The Olyslager archive: Real automotive history! Bauke KeuneInternational Account Manager

These days, Olyslager is renowned for its digital solutions such as LIS and Online Oil Advisors to help customers answer the important question: “Which oil is the right oil for my vehicle?” However, Olyslager has a history that goes further back than just the age of digitalisation. Olyslager was established in 1950 by Piet Olyslager who pioneered the lubricant recommendation industry.

Being an avid car enthusiast Piet Olyslager collected everything that had to do with cars, including books, brochures, photographs, magazines owner manuals and technical information. In addition, he designed cars himself (Talbot-Lago) and he is also famous for his car drawings (he made more than a thousand of them). His drawings were mainly used as commercial tools, for example by Full Speed as pictures within their cigarette boxes in the 1950’s. People could collect them in three different albums! To this day, his drawings can be found all over Europe.

The key reason for the founding of Olyslager was the collection of automotive data Piet had gathered over the years, which is currently known as the Olyslager archive. Because Piet was such a well-known person within the international automotive industry, he discovered a need for reliable technical information.

At that point, he started writing extensive instructions accompanied by detailed drawings to help mechanics repair vehicles that were left behind from the Second World War. Piet realised he was onto something, and started bundling these instructions and drawings into the “Auto Technisch Handboek” (Car Technical Manual). That was when Olyslager was officially established.

From the very beginning, the way in which Olyslager works has been consistent. Every recommendation is based on official OEM documentation, without exception. This means having an extensive archive to fall back on is absolutely crucial for Olyslager. In fact, without it the company would not exist. Fortunately, Piet’s collection of automotive data was an excellent starting point and Olyslager continued to build its archive on those foundations. During the following decades, the archive grew to over 2.000 square metres of automotive documentation. This archive still exists, although a large part of it is also digitalised these days.

The archive is stored in two locations. The largest part is currently the core of the NCAD (Dutch Centre for Historic Automotive Documentation), to be found at the Automotive Campus in the Dutch city of Helmond. This part includes unique books, historic brochures from all over Europe, more than 50.000 pictures and old car magazines. It truly gives an compelling insight in the development of the automotive industry over the years.

The vast majority of the car manuals are stored in the Olyslager office in Bunschoten, the Netherlands. The oldest manual dates back to 1907 and describes a Ford T-model from that year, but there are a lot more manuals of historic cars to be found in this part of the archive. All of these manuals have been integrated into the Olyslager LIS system but are kept in the office as something to fall back upon if needed.

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However, the Olyslager archive is so much more than Olyslager’s reason of existence. Olyslager is a fortunate consequence, as the archive is foremost a magnificent display of automotive history and development throughout the years, a true insight in how things were in the past. Every car enthusiast could spend countless hours in the Olyslager archive and still find new interesting things about the history of the automotive industry. A visit to the NCAD is highly recommended, and if you are to visit Olyslager in Bunschoten, do not hesitate to ask to have a look at the car manual archive in the office.


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