Germany Sets and Maintains the Bar for Car Museums

The Porsche Museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen displays new legacy models in 2016

By Elaine Badrigian

Mercedes-Benz…BMW…Porsche… all car brands that scream luxury, class, and style just as loudly as the noise of their engines. Over the past 130 years, their interior and exterior designs have changed dramatically, but the goal of building vehicles of high quality and excellence in functionality has never faltered. Germany remains the epicenter of fine car building. What once left the public with endless wonder is now leaving little to the imagination with technology beyond the common man’s comprehension.

Baden-Württemberg and its capital city, Stuttgart, are synonymous with the automobile. There, the first motor carriage was invented 125 years ago. Today, production plants and world-renowned museums remain. Also in the city are the headquarters of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, the roots of which are firmly planted and grab a hold of the people who live there. It’s a car-crazy place and it’s the place to be if cars are your thing.

Carl Benz with his first automobile.
Carl Benz with his first automobile.

In 1886 in Mannheim in Baden, Carl Benz applied for a patent for his three-wheeled motor car. Around the same time, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach produced the world’s first four-wheeled vehicle in the Württemberg capital of Stuttgart. The automobile may have been born in Germany but it has been bred throughout the world. Still, its production has and will always be the most successful in this land where the car was born.

Through the power and influence of the automobile, Stuttgart has become one of the Germany’s most charismatic regions–with high incomes, technical innovation and economic vitality. The Mercedes star on the top of the tower at Stuttgart central train station has been revolving without interruption since 1951.

Tennis legend and entrepreneur Boris Becker said, “The atmosphere in Stuttgart is great. It’s full speed ahead when there are normally radar traps. Everyone here is a car freak. I like driving a lot and do it a lot, and it’s interesting to get acquainted with history.”

Bertha Benz, immortalized in the museum and history's first woman driver.
Bertha Benz, immortalized in the museum and history’s first woman driver.

For those whose dream it has been to get behind the wheel of some of the marvelous cars that are showcased, they have the great opportunity to do so at a yearly “Klassikwelt Bondensee” trade fair. Those curious about the future of the automobile can check out the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology in July. Are flying cars within sight?

Need for Speed?

Inside the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart.
Inside the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart.

Do you have a need, a need for speed? Historic race cars, sports cars and racing motorcycles zoom around the historic Solitude ring located between Stuttgart and Leonberg. The future of the automobile is once again on display with a demonstration of vehicles with alternate means of propulsion.

The Porsche Museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen is a feast for the eyes; the building looks as if it is about to propel into the sky. Around 80 vehicles and many smaller exhibits are on display in the museum, in addition to Porsche’s most iconic cars such as the well-known 911 model.

A moving walkway gives visitors a spectacular view of the collection. The very first Beetle, designed by Professor Ferdinand Porsche, is also on display. The Professor’s son, Wolfgang, remembers watching his father take the first Porsche he built in 1947 on the road. “There’s lots of pictures, there’s not much more you can say. It’s moving,” he said.

The tornado-shaped Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart.
The tornado-shaped Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart.

The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart documents the 125-year history that began in a tiny workshop and grew into a legendary brand.

Over 160 vehicles and more than 1,500 items are on display, including the Grand Mercedes Type 770 once owned by the Emperor Hirohito and the Emperor Wilhelm II, and Princess Diana’s red SL.

The museums are just as famous for their cars as they are for their architecture; the Mercedes-Benz Museum is in the shape of a double helix.

For an experience designed for the senses, BMW World is the place to be. The architecture is an eye-popping double cone made of glass and steel designed to look like a tornado that supports a “cloud” roof that provides a floating façade. Inside, visitors are given the opportunity to hop inside a driving simulator that imitates the feeling of driving a real BMW.

The building boasts the world’s biggest exhibition of BMW cars. The museum nearby details the 90-year history of the company and features seven themed areas, each of which are located in its own “house.” BMW enthusiasts are sure to feel like kids in a candy shop.

Aerial view of the massive BMW World, part shopping mall and part museum.
Aerial view of the massive BMW World, part shopping mall and part museum.

The only thing better than seeing these works of art on display is getting behind the wheel and driving one. Get up close and personal with Southern Germany and the cars produced there by booking the automobile tour “Premium Cars of Southern Germany.” The package includes a tour with Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, BMW and Audi to Munich, Stuttgart and Ingolstadt. Participants can choose their favorite vehicle to drive, or give all three a spin.

Most recently, sculptures of Porche’s 911 evolution have been mounted throughout Porche’s Rolling Museum. Mounted 78 feet high and driving straight into the sky, designers say it represents the ever-forward motion of Porsche innovation and design.

History buffs have the opportunity to follow the inventor’s trail and learn about the development of the automobile. The trip begins in Schnorndorf, the birthplace of Gottlieb Daimler. After visiting the house where he was born, a tour guide impersonating Lina Daimler, the pioneer’s wife, will take participants for an informative and engaging walk through the old town. The trip is topped off with a visit to the elegant Mercedes-Benz Museum.

For two days, you can live the lives of a king or queen by visiting the region’s castles, monasteries and ruined strongholds, in your own vehicle or in a hired classic car. German culinary delicacies such as spaazle and the area’s legendary beers in local restaurants are sure to keep your engine purring.

The tornado that is the BMW World museum.
The tornado that is the BMW World museum.

Continue your journey into the past by learning about Baden-Württemberg’s automotive history while driving one of a fleet of classic cars built between 1959 and 1983, including compact models, sports cars or limousines. These will be available to test drive during the celebrations.

The environmentally conscious have not been forgotten during this German summer of the car. During the Automobile Summer, Black Forest communities are offering guests overnight stays in climate-neutral accommodations. Additionally, hosts will offer electric vehicles, electric bikes and Segway Scooters to their guests.

Car collector, Josef Mast, brought his rare 300B Mercedes-Benz convertible to the party.

“It’s a great event, I must say. The automobile set the world in motion and it will continue to do so in other forms and with other engines, but always emotionally.”

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