Museum history


When it reopened to the public on 19 March 2011, the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile was dedicated to Avvocato Giovanni Agnelli. This decision was taken by the Board of Directors following Fiat’s becoming a partner in the Museum. It was a mark of recognition of everything the Avvocato had done in the past to support the Museum.

The Congress Centre on the first floor and the Lecture Room on the ground floor were named after the founder Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia.

The link between Avvocato Agnelli and the Museum went back to the end of the ‘50s when the Avvocato was Chairman of the Italia ‘61 Committee and worked on bringing together a group of backers (the car and tyre companies, the oil companies, the city banks, national bodies and associations) who would guarantee economic support for the construction of the premises of the Museum in corso Unità d’Italia.

On 22 February 1957 the Museo dell’Automobile was set up by notarial deed and legally recognised by decree of the President of the Republic that same year (it would be recognised as an Association in 1992). Carlo Biscaretti was appointed the Museum’s first President and on his death on 7 September 1959, Avvocato Agnelli, then Vice President, proposed to the Board that the Museum be named after Biscaretti who had dedicated so much of his life to its creation.

That was how it all began. Avvocato Agnelli occupied the position of Vice President from 1957 to 1981, his presence was always important for the Museum for the contributions he was able to make to operations until 2003; for the donation of prestigious cars like the Mercedes Benz 500 K of 1936 and the Baby Bugatti of 1927 (a toy reproduction of the Type 35); and for the international character he was able to give the Museum thanks to his worldwide contacts.

In the entrance hall of the Museum there is a plate dedicated to Avvocato Agnelli and the original plate for the inauguration of 1960 with the bust of Carlo Biscaretti has been reproduced.

The Automobile Museum was set up in 1932 based on the idea of two pioneers of Italian motoring, Cesare Goria Gatti and Roberto Biscaretti di Ruffia (the first President of the Turin Automobile Club and one of the founders of the Fiat company), and is one of the oldest Automobile Museums in the world.

It was Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia (Roberto’s son), a Turin aristocrat born in 1879, who attached his name permanently to the National Automobile Museum, since he was the one who conceived it, gathered together the initial collection, strove to bring it into being and worked his whole life to give it decent headquarters. Carlo Biscaretti was also its first President and on his death in September 1959, the Board of Directors passed a resolution to name the Museum after him; it was then formally opened on 3 November 1960.
This is the only National Museum of this kind in Italy, housed in the premises designed by the architect Amedeo Albertini, on the left bank of the Po river and a short distance from the Lingotto; it is one of the few buildings specially constructed to house a museum collection, and is also a rare example of modern architecture.
The Museum has one of the rarest and most interesting collections of its kind, with almost 200 original cars dating from the mid-19th century to the present day, and over eighty different makes of vehicle, from Italy, France, Great Britain, Germany, Holland, Spain, Poland and the United States. In 2002 the Museum directors started to think about works to renew the structure and contents. Forty years had passed, and the Museum had by now become dated and obsolete, so that change was needed to make it more appealing.

The work of the examining board for the international competition to renew the Museum was concluded in summer 2005. Around fifty world-level architecture studios took part, and the winner was the group composed of the architect Cino Zucchi, the Recchi Engineering Srl company and the Proger SpA firm.
The winning design (which complied with the requirements as advertised, using a coherent approach that could reorganise the existing building and create new spaces to relate to the city), included the relationship between the quick visual perception from Corso Unità d’Italia and the defining of a more enclosed pedestrian area at the point where it joins Via Richelmy.

In common with many contemporary European examples, the strictly display functions will be supplemented by a set of complementary activities to make the Automobile Museum come alive at all times of day and evening, and become an element to lead the way in the urban renewal of the city’s southern quadrant.
Zucchi’s design will be enhanced with the displays by the Franco-Swiss set-designer Francois Confino.

The experience acquired by Francois Confino in other, similar projects (he designed the interior fittings for the Turin Cinema Museum), played a useful role in devising a brand-new concept that will place the Turin Museum at the cutting-edge in the field of the art of exhibiting motor cars. The guiding principle will be “the car observed as a creation of genius and of the human imagination”, to make people aware of, and appreciate the immense pool of talent, creativity, craftsmanship and entrepreneurial abilities that exist in Turin and in Piedmont.

In the new Museum, we will tell the story of the motor car, its transformation from a means of transport to an object of worship, from its origins right up to the contemporary evolution of creative thought. Through the evolution of the car, we will narrate the epoch-making times that society has experienced.