I’d heard about the Manor of the Automobile – or de Manoir de l’Automobile, to give its more authentic title – but I was keen not to do too much digging before I paid a visit. It’s all about the element of surprise, you see.
First impressions are a little underwhelming. You’re greeted by the sight of a circuit and, if you arrive via the village, the museum itself is hidden behind some trees, with the entrance tucked away in the corner. Thanks to Adrian ‘Mr Porsche’ Crawford, I had some idea of what to expect, but aside from checking the opening times and location, I hadn’t explored the website.
Once inside there’s a small reception desk and the familiar gift shop. Beyond that there’s a light and airy foyer, with a bar and a selection of old French cars, including a couple of Traction Avants and a pair of Panhards. It’s all very nice, but hardly overwhelming. It has the feeling of a small-town museum – a quaint private collection, with enough exhibits to keep you busy for an hour.
This is the wrong first impression. Goodness me, the Manor of the Automobile goes on, and on, and on. The scale is quite breathtaking, while the cars on show create some kind of PetrolBlog heaven on earth.
Walk through the first corridor and, bang, you’re greeted with a huge display of Alpines and race cars. Beyond that, your eyes are drawn to what must be one of the best collection of Group B rally cars anywhere in the world. There’s a Citroën BX 4TC, Peugeot 205 T16, Ford RS200… the list goes on.
Another corridor is followed by an amazing collection of old Lamborghinis; a Miura to the left, plus a further half-dozen models on the right. They may not be French, but they have yellow headlights. Be prepared for plenty of knuckle-biting. It would be very easy to have a crisis in the Manor of the Automobile.
There’s a chapel devoted to the engine (seriously), while the display of 3,000 model cars will nearly take your breath away. Eat your heart out, Kojak and your view of Bir-ming-ham. There are luxury cars, a hall of Ferraris and a room containing 18 Formula One cars. By now, you may have bitten your knuckles clean off.
But these aren’t the best bits. Nope, because as a reader of PetrolBlog, you’ll appreciate the ‘GT Room’ and the wonderful collection of French cars. If it’s possible to overdose on yellow headlights and French classics, I may have done so. It’s a wonder I managed to hold myself steady while I attempted to take some photographs. Insert cliche about kids and sweetshops.
Naturally, I wanted to share some of the best French cars on PetrolBlog, but I’d urge you to visit the museum. It’s about 90 minutes from the ferry at St Malo, or, 2 hrs 30 from Roscoff. Let Brittany Ferries take the strain as you prepare to be amazed by the Manor of the Automobiles. Of course, the fact that a large chunk of the museum has a unique French flavour is part of the appeal, but you don’t have to be a French car nerd to appreciate this.
Do yourself a favour. Go as I did without expectations and without looking at the website. Far too often, the internet and social media has the ability to remove the sense of surprise and anticipation. Occasionally it’s better to visit a museum blind, he says, while offering 30 photo taken from inside the museum.
If you do go, would you be so kind as to collect my jaw from the floor? Thank you. Oh, and wear gloves. It’s better for the knuckles.