In 1934, the Dutch car importer Pieter Louwman bought a 20-year-old Dodge. He could not have guessed that such purchase would mark the start of one of history’s most legendary car collection. Since 2010, his collection is part of a museum that bears his name and features more than 200 historic vehicles under the direction of Pieter’s son, Evert Louwman, who is currently the Dutch importer of Lexus, Toyota, and Suzuki. Join us on a tour through the museum’s history from their first acquisition to their impressive inventory. Classic cars can be considered an investment, but this priceless collection is a true labor of love and a great legacy that helps us understand the popular culture through one of the 20th century greatest inventions.
The Louwman Museum houses the world’s oldest private car collection that is open to the public. The old Dodge acquired in 1934, is now joined by dozens of cars. The biggest increase of new collectibles took place in 1969 when the museum acquired the collection of Mr. Geerlig Riemer. Riemer was also the founder of the Institute for Automotive and Management (IVA) in Driebergen.
Today, 250 historic cars are on display on the halls of the Louwman Museum, which gives an idea of the breadth and scope of this private collection deserving of World Heritage status. But this museum is not only important for the number of relics on view. The wide range of models and periods—the oldest is an 1886 Mercedes-Benz—the good condition in which the cars are preserved, and their inherent beauty, are also important reasons to connoisseurs, who consider it one of the most comprehensive, beautiful and valuable private collections in the world.
The cars themselves are more than exceptional machines: each has its own story and can tell us much about those who designed it, about the historic moment in which they were produced and driven and, of course, also about their owners. Although they may look somehow similar, a car manufactured before World War II differs from a car from the postwar period. Automobiles are a cultural footprint, especially in the 20th century. The users’ tastes and needs also change depending on the region and moment, and that is also reflected at the Louwman Museum.
This unique car temple is located on the outskirts of the Dutch city of The Hague, near the town of Wassenaar, in a stunning building designed by American architect Michael Graves that successfully combines modernity and tradition. For $18—the price of admission—car and history lovers can admire pieces that have been described as “jewels on wheels.”
The collection also travels and many of the cars are regulars on loan at festivals, competitions and other events featuring classic cars. Therefore, those who are primarily interested in seeing up-close a particular car should ask in advance if it would be on view to avoid disappointment. However, there is always the opportunity to visit the online museum catalog on their website, for an equally exciting experience. ■