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Why not ride inside the wheel? Erich Edison-Puton of Paris thought it was a good idea back in 1894. The motorized "unicycle" is one of many motorcycles on display at Sinsheim's Auto and Technik Museum.

Why not ride inside the wheel? Erich Edison-Puton of Paris thought it was a good idea back in 1894. The motorized "unicycle" is one of many motorcycles on display at Sinsheim's Auto and Technik Museum. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

There is something about planes, trains and automobiles that inspires the imagination. Ferdinand Porsche, whose name graces many a legendary race car, proved that when he said, "I couldn’t find the sports car of my dreams, so I built it myself."

Within the walls of the Auto and Technik Museum in Sinsheim, Germany, visitors might not be able to create cars, but they are likely to view things they only dreamed of seeing.

The facility itself can’t be missed. Like a gaudy tourist attraction, it practically spills onto Autobahn 6 west of Heilbronn, with airplanes parked outside pointing in every direction. Examples of transportation from all over the world fill the nearly 100,000 square feet of indoor space, which feeds even the most voracious appetite for speed, luxury and military dominance.

A good starting point is the first complex on the left with the IMAX sign. It is here that tickets are purchased and, if visitors spend a little more, they can take in an IMAX show also found in this building. The 3-D films with high-quality sound start every hour.

After moving through a turnstile you instantly step into the ’50s with an assortment of old Corvettes, Cadillacs and other American classics. There is also an assortment of vintage motorcycles and quirky race cars. At random, a man comes out and cranks up a 1928 Indian Scout 37 motorcycle that was modified for use in a daredevil show. With an earsplitting growl of the V-twin engine, he cruises on a set of rollers "no-handed."

Half of this facility houses old military equipment made up of mostly World War II gear along with an assortment of agricultural trucks and tractors and mechanical music machines. Bring a pocket of 1 euro coins to hear these contraptions or lounge around and wait for someone else to foot the bill.

The other complex is likely the most inspired. Most of the cars that grace the bedroom walls of many a young boy reside here — from the Lamborghini Countach to a collection of Ferraris that would make company founder Enzo Ferrari himself proud. Hall 2 is also home of Europe’s largest permanent Formula One exhibition.

There is something unusual and unexpected in every nook. A few feet from a 100-year-old motorized unicycle is a monster truck and an enormous model train set where both a retired man and a young boy gaze through the glass.

At some point, locate one of the spiral staircases that will deliver you to the roof among a pair of supersonic passenger jets. One, Air France’s original Concorde F-BVFB jet, is called "the absolute highlight" by the museum organizers. Visitors can walk through the plane after climbing a ramp that goes nearly 100 feet into the air. Visitors also can tour the inside of a model of the Tupolev TU-144, the Russian rival of the Concorde in the 1960s.

If you want to leave the roof via a slide from a 1936 Douglas DC 3, pick up a carpet bag that is available near the entrance.

Know and go ...• The Web site for Sinsheim's Auto and Technik Museum, www.technik-museum.de, is in six languages. It includes a list of upcoming events as well as descriptions of exhibits.

• The museum is open every day. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends. On Aug. 22 and Sept. 8 it has extended hours — until 8 p.m. Aug. 22 and until 9 p.m. Sept. 8.

• Admission for adults is 12.50 euros for the museum, 9.50 euros for IMAX and 17 euros for both; for children younger than 14 admission is 10.50 euros for the museum, 7 for IMAX and 13 for both. There are discounts for adults and children in groups of 20 or more. Children up to age 5 get in free.

• There are two restaurants at the museum with a variety of meals, snacks and beverages. If the weather is nice, outdoor seating is available with a view of a good-sized playground outfitted with all the standard equipment, plus an assortment of pay rides.

— Stars and Stripes

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