The SAHB and AHG held a highly successful European Conference at Mulhouse and Kirchzarten on 27 and 28 May. Thanks to the organisational skills of Anders Ditlev Clausager of the SAHB and Thomas Ulrich of our very good friends the German AHG, everything ran smoothly – and around 80 delegates from 11 countries attended, with representatives from the motoring history societies CONAM in the Netherlands, AISA in Italy and UIA in Serbia.
After a friendly and lively dinner on the Friday evening at the Hotel Bristol in Mulhouse, the conference took place on Saturday at the French National Motor Museum in Mulhouse, with 11 speakers, a visit to the museum and a traditional Alsacien dinner. On the Sunday, many of us travelled across the border to Kirchzarten in Germany, to the Volante museum, with a further 4 speakers, lunch and a tour of the excellent museum that specialises in the work of the coachbuilder Vanvooren.
A full report on the conference will appear in the Autumn issue of the SAHB Times, but here is a summary of the presentations:
Saturday – at the French National Motor Museum, Mulhouse:
- A welcome from Richard Keller of the museum.
- Personal experiences relating to the decline of the British motor industry. Christopher Balfour (SAHB, UK) wove a fascinating tale of his own career in the industry and how he saw its decline at first hand.
- Do we need more science in automotive history research? Dr Stefan Dierkes (Germany) gave some powerful arguments for the need to make our research more rigorous.
- Spyker and Maybach. Fons Alkemade of CONAM gave new information on the cooperation between these two great names in the difficult times after the great War.
- European Grand Prix racing after World War Two. Prof. Alessandro Silva of AISA reminded us of the challenges and delights of the re-start of racing after the war.
- The first European Grand Prix at Silverstone. Guy Loveridge (SAHB, UK) introduced and explained the amazing discovery of this unique colour film of the 1950 race.
- The last Bugattis from Molsheim. John Barton (SAHB, France) gave us a rare glimpse of what really happened after the war at Bugatti. Not only that, but he introduced us to a further presentation by the delightfully articulate and still spry 91-year-old René Straub, one of the four engineers at Molsheim selected to work with Colombo on the development of the highly advanced but ill-fated 251 racing car.
- The beginnings of Renault in Belgium. Prof. Patrick Fridenson (France) told in captivating detail the story of entrepreneurship and commercialism that led to Lucien Loppart convincing Renault to make and sell its cars in Belgium.
- Louis Coatalen – a man in a hurry. Oliver Heal (SAHB, UK) called on a deep knowledge of the history of this great engineer to explain his influence on car design in France and England.
- History, materials, and technology of car paintwork, 1900 to 1945. Dr Gundula Tutt (AHG, Germany) told us of the remarkable developments in car painting from the early days when it took 18 days, to the present day of high technology, high speed and environmentally friendly painting.
- Aesthetics and design of motoring books. Frederick Scherer (SAHB, Germany) gave persuasive evidence of what to do and not do in book design and appearance – and frightened some authors in the audience in the process.
- UIA – The Society of Motoring Historians in Serbia. Nebojša Djordjević (UIA, Serbia) gave a short but very welcome introduction to the history and rapid recent development of his society.
Sunday – at the Volante Museum, Kirchzarten:
- A welcome from Martin Waltz of the museum.
- Beating Johnny Foreigner: S F Edge, motoring and English nationalism to 1914. Dr Craig Horner (SAHB, UK) gave a beautifully researched and closely reasoned exposition of the attitude of the English and how it informed their development of motoring before World War One.
- What Lies Beneath. Peter Moss (SAHB, UK) focused upon the engineering surprises hidden beneath quite ordinary-looking cars – from engines through transmissions to braking systems.
- Vincenzo Florio and the origins of the Targa Florio. Giuseppe Valenza (Italy) brought some fascinating evidence to light to explain how the Targa Florio came to be run for the first time in 1906.
- Making their marques: historic radiator emblems. Claus Wulff (AHG, Germany) brought humour, thorough research and wonderful images to a captivating final talk on these emblems.
Such was the success of this first European Conference that all were resolved to repeat it. Watch this space.
A few photos from the Conference are shown in the presentation below. We hope you enjoy them.
The organisers, to whom we owe much of the success of the conference - Anders Ditlev Clausager (right) and Thomas Ulrich
The French National Motor Museum - one of its two original Bugatti Royales, out of six made
A general view of the French National Motor Museum - one of the finest in the world
The petits fours, or how the French do it - properly
Isotta Fraschini upstaging the Bugattis, for a change
Colombo disc brake from the Bugatti 251 - a recreation from original drawings
Kirchzarten Volante Museum - a general view, with the Vanvooren cars centre stage
Kirchzarten Volante Museum - Hispano Suiza K6 with Vanvooren's patented pillarless saloon design
Kirchzarten Volante Museum - Martin Waltz presenting one of the Vanvooren cars - a Delahaye