Stuttgart homes two of the world’s most famous car museums to visit: Porsche and Mercedes - companies with vast histories rich in exotic cars and engineering prowess.
However, you're missing a trick if you stop at those two. Hire a car and head an hour or so southeast, to Augsburg, and you’ll discover a museum with even rarer and cleverer cars tucked into a more modest building. An old tram shed, in fact. This is the Mazda Classic Automobile Museum, and it’s fabulous.
Rather than being run by the company as a glorified showroom, it’s a more endearing and intimate building operated by Walter Frey and his sons. Walter’s family-run Mazda dealer has been a staple in Augsburg for decades, and when his personal collection of classic models spilled into uncontrollable territory, he decided it was finally time to do something about it.
“We first had the museum idea about ten years ago,” says Walter. “We had so many cars – about 120 Mazdas – it seemed a pity if they were just in a shed, all dirty. So we asked the Augsburg Burgermeister if there was a place we could put a museum. He showed us this place and we said ‘it’s in bad condition, it’s not worth doing’. There was no roof!
“Then he said ‘you don’t know how much we’re asking for’. He told us the price and I said to my son Markus ‘we have to buy it!’ It was very cheap, but we weren’t actually allowed inside for a while, as it all could have caved in.”
Humble beginnings, but it’s had a big effect. Frey’s endeavours inadvertently convinced Toyota to build their own, far shinier museum elsewhere in Germany. “Toyota told the guy behind it that if Mazda, who are small, have a museum, that’s just impossible, we need one!” says Walter. “So they arranged a museum in Cologne, bigger than this. But inspired by it.”
Here's a look at some of the many classic cars on show: