By Dave S. Clark
When people think of Belgium they are probably more likely to think of waffles than amazing car collections, but TravelDriveRace.com reader Koen De Beer knows of two collections that will change that perception.
“Although it’s a little known fact, Belgium is indeed a car country, but we wish to keep it a secret,” De Beer said. “For example, we have some really great driving roads, from small rural roads in between fields in Western Flanders (for example, the Ypres Rally) to curvy, hilly roads in the Ardennes (the public parts of the original Spa-Francorchamps circuit for example) and you can go from west to east and back in just a couple of hours on fully lit highways visible from space!”
Belgium is also home to two very impressive car collections – the D’Ieteren Collection and the Mahy Collection.
The D’Ieteren Collection is housed partly in the Autoworld Museum as well as the D’Ieteren Gallery, both of which are in Brussels. It is owned by D’Ieteren SA, an auto distributor, importer and builder, that was founded in 1804 building coaches.
“The cars are in showroom and running condition in the D’ieteren Gallery in the center of Brussels, and include a few Bugattis, an Auto Union Silver Arrow and an original Audi Quattro S1 group B rally homologation car. This collection also includes horse-drawn coaches, since this is how the company started back in 1804, which is still visible in the company logo,” said De Beer.
The D’Ieteren Gallery is not usually open to the public, but guided visits can be requested, for groups only.
The Mahy Collection is a much larger but almost unheard about private collection, with a relatively small but well maintained part (200 cars) in the same Autoworld museum in Brussels and a much larger amount (about 800 cars) hidden away in hangars in the southwest of Belgium, near the French border.
“The story behind this collection is far less glamorous than that of D’ieteren. Ghislain Mahy and current owner Ivan Mahy collected these cars over a 50 year period. They moved the collection from their garage and showroom in Ghent to the ‘Winter Circus’ building in that same city, a large indoor spectacle floor that had been abandoned for several years, with leaky roofs, insufficient lighting and almost no heating. They were able to store and work on the cars that were bought for next to nothing or received as down payment for debts or just because people wanted to get rid of that old heap of scrap in grandfathers’ garage,” said De Beer.
“When even that location grew too small, they moved to their current location, were some 100 cars are on permanent display and all the others parked bumper to bumper on two or three floors inside this huge storage building. Their budget is so tight, they can’t even put on the lights in those storage rooms during winter months when they’re only open to groups of 20 people or more and even then, you are strongly advised to wear warm clothing. But at least the place is dry and roofs are not leaking. Still it’s well worth a visit. It’s never crowded and the sheer amount of cars is just overwhelming,” he said.
Photo gallery from the Mahy Collection
Thanks to Koen De Beer for all this information.
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