The history of MOMU Motorsports Museum

20 June, 2022

The story of MOMU began in 1985 just by chance. During that year Tallinna Autode Remondi Katsetehas (TARK) – a Soviet time organization that built formula race cars – reached two important milestones. First, they built their 1000th formula car. And secondly, TARKs production volumes had grown so big that only the British race car engineering company Lola was making more cars, making TARK the second largest producer of formula cars in Europe at that time. The director of the TARK, Peeter Kulm came up with the idea to release a book to celebrate these achievements. To help with coming up with content for the book, the students of Tallinn Polytecnical Institute were given the opportunity to write their course papers on the history of Estonian formula cars. Fifth year students Kask and Sarapuu conducted many interviews with the workers and racers of TARK. This resulted in a brief document with some photos. The original of this document stayed in the TPI and a copy was sent to TARK to print as a booklet. The initial idea had run its course and should have stopped here.

Unfortunately there was no book released from that manuscript. Instead, a motorsports museum was born. Namely, someone among the interviewees had released a rumor that the interviews were conducted for the purpose of starting a museum of Estonia formula cars in TPI Automobile Engineering department located at Kalinini 116. Some of the interviewed race car drivers used this as an excuse to bring their artifacts related to racing to display in the “museum”. As these precious artifacts started piling up in the engineering department, then there really was no other choice but to actually start a museum.

The first iteration of the museum mainly included only “virtual” display items: photos, technical drawing, memoirs, art. So the collection didn’t include many actual race machines until 1991 when a “wishlist” for the museum was composed. The wish list included 65 items of machinery, a concept for rooms for the museum, including plans to renovate some older buildings for it, and some other minor details. Filling the wish list brought with it the need for a larger place to safely store all of the growing collection. For a while the space issue was resolved in Kalevi Auto-Motoklubi in Tallinn, but due to the complicated ownership relations the museum never opened to the public in that location.

In 2005 the museum team visited Ellamaa power plant in Turba for the first time but because of the shocking first impression made by the state of the building and a negative SWOT-analysis the team decided to keep looking for a space elsewhere. But the building itself had impressed so much that two years later the power plant was bought and renovations were started. There were plenty of surprises along the way and the recession of 2009-2012 dragged the whole process of restoration for much longer than initially planned. Nevertheless in 2017 the newly rebranded MOMU (MOtorsports MUseum) was ready to open for the public. The grand opening party happened a short while after, on the 6th of April 2018 where the president of FIA Jean Dodt officially cut the ribbon.