Written by Rosemarijn Atalante Veenenbos 

I am pleased to share with you the story I wrote for the Louwman Museum newsletter. Fortunately the higher Louwman ranks have approved my proposal to publish a translated version on CHB. Now all of the CHB friends can read this great story, translated from the Dutch language. It is quite unusual that Louwman Museum newsletter articles are published elsewhere in translated form with their permission, so enjoy this one! : )

How does a young (female) car fanatic achieve her goal of chasing the ‘classic’ of her dreams? I’ll gladly take you on my journey to achieve this and the outcome.

Nice meeting you, I am Rose Atalante Veenenbos from CRANKHANDLEBLOG, the author of this article. The editors of the Louwman Museum newsletter had asked me to put the events of my quest for a vintage/classic car on paper. Perhaps a bit unusual as a young woman, but this gives the story a nice twist.

If you want to get hold of a classic or vintage car, a detailed plan is required, much more than with a modern car. Elements of such a plan are the following:

• In particular, take enough time to orient yourself well!

• What is your goal to do with your acquisition? Are there some nice clubs of the chosen marque that organize rallies and events, etc.?

• Find out for yourself what you are really looking for: pre- or post-war, which marque(s) and/or the type(s), type of coachwork (most want open), condition, etc. and above all… what is your budget (a restoration project is often only for those with bulging moneybags and can be very discouraging if it takes too long and gets too expensive)?

• The search itself: look on internet on sites like PreWarCar or PostWarClassic, but also don’t forget to ask the marque clubs what members have for sale, thus preventing that your dream car is snatched away in front of you, or to buy a pig in a poke.

• The purchase: this is typically a delicate process of bargaining and lingering and can sometimes be very exhausting. Always go and look at the car first, preferably in the presence of a connoisseur. Of course you should try to hide your excitement that you wish to have the car. Buying at an auction is a different story; there is always a risk and you pay a high premium (varies greatly from 10 to 20 percent on top of the hammer price). Make sure everything is well documented, black on white.

• Once the car has been purchased and is standing in your garage, the question is whether it needs some mechanical attention or other work? – Usually the answer is yes, because the new owner always wants to have some things differently. AND do you do it yourself or do you look for a professional?

• Anyway, there will be maintenance on the new acquisition, usually more than you had anticipated, so a good repair/restoration company near to you is not a superfluous luxury, even if it was only to keep an eye on progress (and cost).

I hope my story will inspire and enthuse young ‘petrol heads’ to get this adventure started, because it is truly a fabulous experience!

Within my family there are beautiful French automobiles from brands that are not found on every corner of the street, like Hispano-Suiza. I also wanted to be part of this tradition! So I decided to pursue my dream and find myself an automobile that was perhaps a bit too much for a novice… but this is my way of approaching things. As you may have read before, not the right approach… So my adventure went on with better  orientation.

Then an acquaintance, a Bugattist (lover of Bugattis), who convinced me that a real Bugatti, my ultimate dream, was beyond reach told me about the existence of the ‘poor man’s Bugatti’. What he meant was a ‘cyclecar’ which not only seemed a nice car to drive, but also reasonably affordable. By the way, many young enthusiasts drive these types of cars. My own ideal was a French marque that is not well known and is not found on every corner of the street.

Amilcar CGS (1926)

I almost forget to explain what a ‘poor man’s Bugatti’ is. It is a sporty looking car that resembles the Bugatti Brescia or the T37, cars that instantly gave young drivers back then a lot of fun. Nowadays that’s no different, which makes them ideal for today’s younger generation, the starters, who often do not (yet) have the budget for a real Bugatti.

The ‘poor man’s Bugatti’ idea took me quite quickly into the prewar period, before World War II. I still have had thoughts about postwar as well, as these cars are more useable in terms of mobility, i.e. you can easily drive them in the modern traffic. Such a ‘little prewar racer’ you will have to take with you on a trailer, but this way you can also travel greater distances on the way to rallies. After much deliberation and talking to many people (take advantage of your network) a small prewar racer seemed to suit me best. You can easily participate in many great events with such a car.

The next step was to look at the market, which cyclecars are offered for sale, which marques and a spicy but not too complicated engine (I am still learning to tinker myself, so no technical highlights to get started with) and of course within my budget. About this last thing, this is something you sometimes just need to forget about. If you found your ‘dream car’, but it is more expensive than planned, you sometimes need to spend just a bit more.

The kind of automobile I was looking for, a cyclecar or voiturette in connoisseur terms, yielded some really nice French candidate marques… four in total. BNC and Rally appeared to be quite hard to find as they are not sold very often (not to mention the availability of spare parts). This brought me to the two remaining marques: Amilcar and Salmson, of which Salmson was the bigger challenge.

Salmson Cycle-Car

I placed a request with the Dutch Amilcar-Cyclecar club and shared my plans with several cyclecar enthusiasts. However, it was still the question whether I was looking for a ‘ready to drive’ ‘poor man’s Bugatti’ or a project? The last one appealed to me as well, despite the fact that it would be a great challenge. After having visited a number of cyclecar owners and after much correspondence, I learned that a project is very charming, but for me a bit too ambitious at this point in my life and given my limited technical skills. In terms of budget, I could not do it either, because a project in most cases will end up much more expensive than a ready to go car, unless you’re a very experienced amateur tinkerer. And remember, the time that goes by before you can drive. Nice plan for the future perhaps?

Along the way during my search, I became less and less patient to catch something on my hook, especially after I was able to experience on the race circuit of Zandvoort what a special experience these cars can give you. It was also an opportunity to see different marques and prewar racers and compare them.

After a while I found out something that eventually lead me to my goal of owning my own ‘poor man’s Bugatti ‘, and not just a copy…

More about my adventure in the next edition of this (Louwman Museum) newsletter!