On September 11th, 2018 I visited the Louwman Museum for the second time.
(It turns out “Louwman” does not rhyme with “ploughmen” as I had previously thought. Rather, it rhymes with…umm…Roman.)
The Louwman Museum was founded in 1934 making it (I believe) the oldest car collection in the world. It is also, in my opinion, by far the greatest automobile museum imaginable, and trust me, I’ve visited many. The collection is not only vast and immaculate, but every car on display has some unique, quirky provenance that launches it from ‘prohibitively expensive’ to ‘virtually priceless’. I mean, they have first-off-the-factory-floor models, winners of every famous race you can think of, one-of-a-kinds galore…I’m telling you their collection is unimaginable.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
When I concocted a plan to get my brother to Europe for the first time, this visit to the Louwman Museum stood as the centrepiece of the trip. Ostensibly, seeing this car collection was the reason why we went to Europe together at all. At the conclusion of my initial visit to the Louwman Museum several years earlier I bought Alan a book in the giftshop that contained pictures and descriptions of every piece in their collection and car-guy that he is and always has been, he loved it.
I knew he would be blown away if he could see the place in real-life and of course I was right.
Following four nights pounding the bricks back and forth throughout Amsterdam we hopped a train to The Hague and checked into a surprisingly nice and spacious hotel room in a fully-expected pleasant part of town. We did a bit of a walkabout, checked out the local palace and found a great place to eat close to our hotel, and capped the evening getting to know the locals over a few drinks at a nearby pub. Though we did make a point of getting back to our room relatively early and just as sober in anticipation of an early start in the morning.
And can you believe we almost made it to the museum in time for their opening bell? After snagging a breakfast, a tram and a bus we paid our entry fee at 10:30am, about a half-hour after they opened the doors for the day.
We lingered in the lobby drooling over a dozen four-wheeled masterpieces before starting our chronological weave through the perfectly-curated collection. We went from literally the world’s first car past restored things of beauty that dated from the late 1800’s. We marvelled at the row of steam, electric, and yes, hybrid cars from the first decade of the 20th century. It amazed me to ponder how the world would be now if the earliest car manufacturers had dispensed with oil and gas right away and concentrated on electric vehicles. Oh, the wars we would have avoided!
Al stopped and read every panel on every vehicle, and they were all extensive. After an hour or so I saw him skip a car. “Aha!” I thought. “He’s beginning to get museum-fatigue!” But I was mistaken. He obviously had missed that one vehicle by mistake, because the entire rest of the day he read every word on every other panel. I was impressed.
So, obviously, was he.
We broke up the day with a weird, overpriced and under-satisfying lunch in the very, very well-appointed cafeteria, and spent the rest of the afternoon plowing on through the collection.
The oldest known Toyota (discovered in a barn in Mongolia), the sedan from The Godfather, the very strange and compelling Swan Car that shocked India, Maserati’s, Ferrari’s, racecars, kit cars, the world’s largest collection of Spykers (a long-lost brand of cars manufactured in The Netherlands), century-old vehicles with original paint jobs that looked almost new…the whole place was astounding.
For some reason, I mistakenly remembered the collection being split in half between two wings. As a result, as we approached what I thought was merely the half-way point of the collection we were in fact closing in on the end. On one hand it’s good we didn’t have to race through half the cars with just a half-hour to go before closing. On the other, I mighta kinda rushed us through the last little bit, only to have us finish our tour with a little time to spare.
Regardless, it was an astoundingly great, unforgettable time for both of us.
Of course I saved my ticket stub. Inexplicably, Alan refused to take his. Well, that’s not true. He expliced it like this: “I’m not the one with the albums full of ticket stubs.”
So I saved both. You never know, he might want his back one day.