VILNIUS - With the summer heat now cranked up to full blast, most people are fleeing the baking asphalt of the city and heading for the relaxing cool of countryside rivers and lakes. But if you're still brave enough to spend some time in Vilnius, you can set aside a hot afternoon to visit the Litexpo Exhibition Center, where the antique automobile show, on through September 28, is a refreshing way to spend the day.
This is the private collection of Lithuania's most famous race driver Stasys Brundza, and it's now open to anyone interested in the evolution of cars. Even if you're not a real car enthusiast you'll still find something here to capture your imagination. For instance, seeing cars made a century ago will make you wonder how people managed to drive those contraptions, and the old limousines will have you pondering which rulers and presidents sat in their comfortable seats.
The Litexpo Exhibition Center hosts this collection of 52 unique old automobiles. It includes a lot of cars you won't see tooling around on the city streets these days like an old Cadillac, a Mercedes, a Lincoln, a Tatra and military trucks. There's even the Eva, a rare Lithuanian rally car, and a famous LADA 2105 VFTS handmade by Brundza and his colleagues. The number of items in the exhibition is still growing as 20 more cars will be added as soon as their reconstruction is complete.
The show's collection is insured for 2 million litas (580,000 euros), but its value is probably several times higher as there are a lot of one-of-a-kind pieces on display.
"It is a cultural heritage as important as architecture, art or music," says Brundza. Indeed where else could you see the car that might have taken Lithuania's inter-war president Antanas Smetona to his meetings, the Porche 911 that Brundza drove around the streets of Vilnius during Soviet times, or a huge Cadillac from 1912? This is a great way to see how cars evolved over the last century, find out more about automobile history, and generally get a glimpse of days gone by.
Apart from its intrinsic value, this exhibition actually represents a step towards the creation of an automobile museum in Vilnius. Until now private collectors have kept their treasured finds hidden away in garages, far from the eyes of the curious. However Brundza has come up with the idea to open up the inventories of Lithuanian collectors to the public. The automobile museum is still in the concept stage, but hopefully the government will make a decision by the end of this exhibit and soon the public will be able to marvel at more antique cars and other machines.
"The citizens could spend their free time in a technology park, the children could drive in a special autodrome and learn the rules of the road," said Brundza, sharing his vision.
And if there's anyone capable of making dreams into reality, it's Brundza. He started his career in 1963, won "Tour d'Europe" in 1974, and has been named Lithuania's "Racer of the Century." Then there's his car collecting hobby, which he started in 1981 by buying a Horch 853 made in 1937. And yes, you'll be able to see this car, standing among all the other 20th-century models in what's now a truly impressive collection.
Antique Automobile Exhibition
Litexpo Exhibition Center, Laisves 5
Entrance 8 litas (3 litas for students and retirees)
Open Wed - Fri, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sat - Sun 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.