The marketing flyer of the Museum Prototyp in Hamburg is really self-confident. The name of the car history museum is not primarily a reference to the car prototypes they partially own and display in their premises not too far from Hamburg Main Station, but they also seem themselves as a “prototype of a car museum” – “The symbiosis of man and machine delivers the full force of inspiration”. During a trip to the Northern German metropolis, I just had check out if the privately owned museum can keep their promise.
Museum Prototyp – Location & Admission
The museum is located in the Shanghaiallee 7 at the Elbtorquartier borough in Hamburg. The area is one of the key development areas of the city center – and thus, the building had some construction work during my visit. The traffic connection is not ideal and always requires walking: you may either connect by underground line U1 (station Meßberg) or by U4 (HafenCity / Universität or Überseequartier). There are some parking garages around. The most convenient way to reach the museum by public transport is by bus – the lines 111 and 602 stop more or less in front of the museum.
During my time of visit, the museum times were 10:00 to 18:00 hrs. Adult admission was 10 Euro. In case of special exhibitions, there is a (mandatory) 3.50 Euro supplement. Parking in the closeby garage Ebarkaden is 2.50 Euro for the first hour and 2 Euro per hour thereafter, limit 12 Euro.
Museum Prototyp – The Visit
You enter the museum from an intermediate level, before you head uo to the reception desk on first floor. There are additional exhibition spaces, the Schaudepot / Car Depot and the Gallerie / Gallery on the lower floors of the building. The first floor level is, however, the largest one. The exhibits are well described, typically in German and English. Sometimes, the technical data is put into small boxes into the floor, which is unusual, but really fancy.. To me, the key exhibits of the museum were the cars itself – but if you rather like medals and similar items, you will find a lot of interesting stuff for you as well. The key focus of the museum is definitely on German brands like Volkswagen or Porsche – but you will find other brands as well. One of the first exhibits I passed was the KdF-Wagen (“KdF car” – the abbreviation means Kraft durch Freude – “force by happiness”), which is a Nazi-initiated car finally leading to the Volkswagen brand. But there are countless very fascinating historic cars, which are typically much more rare than the KdF one.
The rear part of this exhibition floor turns more and more towards racing cars. To me, one of the more interesting exhibits was Michael Schumacher’s very first Formula One car. The debut car by Sebastian Vettel is also part of this section of the exhibition, which also shows a Paris-Dakar rallye car, sports cars and other interesting vehicles. There is also a car simulator to check out your racing skills.
As said, there are a lot of other items in display. For example, you find some original engines, but also other car racing histories. The museum drives a small cinema to watch some pieces of car racing history and even a special section, where you can listen to different motor sounds.
Right the first car on the Schaudepot level was a real highlight to me: the Herbie car you likely know from the Disney movie is not a one-piece original, but has been composed of original parts all used in the famous film. This level also features some more formula and race cars, but also some rather strange exhibits like a train-alike car, which used to drive visitors through Berlin Zoo.
The Gallery also features a bunch of pictures and arts as well as a model wind channel, which allows you to visualize the aerodynamic impact of different shapes of chassis. In this section, the museum almost feels like an art gallery, even though it still keeps its technical museum character as well.
The basement level, in which the Gallery is located, also hosts the exhibitions of the former Trips Museum in Kerpen near Cologne, which is nowadays closed. This place of honoring the famous German race car driver Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips, who died in a car crash in Monza in 1961, is definitely one of the most emotional places. A really great selection of items.
Museum Prototyp – Services
The staff at the museum was amazingly friendly. The reception desk also features a shop with some really cool memorabilia.
If you fancy a coffee or need a snack, the museum also drives a cafe / snack bar called Cafe Erlkönig at the back of the reception desk. This was very popular during my visit. You are asked to put your backpacks in the (free / just a deposit) lockers.
Museum Prototyp – The View
If you finally really feel that Museum Prototyp is a prototype for future car museums is likely also quite a matter of taste. Indeed, the museum is a beauty. It is well structured and features a lot of outstanding exhibits. Their mission to feel car history with all senses does not feel to be unrealistic in here at all. On top of that, you are welcomed by amazing staff – you feel that they love the place they are working for. Overall, these are ingredients for a technical museum, which finally simply deserves the Top Pick! award.