The Mahy family's unique collection of old-timers

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The Mahy family's unique collection of old-timers

  • The Mahy family from Ghent has one of the largest and most exclusive collections of classic cars in the world.

  • For the very first time, 600 authentic cars from their 'Reserve' are illustrated in book form.

  • An ode to the tranquil beauty of a unique collection of 'abandoned' cars.


The book

The book 'Mahy. A family of cars' sheds light on the tranquil beauty of a unique cavalcade of vintage cars. Some old; some not so old. Some backlit; some spotlit. Fifty of them are illustrated in spectacular photos taken in a specially designed studio. All with fascinating stories of the past etched into their rear-view mirrors. Stories of glory and loss, of death-defying rides over dangerous roads, of a never-ending search to find ultimate beauty on four wheels. Stories that have been told for generations in the Mahy family, a family of cars.


A carefully chosen selection of cars from the Mahy collection is returning to Ghent. A unique opportunity to see 40 of their very best vehicles in real life, in combination with a series of Wouter Rouwens' superb artistic photographs. Well worth a visit for anyone who is interested in old cars and industrial heritage!

The exhibition starts on 9 September 2021, with a selection of remarkable classic cars and large-format photos.

The Old Vynckier site in Ghent.

The Mahy Collection of Old-Timers

The collection of classic cars owned by the Mahy family from Ghent is internationally famous. Today, this collection consists of some 1,000 vehicles (the oldest dating back to 1895), making it one of the most complete collections of automobile history in the world. Part of the collection is on permanent display in the Autoworld Museum in Brussels, while a further selection can also be viewed at the family's own Mahymobiles Museum in Leuze-en-Hainaut.

However, the largest part of the collection is hidden away in a series of old hangers, where it cannot be seen by the public. This 'Reserve' contains a number of unique vehicles, some of which were no longer thought to exist. They have not been restored and stand there in an atmosphere that is almost cerebral in its intensity. People who are fascinated by the bygone glory of yesteryear and the beauty of nostalgia will be lost for words...


The Mahy familiy was originally specialised in the manufacture of steam boilers. Ghilsain Mahy, born in 1907, showed a talent for mechanics from an early age. He proved this by building his own car from scratch at the tender age of just seventeen, using the engine from an old Dixi and bits and pieces cannibalised from other vehicles!

In 1932, he set up in business as a trader of second-hand cars and in 1938 opened the first chauffeur-free car hire service in Belgium. Later, he became a dealer for leading brands of car, such as Nash, Simca and Fiat.

In 1944, Ghislain bought an FN motorcycle (the oldest 4-cylinder model in the world) and a Ford T, all for the princely sum of just 150 francs! The Ford reminded him of his youth, because his father had driven such a car. He was familiar with its mechanics, apart from the gear box, and he took the whole engine part, to understand how it worked, and then put it all back together again!

Further purchases of classic cars soon followed: a Benz Karpatensieger from 1915, a Fiat Limousine from 1921, a Wanderer from 1915, a magnificent Belgian Fondue from 1906, a Rolls-Royce from 1920 (that Mahy wanted to convert into a tow-truck!), ...


As the years passed, the collection continued to grow. By 1954, when Mahy converted the old Winter Circus in Ghent into a new garage, it numbered 35 vehicles and was well on its way to becoming a top-class collection. Ghislain never lost his passion for classic cars, so much so that the Winter Circus eventually became too small to house a collection that was eventually numbered in the hundreds, with the surplus being transferred to Brussels and Leuze.

The Authors

Michel Mahy is the third generation of this family of car fanatics, son of Yvan and grandson of Ghislain. He is the current curator of the collection, which can be viewed in part in Autoworld (Brussels) and in the family's own Mahymobile Museum in Leuze-en-Hainaut.

Wouter Rawoens is a freelance photographer who has worked on various books, magazines and newspapers, as well as for Uitgeverij Lannoo.