Join Me For The Oddballs And Icons That One Finds In Chilean Car Museums
Photography by Alvaro Pinzón
Continuing with the Chilean theme from last week’s early adventures into a new place, this time I will bring another side of their car culture in the form of a classic car museum.
When it comes to remembering people, places, or achievements, photography has become one of those tools to store and preserve our memories in the most cost-effective way (not everyone can own a 250 GTO, but we can all take at least a cell phone photo if we see someone who does!), however nothing can beat seeing things in the flesh or metal; despite all the talk about driving cars rather than keeping them socked away in storage, museums have become one of those unique institutions that preserves memories while creating new ones. Collectively they surpass any mortal fragment of the mind or piece of shaped aluminum, but without going further with that romantic thinking let’s take a look at a few museums in Chile.
More recently, Chile has risen as one of the most developed nations comprising the continent of South America, and with the economic security that you can infer and forecast from such things, there is a cult of machine that’s growing in numbers down here. That said, there’s been some history that’s lasted for much longer. In 2010 alone though, the country hosted the launch of two new automotive museums in the capital city of Santiago, completing in total five museums dedicated to the subject in the country.
Traveling by TVR with my friend Ben Coombs, we stopped at a few of them along our route. The first was the Salon Antique Car Museum.
), and thanks to my father we were able to arrange a meeting with Gabriel, the owner and namesake, who welcomed us to the 400-car collection housed inside. He loves the Mercedes-Benz 130H in particular, the car inspired by the French Tatras. And speaking of the defunct French marque, there were also the Czechoslovakian Tatra 603 II that came later in 1968, with its V8 engine placed behind the rear axel a la Porsche (who took more than a few cues from Tatra himself). The collection stores cars from 1908 to 1988 with a variety of American, European, and a smaller selection of early Japanese kei/micro/small cars.
On that very same day we also visited another museum, this time located in the heart of the city. The Jedimar Museum has its cars stored in an antique sugar factory that dates back from the ‘30s, but rather than cavity-causing sweetness one is welcomed to the repurposed facility by a Bugatti Type 35, and then you will find a wide variety of cars like the Ferrari 250 GTE, a Maserati 300S, etc. The collection amounts to a total of 150 cars, owned by the family of Jesus Diez Martinez, who is the owner of one of the traditional bus companies in Chile, Turbus. He was also responsible for the birth of the antique car club of Chile in 1967.
But the main area wasn’t the entirety of what we had access to, for we also visited a private area away from the central museum where a few more cars are socked away in barn-find condition, waiting patiently to be restored and placed in the halls.
For me the fun isn’t only in making these journeys, it’s about preserving the memories that would otherwise fade away. We transfer the passion on to new generation, even if it inspires them to seek out different cars more in line with their own eras. In the case of South America especially, it’s interesting to see how these histories are being formed and remembered concurrently.