Renault Classic: the virtuosos of the 750 vehicles in the collection
A mechanic by training, François Chiron joined Renault as an operator at the Cléon plant. He occupied several jobs on the assembly line where he developed expertise in gearboxes and engines. A history buff with a passion for renovation, François was fascinated by the brand heritage and the 750 vehicles in the Renault Collection. He offered his services and his skills to Renault Classic, becoming the mechanic for the entire collection.
We talked to François to find out how the virtuosos of Renault Classic are reinventing the past.
How did you develop a passion for history?
As a small child, I learned all about history with my father, who used to restore 15th century houses in Harfleur, near Le Havre. I joined Renault in 1999 as a temporary worker on the assembly line. After my first job, I took a second and then a third, always working on gearboxes. I learned so much about gearboxes that I became a specialist. Then I heard that Renault Classic was looking for an expert motor mechanic. That’s how I became a mechanic.
We work on the entire collection here: from the voiturette, via tanks through to F1. No two days are the same. We’re all mechanics but we each have our own area of specialization. In my case, it’s engines and gearboxes. One of my colleagues is a specialist in electricity, another in paintwork. Although, we have experts in each area, we work on collective projects and we help each other out. The vehicles are serviced and ready to be taken out for events such as Le Mans Classic or Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique.
Which vehicles do you consider to be the most emblematic?
My personal favorite is the voiturette. That’s where it all started. There would be nothing without the voiturette! There are other cars of course, such as the Nervastella. This vehicle illustrates one of our biggest restoration programs.
|# 120 ans|
The Renault Classic team have worked for 2 years to recreate a unique version of the Nervastella.
But in fact, what was this totally 'Easy Life' vehicle all about?
This Nervastella is the car that set a new speed record in 1934, well before the Etoile Filante! We only had two photos. We managed to find a chassis and engine, and we calculated the size of the wheels from the photos. The design department was able to produce all the sizing data. Then we installed our powertrain, using full-size cross-sectional diagrams. Then we brought in a carpenter to redo the body frame and a coachbuilder/metal shaper for the bodywork.
We drove it for the first time at Montlhéry. It was great! After working on the project for two years, we successfully rebuilt an example that is truly unique. Actually, virtually all the cars in this workshop are unique!
What do you like most about your job?
The emotional side. For example, when I start up the tank: when I hold the hand crank, I think about the person who held it before me and who no doubt drove the tank in hellish conditions. It’s a very strange feeling.
It’s the same thing with the Nervastella, when I’m driving it for the first time at Montlhéry. It takes me back in time and I feel that I’m reliving the experience of my predecessors. Stepping back in time like that is an extraordinary feeling.
Another fascinating aspect is that the 750 vehicles making up the collection also includes a number of concept cars. They were the forerunners of new trends and, once they were turned into production models, some went on to enjoy huge market success.
One example is Project 900, which dates back to1959. It shows how ingenious interior design can maximize the possibilities for a modular layout. You could say that this concept car was the forerunner for Espace with the emphasis on interior space, so it was really ahead of its time. By maintaining this collection, we have seen how the designers of these vehicles were able to anticipate customer requirements and come up with innovative solutions to make their lives easier.
That’s the spirit of Renault!