Hidden in a large, hangar-like structure in the Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels, Belgium, is AutoWorld: a massive car museum with over 250 vintage European and American automobiles on display. Taking a few hours to tour this collection is like walking through the last 100-plus years of automotive history.

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Horseless carriages

The earliest automobiles were based on horse carts, so it's no surprise that the oldest vehicles in the collection resemble carriages. Often, the automaker sold just the chassis and engine, upon which the customer would commission a coachbuilder to build a custom body.

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1922 Ford Model T

Separating chassis and body construction made each automobile unique, but it also made them difficult to buy and very expensive. The assembly line built Ford's Model T was one of the first vehicle to change this, heralding the era of mass production. During the nearly 20 years that it was produced, more than 15 million Model Ts were built.

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1927 Ford Model T Speedster

Mass production didn't exactly spell the end of coachbuilders. Many were still employed by owners to modify their rides, resulting in some of the first customs like this Ford Model T Speedster.

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FN 1300 Sport

This Belgian FN 1300 Sport is a customized version of the car that won the 1926 24 Hours of Francorchamps.

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FN 1300 Sport

The custom bodywork and lowered ride look so good, I couldn't resist another snapshot.

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1925 Hanomag Kommissbrot

One of the first successful German automobiles was the Hanomag Kommissbrot, a compact car powered by a 0.499-liter, one-cylinder engine. Output was rated at two-tenths of a horsepower.

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1927 Darmont Type DS Special

This sports roadster is a French-made clone of the British Morgan three-wheeler, a version of which is still being manufactured today.

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1927 Ravel Type B.12.26

Where most cars drew their inspiration from horse carriages, others -- like this French-built Ravel -- seem to be influenced by wooden boat hull construction.

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1934 Citroen Type 7A

In the '30s, we begin to see automakers experimenting many new features that persist even to today in modern automobiles. For example, this Type 7A is Citroen's first front-wheel-drive vehicle. It also features an integrated monocoque and an independent front suspension.

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1930 FN Type 1400

One of the best ways to improve overall performance is to reduce a vehicle's weight. Where modern vehicles use carbon fiber and composites, this 1930 FN Type 1400's body is made of imitation leather stretched over a wooden frame.

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1940 BMW Type 326

The modern BMW 3 Series can trace its lineage back to this 1940 BMW Type 326, though the vehicles look nothing alike.

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1947 Crosley Type 4, 1954 Standard 10

In the late 1940s into the '50s, we start to see automakers around the world working to build small, efficient cars that are beautiful and inexpensive.

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1964 Panhard and Levassor CD Grand tourisme

During my visit, Autoexpo was showcasing a special exhibition of vehicles built by French automaker Panhard and Levassor -- now under the umbrella of the PSA Peugeot Citroen group.

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1950 Volkswagen Beetle Type 1, 1957 Citroen 2CV AZ

Like the American Model T, Ferdinand Porsche's Volkswagen Beetle Type 1 was a revolutionary moment in automotive history. With over 20 million examples produced, the "People's Car" is often cited as the world's most successful automobile. Of course, it spawned a number of imitators.

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1955 Messerschmitt KR200

German fighter plane manufacturer Messerschmitt began building this tandem two-seater in the aftermath of the second World War. That explains its cockpit-like canopy design.

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1962 BMW Isetta Type 300

The Isetta was an Italian microcar built by German manufacturer BMW. The driver entered through a large door on the front of the vehicle, climbing around the steering column, which was hinged at the floor.

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1961 Skoda Felicia Cabriolet, 1957 Trabant Type 601

The Skoda Felicia and Trabant Type 601 entered the market in the Czech Republic and East Germany, respectively, around 1960. The Type 601 continued to be built and sold as recently as 1991.

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1959 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible

In the 1960s, we start to see the big bodies and big V8s of the classic American automotive market begin to appear.

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1965 Amphibicar

This automotive oddity met both highway and maritime regulations.

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1968 Honda S800

Inspired by small, British roadsters, this Honda S800 was one of the first successful Japanese automobiles in the European market.

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1970 Porsche 912 Coupe

Early Porsche models emphasized function over form in their pursuit of performance. However, when Ferdinand "Butzi" Porsche (grandson of THE Ferdinand Porsche) penned the 911 with Karmann, he wanted to make sure that the coupe was both fast and beautiful.

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1971 AMX/3 Spyder

American Motors Corporation (AMC) asked Italian automotive designer Giorgetto Giugiaro to build this prototype, but ultimately decided not to produce this 560-horsepower, V-8-powered roadster.

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1971 AMX/3 Spyder, 1965 Ford Mustang Coupe

Sitting low to the ground, the AMX/3 Spyder's roof is nearly as low as the contemporary Ford Mustang's hood.

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1971 AMC AMX/3 Prototype, 1974 Lamborghini Countach

Later, AMC asked Giorgetto Giugiaro for six more AMX/3 prototypes. This one is powered by a 345-horsepower V-8 and looks absolutely sharp next to this Lamborghini Countach.

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Lamborghini engine

In addition to the cars themselves, the Autoworld museum also has a number of engines, vintage fuel pumps, and more on display.

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Alpine A110

The Alpine A110 was a gorgeous sports car built by a French manufacturer between the 1962 and 1977. Its four-cylinder engine was good for anywhere between 55 and 250 horsepower depending on the year, model, and race series.

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1938 Talbot Lago T150C

Racing is as much a part of automotive history as passenger cars are. This 1938 French Talbot Lago competition roadster's six-cylinder engine output an amazing (at the time) 155 horsepower.

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2008 Renault R38 Showcar F1

Seventy years later, French manufacturer Renault's Formula 1 race car's V-8 makes about 700 horsepower.

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Michel Vaillante F1 car

Here we have a customized F1-styled showcar inspired by the 1957 comic series Michel Vaillante, which followed the exploits of a fictional racing car driver.

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Racing suits

I'm not sure what's up with these guys...

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1969 Italian Lancia HF 1600 Fulvia Rally

This Italian Lancia HF 1600 Fulvia Rally car puts 160 horsepower to its front wheels and features race-ready suspension and illumination.

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1977 Porsche 935/5, 1976 Porsche 934 RSR

I was surprised that I didn't see more Porsche vehicles and race cars at the museum. The collection tended to skew toward French and Belgian automakers -- not that I'm complaining.

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The "Brown Bugatti"

Known as the "Brown Bugatti," this blue coupe wraps aerodynamic bodywork around a 1930s-vintage Bugatti Type 57 chassis and is named after Jacques Brown, the man who penned the design in 1954.

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1969 Citroen DS21

Over 1.5 million examples of this aerodynamically shaped sedan were produced following its launch in 1955. Designers obviously didn't have access to computers and wind tunnels at the time, so the silhouette was formed based on testing, intuition, and an eye for style.

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Lamborghini Espada

Lamborghini has always been a bit of a bonkers brand. This '70s-era Espada was powered by a 350-horsepower, 12-cylinder engine, but what's most noteworthy is its incredibly wide and long design.

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Ferrari 250 GT

If I'm not mistaken, this '60s-era 250 GT coupe was the only Ferrari on display at the museum. That doesn't make it any less sweet.

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Toys and models

Not all of the cars at the museum are built to scale. There is also an extensive collection of automotive toys, models, and a scale model of the museum's hangar-like hall.

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Matchbox model

For many of us, meticulously building and painting scale models will be as close as we'll get to owning these dream cars, such as this Auto Union Type C race car.

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Autoworld Brussels

I've only scratched the surface of the hundreds of cars, carriages, and motorcycles on display. If you have a love for cars and happen to find yourself in Belgium, I'd highly recommend a trip to the Autoworld museum.

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