Museum Classics: Jesada Technik Museum – Part 1: The Older Stuff (Pre-1960)

Can you believe there is a guy in Thailand who went on a massive 500-car shopping spree over a few years and then thought “Well, might as well display these for free in a purpose-built hangar located in the middle of rice paddies about an hour away from Bangkok?” I just had to check that out. And now, you can too.

Ok, age before beauty: this post will focus on the older cars in the collection. Word of warning: many of these were either unrestored, badly preserved or kept on the road with bits and bobs from other vehicles. Plus, the hangar that houses the collection is open to the elements, so a fair amount of wildlife could be found in and under the cars. This is not Harrah or Beaulieu.

Khun Jesada Deshsakulrith, owner and founder of the museum, with the car that started his collection


Oh, and there is no signage whatsoever for 95% of the vehicles, either. But that’s ok, the collection is made up of mostly popular models, so it was fairly easy to work out what was what. No Maybachs or Hispano-Suizas here – heck, not even a Cadillac. We’re mostly talking honest old bangers lumped together under the same roof. And a lot of bubble cars, which we’ll look into later.

On to the oldies, then. The pre-war contingent is pretty small, but eclectic – like the whole rest of the collection. A couple dozen other cars were the only ones sitting in a special restricted area where one couldn’t look at the cars in much detail. I reckon these were the only cars that had been restored by the owner. Some of them still had foreign plates, like this late ‘20s Renault from Saône-et-Loire (71) in Burgundy.

There were a few ancient Citroëns as well – here is a pair from the mid-‘20s. The larger car seems like a B2 (also known as the 10HP), an evolution of the first Citroën, and the small one is a Type C, better known as the 5HP “Trèfle”.

Not far away, one could find the 5HP’s direct contemporary – and competitor: the legendary Austin 7. Both were launched in 1922. But whereas Citroen killed off their little car in 1926, Herbert Austin kept making the Seven until 1939 in the UK, but also in several other countries, such as France (Rosengart) or the USA (Bantam). I have no idea what that spindly-looking thing in the background might be, by the way – but this is CC, so chances are someone will have a clue.

There were a few Tractions Avant – all of the smaller 11 BL type and all post-1952, it seems. But as these were launched in 1934, they might as well be put in this section.

Moving on to the unrestored cars here, obviously, here’s a Simca Cinq – the French version of the Fiat Topolino, made from 1936 to 1949. This cute little thing still wears its Paris license plates.

Next to the Simca was this Peugeot 202. Launched in 1938, this little 1.1 litre car was the only Peugeot model to resume production after the war, being made until 1949 when the 203 took over. This one is pre-war, as it has the stylized lion chrome on its wheel spats.

Styling-wise, the 202 is a shrunk down version of the 402 (1935-40), which itself was clearly inspired by the Chrysler Airflow. But Peugeot did manage to make their version of the Airflow much easier on the eye thanks to better proportions and the cunning placement of the headlamps.

The lack of any surviving logo or script made this one a bit tricky to pin down, but this looked very German. And so it was: after a bit of web trawling, I can identify this as a 1935-38 Audi Front 225. This is Auto Union’s answer to the Citroën Traction Avant and the Adler Trumpf – a large-ish FWD design, with a twist: a 2.3 litre 6-cyl. engine. Given the general condition, goofy taillights and RHD, I bet this rare car was unearthed in Thailand.

Let’s keep it German for a bit, ja? Here are some unusual mid-‘30s Mercedes-Benzes – on top, the 130H (1934-39) and a 170H (1936-39) underneath. If you ever wondered what the VW Beetle would have looked like with a three-pointed star, well here’s your answer.

Might as well feature a couple of the older Beetles here while I’m at it. Very ‘50s both – the cabriolet is quite attractive, I must say. From far away, anyway. The twin exhaust suggests that the engine in this one is probably not the original 1200cc flat-four.

This 1956 (apparently) model looks a bit more legit. There were many Beetles in the collection, but these two were the most interesting ones by far, in my opinion.

There were a couple of Borgwards, too. This nicely restored early ‘50s Hansa 1500 pick-up was especially appealing. No idea if it came out of the Bremen factory like that or if this was a saloon that got the chop at some point. Or perhaps Borgward made utes for certain markets? Either way, a lovely sight.

But this Isabella was the real deal. Made from 1954 to 1963, these were the ultimate Borgwards. Solid, stylish and with a hint of performance. The Borgward Isabella was a legend during its own (tragic) lifetime, and something of a precursor to the BMWs of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Speaking of BMW, this lovely 501 from 1952 was present. The interior was particularly nice – that huge blue and white roundel on the steering wheel is to die for, and will probably impale you in case of a frontal collision. What a way to go.

How about some more Mercedes? There were a few 170s of note. M-B’s only car when they re-started production in 1947, the 170 (W 136) was instrumental in helping Stuttgart’s revival. And here we have the 170 V in red next to the slightly fancier 170 S in black. The latter was launched in 1949 and eventually paved the way for the new 220 (W187) and was replaced by the Ponton.

And no ‘50s Benz lover could forego the gargantuan 300 limo – one of the most exclusive cars present. From afar, it looked great. But this is Thailand, and many things are not quite what they seem…

Looking inside, I had a bit of a start when seeing that horrid autobox shifter, not to mention that A/C (a necessary evil in this region, but could it look any worse?) Who knows what’s under the hood of this poor 300, but it’s almost certainly not the original 3-litre six. The rear seat looks suitable for your average dictator, monarch or plutocrat, though.

This DKW F89 (1950-54) is positively sensual, with all these curves and those big round eyes… Plus, one of the strangest dash-mounted shifters ever – the DKW tradition, I guess. Eastern cousins such as the Trabant also had a similar arrangement.

This one wears a DKW badge, but I have my doubts. The grille and bumpers are definitely from an East-German IFA F9… Hard to tell these fraternal twins apart. Does anybody have an opinion?

The re-birth of NSU in the late ‘50s started with this little Prinz. Not exactly beautiful, but apparently very competent and quick, it allowed the marque to reclaim its place among German automakers – for a decade or so, anyway…

There weren’t many British cars that caught my eye, but this 1948-52 Morris Oxford was certainly an interesting proposal. It looked like a Minor on steroids. The rather menacing mascot with yellow eyes is incredible – period accessory?

A contemporary Morris J-Type was also present. These were made from 1949 to 1961 and had the same side-valve 1.5 as the Oxford. Pretty cool-looking vehicle, with that wooden bed and those snazzy green rims.

Crossing the Channel, we find ourselves with a cute little Renault Dauphine. I’m hopeless at identifying these, but this seems like a pre-1962 model. Renault launched this car in 1956 and it had a lot of success initially – even in the US, for a while. In France, it was chiefly renowned for its ability to wiggle its ass and roll over when cornering on wet roads. Unsafe at any speed…

Let’s look at some of the more exotic cars in the collection – starting with some COMECON comrades. I found the wagon version of this Škoda on the streets of Rangoon a couple years ago, but this 1955-59 Spartak 440 saloon is in much better nick.

These were very decent cars in their day. They were probably the best Eastern European cars around at the time – with the exception of Tatras, of course… But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This is the only Soviet car I’ve ever seen in Thailand. Judging by its LHD steering and rather unkempt appearance, this 1959-62 GAZ Volga M-21 was probably imported recently from God-knows-where. Love that hood ornament!

Next to the Volga, we have a 1947 Ford, looking quite fetching despite its older yellow paintwork. There were a few other interesting US imports from the ’50s – with many independents, too. But first, let’s dip back into the pre-war era.

I was a bit stumped when I saw this. There were no badges on it, but it felt Mopar-esque to me. After a bit of image browsing on the Internets, it seems this is a 1936 Dodge. And RHD, no less! Must have been bought new in Thailand (well, “Siam” back in them days) and lived to tell the tale. American cars were once very popular in Asia…

That is more than can be said for this British-made (but definitely not British-styled) 1953-61 Metropolitan. I hadn’t seen one of these in ages and they seem to get smaller each time. They shrink down so fast… There were no Hudson or Nash badges on it aside from that “M” logo, but the lack of trunk lid makes this a Series III (1955-58) car.

There’s nothing like a Metropolitan to stick out of the crowd. Especially in white and Barbie pink. I had never really looked inside one of these before, but this one looked mighty fishy. Another botched Thai “restoration / engine reassignment surgery” attempt, no doubt.

Staying in the Nash family but going back in time a bit, there was a sweet old Rambler – with RHD, if you please. This looks to me like a relatively unmolested early (1951-52) hardtop coupé.

The detailing on these has always fascinated me – truly unique styling.

And finally, this stunning Studebaker Hawk, which was unfortunately parked well beyond reach. It seems like this is a 1959 Silver Hawk — also RHD. I wish I could have captured the interior, but if a car is fenced off, one should respect that. Especially in a place that doesn’t charge for visits.

That’s it for now. There were another couple of cars that warrant their own post, which will be featured on this very site in the next few days, after which we’ll look at the ’60s-’70s metal. Until then, which one of these puppies would you rescue and take home? My choice begins with a B.