Bull fighting. Flamenco dancing. Gratuitous amounts of ham. Sure. A large and historic Automobile industry? Spain is known for many things, but what about cars? The answer to that is an unequivocal “eh, kind of.”
Their list of automotive accomplishments is as long as the list of “however” qualifying statements.
Spain is one of the world’s largest automobile manufacturing countries, and the second largest in Europe. However, most of these cars are made by foreign manufacturers with plants in the country. Spain has a history of fun and popular cars like the SEAT 600 and the Barreiros Dart, but those cars, like many Spanish cars, are rebadged foreign designs build under license. SEAT is a successful Spanish automobile manufacturer that has been making vehicles since 1950; however, they are a wholly owned subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group.
Because of this mixed history, and because they have a car with a propeller on the front, I was excited to see what one of Spain’s largest car museums had to offer. What things will I learn about Spanish cars in this museum? What interesting and historic Spanish cars do they have? Is it all Spanish cars or just mostly Spanish cars?
Turns out my eagerness was entirely misplaced as they only had one damn Spanish car on display. Over a hundred cars and only one of them was built by a Spanish car manufacturer. It was a Hispano-Suiza.
Neat car. It was listed as a 1917, which was the same time Hispano-Suiza was very busy making most of the WWI airplane engines for France and England. Also, the model wasn’t listed, but I believe it was a T30. All the cars have plaques that tell the visitors about the vehicles, but they are only slightly helpful in explaining what the car is. The English seemed to be an internet translation (one of them actually ended mid-sentence with an error code), but to be honest, it was more helpful than my mediocre Spanish comprehension.
Their non-Spanish car collection (i.e. every single other car) was a pretty solid museum collection. What they lack in Spanishness, they make up for in well-roundedness. The collection spans 115 years and has the cars that are legally required to be in any museum collection, like the 300 SL, an E-Type, a DB4, and a Stanley Steamer. They have a great Art Deco car collection, and a small collection of historically popular cars, like a 1936 Fiat 500, a Morris Minor, and a three-wheeled Czechoslovakian Velorex. While the cars were not as Spanish as I was hoping, they did have a larger collection of European cars than you usually see in the States, including a few Citroëns, a beautiful pre-war BMW, and of course this French prototype propeller car. Two of these exist, the other one is at the (amazing) Lane Motor Museum in Nashville.
The museum is not just a car museum, but also a fashion and art museum. In fact, they bill their car collection as “cars as a work of art,” so it’s really just an art and fashion museum with a bunch of cars. They have several rooms that have “over 200 Haute Couture pieces,” whatever that means. Around some of the cars, they have mannequins dressed in period and economic class appropriate attire to match the car, which was pretty neat to see.
Also, the artwork is great. They have that thing in the lead image which was pretty great in person, as well as a few other cool things like this:
It is a good car museum for a country that has an irresolute history with cars, and it is in a great Spanish city. I definitely recommend a visit if you ever find yourself in Spain.