The Cantal Torpedo Club organizes a car elegance competition before the war

“I had as much money as a two-feathered toad…” When he discovered this tired car in a field, squatted by bees and a few farm animals, he was only 17 years old. “His line appealed to me. I went to the owner and he sold it to me. For fifty francs. 50 new francs in 1966, or 80 euros today. The young man then began to repair his beautiful American made near Strasbourg, at the Mathis factories.

Patrick Gratacap in front of his first car, a 1937 Matford Alsace.

But it was only “three or four years later that I could drive it”, continues Patrick Gratacap. This car, his first, a Matford model Alsace fitted with an American-designed but French-made V8 engine, is still in his possession. It has since benefited from a proper restoration and is taking part in the Concours d’Élégance on Sunday.
At the age of 73, Patrick Gratacap enjoys a not-so-peaceful retirement. The former saddle maker is still busy. Its collection of vintage cars requires regular maintenance. See more.

What I like is the evolution of the mechanics. Between the 1920s and 1950s, enormous progress was made. I wanted a mechanically finished car, not one of the first models, but still easy to repair.

In a corner of his garage, a chassis equipped with an engine, both visibly restored, awaits the bodywork. It is positioned a little further and reveals familiar lines: It is an XK model from Jaguar: “We have redone all the mechanical parts. Now let’s tackle the bodywork. “You know, a collection develops over time. I kept a whole lot of cars for years. We tell ourselves we’ll take care of it one day, but it doesn’t lead to anything. Over the years we develop in quality, less in quantity”, confides the particularly enlightened amateur.

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“See the gas cap? It’s from the era of the car. Patrick Gratacap gave it to me. He told me the plug was better on the car than in one of his cabinets. Charles Noyer’s car is a Traction. “I was looking for a specific model with a flat trunk and a single rear light. The rare gem was found last September. A few weeks later, Charles Noyer joined the Torpedo Club in the wake of the December 2021 AGM.

Charles Noyer and his Traction 11 BL.

“Vintage cars, I got into them through my brother, Mathieu. As I was originally a mechanic, we restored all the mechanical parts of his Citroën C6 F from 1931. It took us three years,” explains the youngest of the family at 38. A car that will also participate in the Concours d’Elegance. “My Traction is not flawless, but it is in good condition. I would like to try to push back its imperfections”, explains the farmer.

A jewel of modernity in its day – it was released in 1934 – the Citroën Traction was therefore the ideal car for this neo-collector. “It’s for fun. The ideal cruising speed is 80-85 km/h. It’s perfect for Cantal’s roads. When you drive these cars, you pay a lot of attention. And then there’s the hood and fenders. The body isn’t quite smooth like the cars from the 60s, like the Renault Dauphine for example. »

Charade Classic is back

Elegant lines, accessible mechanics, prices for all budgets, the members of the Cantal Torpedo Club are true amateurs who like to share their passion. Speculators who see classic vehicles only as an investment to realize a capital gain are not welcome. Patrick Gratacap makes sure of that. Before he shows his favorite car, a 1961 Cadillac Eldorado convertible: “Because you drive it without thinking, it always works. »

Thirty-five vehicles in the Concours d’Elegance

“We selected 35 cars from before the Second World War to participate in the Concours d’Élégance”, explains Daniel Besombes, president of the Cantal Torpedo Club.

Unique cars, some brands of which have completely disappeared from the car scene. Like the oldest, a Barré from 1903. Which, despite its great age, starts like clockwork and runs like clockwork. “This is the fourth one we are organising. There were some in 2013, 2014 and last year”, explains Laurent Poulhes, deputy chairman. The jury, made up of six members aged 18 to 84, including two from the Torpedo Club, must judge each car “on its line, its history, its beauty, but also on the quality of the restoration, if the vehicle has been restored. The sartorial effort of the passengers will also be an element in the judgment”.

Practice. The competition starts at 15:00, place du 8-Mai. At the same time, 150 old vehicles will be exhibited from 9.00 to 20.00. Bar, restaurant. Free access.

This pageant of elegance will in fact be a real show “which should last almost three hours with extras and models and which will be hosted by the journalist Jean-Paul Decker”, clarifies Laurent Poulhes. For the musical part, it will be characterized by the group Sixties & Co. A group that again takes the standards of the sixties, French as well as English and American. If among the vehicles that will participate, the Barré from 1903 is the oldest, the youngest is a Renault Novaquatre from 1939. With a majority of French, like this Talbot M67 from 1931, some foreigners will try to compete. Like an Alvis Fire Bird from 1936 or a Rolls Royce 20 HP from 1928. And on the rarity side, this American Bethlehem truck from 1919 will also be included.

The Torpedo Club’s “almost” half century

The Torpedo Club celebrates its 50th anniversary next year. It was created in 1973 by René Ville. “The founder, René Ville, is the one who organized the bus network in Aurillac, explains the current president, Daniel Besombes. He is now president of Amicale De Dion Bouton, whose headquarters are in Gironde, a handful of kilometers from Bordeaux.

Contact. Torpedo club in Cantal, space Hélitas, 68, boulevard Louis-Dauzier, in Aurillac. Daniel Besombes, chairman, tel. 06.86.46.71.17.

Affiliated to the French Federation of Vintage Cars (FFVE), the Torpedo Club has around fifty members, year after year. “We voluntarily limit the number of members. We are not looking to grow, just to have fun among amateurs,” emphasizes the president. From March to September “we arrange two excursions a month in Cantal or neighboring departments and a monthly meeting”. The club thus collects 180 vehicles, of which around thirty are from before the Second World War.

About fifty members, including “eight young people who recently joined. It will lower the average age,” says Daniel Bessombes in a burst of laughter from the height of his 72 feathers.

Bruno Serge Leroy

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