Mahy – A Family Of Cars in Autoworld Brussel

In 1932 at the age of 24, Ghislain Mahy decided to become a used-car salesman. This was thickly against father Louis’ wishes. Father Louis’ verdict was harsh ‘Then you shouldn’t come here to eat and sleep either’.

Ghislain pulled the door shut behind him to occasionally come to his mother’s house for something to eat in his father’s absence. Collecting was out of the question back then; Ghislain was already happy to make ends meet. Business was booming and after moving to St Jacobnieuwstraat, he had a showroom that just fit two cars.

Winter circus

Since 1939, Ghislain rented the Winter Circus in the heart of Ghent with the aim of housing his garage activities there. However, the war brought most activities to a halt and it was not until 1944 that trading was thought of again. A four-year lawsuit over the illegal use of the Winter Circus by the landlord during the war was won by Ghislain Mahy. In 1948, he bought the dilapidated Winter Circus for the then huge sum of three million francs.

After numerous renovations to the Winter Circus, garage Gh. Mahy got off to a flying start. With ten cars in the showroom advertised by salesmen in suits, garage Mahy was soon the main supplier of cars in and around Ghent.


It was only after moving into the Winter Circus that Ghislain quietly started collecting cars. Geneviève, Ghislain’s wife gave the impetus to buy a 1921 Rolls-Royce. The Silver Ghost was rolled to the top floor and was the impetus to buy more cars. By 1954 when the garage got a new facade, the collection already consisted of 35 pieces.


The love for cars was passed on like a microbe to sons Ivan and Hans, who in turn grew the collection. After Ghislain’s death in 1999, Ivan took over full management of the collection. Unlike his father, he did regularly highlight the collection.

More than 1,000 items

Without a doubt the largest collection in the country and the basis of the birth of Autoworld. After a long search to shelter part of the collection, our capital city caught the eye. At the time, the exhibition halls built under King Leopold II at the Cinquantenaire Park looked neglected. The Brussels city council went along with the story. In 1986, Mahy’s restored cars moved to the majestic World Palace. The 230 gems of the collection still reside there in what is now called the Autoworld museum.

The second part of the collection with around 750 pieces was still gathering dust and rust in three other locations. The Winter Circus, a dilapidated factory building in Ghent and a warehouse in Zomergem.

Son Ivan found a location just across the language border in Leuze-en-Hainaut. The hangars of a former textile factory would become the new home of the immense collection. Consequently, the move was suddenly the biggest vintage car parade in the country. Only there was not a single car driving itself. All transport was done by trailers and trucks.

On permanent display

Some of the best restored cars were given a place on a green concrete. However, most of the collection is under lock and key.

Always present in Autoworld

Inside the Autoworld building is a small section where a piece of Mahy’s workshop has been recreated. You can safely see this as a tribute to this family, which is surely very important to Autoworld.

27 pieces at Autoworld

During the summer of 2023, 27 unique pieces were on display at Autoworld. The exhibition runs until 3 September so those who want to can still go there quickly. They are all pieces from the ‘Reserve’. They are also sometimes called barnfinds although I don’t think that is always correct.

Aston Martin DB2 late King Baudouin

We see above e.g. the late King Baudouin’s Aston Martin DB2. Ivan Mahy bought the acclimatised British car fifty years ago. A garage owner from the Walloon town of Gembloux held a big clearance sale and for just 13,000 francs the Aston Martin was allowed to leave. Unfortunately, the car was no longer original; the engine and gearbox had been replaced by a Triumph. Via some research, Mahy ended up at the Royal Palace in Brussels. Baudouin had bought the Aston Martin at the 1953 Brussels Heysel Motor Show. A total of only 411 were built of which 102 were convertibles. It therefore hurts a little to see this car standing like this.

Exceptional Delage D4/8 – 100 Antem

Or this particular 1939 Delage D4/8 – 100 Antem. The story goes that seven British boys from the fifties crossed the Channel and bought the cheapest car they could find. It was to be the Delage with an Antem bodywork.

The beast had previously driven around for a circus, hence the rather unusual colour combination. They toured France, passing by Paris, Marseille, Strasbourg, Nice and even Lourdes was visited. Ghislain bought the car from a dealer who called him when the British had broken down on his doorstep. Ghislain gave 500 francs for it, just enough to provide the guests with a train ticket to England.


Below, we briefly describe the book. This required many photographs. A large number of the photos were on display during the expo, most of which are also for sale. So if you are looking for a rather exclusive photo I would not hesitate.

The book

Stories like the one above can be found of every vehicle on display in the beautifully documented book about the Mahy family and their collection. The book was produced with the collaboration of Michel Mahy (Ghislain’s grandson), Wouter Rawoens (Photographer) and David Janssens (editor and writer with a weakness for nostalgic stories.

The book carries the ISBN no 978 94 014 8671 2 and can be bought in better bookshops or during your visit to Autoworld in Brussels.

More info on the Mahy Museum website
More info on Autoworld