A friend had been promising me for years to take me out in his old cars, and finally, in the summer, we both managed to have a free day at the same time.
Camille is over 70 years old, still in rude health and spends his retirement helping on various committees in his village and restoring anything mechanical.
He has many different things in his treasure trove (he says its a garage but I know different) and I’d been wanting a good rummage round for ages.
The day dawned bright and sunny and I was a happy man. On arrival he’d already pulled a couple of the cars out. He has 2CV’s everywhere, one from every decade of their production. The first trip out was in a 1950’s (I think) model. It was fantastic, sat in a car older than me pootling around the French countryside.
Then, on passing a field, he exclaimed “Ah yes, I need to talk to Pierre” so we turned left. Into the field.
I couldn’t stop laughing as we bounced around the field heading up to the combine you can see at the top of the picture, whereas Camille couldn’t understand my giggles.
We went out in a Trabby, the ubiquitous piece of German engineering. The story of his ownership is very unusual. Remember this is France and Camille is over 70. His best friend in the village is a German man, married to a French woman, a vestige of WW2. Although the man left France in 1944, he came back as soon as the war was finished and married his sweetheart. Around 20 years ago, the man was contacted by his family (who’d ostracised him as soon as he left Germany) and said that he’d been left a Trabant in a will. He asked Camille if he wanted it, and the two of them took a flight to Germany and then drove it back, where Camille then stripped it down and rebuilt it.
But this was the one that I was waiting for:
A 1939 Renault Novaquatre.
A stunning piece of motoring history, totally stripped down and rebuilt. As we walked round it and I admired its beauty, Camille was showing me all the defects and the faulty bits that needed replaced or refettling. I could only see a thing of wonder, but ever the perfectionist, Camille wasn’t happy.
I opened the door:
None of this forwards opening rubbish, and got in. It started on the first turn of the key, and the engine, although noisy, wasn’t uncomfortably so. He moved off, selecting one of only three forward gears, and a half hour drive around the narrow lanes ensued. He laughed as I looked round for my seatbelt (Haha, none of that rubbish here my English friend) and we moved away. The dashboard of the day is a little different than todays computer equipped cars.
Almost without fail as a car came past the other way, everyone looked, and a hand was raised, acknowledging this beautiful piece of French history. We pulled back into his drive, and I got out of the car like a child on Christmas morning after the presents had been opened.
Just the most wonderful day.