Featured photo for Tampa Bay Auto Museum

Tampa Bay Auto Museum

What are some of the things you would aspire to do after you had immigrated to the U.S., built a successful and profitable business, and was passionate not just about the machinery manufactured by your company but also about automobiles?

Maybe you would start your own car collection. And once it got large enough, open your own museum to share your zeal with the public.

At least this is what Alain Cerf did. Cerf is the founder of Polypack, a designer and manufacturer of automated packaging equipment based in Pinellas Park, Florida. In 2005, his Tampa Bay Auto Museum threw its doors open to the public only a skip and a hop across the parking lot from Polypack.

Alain Cerf is Fran├žais and much of his collection includes vehicles from the land of wine and cheese and neighboring territories. He was particularly interested in vehicles with innovative and pioneering features, such as front wheel drive and rear engines. His collection includes very rare models and one-offs, especially from the era when Ernest Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald were young and inspired.

Below are photos of my favorites from the museum. The cars have documentation nearly worthy of Encyclopedia Britannica at the museum’s official website.

A blue 1937 Peugeot Darl'Mat, which was styled by George Paulin, a former dentist.
View from the driver's seat of the blue 1937 Peugeot Darl'Mat.
This yellow 1933 Mathis VL Prototype reminded me of a early 2000s Corbin Sparrow. They both had three wheels and looked like a streamlined shoe.
camouflaged Kuzelwagen Type 82
A blue Tatra T26-30 six-wheeler.  Tatra is a company in the Czech Republic that still makes trucks today.
A silver 1938 Panhard Dynamic. It had a six-cylinder sleeve-valve engine.
A yellow 1956 Claveau front-wheel-drive vehicle that used "anneaux Neiman" rubber rings in rings that provided the suspension.
A blue 1929 Tracta A that was a 1929 Le Mans category winner.  Its top speed was 90 MPH.
This red 1953 Jensen 541 prototype hailed from England was made of aluminum except for the fiberglass hood. Production models were all fiberglass. The drag coefficient (Cd) was only .39.
A blue 1937 Mercedes 170 H was a limited-production, rear-engined "people's car" that looked like a Volkswagen. Ditto for the 1935 Mercedes 130 H next to it.
This blue-grey 1965 Ford Mustang and 1968 Ford Zephyr police car to the right of it were converted to all wheel drive by Fergusen Research.
A 1937 Audi (by Auto Union) front wheel drive vehicle undergoing restoration.
This Amilcar Compound front wheel drive vehicle with independent suspension was produced in France from 1938-1941.
A green 1933 Derby L8 Roadster. Derby was a French company that made race cars.
This BSA Three Wheeler was manufactured from 1930-1935 and outsold Morgan (another British three wheel car manufacturer that still exists today) during those years.
A black 1937 Cord 812 front wheel drive car with supercharger and rectractable headlights in the front fenders.
The Tatra T87 was made from 1937-1948 and featured a rear 75-hp V8 and independent suspension.  It had a tendency to oversteer dangerously.
A Le Mans car with a DD hood badge on it. I do not know the year or marque.