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The Cool Cars of the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich's Best Art Museum

Designer’s dream machines on display alongside amazing expressionist art.

Ed TahaneyWriter, Photographer

MUNICH, Germany—I was in town to drive the Mercedes-AMG GLE53 and CLA45 S around Bavaria and I had some time to kill, but I didn't feel right about visiting the BMW Museum this time around. So, instead I hitched a ride on an electric scooter and made my way over to Munich's Maxvorstadt district where there are four Pinakothek art museums clustered together. At the Pinakothek der Moderne I found a number of amazing expressionist paintings by German artists Max Beckmann and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner as well as, to my surprise, an impressive collection of cars and motorcycles.

The Die Neue Sammlung design museum is located inside the lower level of the Pinakothek der Moderne and you can even see the collection from the outside. There are about 20 cars and motorcycles in total; here's a roundup of my favorites.

First up is a 1937 Tatra 87 streamlined beauty with a fabulous dorsal fin that is easily the star of the show. The aerodynamic wonder was designed by Austrian Hans Ledwinka and built by the Czechoslovakian car maker until WWII. The Tatra packed a rear-mounted 3.0-liter air-cooled V-8 that delivered a whopping 85 horsepower and had a top speed near 100 mph. I love the silver paint, leather seats, and fat white wall Firestone tires. Only 3,000 were made. If you can't make the trip to Germany, you can also see one at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. It gets its own display here, parked next to a massive Audi design wall.

Audi's impressive installation is comprised of about 1,800 solid aluminum 1:18 miniature 1980 Ur-Quattros and a 2013 Sport Quattro concept in the center, all painted flat white. They all hang vertically from the wall like they are racing toward an infinite and mirrored sky. The work was built to support the debut of the marque's 700-horsepower concept and is now part of the museum's permanent collection.

Across the way on a lift there's a Ferdinand Porsche designed Volkswagen Beetle Type 11 from 1946 in black with a Nazi flag draped through its window. The people's car display is followed by an even cooler looking Adler Type 10 and a Steyr 50 that were both designed by Karl Jenschke. Other notable rides include a sweet silver 1986 Porsche 911 Carrera SC, a 1968 Citroen DS 21 designed by Flaminio Bertoni (white with a wine-red interior), and an NSU Ro 80 designed by Claus Luthe. Under the hood, the light blue NSU four-door sedan packs a 995-cc twin-rotor Wankel rotary engine that was made until 1977.

Marvelous motorcycles in the exhibit include a 1920 Mars designed by Claus Franzenberg, 1948 Imme R 100 by Norbert Riedel, and a 2004 BMW K 1200S—a bike I lusted over for years but could never afford. Another standout is a sensuous motorcycle design study in red by Luigi Colani from 1978. Colani was a mad genius and his wild organic forms influenced generations of architects and designers—Google him and you'll see what I mean.

And lastly, all on its own in another part of the museum, I stumbled upon this odd duck—a 1965 Autonova Fam concept car designed by Michael Conrad, Pio Manzù, and Fritz Busch. The monoblock wagon sported automatic electro-hydraulic transmission, load-leveling suspension struts, and a funky yoke steering wheel. It didn't catch the production green light but was seriously ahead of its time.

Take a quick road trip in the gallery below to see the rest.