The body responsible for the Erwin Hymer Museum is the Erwin Hymer Foundation, based in Bad Waldsee.
The non-profit foundation under civil law was launched by Erwin Hymer in 2001 with the aim of promoting art and culture, particularly the promotion of cultural goods in the technical field as well as the establishment and maintenance of a museum for classic caravans and motorhomes.
Management Board and Foundation Board
Carolin Hachenberg (Chair)
Susanne Hinzen (Managing Director)
Prof. Dr. Andreas Schmauder (Chair)
Prof. Karl Heinz Hänssler
The museum’s founder & benefactor Erwin Hymer
Erwin Hymer was an entrepreneur and the inventor of the Hymermobil. His name stands for an entire class of leisure vehicles. However, Erwin Hymer wasn’t just an engineer and an inventor of great ingenuity, he was also a passionate collector. His collection of historical leisure vehicles, containing pieces from all over the world, forms the basis of the Erwin Hymer Museum’s current collection.
Not only did he found an exhibition containing historical exhibits for the general public, he also created an interactive museum to fascinate people with the history of motorhoming and to make them yearn to travel, too.
Erwin Hymer – He conquered the whole of Europe from his home town, Bad Waldsee
“You’re going to have to think of something,” were the words of the aeroplane pioneer Claudius Dornier to Erwin Hymer when he was working as a member of his team in Spain on developing the first post-war plane, the DO 27. It’s as though Erwin Hymer never forgot this for the rest of his life, as he’s always been able to think of something! The list of names including Claudius Dornier, Wilhelm and Karl Maybach, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin and Hugo Eckener wouldn’t be complete without one more: Erwin Hymer. The motorhome icon from Bad Waldsee conquered the whole of Europe from his home town. Hymer is one of the inventors, engineers and entrepreneurs who frequently put down roots in the Lake Constance/Upper Swabia region – and who achieve worldwide success.
As Count Zeppelin’s electoral slogan ran, “You only have to believe in what you want, then you will succeed”. This statement could also have come from the lips of “Mister Hymer-Mobil”, Erwin Hymer. From the aeroplane, he came back down to earth and kept both feet firmly on the ground to build an empire which rolled over the continents from out of Upper Swabia. And yet, in spite of all his success, he remained human. Because he values his employees highly, they always stood – and still stand – behind him, even through difficult times.
How does one get from aircraft construction to the development of motorhomes?
At the age of 23, the youthful engineer Erwin Hymer joined a team led by the great Professor Claudius Dornier. The young man was fascinated by Dornier, and they never lost contact, even though Erwin Hymer remained more dedicated to the automobile. In just under eight weeks, he developed in his spare time the “Dornier Delta”, which was later put into serial production by Zündapp under the name “Janus” (meaning “two faces”). The name “two faces” was used because this little speedster had doors at the front and back. Erwin Hymer also had time for vehicles with only two wheels. As a 17-year-old apprentice, he built a “mini motorcycle”. A unique specimen, with wooden tyres covered in a rubber coating. Of course, only a select few were permitted to ride pillion. One of these people was a dance partner of Hymer’s, but only then when the road went downhill, he remembers today with a chuckle.
Claudius Dornier was to remain Erwin Hymer’s only boss, as this young man, fizzing with ideas, was determined to set up his own business.
This was a courageous suggestion in those times: On Dornier’s recommendation, Hymer took over production of aluminium ladders in Wangen in 1962, which became the basis for the company Hymer-Leichtmetallbau still in operation today. Erwin Hymer managed two companies simultaneously. During the day, he was busy in Bad Waldsee, and in the evenings in Wangen. The business ran so splendidly over many decades that he was able to support other company divisions with the profits. Even today, a trademark characteristic of these ladders is their red stripes. Aeroplanes, aluminium ladders and motorhomes don’t necessarily have much to do with each other, and yet they all became connecting elements in the mosaic of Erwin Hymer’s story of success. It was not preordained that he would in time take over his father’s business. Alfons Hymer had erected a workshop integrated into a house in Bad Waldsee, in which he began to build Landaus, later manufacturing special constructions and vehicles, from truck tarpaulin covers to the omnibus. Erwin initially busied himself with the agricultural trailers produced by his father, when a sudden development proved of signal importance to his further career. The eminent technology expert, Erich Bachem, asked him if he would be able to build a motorhome. What a question! Erwin Hymer had learned from his father, with whom he got on extremely well, that it was always good to sleep on something before making a decision. So this was what he did, even though his mind was already made up.
A short time later, he developed the original “Troll” on the basis of a steel skeleton construction,
a picture of which still hangs over his desk today. Serial production began with the “Puck” model. The Hymer Touring caravan with pop-top roof produced today stems directly from these models, and has achieved cult status. Erwin Hymer had got on the road in terms of travelling mobility. The man who seldom uses the lift, and who still prefers to take two steps at a time at the age of 80, has always remained down-to-earth, reserved and modest. Even today, he tends to reject preferential treatment; an excessive craving for recognition is foreign to him. He doesn’t feel the need to travel first class in aeroplanes; Erwin Hymer prefers to sit in the cheaper seats even for longer journeys. He always focusses on the essentials. Hymer never rejects other opinions out of hand; he finds positive aspects in them, testing and experimenting until he has improved on the suggestions made. For example: Fold-down beds in motorhomes. Whilst others slept at night, he tested the feasibility of this idea using cheese boxes. Or the solar radiation in his museum, which will be opened next year. Erwin Hymer tinkered so long on the incline of the lamellae on the windows until they were also able to heat the floor. At trade fairs, he doesn’t just wander through the aisles, and he doesn’t allow himself to be dazzled by colourful brochures on fancy pavilions. He himself gets under the exhibited vehicles, and tests the showers and toilets in the motorhomes, checking every detail. He doesn’t miss a trick. If his developer reports that the wardrobe in a motorhome is ready, he will appear with two suits to test the design for the practicalities of everyday life. His employees know that his suggestions for improvement will be excellent – and also that he tries out his developments himself in the test workshop. The former aeroplane developer took many ideas from the cockpit and applied these to the driver’s cab.
There are few who are simultaneously able to cope with the technological and the commercial areas of a business.
Erwin Hymer is one of them. He is both an engineer and a highly-talented merchant. He tinkers with fine details, fosters a passion for research and development, and, during his daily visits to the company, he is regularly presented with the financial figures. His Accounting Department calls him the “curve fetishist”, as he prefers to read off the report figures as hand-drawn curve charts. One single glance at a calculation is sufficient for him to recognise errors. “If I don’t complain, that’s praise enough” – this Upper Swabian phrase applies to Erwin Hymer, who places value on remaining familiar with the past in order to survive in the present and the future. Erwin Hymer is a man of vision who was always in the right place at the right time. He has an exceptionally wide network, also thanks to his cordial character, which has opened up business relations for him right up to the American market. Hymer, as the holder of a pilot’s licence, is a well-travelled man, and not only in a motorhome. His word is his bond for his employees – and their loyalty is a matter of course. His love of his home town means that Erwin Hymer remains faithful to his original location, even if this lies away from the city centres. As is common knowledge on the markets, it isn’t a disadvantage to come from Upper Swabia with unusual ideas and products. Hymer from Bad Waldsee is well-known – worldwide.
Yet over all these decades of superb work, Erwin Hymer has not just served people with workplaces and products.
He is a committed member of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the Lake Constance/Upper Swabia region, and also dedicates himself to art, still remaining a member of the Managing Board of the non-profit association “Otto Dix-Haus Foundation” in Hemmenhofen, Lake Constance. Befitting his sunny disposition, this entrepreneur, who always radiates cheerfulness and optimism, has been Honorary Guild Councillor in the Fool’s Guild in Bad Waldsee for many years. He is a founding member of the Association Against Strokes, and a member of the Rotary Club. The successful entrepreneur fully supports his home town, where he also indulges in his hobbies. He holds a boatmasters’ licence for the whole of Lake Constance, and although he used to maintain and sail a wooden boat, he now sails past his holiday home in Lindau on Lake Constance in a motorboat. The former golfer, rower and cyclist still does gymnastics every day to preserve his level of fitness.
In 1990, Erwin Hymer converted the traditional Hymer brand into a stock corporation, in which he is the majority shareholder and has taken on the position of Chairman of the Supervisory Board. Today, the brands Hymer, Eriba, Bürstner, Carado, Laika and Niesmann + Bischoff, as well as the accessory brand Movera, are all part of the Hymer Group. The motorhome and caravan brands Dethleffs, Sunlight, LMC and TEC are bundled together in the holding company CMC.
Hymer has received multiple awards for his diverse range of services.
Particularly impressive are the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Founder Prize of the State of Baden-Württemberg and the Business Medal of the State of Baden-Württemberg.
His vocational legacy includes a foundation for the Erwin Hymer Museum in Bad Waldsee,
which was opened in 2011 and which rounds off his exemplary life’s work. Here the collection of his motorhomes and caravans is not just concentrated on his own brands. In particular caravans from manufacturers who are long gone and those from the former GDR can be seen. This, too, promises to become an exceptional success.
The Erwin Hymer Museum opened on 27 October 2011.
Erwin Hymer died on 11 April 2013.
His museum continues to fascinate countless visitors with the history of motorhoming to this very day!