with Dr. Dieter Landenberger of Porsche.
Back in Leipzig after a rather fast-paced trip to museums in Stuttgart and Munich. As an aside, the photo above is of me sitting on a statue celebrating one of the greatest race drivers in history, Juan Manual Fangio. The cast bronze memorial is in front of the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart, and of course as a driver, it is highly unlikely I share any genes with the great Fangio. Fangio drove with unparalleled courage and tenacity; I tend to forget to check who is on my left, but without incident so far! And of course if you scroll down on my blog, you can also read how I tangled with an Opel in Leipzig and demolished a VW Golf!
The museums that we visited reflected the nature and character of the various companies that have invested large amounts of money in erecting the structures, and in organizing the various exhibits. Each museum had strengths that ultimately complemented the others, so by visiting all three, one leaves with a dramatically enhanced sense of German automotive history.
Personally, the highpoint of the trip was the visit to the Porsche Museum and a guided tour by Dr. Dieter Landenberger, Deputy Director of the Museum and Archivist. Dieter knows his Porsches, Porsche people, and the firm's history, and he gave us a most insightful tour, beginning with the repair shop and ending with the archives.
For example, until the tour, I did not know that Ferry Porsche's favorite color was Hunter Green, and that he was not such a good driver! Now I feel better about my own abilities behind the wheel. And while at the archives, I had the opportunity to get the autograph in a book that was given to me of Hans Mezger, the designer of the 911 engine and one of the greatest automotive engineers of the 20th century. With more than 3 million images, company correspondence, production records, and an extensive run of post-WWII journals, the Porsche archives are one of the most extensive on automobile history in the world.
Mercedes has the longest history of the companies and also has the most comprehensive historical exhibit that covers much of the 20th century. The strength of this collection is two fold. First, the Mercedes Museum depicts the context of automobile history in the 20th century as no other museum. Many aspects of German history are thus incorporated into the displays, including the pioneer era, World Wars I and II, the post-War/Cold War period, and more recent times. Secondly, the display cabinets contain artifacts that are a clear representation of car culture in Germany -- music, film, everyday life, etc. Looking at those materials was thought-provoking, and has stimulated my thinking about future research.
The Technical Museum at Munich
The Transport Museum that is a part of the Technical Museum has some real strengths in their collection that one cannot find at the other museums that we recently visited. For example, there are hands-on displays that illustrate how engines, transmissions, steering gear and ignition systems work. In addition to other exhibits that illustrate the breadth of transportation history, the collection has numerous vehicles on display, from the very important like an 1886 Benz three wheeler, to the incredibly marginal 1987 Pontiac Fiero. And there are many other cars that fit in-between. Here are some photos from that collection: