Friday, February 8, 2013

International Adventures: The Royal Automobile Museum in Amman, Jordan

On Sunday, February 3, I drove from Madaba to Amman to visit the Royal Automobile Museum. Driving from here to there is about the same distance I cover when driving from our house in Lake Forest Park to Tom's house in Burien, so it may seem far, but really isn't. It takes 30-40 minutes depending on traffic.

The museum houses the car collection of the late King Hussein (yesterday was the 14th anniversary of his death) and was built by his son, King Abdullah II as a memorial to his father's life with vehicles. King Hussein was a car guy in the Jay Leno tradition. He amassed a truly massive and eclectic collection of cars, motorcycles, bikes and memorabilia over a lifetime. He was a racer when time permitted, though, being king, that was tempered somewhat by his responsibilities.

 I think you could break his collection into two basic groups. Cars that got used in his position as head of state and cars that he enjoyed personally. To say that he enjoyed cars personally is quite an understatement.

.He had quite a collection of Roll Royces and Bentleys. They were among those used on state occasions., though one is a fairly old one that was rebodied in armor (!) and had a gun mounted on the top. That one was used during the Arab Revolt. Here's a selection of them:

 I love the details of this particular Rolls. I like the way they used those two strips of brightwork (probably stainless steel) to accentuate the step from the body to the fender and the way that step is echoed between the body and the trunk.

 This cream and grey Roll has a particularly attractive color scheme in my eye.

Look at how deep the wool carpeting is in the passenger compartment of this Rolls. It must be 2 -3" thick.

Among his cars of state was a group that I'd classify broadly as 'sleds'; big, mostly American iron. Take a look and you'll see what I mean.
 A 1958 Buick Roadmaster. My Aunt Jane had a smaller version of this (only three portholes) in black that I remember from the late '50s. It was the car she had before she bought her Ford Falcon.

 This cream-colored 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible with the tan interior is a beauty.

Of course, he had Caddilacs as well. This one is a beauty.
This is a Packard Dual-Cowl (the cowl is the body part just before the windshield and you can see this has two windshields, one for the driver and one for the passengers) Phaeton. What a gorgeous car.

King Hussein had another car in his collection that can only be described as the ultimate German sled. Mercedes custom built these 600 series limousines for heads of state for the most part. Idi Amin, Mao Tse-Tung, and many others had their own and they were all one of a kind. I was fascinated by the diamond plate running boards/fender skirts on Hussein's

Now for the personal side of his collection.

My favorite car in the whole exhibit is this next one. It is a 1936 Cord 810 Westchester coupe. Cord was an American manufacturer that built some of the most technologically advanced cars of its day. This one featured front wheel drive, retractable headlights, and an electrically pre-selected four speed transmission. It is also drop dead gorgeous in my humble opinion. In my younger days I built a plastic model of a Cord 812 and I've never forgotten how much I liked it. I was amazed that almost 50 years later I got to see a Cord in the flesh. First time!

You may have noticed in previous photographs that the walls of the museum are loaded with period photos of the cars in their element. The one on the right taken in a courtyard with a horse just behind it is pretty cool and shows the lines of the car well.

King Hussein loved British cars and had many in his collection. He had several Aston Martins including a 1952 (the year I was born!) DB2

A Lagonda

And a particularly brutish looking 1985 DBS V8

He had several older British sports cars. I think this one is a Singer, but don't have any details. I just know I liked the look of it and its two-tone paint job.

Love the knockoffs and the black painted wire wheels.

He, of course, had Jags and this XK-140 was particularly nice.

The late king also had a number of modern exotic cars. Let's take a look.
 A BMW M1 looking somewhat innocuous in white.

 While not actually an 'exotic' car, the BMW Z1 is a favorite of mine and an antecedent to the M Roadster that sits in my garage at home. The doors that disappear into the wide sills are a somewhat exotic feature and must be a fabulous open air motoring experience.

 This little guy was at the museum with his dad and seemed fascinated with my picture taking. He came and stood directly in front of me, so, of course, I obliged him with a couple of pictures. As you can see, all of the cars in the museum are roped off, but directly after this picture he went under the rope and sat in the driver's seat of the Z1. Good taste, lad.

The king's collection afforded me the opportunity to see some cars in the sheetmetal that I had only ever seen in photographs in magazines or videos on websites. This is one of them, the technological tour-de-force that was the Porsche 959. I really like it in the dark green with the tan interior.

 A Porsche Carrera GT

Sometimes the details on the cars are as interesting as the whole car is. I was amazed at the center-lock hubs on the Carrera GT.

Now, I had seen examples of these next two cars before. I saw an F50 at Park Place Motors in Bellevue and an F40 on the street in New Orleans!, but these exotic stallions from Maranello are a visual treat any time.

The entire body of the F50 is done in carbon fiber, but the finish looks like liquid.

 Francis and I once built a model of an F40. What a brute of a car; all scoops, slats, wings, and NACA ducts finished in the only color for this brute.

 A plexiglass engine cover over a 400 hp twin-turbocharged V-8. Don't want to add any unnecessary weight that will slow this beast down.

Notice the family resemblance?

 The legendary Mercedes 300SL 'Gullwing'. First time I saw one in the sheet metal.

The king was a racer, so he had a fire suit and helmet. The helmet had the symbol for the Hashemite Kingdom front and center, just in case the visor was down and you didn't know who was in there!

King Hussein loved rally racing. Here are a couple shots of two of his rally cars. The first is the engine bay of a Renault R8 'Gordini" A small four banger, but with those dual Webers and headers I bet this baby just screamed!

 Another rally car, a Mercedes 190 E 2.3 -16, the Benz answer to the E30 M3.

Some of the details on the cars were just exquisite. I love this hood ornament.

The King had a huge collection of motorcycles which he loved to ride around Jordan. He seemed to be a particular fan of large American V-twins, but he had an amazing variety of bikes. I didn't concentrate on the bikes, but did take some shots to give an idea of the variety.

He loved Milwaukee's Finest in many varieties.

 This Indian was just gorgeous.

 A customized Harley; a Crocker Special.

 He had several bikes with sidecars attached. Must have been quite a ride with the King as your pilot.

He had a couple of unusual bikes in the collection as well. Bet you've never seen this particular BSA before. It is a folding bicycle made by Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) as a military application. It was meant to be used by paratroops as ground transport after they parachuted in. They'd strap it to their back and then jump out of the plane.

 This is what it looks like unfolded/assembled. I can't imagine riding this into battle!

 He also had a fairly futuristic bike in the collection as well. TRON anyone?

Outside the musuem there was a truck that had been painted in the Pakistani fashion on display. It was just too funky to resist a couple of pictures.

 The plaque on the grille explains the context of this display.

Almost every metal surface; grille, wheels, mirror housings, etc, is covered in paint and quite artistically at that. Don't know that I'd want it as my daily driver, but it sure is cool.

If it isn't glass or chrome, it got painted!

What a fabulous collection. I really enjoyed my visit.


YORK Group Motorsport said...

Fantastic place to while away some time!

RoboDad said...

I will be revisiting the RAM this coming Sunday, March 10, with my new friend, John. It will give me the chance to notice things I might have missed on my first visit.

These are the things that interest me. If any of them are of interest to you, great. Read along


About Me

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I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.