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Fifty years ago: the start of a serious discussion on collecting, restoring and driving old cars


Fifty years ago: the start of a serious discussion on collecting, restoring and driving old cars

At the third Interclassics in Brussels, last November, I bought the catalogue of a very special car auction which was held in February 1994 in France. It was, in fact, the dispersion of the famous collection of, mainly, French cars once collected and partly driven by Serge Pozzoli. The man who sold me the catalogue was an older British dealer in automotive literature and during the short conversation we had, it appeared that he didn’t know who Pozzoli had been.

This struck me indeed. For me, Pozzoli is a name almost identical to collecting and caressing old, mainly prewar, French cars of the less known makes. For decades, Serge Pozzoli (1915-1992) was thé man who seemed to know everything about these cars and he wrote it all down in his own magazine, the ‘Fanatique de l’automobile’. He was also one of the most important collectors of classic cars, was involved with museums and with historic racing.

He was also active in uniting people who had the same love of old cars. So it comes as no surprise that in 1967 he was one of the founding fathers of what is called the FFVE, the French Federation of Historical Vehicles. Today about 1200 clubs are a member of the Federation and it is estimated that these clubs represent more than 230 thousand car owners and enthusiasts! Last October, all these people have been asked by the FFVE to fill in a survey from which it must become clear what kind of cars they collect and drive, how they use their cars, etc.

In the same year the FFVE was founded, 1967, also another important event took place. And it was organized more or less for the same purpose as the FFVE survey: what ideas have people on collecting old cars. Naturally, I would say, Serge Pozzoli was one of the participants of this First European Congress of Great Collectors of Historical Cars, held in October in Florence, Italy.
I had never heard of this conference until I discovered and bought the proceedings of it last year. It appeared that the Italians had quite accurately written down what had been said during the main sessions. There were about forty participants - from Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, England and Denmark - and the ‘lingua franca’ during the meeting seems to have been French.

In a couple of contributions to this Magazine, I would like to inform you about some of the issues that were discussed in Florence fifty years ago and I hope that some of you will react and give your opinion on these issues. I am very curious to know whether the points of view have changed (much) since 1967. And whether there are still clear differences between the English and the Continental attitudes.

The first issue I would like to address concerns the modification of old cars. On October 9, 1967 Mr. Philip Mann explained to the audience which alterations to cars were accepted by the Vintage Sports Car Club. One of these rules was that the owner of a car could change its wheelbase. From the proceedings, one can infer that a kind of shock must have gone through several of the attendants. One of these was Serge Pozzoli and I will try to translate part of his reaction during the discussion of Mr. Mann’s talk: “I know that [the English] are proficient but there are certain things that pass the limits. Changing the wheelbase of a car, what is that? If a car maker has provided two different wheelbases for a model, one for tourism and one for sports, and when a tourism car is modified into a sports car and at the very moment that one gives it the sports wheelbase, I understand but giving the car just any wheelbase, that seems to me absolutely énorme. And if you can also change the brake drums, by putting on bigger ones, what remains of the original car?”

Do you think the English are still more ‘tolerant’ with regard to modifications? What do you think of M. Pozzoli’s point of view?

Words and photographs by Fons Alkemade.


  

Comments 

 
#7 Nigel Wright 2018-01-21 23:48
Are the English more tolerant of modifications? Of course we are. England was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution; we’re culturally incapable of not tinkering with stuff.

Though not for a moment would I detract from his contribution to the preservation and promotion of early cars, I think Mr Pozzoli’s point of view was entirely consistent with both his means and ambition.
 
 
#6 Nigel Wright 2018-01-21 18:41
Are the English more tolerant of modifications? Of course we are. England was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution; we’re culturally incapable of not tinkering with stuff.
Though not for a moment would I detract from his enormous contribution to the preservation and promotion of early cars, I think Mr Pozzoli’s point of view was entirely consistent with both his means and ambition.
 
 
#5 Jean VIGNAU 2018-01-21 17:34
There seems to be a universal trend to build sports cars from saloons, is a "vintage Le Mans" Bentley made from a post-war Mk VI any better than a sports Salmson (or Rally!) made from an S4 ?
At some time, a special becomes too special to qualify as an interesting vintage car, IMO.I agree with Patrick Jacob, they are only rich people cars where they can show themselves.
I have had the Pozzoli sale for years and would love to have the sale results.
 
 
#4 Detlef Kayser 2018-01-21 12:05
I had the big pleasure to meet M. Pozzoli personally during an Amilcar rally way back in the 80s and I was deeply impressed by that number of extraordinary cars he had assembled - on the other hand that hall full of dream cars to me was like a big tomb filled with dead things never to take the road again it seemed.
I as well attended that mentioned auction at the Retromobile in 1994 when quite a lot of the Pozzoli collection was auctioned. And
I'm rather glad that some more cars were even sold after that auction privately and so came into the hands of (mostly German) enthusiasts who still run them around so that they have escaped from the tomb and we can still see them at Montlhéry, like for example that grand Amilcar MCO monoposto, the Anzani, EHP, Lombard, Amilcar Pégase,
Omega Six and others.... Without people like M. Pozzoli that would not have happened! I'm not a friend of all those Riley and Alvis Specials running around nowadays - leave alone all those Bentleys for
I think that the ordinary public knowing not much about original cars and their history get heavily fooled whenever they are presented with a replica, fake or lookalike which they take as "the real thing" not knowing what really went on in the old days, thinking Bentleys had independend suspension even before the war or Alvises had power steering or what the hell...
If we want to keep history we should stick to the truth and keep it as original as possible!
 
 
#3 David Barker 2018-01-21 11:20
M. Pozzoli is perfectly entitled to his point of view, whether other people agree or not is of no consequence.
We English are a very tolerant people, but many of us are appalled by the desecration of good cars on the Continent , at least the VSCC has some rules, there appear to be none the other side of the English Channel!
 
 
#2 Patrick Jacob 2018-01-21 09:12
It's not only the English what are more "tolerant" for "modifications". I think nowadays it's for people with a vey big "ego" who will pay way to much for a changed car. And they are everywhere.
 
 
#1 pieter veenje 2018-01-21 07:47
That's funny i am a collector of old auction catalogues. Because of the cyclecarshow at Interclassics Brussel i had 2 copies of the same auction catalogue you mentioned with me for the guys of the clubstand, Beet Bollen Mr. Kersten and Jos Cox.
 

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