This Is What’s Inside The World’s Oldest Private Car Collection
Photography by Laura Kukuk
The Hague is a city that’s absent from my normal radar, but when I received the invitation to visit the oldest private collection of automotive history in the world, I dropped everything and found myself pulling up to the huge brick building a few days later.
“LOUWMAN MUSEUM” is written in prominent capital lettering along the tops of the U-shaped structure designed by American architect Michael Graves, and it’s a grand first impression. I would find out soon enough that it was a fitting one for what I was to find within.
The Museum is not only home to cars like the Jaguar D-Type that the Scottish Ecurie Escosse racing team won Le Mans with in 1957—the collection houses quite a lot of champions and front-runners from that race’s history—but its wide range captures things like the quaint Fiat 850 Shellette Spider (pictured below the blue XKSS). They had NASCAR to the nascency of the 19th century represented in its halls, and there were endless examples of beautiful sculpture, like the blue and red-accented Lancia D23 Spyder Pininfarina below.
Besides its status as a collection of great age, the Louwman Museum is also one of very few automotive assemblages in the world that tells the complete history of motoring, from its earliest steam-and-such-powered eras to the modern racing creations and the meanest machines along that evolutionary path.
“Goede dag,” I am welcomed by Mr. Evert Louwman and James Wood, who have kindly offered to give me a private tour of the museum. I drop my bags in the library (a place I would have loved to spend my days studying while in university), and off we go towards the big main hall, which is built up like you’d expect a town to be rather than an indoor space.
After coffee and some brief primers for the different segments of the collection, we make our way to the top floor to start alone the designated tour route. I am lucky enough to listen to the stories of my guides as they demonstrate their clear and contagious enthusiasm for these vehicles. It would be book-length to do justice to everything that I saw, but I’ve included a few dozen favorites, like the orange Porsche 718/2 Formula 2 car above, the Maserati 300S below, and the captivating construction of the special Ferrari 625 “New Zealand Tasman” under that (the white car that follows the 625 is another early open-wheel Ferrari, the 375 Indianapolis).
There are cars like the from all eras here as demonstrated by the two photos of Alfa Romeo engineering efforts shown below. The earliest vehicle dates back to 1886, and is one of the oldest remaining in the world, if you couldn’t have guessed that! The range hits every corner of the world and every discipline of vehicle from fire engine to aqua-capable to Formula to sports, to dune buggy. I took a ton of photos on my trip, and if any of the cars below particularly catch your attention like they did mine, let me know and I’ll dig up some information on them. Enjoy!