Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Bruce Weiner Micro Car Museum

It is entirely possible that you really have no idea what a micro car is and even if you did, you'd probably guess "Smart Car" or "Mini" (examples of which may be found in museum) and to be honest, you'd be right. However you would have only scratched the surface on what I've found to be a fantastic history of a little known class of vehicles stretching back through the mid 1940s. This museum hearkens back to that time and place in history when  micro cars almost single-hand-idly saved a continent.

The time was the late 1940s, in Europe in the years following the end of World War II. Europe as a whole was a place of absolute destruction and devastation. Thousands of factories had been destroyed, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions of the continent's otherwise able-bodied workforce were either dead or permanently disabled.

Building materials, and other resources were scarce and even if they were readily available, the economic impact of the war left most of the citizenry destitute. What these  folks needed was something extremely cheap to produce, that would require very little of the already limited resources while remaining cheap enough to be afforded by everyday people. And so the micro-car was born, a concept that simultaneously mobilized the remaining workforce and jump-started the economies of many war-torn European nations.

American industry, of course hadn't been negatively impacted by the war at all so the same period in American history saw car sizes go in the opposite direction. As European and Japanese models grew smaller and more efficient, the Americans were making bigger and bigger gas guzzlers. One would probably notice that this doesn't seem that much different from today, the Americans still love their land yachts and Europeans and Asians still love their small cars.

But Bruce Weiner, an American, developed a fascination with these tiny vehicles and started collecting them as a hobby sometime in 1991. He has since then amassed a collection of more than 200 different models, many of which are the only surviving examples of those specific models left anywhere in the world.  It is also interesting to note that the most highly regarded examples were there ones designed and produced by Messerschmidt  the same firm responsible for the design and manufacture of one of Nazi Germany's most feared weapons, the Messerschmidt Me 109 World War II fighter plane.

Messerschmidt Kabinenrollers. 
Sanctions placed upon the Germans by the allies after the war, prevented Messerschmidt from producing any more weapons of war so the company turned it's engineering prowess to producing the highly prized Kabinenroller series of micros. Even BMW got in on the micro car action.

 It is said that you really don't miss something till you're about to lose it and I have to admit that my time on the premises was bitter sweet. Any sense of wonder over the novelty of it all was tempered by the knowledge that this visit was going to be the last. That within a few weeks, the entire collection of 200 plus examples of world history would be sold off individually to the highest bidder. I had heard of Bruce Weiner before actually, I had even seen the museum featured once on an episode of Georgia Traveler, a favourite series of mine that comes on often on Georgia Public Broadcasting (a PBS station).

You already  know Japan had to have gotten in on the micro car action. 
But the thought to actually drive out to Madison Georgia to come visit, had never really crossed my mind until now. I guess it came as a surprise to none that on the second to last weekend of it's existence, the place was packed. Staff barely knew how to handle the crowds after more than two decades of relative obscurity, their beloved museum became popular all of a sudden if not briefly.

Of course I wasted no time in getting a pic with the man  plus his autograph.
Hopefully we'll hear from the man, Bruce Weiner in a few years once he gets his next labour of love up and running. It's been said that he's bored with micro cars so he's going to pick up Volkswagens instead. See ya'll in a few years for my Bruce Weiner Antique Volkswagen Museum story.......hopefully.


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