João de Lacerda – The Visionary Collector

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João de Lacerda – The Visionary Collector

Exhibition Type
Temporary Exhibition
4 Nov 2023
— 19 May 2024

On the centenary of João de Lacerda’s birth, Museu do Caramulo holds an exhibition celebrating the extraordinary life of one of its founders.

The car collection of Museu do Caramulo cannot be understood without some knowledge about the history of its founder.

As a car enthusiast, his passion for speed was only matched by his fondness for the history of the automobile and its leading figures.

A young doctor specialising in pneumology, he soon became skilled at combining his professional responsibilities with his motoring activity.

At weekends, he turned into a racing driver, competing in hill climbs, rallies and circuit races, driving cars that were probably too modest for his skills behind the wheel.

He regularly competed in such mythical races as the Mille Miglia and the Monte-Carlo Rally, and on many occasions, he was the sole Portuguese representative, achieving results that highlighted his innate talent.

When his family duties began to call for other precautions, he channelled his enthusiasm into vintage cars. In 1955, he bought an abandoned Ford T on an impulse, which he then carefully restored. This was the first car in his own future collection – the perfect complement to the work that his brother Abel had left for him to complete. It was a visionary moment that marked the beginning in Portugal of the phenomenon of collecting vehicles.

His exploits ceased to be measured with the chequered flag, but his attraction for speed did not slow down. In the 1980s, he recorded a speed of 208 km/h in his 1930 Bugatti Type 35B. But he was the first to confirm that not all the emotions that he felt at the wheel could be measured on the speedometer. He himself stated that it can be more exciting driving an 1899 Peugeot at 30 km/h than a Ferrari F40 at 300 km/h. He said this with the authority of someone who is capable of comparing such different sensations.

João de Lacerda also left another important lesson for those who think that collection vehicles are nothing more than antiques exhibited for the admiration of museum visitors. All the cars on display are kept fully roadworthy, just as they were when new. This was considered an indispensable requirement on the part of the founder and continues to be a key principle behind the spirit of Caramulo.

Perhaps this is his most impressive legacy. A vehicle is only fully realised when it is in motion. Each time a classic car is taken onto the road, bringing joy to its occupants and also to those who watch it driving past, João de Lacerda’s work is being continued.