• Holiday Snaps - Part 3

    When I was a teenager, back in the late 1980s, I somehow ended up with a British classic car magazine that featured a story on an incredible vintage car collection in France, featuring the largest fleet of Bugatti's in the world, including two of the seven Royales.

    The collection itself was of huge interest to me, even then. But the story behind it somehow made it even more fascinating, and since reading that article, it has been one of my life goals to view this collection in person.

    The story of the Schlumpf brothers is quite amazing. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I highly recommend you do a search. Itís a fascinating story.

    Hans and Fritz Schlumpf were Swiss citizens who were born in Italy, but moved to the city of Mulhouse in France, when their mother was widowed. In the mid-1930s, the brothers established a company in producing spun wool products. Following WW2, they rapidly grew the business, and soon became quite wealthy. Frtz, the younger of the two, had a love for engineering, and as such, also had a love for Bugatti cars. He'd wanted to own one since childhood. Just before the Nazi's invaded France, he purchased his first Bugatti, a 1929 Type 35B.

    Following the war, Fritz began racing his Type 35B, until he was urged by his staff to stop racing, due to the dangers involved. The two brothers were quite different; Hans was something of a tyrant towards his staff, while Fritz had a great respect for them, and in return, they adored him.

    In the 1950s, the Schlumpf brothers began collecting Bugatti cars in earnest, usually opting only for the very best models. In addition, they also bought entire car collections, largely to get the Bugattiís in those collections. Because of this, they soon amassed a wide variety of very high-end marques, including Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Hispano-Suiza etc. But Bugatti was what they fixated on. In 1962 alone, they purchased nearly 50 Bugatti's, and by 1967, owned 105 examples of the marque.

    By now, their business had grown to an epic scale, and they employed a large workforce and several factories. In secret, they closed off a section of their 19,000 square meter building in Mulhouse, which they'd purchased in the 1950s, and used it to house and restore vehicles from their collection, which by this stage numbered nearly 400. They employed a large team of specialists to restore the cars, but the workers did so under a confidentiality agreement. They built a special display area featuring gravel floors and red tile walkway. By now, the Schlumpf collection had become an obsession.

    Amazingly, although there were quite a few people who knew about the collection, including those from various Bugatti car clubs around the world, very few had actually seen it.

    By the late 1960s, the textile market had changed, and a lot of the manufacturing work was now being done in Asia, and as such, the Schlumpf brothers business was suffering. This downward slide continued into the 1970s, and soon the Schlumpfís began selling their factories. In late 1976, they closed their Malmerspach plant, laying off the workers as they did so. This prompted a workers strike, and soon riots began, requiring the intervention of over 400 police from ransacking the Mulhouse factory, where the brothers based themselves.

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