At the end of the first part, when leaving the Porsche Museum, I took a rhetorical break to remain in the limits of a casually sized post. Even if the day was far from over it was about the middle of the three day trip. At that moment I was still in Stuttgart and under a sight time pressure to finish the second day with all three more museums.
The Mercedes Museum is an unrivalled collection of legends and pretty much a pure architect porn
Zuffenhausen is half an hour away by car from one of the best car museums in Europe, and probably in the world. It is located in Stuttgart, next to the headquarters of the Swabian brand. It’s hard to miss, when passing by the Mercedes Arena on the Benzstrasse, turn right to the Mercedesstrasse, and you’re there:) (the exact address is Mercedesstrasse 100, 70372 Stuttgart).
To best describe a Museum, picture this: one of the world’s largest and most successful premium brands with the most distinguished history tasks its marketing division to puts its best efforts to design and build the best museum possible.
A typical example of the lovely details: when arriving, the experience encapsulates well before the elevators: already in the parking lot, some legendary cars await the visitors in glass cages.
In 2017, I get to park right beside the racing car of DTM champion Bernd Schneider, this year, I only got a pace car SLS.
The Mercedes Museum transpires the strive for perfection: its architecture is truly fascinating as it offers a perfect view from every angle, as the visitors wander around the corridors.
Every detail is in place, and even outside the field of vision, not a single detail, that would distract from the immersive experience. The modern building is a true architect porn, perfected in its entirety to produce the most optimal spectacle.
It is difficult to say whether the quantity or quality is more astonishing in the Mercedes Museum. The really impressive ingredient is the history of the brand as Mercedes stormed and often reached the peak almost everywhere throughout the decades.
Speed record in the ’30s, which remained valid until today, unrivalled racing record, there is hardly any area where the brand did not excel. In many cases, Mercedes only presents just one champion out of many successful titles, which could constitute the crown jewel for other brands.
For me, the most impressive aspect of this Museum is still what they did not bother to expose, many world champion race cars, and groundbreaking new models rest in their warehouse, to be revived during anniversaries and events (like the Techno Classica).
The massive seven-floor building takes at least a good half a day to walk through, this was my third occasion; thus I could conclude a quick refresher in about two hours to present an up to date article. About 70% of the museum is a permanent exhibition, while there are temporary exhibitions, like the AMG anniversary exhibition last year. Under this link, there is a more complete review of the Museum (reflecting also the last visit) with photos and impressions from the previous three years.
Finally, a small piece of advice: do not throw away your ticked from the Porsche Museum, as it entitles to a ticket at a reduced price at the Mercedes Museum. From here my route led toward the east, and I stopped by the Mazda Museum that is a private collection, but still worth a visit.
Ambush on the Mazda Classic Museum in Augsburg
The Automobil Museum Frey lies conveniently halfway between Stuttgart and Munich. The Museum is actually a private collection, run by a local German Mazda dealer, Mr. Walter Frey, it is still able to leave a lasting impression, despite the absence of factory support. I visited the Museum last year, and I hope my article did not leave out anything.
To manage expectations, I have to stress, that this is not a factory museum, but a private collection. Yet the elegant environment and the comprehensive collection make it a must-see for enthusiasts of the Japanese Brand and the extensive Wankel collection (encompassing many aspects, from the bank of Felix Wankel through a Group B Rallye-monster to tow-cars and buses) are pretty much unrivalled. Well, that is what I thought before seeing the temporary Wankel exhibition of Audi (more on that a bit later).
Nevertheless, I also had to keep an eye on the clock, and bearing in mind the objective to maximize the experience / mileage ratio, the dilemma was to take a slight detour to the north to also cover the Audi Factory Museum risking a few extra miles to be covered in vain.
Audi Forum Ingolstadt – feeling lucky?
Before visiting the factory museum of the Audi brand last year, as I was curious how the brand carrying the logo of the historical Auto Union company will present its past. I really wondered, what avenues Audi will take, given the brand’s fable for modernism.
The Audi Forum solves this dilemma, by taking on the role of keeping memories for all the brands of the former Auto Union, that no longer exist.
The three-floor Museum with a few ancillary facilities offers quality entertainment for a few hours, so I risked a tight schedule detour towards Ingolstadt. I remind here, the day included the Technik Museum with the Russian space shuttle, the brilliant Porsche Museum, the overwhelming Mercedes Museum and the unique Mazda collection. Audi Museum would have provided a worthy ending to the day. As it turned out, I made the detour in vain, as the dense traffic made me miss the closing hour. Therefore, my review might still be usefoul to read before visiting, even if it may not represent the latest state of play. With an eye on the next day, I made my way to Munich to overnight there (now I know I this was a mistake).
BMW Welt – hitting rock bottom
Driven by the routine of the previous day, I decided to spend the night in the Bavarian capital, next to the BMW World to optimise the available time. I expected to spend quite some time here, as I last visited it quite a few years ago, and the BMW World alone is a vast multi-building complex in the public part of the factory site.
It is more of a theme park focused on the present than a Museum, even if the multi-story museum alone takes hours to walk through. You can easily lose an entire day here, so BMW World would be the only item on that day’s agenda.
At the beginning of the day, after a not so memorable overnight at a casually located hotel, I reached the parking lot of the BMW Welt two corners away…
… to actually hit rock bottom. Not literally of course, merely that the biggest tourist attraction in Bavaria was closed for that specific weekend. It would have been a beginners’ mistake to drive that long without checking the hours, I arrived 10 minutes after the opening hour indicated by Google (consistently throughout the day before). Relying on Google alone turned out to be a mistake, as apparently, BMW did not inform Google about the exceptional closing. Not that they overdid it on their own website. The information was carefully embedded in the third sub-menu on the mobile site.
So I I would like to take once again the opportunity to wholeheartedly thank the BMW World for their relentless efforts in informing the public. I am sure, that the few hundred surprised tourists waiting by the entrance during that morning and the other few dozen visitors arriving by car and turned back from the parking entrance shared my warm feelings.
Unfortunately, the curse of Bavaria proved to be a lasting one, as the Bavarian capital was surrounded by traffic jams from all the possible directions, so I took the only remaining direction, a national road towards Salzburg. The route itself was quite lovely (even if not comparable to fancy alpine routes), and once hitting the highway, I quickly reached the land of Salzburg. The surrounding area of Salzburg offers lots of attractions, starting with the unbeatable combination of the famous Hallstatt/Salzwelten/Dachstein trio or the trip to Königsee.
The picturesque city of Salzburg is also the hometown of Mozart, and I had the impression that it is almost a mission impossible to find a house that does not relate to the famous composer, one way or another. Having seen Hangar 7, I’d say mission accomplished, there is at least one exception now. Mr. Mateschitz arranged his private collection in a modern hangar complex near the airport at the edge of the city.
Hangar 7: welcome to Mr. Mateschitz
A helicopter in front of you, a jet plane behind you, a racing car next to you, and you hear a bell ringing, what’s your next move? – If your guess would be to get off a carousel, you are now wrong…
Because you are at Hangar 7, the Headquarters of Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz in Salzburg, Austria, and the bell signals the elevator to leave behind one of the most versatile and spectacular collections in Europe to take you to one of Austria’s best restaurants.
The Collection encompasses everything that Mr. Mateschitz owned, sponsored or cherished, from a king size Predator sculpture made of scrap metal, through the “jumpsuit” that Felix Baumgartner used to jump out from the stratosphere and the Red Bull Air Race competition planes to the Red Bull Formula 1 Race cars that dominated F-1 until recently.
The collection is very colourful and versatile, and well illustrates the sense of adventure of Mr. Mateschitz. At the same time, it is not bound by corporate identity to remain cold and technical, like some of the premium luxury brand’s factory museums. Solicitors of culinary specialties are awaited by the Ikarus, a Michelin star restaurant that invites a new star chef every month to establish his/her own menu.
Nevertheless, the prices are in line with the quality and could easily explode the original budget originally allotted to my road trip, so I settled with the Mayday bar in the first floor for a quick treat and made my way to the last stop of the road trip.
Porsche Fahrtraum: the private collection of the Porsche Family is the best-kept secret car museum
The private vault of Mr. Mateschitz with its ultramodern Hangar strikes a stark contrast to the simple Porsche building hiding smoothly in the picturesque lakeside landscape.
Earlier this year, I wrote about the collection already, which I described as the best-kept secret and the most child-friendly museum I have ever seen.
Now I had the opportunity to revisit, and to update the original article, as there were quite a lot of new things waiting. Fahrtraum continues to evolve and is extended with additional interactive elements, that I tried to reflect in a second article. The difference was clearly visible even over a year.
The visit in Zuffenhausen did not make Fahrtraum redundant, as the latter perfectly complements the Porsche Factory Museum. Fahrtraum has a stronger focus on Ferdinand Porsche and Monarchy’s automotive industry, not to mention the Porsches in the basement who’s factory livery is red (the brand is Porsche Diesel : ) ). The Fahrtraum exhibition is unique, fun and compulsory for all Porsche enthusiasts.
Fahrtraum concluded this ultimate European road trip, but of course, I still had quite a distance to cover to arrive home, allowing me to digest all this experience. For the rest of the route, automotive withdrew to its essential role of a swift and efficient mean of transportation, but my mind continued to revolve around all the various aspects of automotive and mobility.
I saw the complete history of a 200-year-old company in Sochaux, I could live through the entire history of automotive, and saw the rise and fall of one of the most excellent car companies along with Bugatti’s unrivaled automotive mastodons, while also taking the opportunity to drive an iconic Supercar of my childhood, all this in a single day in Mulhouse. The next day, I could see revenants of Mankind’s greatest challenges to conquer space, and I witnessed the relentless strive for perfection to present corporate histories in Stuttgart. A few hours later I could see that the enthusiasm of a single person can make a huge difference in the private Mazda Museum, and learn the importance of not relying on Google for actual opening times in Munich.
This was not the first road trip in my life, but the first automotive pilgrimage. The question remained, however, whether the road trip achieved the ultimate objective to administer an overdose of automotive experience to ease my addiction. The three-day journey lifted me up and squashed me to the ground like an emotional roller coaster with no seat belts on, but I always kept a feeling that I could revisit any of museums the next day. About the question whether the trip quenched my thirst, I have to admit that I already concluded another (shorter) road trip since then. In fact, it might be that I found a new addiction…