According to our very own Claus Ebberfeld, everything was better in the good old days – except the internet of course. Quite an interesting theory which I’ll happily subscribe to. It’s certainly the case when it comes to cars. It’s equally the case if we’re talking workshops and garages.
Workshops nowadays are often cold and functional places completely devoid of character, soul and atmosphere. Modern cars – equally devoid of character and soul – are brought here when one of their many microchips stop working. They’re plugged into a computer which detects where the fault lies. The offending part is subsequently removed, and a new part unceremoniously replaces it. I suppose it’s efficient if nothing else.
Luckily though, we sometimes come across a proper garage. A workshop which refuses to leave the days of yesteryear behind. A place where engineering comes alive. A place where faulty parts are repaired rather than just replaced. A place so full of character that it’s almost overwhelming!
Those of you who read last weeks Prime Find, will probably have picked up on my subtle complaints about Paris being somewhat low on classic cars. It’s certainly not like walking the streets of Amsterdam, where classics are always present. Yet I still got my appetite for old cars pleasantly satisfied during our weeks holiday, when I came across Le Garage de la Poste on a small backroad in Le Vesinet in the western suburbs of Paris.
An elegant Jaguar mk. IX sitting on the lift closest to the entrance immediately caught my attention. From there it was a fabulous collection of old signs, rally plates, vintage bicycles, old steering wheels, large model airplanes hanging from the ceiling, old toys and random automobilia which lured me further and further into the depth of the workshop.
It was that magical kind of place where no matter which direction I looked, there would be something fascinating which would catch my imagination. Even when my eyes were drawn back to a wall or a set of shelves which I had already explored, I still found new and exciting items which I had missed the first time around. There’s really no need for me to blabber on – instead I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. Please ensure that you click on the pictures below, so that you get them in full size to help you take in all the details.
But this wasn’t a museum. Le Garage de la Poste is a proper workshop. All these intriguing old artefacts weren’t in any way staged or otherwise placed in a specific PR-friendly manner. They just happened to all live here – scattered throughout the workshop. And it’s still the old cars which are the reason for the garage even existing in the first place. The large workbench deep within the workshop was covered with well-used tools and random car parts. Under the bench was two BMC A-series engines stored next to a Volvo B20 engine and an old 4-cylinder Rover engine. You won’t find that in your average workshop…
Also deep within the workshop I came across a MGB. That in itself may not sound like much of a stand-out experience, but there was something different about this MGB. At first I couldn’t quite but my finger on it. It seemed like just another very tired old MG desperately in need of a full restoration – yet there was something odd going on here. Somehow the proportions seemed different. Indeed, this was one of eighteen conversions performed during the 1980s by Essex-based Befour Conversions Ltd. turning regular MGB roadsters into 4-seater convertibles. In all honesty, I had never previously seen or heard of such a thing, but apparently they were stretched by a full eleven inches, all of which made space for a rear seat. The proportions were actually still surprisingly well balanced, as the doors had been lengthened by six inches with the remaining five inches being let into the rear wings between the doors and the rear wheel arches. Yes, the factory MGB is still an altogether happier design, but the full 4-seater managed to disguise its stretch quite well. I would love to revisit this peculiar MGB once Le Garage de la Poste have finished the restoration.
At the very bottom of the garage – deep within the small, dark and warm office – I came across the owner of the workshop, Julien Pepin. The office was the perfect extension of the workshop – rather messy but so full of ambience. Julien is clearly very passionate about classic cars of all sorts, and has owned the charming garage for twenty years now. He’s a one man team, yet he’ll take on anything from minor servicing to full restorations. He smiles as he tells me that he also buys and sells classic cars, as this allows him the luxury of owning and driving a wide variety of classics which he otherwise wouldn’t get to experience. For me though – and clearly for Julien too – it’s not just about those cars. There’s more to it than that. It’s about the whole atmosphere which engulfs our beloved old cars. Thankfully, there are still treasure coves like Le Garage de la Poste which simply ooze passion, soul and character in spadefuls.