The Château de Compiègne hosts 3 other «Museum of France” certified automotive museums

Published on by Amandine PELLETIER - updated on

The Château de Compiègne hosts 3 other «Museum of France” certified automotive museums.

  • The Châtellerault Auto Moto Vélo Museum which will be exhibiting the 1953 prototype Longchamp-De Coucy.
  • The Schlumpf Collection (housed at the Mulhouse National Automobile Museum), which will be showing its 1969 prototype 4L Bertin
  • The Henri Malartre Museum in Rochetaillée-sur-Saône with its 1924 Cognet-de-Seynes Torpedo.
  • The Château de Compiègne National Car Museum will be exhibiting its 1891 steam-powered dos-à-dos, built by an unknown manufacturer.

For the first time, the four museums are together exhibiting a series of rare – even unique – cars to illustrate the history of the automotive industry, from its birth through to the 1960s.

The most recent of the cars on show was built by engineer Bertin, famous for his Aérotrain, based on a ver- sion of the 1965 Renault 4 that was 74 cm shorter. With a length of 2.91 m, it belongs to the era’s range of city cars – like the Fiat 500. Renault, which was gearing up to release the R2 (four-seater), decided not to follow through with this project, and did not want it presented at the 1969 Motor show. Disdained by Re- nault’s customers, EDF took it on a few years later as the basis for a project to build an electric car, but this too was discontinued. The car was finally saved and restored by the Mulhouse Museum.

The Châtellerault Museum will be showcasing the fruit of two men’s work: Longchamp who created the chassis and bodywork and de Coucy, an engineer, independent designer and motorist who adored competi- tion and record-breaking vehicles. What sets this vehicle apart is its extremely aerodynamic design together with the compressor grafted onto a low-capacity engine equivalent to the type found in a moped (350 cm3). Thanks to these original design choices and the light materials used, the vehicle is capable of delivering the kind of performance seen in vehicles with significantly larger engines.

The Malartre Museum is proud to present its most recent acquisition: a 1924 Torpedo built by a Lyon-based company, only two cars of which are known today. Indeed, Cognet-de-Seynes, a company founded in 1910 to produce mechanical parts, only built 20 to 30 cars per year between 1920 and when it went bankrupt in 1926. Although these cars were reputed to be reliable and well-designed, only a few very rare specialists are familiar with the make nowadays.

The Château de Compiègne National Car Museum will be exhibiting an 1891 steam-powered dos-à-dos, usually attributed to De Dion-Bouton and Trépardoux, according to a letter written by Léon Auscher in 1929. This document points out that it is the first known car built by this make and that the Friends of the Museum needed to acquire it at any price.

It generated barely any excitement when it was put up for auction in Ermont that year and was sold for the pitiful sum of Fr.25. A detailed examination of the vehicle conducted recently revealed that it was built in 1891 at a time when De Dion-Bouton was no longer selling steam-powered cars, and that it features a pro- minent oval plaque with the wording “C. Henriot / Cernay - Commune d’Ermont (Seine et Oise)” on it. So who built this car? Rétromobile will doubtless tell us more...

Brief history of the museums exhibiting

The national car and tourism museum

In 1927, in Compiègne: “The national car and tou- rism museum» opened its doors at the Château de Compiègne. This was France’s first museum entirely devoted to land-based forms of locomotion – from the origins of horse-harness systems to the begin- nings of the automotive adventure. Léon Auscher, Parisian coach-builder and vice president of the Touring club de France, spent many years of his life founding it and set up a committee made up of a number of major players from the beginnings of the French automotive industry, as well as manufactu- rers and coach-builders. For the «Concept car. Pure beauty» exhibition, the kitchen courtyards and their wonderful collections of coaches, that have been closed for 20 years, will be opened up again to the general public.

Dog Car à vapeur de Dion Bouton
Dog Car à vapeur de Dion Bouton

Henri Malartre Museum

In 1960, near Lyon: Henri Malartre started his col- lection in 1932, moved it to the Château de Roche- taillée-sur Saône in 1959 and then opened it up to the general public on 31 May 1960. Nowadays, the Malartre Museum is managed by the City of Lyon. It houses the largest collection of Lyon-built cars (21 makes represented at the museum of the 130 that existed in the region at the start of the 20th centu- ry). Lyon and its surrounding urban area was one of the world’s three birthplaces of the automotive industry.

Torpédo Cognet de Seynes. Musée Malartre 1924
Torpédo Cognet de Seynes. Musée Malartre 1924

The Automobile, Motorcycle and Bike Museum

In 1969, in Châtellerault: Count Bernard de Lassée decided to house his collection of cars in Châtelle- rault’s former arms factory. Thus was born the Au- tomobile and Technology museum. It then became the Automobile, Motorcycle and Bike Museum, and as of 9 November 2019 is now: The Great Workshop – Museum of Art and History. Managed and reorga- nised by the representatives of the Greater Châtel- lerault urban community, it has just reopened to the general public after several months of renovations.

La Longchamp de Coucy 1953-Châtellerault
La Longchamp de Coucy 1953-Châtellerault

The national automobile museum

In 1982, in Mulhouse: the “national automobile museum» officially opened its doors to the gene- ral public. The Schlumpf brothers started work on their museum back in 1965 in one of their worsted wool mills. But the financial difficulties they experienced in the 1970s prevented them from opening it up to the general public. Thanks to an organisation made up of public and private partners created in 1981, the collection avoided being broken up and officially opened its doors to visitors a year later. It added the wording “Schlum- pf collection» in 1989 and since 1999 has been managed by a private company – Culture espaces. In 2006, it changed its name to “la Cité de l’auto- mobile – musée national – collection Schlumpf”.

4L Bertin 1969. Mulhouse
4L Bertin 1969. Mulhouse