the 50’s.

Traders take the extra mile to provide elegant environment for negotiations, which include installations like one of the two 22.4 litre engines of the Sunbeam 1000HP decorated with the silhouette of the famous Red Slug. The car broke the 200 mph barrier in 1927, while the monstrous power was delivered using chain drive, a reminiscent of the 19th century... That thing alone is worth a dedicated article…

As a simple visitor however, for me, the main attraction of last year’s event was undoubtedly the Big Five, and the poster’s title did not exaggerate, it was really a significant achievement from the organizers. They had been able to summon the internationally renowned car museums of five major countries, delegating three of their most important, prestigious or cherished cars along with some decoration to recall the style of the institution. In the years before, the organizers could usually count on the national automobile museums of Belgium and the Netherlands, but last year, they got reinforcements from the additional three major national car museums.

Names can be deceiving, the Beaulieu Museum is actually the National Motor Museum of the UK, and they delegated a 1930 Bentley Blower (powered by a supercharged 4.5-litre inline-eight, down-sizing of the time), a Lotus open-wheel race car and a 1909 Rolls.

The Dutch Louwman collection brought a Porsche 718/2 F2 race car, a 1916 Crane-Simplex luxury car (equipped with an 8.8-liter engine) and one of my favourites from the Museum, a Talbot Lago.

The Cité de l’Automobile is often cited as the greatest auto museum in the world. On my quest for the ultimate automotive overdose, this summer I have finally visited it, and I have no doubt now, that the Cité is the greatest car collection in the world. But it’s more than being excessively huge, it excels in every area. Their delegation was therefore also exquisite and impressive. The French have brought a futuristic 1948 Panhard Dynavia concept car with strange innovations like a button to open the doors. Next up, there was steam powered Serpollet Type H, reaching 140kmph in 1902. Of course, the trio finished with a Bugatti, namely a Type 46 from 1933.

The French stage faced off with a trio from the Turin Automobile Museum that I could visit last year. I particularly appreciated their efforts in keeping the memories of long gone Italian brads. The three cars (Cisitalia 202 Spider Nuvolari, a 1927 Fiat 520 and an OM (stands for Officine Meccaniche) 469 N represent three different epoch and characters.

The local hero Autoworld had to match these grand classics, and I think they delivered quite a show. Autoworld’s greatest strength lies in its ever-changing periodical exhibitions, but that time, they brought three impressive exhibits from their own vault. The 1965 AC Cobra is an exciting warm-up, the 1921 Minerva Vandenplas was a royal car of Belgian King Albert I. The two road-legal vehicles were accompanied by Thierry Boutsen's 1985 Arrows Formula 1 car.

The other theme was revolving around cyclecar of the early 20th century. These low-cost cars provided affordable transportation for the non-wealthy affectionate, and of course, some used it to racing too (and as the poster shows, with great enthusiasm).

The theme was honoured by about two dozen fully restored three or four-wheeler vehicles, with a poster to accompany each car, and to illustrate the epoque, and the cars' typical use. My personal favourite is the one below, demonstrating what maximum effort from a co-driver really is.

I used to say, if there is one classic car show to see this year, it would not be Interclassics Brussels. But last year the organisers outdid themselves, and the event became one of my favourites. The five museums showcased their cherished pieces, and I got to see long-gone brands, whose memories are no longer kept by business operations. While BMW or Ferrari can easily afford to run a museum (or even sponsor events, like the 2015 Interclassic Maastricht whose main theme was the 100th anniversary of BMW), at the 2017 Interclassics Brussels, I could see treasures from long forgotten brands, like Cisitalia, Panhard, Talbot or Minerva.

This year the main theme is the 60th birthday of the exhibition area, (dating back to the 1958 World Expo), and 70th anniversary of the Porsche Brand, which is probably the most celebrated automotive anniversary of the year.

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