The story of my 304 S cabriolet, the gentle ghost of my life! I was as lucky to win the lottery as I was to find this car. When I tell it to enthusiasts, “old timers” in particular, it certainly thrills them! The first part takes place in Franche-Comté, where I come from, and the second in the Drôme, where I have lived for 24 years. I am 50 years old this year 2013 (this information is important), I have always loved old vehicles, from the age of 14, I restored TERROT, PEUGEOT, MOTOBECANE motorbikes.
1983, end of my studies of applied art at the Boulle school.
The artistic fibre animates me, “even if I don’t know it yet” these studies allow me to express my creativity and to feel valued, because until then, the school was for me only a long ordeal. I have lots of ideas and the means to put them into practice.
1984, first job and first car bought, a 304 s cab, very cheap, presentable, but seriously rotten! I had caught the virus. Note that in 1985, recent convertibles without roll bars were rare.
In 1985, military service, an ordeal for me, I felt like I was imprisoned, I had to find a way to escape. My grandmother had a large house not far from the barracks, so I thought of restoring a 304 CAB to occupy my free time, this time on a sound basis.
I put an ad in the EST REPUBLICAIN, (just the MINITEL at that time, so the good corner!!) I live not far from SOCHAUX, the phone rings the day after the publication. A PEUGEOT employee has what I’m looking for: 304S cab, white, very healthy, 10 years old (1975), 4000 francs. I drive it home, of course.
The army starts and the big restoration is done in parallel, with a more than limited knowledge of mechanics. I remove the engine, then reassemble it a few months later. In the meantime, total disassembly, complete sandblasting + dinitrol+ blackson (professional) – reassembly of the front wings – realization of a beautiful blue metal paint (not original). At that time, the car was not yet a collector’s item…
Then reassembling everything else. Hundreds of hours of passion and work. My grandmother, who lives alone, is very happy to have my company often; for a year, coffee in the morning, lunch or dinner, or all three. She is always curious about the progress of my project; she has kept the spirit of her 20 years despite her 80 years old body. Very often, long discussions with her, about existence, life, death… She is convinced that the dead we have loved send us messages, and that we just have to know how to read them…
So I make her promise to send me a personal sign from her after her death, which I will recognise as being for me. She promises me that…
At the beginning of May 1986, everyone is talking about CHERNOBYL. Honestly, selfishly, I don’t care, because I have just been released from my military obligations. I have lots of girlfriends and I drive my beautiful 304 s CAB with GOTTI gold rims, white steering wheel, red carpet… Yes, it was “fireman” style but, before I get lynched by purists, I should point out that it was a long time ago! At the time it was not collective! My 304 accompanied two beautiful years of my youth… If it could talk… well, it’d better not… My father’s authority would take a hit… The only option it lacked was a sleeper seat!
It’s already a crisis at that time! For money problems, in 88, I sell it to a friend mechanic, because the braking system is to be redone and as I also have a motorbike at the time, a choice is necessary… The friend keeps it 1 year then a PEUGEOT garage buys it…
In 1989, I have the opportunity to go down south (those who know the climate of the DOUBS will understand my passion) and I leave the Franche-Comté to settle in the Drôme. Cab fever did not leave me for all that: a ’79 SPITFIRE followed by a 205 CAB, kept for a short time, did not make me forget the 304!
Life goes on: marriage to the woman of my life, then 3 children. Together we share a passion for running, marathons and competition. No more cabs for 15 years. But from time to time a glance at the 304s on the bon coin. And sometimes I see myself in a dream with “mine”…
During these 24 years, when I return to my parents’ home in Franche-Comté, I necessarily pass the garage that bought it, it is on my route. By reflex and mechanically, I always take a look at it just in case… it’s ridiculous, I’ve never seen it… besides, it may not even have been kept for 2 months!
During all these years, I have often evoked my 304 era with nostalgia…
In 2012, an event will take me back to the past and reactivate the history of the 304 to make it beautiful…
In the company where I work, a new director arrives. He is from the Franc-Comtois region and like me, he is passionate about running. From our first meeting, we became friends and quickly shared our training sessions. I don’t mention it immediately, but what strikes me is that this new friend has the same name as the PEUGEOT garage concerned.
After some hesitation. I ask him if the garage belongs to someone in his family. Surprise, it belonged to his father, now retired! I ask the following question as calmly as possible despite the feverishness that overcomes me…. “Do you remember seeing a blue metal 304 cab? His answer exceeds my wildest expectations: not only did he see and drive it, but his father still owns it! I leave it at that with my questions, bewildered by this extraordinary chance.
The improbable circumstances don’t stop there! When I tell my parents this story, my mother tells me that she knows this gentleman very well and that she is going to talk to him about it… A few months later, she informs me that the owner of my cab would be very happy to receive me so that I can see again the car of my 20 years. I’m there in September… My heart is pounding, back to the past! The barn door opens: SHOCK ! … Afterwards, it seems to me very imprudent not to have had a defibrillator nearby!
It is exactly the same as when I sold it 25 years ago! In every detail, with the hard top that comes from my first 304 ! (The one that was rotten). It’s still my Marlboro ashes in the ashcan (no, I’m not sure!)
I’m going to try it with my 12 year old son. Pinch me… I’m daydreaming. 5 minutes later, when we get back, the owner tells me (without my asking) that he would be happy to sell it to me! Indeed, he had put it up for sale 3 months earlier, but had given up on giving it to a young driver with no experience (what luck when I think about it!). The price is reasonable, now, guys, I’m going to wake up and be in a very bad mood tomorrow morning!
Stunned, I tell him I’ll think about it (it’s not good to be reasonable!) and I ask my wife’s opinion. Her answer is unequivocal: if I don’t buy it, she leaves me immediately! (I love her)
The wait to pick it up in the Doubs is interminable. Nothing happens as I expect, three weeks, as long as if I spent them at the dentist. A second inspection is necessary to validate the technical control, and then the roads in the Doubs are snowed in and impassable. I still think I’m dreaming, I have to wait…. Finally, in December, the date is set, my darling accompanies me 400 km from home, I get up at 5.30 a.m. to get home during the day, 50 cm of snow in the Doubs and the return journey following me at a maximum speed of 110 km/h, 6 hours alone in her car following me, I really do have an extraordinary wife! And me, 6 hours looking at the temperature indicator …under 95 DB… By now the 304 is (I wanted to write asleep, but I’m not yet completely exhausted!) in my garage. I’m starting some minor upgrades; the car of my 20s for my 50s. A great gift!
I lend it to my 18 year old son to visit his girlfriend… A very strange feeling and a thought for my grandmother who I have missed for 18 years.
Here we are, it’s already 8 years since I wrote this story…. In fact for me the car is not the main thing, the miracle is that my grandmother kept her promise!
This story has given a new lease of life to me. Today, I have other projects that fascinate me. An adventure is beginning, or rather continuing, because the artistic fibre, which my professional life had somewhat stifled, is coming back.
Already 30 years ago, I had started a series of paintings on the theme of the automobile (a coincidence??) I take up this work today.
My experience, my technical knowledge and my maturity do the rest. Arthesolo was born.
It feeds on all these moments, where, lost in my thoughts, (when I run or when I look “elsewhere”), I build in my mind a whole universe where mechanics, colours, harmony and memories of my childhood are intertwined, for my greatest pleasure and I hope yours.”
Thanks again to him for sharing this beautiful and incredible story. Maybe there is such a thing as fate! Don’t forget to visit his website Arthesolo.
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