Thursday, 19 September 2013

French Heritage Day at the Malartre Car Bike and Motorbike Museum in Rochetaillé

Hello, and I'm back after a summer break from blogging. I'm keen to find out what those bloggers I follow have been up to but before doing so I thought I'd post some photos I took recently at the Rochetaillé Museum, which is on the banks of the River Saône about 11 kilometres from Lyon. There are lots of vintage, classical and veteran transport vehicles of all kinds to be seen there, and the museum's star attraction is Hitler's parade car, which it acquired a few years ago. As you shall see, it's a really mean machine.

We went there on Sunday, which was the second day of France's National Heritage weekend. The museum is housed in several buildings, with the vintage car, bike and motorbike sections being housed in a Chateau at the top of a hill which offers some splendid views. Here's the chateau (please note that I didn't take this photo, although the rest are mine);

 This photo was taken from the second floor of the museum;

I would imagine that many people - well, me in any case - think that foldable bicycles are a recent invention. But they're not, as this example, from the beginning of the 1900s, attests. The photo also demonstrates that punctures aren't a recent invention either;

The large majority of the exhibits are of French origin of course, although there are some notable exceptions, particularly in the motorbike section, which includes some pieces of British and Italian origin. I'm not sure where this one was made. Not that it matters, because it's a beautiful example of early motorbike engineering, and that's what's important;

Vintage cars were much in evidence, including this one, which, from memory (I didn't take notes) is a Peugeot. The yellow suspension unit looks very robust. Mind you, it needed to be robust given that car tyres were made of solid rubber with no inner tubes at the time;

This classy number (the car) has tyres with inner tubes, and the mix of shiny white paint and brass is very elegant in my humble view. The steering wheel is on the right, which is rather curious given that the car is a Renault. Perhaps it was an export model destined for the British market?

Car engines and drive assemblies in vintage cars have always fascinated me. Consisting essentially of brass, copper and forged steel, they were beautifully crafted. Here are a couple of examples;

There are hundreds of bikes, motorbikes and cars in the museum, but the star of the show is, of course, Hitler's personal parade car. It can be seen in thousands of photos and newsreel film reports from before and during the Second World War at rallies from Nuremburg to Hamburg and Berlin. It's a stunning piece, if only for its sheer size, and it's menacingly massive presence must have been frightening and intimidating to see as it drove by with Hitler standing up in it and giving his Nazi salute;

The car's technical specifications are just as impressive as the car itself. Hitler had thousands of enemies both inside and outside Germany from 1930 onwards, many of whom plotted to kill him, so the car was built with that threat in mind and it offered him as much protection as was possible at the time. Its manganese-treated 18-millimeter armour plating meant that it weighed a mighty 4780 kilograms when empty and it also had a 400 HP engine, 20-cell tyres, spare wheels which were placed on the sides of the engine to protect it in case of attack and electro-magnetic door-blocking mechanisms;

The car's designers were also aware that the windows and windshild were a source of potential risk, which is why they were made of 40 millimeter-thick bulletproof glass. Could it stop bullets? The answer is a resounding yes, as this photo shows. The weapon used to fire at it on this occasion was probably some sort of machine-gun, given the roughly linear line of the bullet impacts;

These are just a few of the many vehicles on show at the museum, and other categories include racing cars and motorbikes, trolleycars, classical 50s and 60s cars and authentic engine and other parts taken from well-known vehicles, such as the machine in which Donald Campbell broke the existing land speed record in Australia in 1964. The museum is a big favourite for car enthusiasts as well as anyone interested in seeing the results of man's creative engineering history over the years. Highly recommended, 10/10, a gold star, and have a nice day!


  1. Hello Frip, what lovely pictures and Hitler's car was particularly fascinating,especially the bullet holes,is the story behind them known i wonder?
    Good to receive your blog again, was wondering what you were up to.
    Best wishes from a sunny Wiltshire!

    1. Hey hi Ruth, good to hear from you! I have just done some research into how the 'bullet impacts' were caused and it would appear that the most likely explanation is that the car was on a railway train flatbed freight unit in an active combat zone towards the end of the war, which is most likely why it was damaged. There was also damage to seating upholstery and the bodywork, but this was repaired, which, for what it's worth, I think is regrettable. Hey, could you email me again? It would be good to exchange news but my Hotmail account lost my contact list months ago for some unfathomable reason...

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