The City of Car-Making Royalty
Story and photography by Debi Lander
While many visitors head to Germany for Octoberfest celebrations, Christkindl markets, and Rhine River cruises, car enthusiasts have discovered Stuttgart as the place for automotive history and vintage cars.
Founded in the 10th century, Stuttgart is the capital of southwest Germany’s Baden-Württemberg state and has become a major economic and industrial hub, particularly after World War II. The city is home to both the Mercedes-Benz and Porsche factories as well as their magnificent automobile museums, which are attracting tourists from around the world who have a passion for luxury cars. In addition, MotorWorld Stuttgart and the adjoining V-8 Hotel rev up enthusiasm among visitors of all ages.
The V-8 Hotel and MotorWorld Stuttgart are located at the site of the former Wurttemberg state airport in Boblingen. During World War II, it served as the manufacturing site for military engines, making it a target for allied air raids. A building where forced labor helped arm the Third Reich still stands. History buffs will find the renovated location includes old airplane hangars and the former airport tower in the distance.
Today, the sprawling MotorWorld property (over 64,000 square feet) showcases vintage, historic, and classic automotive rarities, plus showstopping collector’s vehicles housed in ultra-modern, stacked glass-sided garages. Think Maserati, Ferrari, and McLaren. Visitors can spend hours drooling over these beauties and can even feed their need for speed by arranging daily sports car rentals through the V-8 Hotel.
The hotel complex carries out the auto theme in clever ways, such as a vintage Dodge truck that separates space in the Pick-Up Restaurant and rear car seats used as lobby benches. The design of the 26 individually themed V-8 double guest rooms will evoke your inner child, with beds featuring actual front ends of vintage cars complete with working headlights.
“When I saw the bed was in the shape of a car, I felt like I should be wearing little-boy Spiderman pajamas,” says American visitor John Antony. “Finding out the bed was from an actual Mini Cooper body gave the concept a lot more appeal, and fun.”
Hand-painted murals and crafted furniture also add to the theme of the hotel. For example, the Jaguar room, painted in British racing green, features the Jaguar XJ2 body and murals depicting various angles of the cat hiding in the jungle. The Drive-In Cinema-themed room provides a cinematic experience under the stars. The snuggly bed is a true to the original, converted Cadillac Coupe de Ville – the ticket booth now the wardrobe. When the lights go out, a fascinating starry sky shines above.
Best of all, MotorWorld is free: browse the salesroom and enjoy the sophisticated combination of a classic car museum, an exhibition of sports cars, and fine food. You’ll also see many BMWs, Porsches, and Mercedes on the streets; after all, Germany is their home.
The stunning Mercedes-Benz Museum (built at the staggering cost of $192 million between 2003-2006), appears as a double-helix of sleek rounded glass and metal, like a curved piece of a car bumper. Visitors ride elevators to the top floor, then wind their way down nine levels and 130 years of automotive history. This is where the automobile began, the pioneering invention of Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz.
Even non-car buffs love the easily digestible history lesson. Important world events, especially both World Wars, as well as the development of the Daimler-Benz company, are depicted through large photos or video screens with minimal label reading.
Each area correspondingly showcases vehicles, more than 160 in total, some dating back to the earliest days of the motorcar engine. The museum’s curators have done a magnificent job of putting the company’s development into the context of local, national, and world developments.
The lower floors display futuristic concept models and an extensive gift shop. This impressive facility lives up to the company’s high standards.
The newer Porsche Museum, finished in January 2009 at the cost of over $110 million, also offers architectural design that matches the grace and power of its vehicles. The building appears to hover off the ground. The visual showpiece, standing 78-feet high, wows with three columns, each mounted by a different version of the Porsche 911.
The Porsche Museum takes a more technical approach to present the racing legacy that underpins the brand’s appeal. You’ll see 80 legendary racing cars, such as the 1971 Le Mann’s entry, 917/20, called the Pink Pig. Look for its body parts outlined as butcher cuts. Also exhibited are series production vehicles such as the 356 or 911, and many interactive displays. Of course, you’ll find an all-embracing Porsche gift shop as well.
Don’t try to see both museums on the same day; each brings an overload of auto history and both require much walking.
In addition to the auto museums, many annual events attract lovers of classic cars to the charming towns of Ludwigsburg or Heidelberg, with its famous castle, just 50 miles away. But, no doubt, the city of Stuttgart will keep your motor running for as long as you want to stay.