[Text and Photos by Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]

Most bikers don’t care that much about fine art, and artsy guys in general have a rather jaundiced view of motorcycles [except me! – ed.].  Recently we visited Caramulo Museum, about 1.5hrs from Porto in Portugal.  It’s a unique place that easily caters to both tribes, the artists and the bikers.

A civilian Harley-Davidson WL graces the entrance of the Caramulo Museum in Portugal. [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
The Museum is the work of two visionary brothers, Abel who had a passion for art, and Joao who was crazy for motorsports.  Located in the center of one of the oldest wine growing areas of Portugal, the elegant granite building was built in the fifties, and could be mistaken for a school.  On its grounds, you’ll find an 18th century cloister that was carefully dismantled in its original location 60km away (much like The Cloisters in NYC), and transported by truck to become the core of the museum building.  The cloister has an immaculate garden in the center, while the art galleries surround it on two floors.  The art collection is small but well curated, with plenty of famous names, and four magnificent sixteenth-century tapestries.  In an adjacent building the bulk of the motorcycle and car collection are on display.

An original 15th Century cloister is integrated with the Caramulo Museum, including its enclosed courtyard and colonnaded arcade. [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
On our visit, we were greeted by Joao, the grandson of the founders. He’s a young man with an enthusiastic and informal demeanor, and was dressed in slacks and a plain shirt when we met. He gave us a short tour and told us about the new initiatives the museum is undertaking in to bring it to a more contemporary experience.

The Caramulo Experience Center is the new heart of the museum, where it’s possible to observe and interact with museum staff about their projects restoring cars and motorcycles. [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
To that end, the fascinating new Caramulo Experience Center opened in April 2022.  It’s an open, 26,000 square foot space with multiple brightly-lit workshops, where motorcycles and cars are being restored.  There’s no barrier; you are free to walk around and talk with the mechanics about their work and the machines they’re restoring. It reminded us somehow of the nice informal atmosphere at Bonneville…[or Vintage Revival Montlhéry – ed.]  On the day of our visit one of mechanics showed us the revolutionary design details of a Bugatti T35 that was getting prepared for a race in Italy. The museum is not opposed to using its displays at events, and even posts a schedule of where you can see them in action.

The Bugatti T35 Grand Prix racer being worked on in the Caramulo Experience Center: a rare opportunity to see the idiosyncratic inner workings of this legendary design from the hand of Ettore Bugatti. Note the machine-square OHC cylinder head for the inline 8-cylinder engine, as Bugatti preferred, and the distinctive horseshoe radiator. [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
The mountain scenery around the museum is beautiful, with plenty of interesting and quiet roads to ride.  The local cuisine is hearty: try Montanha, Tres Pipos, or Valerio, or if you’re feeling upscale, try the Mesa de Lemos.  All are worthy places to consider…so plan your visit to Portugal!

Cars and bikes undergoing restoration: an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider and 1920s British single (BSA?). [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
A charming mix of tiny oddities: an NSU Quickly TT and Fiat 500. [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
The exterior of the Caramulo Museum is low-key modernist. [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
For the artistically inclined, the 16th Century tapestries rival those found in any museum. [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
Our Vintagent Contributor Manuel Rosario discusses the fine points of Bugatti construction in the Experience Center with one of the mechanics. [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal are both doctors in Portugal, and produced the film ‘Salt Fever’.
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