We drop in on the French purveyors of Porsche clothing and memorabilia
We head to France and drop in on Selection RS, which can only be described as the ultimate toy store for any Porsche fanatic. Whether youʼre a model collector, a lover of watches or simply want to turn your home into a homage to Stuttgartʼs finest, you need to add this store to your list
Youʼd have to be a poker-faced Scrooge not to be inspired by the glittering contents of Bertrand Vienʼs temple to Porsche paraphernalia. Thereʼs everything the fan could possibly wish for here, from clothing to model cars. Weʼre attending the grand opening of the Zuffenhausen-focussed superstore, and he has invited over 200 guests, so the adjacent car park is full of Porsches ancient and, it has to be said, mainly modern.
Being a September Saturday, doubtless many locals are using the opportunity to give their pride and joy an airing. Pride of place in the showroom are a modern 918 Spyder and a Carrera GT, whilst the yard behind the building features a collection of puntersʼ air-cooled classics.
Based in Vesoul in the Haute-saône region of eastern France, Bertrand has been marketing Porsche-tagged ranges of goods on-line since 2012, but earlier this year he decided to open his premises with a proper shop so customers could browse at leisure and check out the product ranges before committing to buy anything. And thereʼs no obligation to purchase anything; itʼs great just to ogle the wares and maybe build a mental wish list to do the business on-line once back home.
The first display that catches my eye is a history of Porsche cars presented as 1:18 scale models, housed in a long showcase: from the earliest 356 and derivatives, right up to the very latest 991 Coupe, Turbo, GT2 and Cabriolet, and 718 Boxster and Cayman. Racing cars, too – the obligatory 917, 906, 910 and Carrera Cup cars. Bertrand is pleased with it: ʻitʼs a nice presentation so people can see how the company evolved, from the original 356 through the 2.7 RS and 996 GT3, and so on.ʼ
Iʼve never seen a display of models thatʼs quite so specific, but in fact some models are no longer available. As Bertrand says, ʻyou cannot buy some of them because they have not been produced for maybe 10 years now, so those are coming from our own collection, but the ones with prices marked are the ones which are in stock. People who know the models can say, “Oh, I had this one, I remember that,” and those who donʼt know Porsches that well can discover the extent of the model range.ʼ
If it is scale models that interest you, Bertrand stocks a good cross-section of makers: Spark, Minichamps, Tecnomodel, Norev, Schuco, GT Spirit, Cult, Autoart – the list goes on. While he organises his opening ceremony, we take a tour of the shelved aisles. Hereʼs a Porsche logoʼd tablelamp; and here is a clock; thereʼs delicate crockery and a calendar, a wine cooler, Porsche bottle stops, Eau-deCologne, and wrist-watches branded Selection RS.
Bertrand shows us the Porsche Design ʻDriver Selection Collection,ʼ consisting of all the apparel available from the works souvenir department, as well as racks of T-shirts from the likes of Hunziker and a rather nice Jo Siffert windcheater, and as Bertrand explains, ʻwe present one of each item, and we have all the sizes in stock. So here we also have gloves and jackets in Martini and Gulf racing styles, plus key fobs, ties, pin badges, sunglasses, watches, driving shoes and caps.ʼ
You might wonder, not unreasonably, what would motivate someone to open such a specialised outlet in a provincial city, and indeed where your customers are going to come from. But as Kevin Costner says in Field of Dreams, ʻBuild it and they will come.ʼ If you build it big enough, itʼs a destination, and people will come to see it. And the proof of the pudding is the stream of Porsches that are queuing to get in.
Itʼs a Porsche petrolheadʼs dream: you could walk into the emporium and very easily spend a great deal of money on things you donʼt really need, like a set of kitchen knives or a Martini racing bag or leather man-bag.
We all need models of the Porsches we find inspirational for whatever reason, and Bertrand can help find the one youʼre missing. If youʼre a connoisseur you might want to just specialise in collecting one scale of model or one model maker, rather than just collect anything and everything. Once you get into the mainstream cars, almost certainly there will be not only model collectors but people whoʼve seen their car in here and want a model of it.
There are model kits of course, by Tamiya, Revell and Gunze Sangyo, and thereʼs even a working model of a flatsix engine by Franzis, with all the moving parts visible. The longer you spend wandering around the more things you catch sight of which you think, ʻAha! Thatʼs what Iʼve always wanted – things like headlights which are clocks, and different style classic crash helmets replicating those of famous drivers like Jo Siffert and Steve Mcqueen, as a tribute to the Le Mans film. And hereʼs a very nice angle-poise lamp, and some great artworks by well-known Porsche exponents, such as Caroline Llong and Laurence Henry.
“FROM THE ORIGINAL 356 THROUGH THE 2.7 RS…”
Upstairs on the mezzanine deck are shelves of Porsche books – including a couple written by yours truly, Iʼm delighted to see – and magazines such as this one. This is a great place to relax with a brew (from the bar downstairs) and take stock of what youʼve just bought, or ponder what else could be on the shopping list.
The leather armchairs, which are for sale, are not only comfortable but quite spectacular, upholstered in the coloured liveries of 917 race cars. ʻThe seats are a big success, especially because the price is good and there is also a special offer: we sell them individually for €250, or two for €450.ʼ
Bertrand describes how he got Selection RS off the ground: ʻI had my own collection of 1:18-scale model cars, and seven years ago I found one of a 997 Turbo for a very good price and I thought, letʼs buy four of them, keep one for me and sell three, so I sold those, and then I found some 1:43 scale cars, and I also sold those as box sets, and gradually, month-by-month and year-by-year, our garage filled up with Porsches in little boxes.
ʻThen we started sending out newsletters to our clients, and all the time I was accumulating customersʼ e-mail addresses in an Excel database, and soon we had 100 clients. Five years ago, we created the Selection RS website to show our range of items, but we didnʼt push it at all, we were quite relaxed about it, and at the time we were selling most of our stock at swap-meets, in Belgium, in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and France.
ʻI was waking up every Saturday or Sunday at four or five oʼclock, together with my son who was six or seven years old, and he would come with me to the swap-meets, and we had some very nice moments. It was hard work, but rewarding. Then, four years ago we decided we would try to develop the business and make Selection RS much bigger, so we started to advertise in magazines, and took on two more people to help us out.
ʻWe increased the stock by buying in many items, and we started to sell not only model cars, but also clothing and accessories like watches, luggage, and so on. So, three years ago we suddenly had a lack of storage space because the garage was full, so we set about finding a space here in our city, and we found this building, which we divided into three sections: showroom, warehouse and dispatch. Our turnover increased quite fast, and now we sell 20 times more than when we started.ʼ
Even though the city of Vesoul is quite small – we
certainly had to enlist Madame Satnav to find it – Bertrand anticipates that visitors will ʻ…come from all over France, and even from Switzerland and Belgium to see the showroom.ʼ Endearingly, he seems slightly incredulous that itʼs all taken off to such an extent: ʻEven though they said that they like it, because there are a few cars in showcases. From my point of view, I thought they could be frustrated because the space is too small, so I said we should make something bigger, and weʼve tried to make it the biggest showroom that can be found anywhere in the world with only dedicated Porsche items and memorabilia.ʼ
Thereʼs a synergy with Porsche as well. ʻWe are still a small company, but there is no equivalent in the marketplace, and even Porsche doesnʼt have the same space with so many items on display and available to order on-line. Only the Museum shop at Zuffenhausen, which is very nice and very spacious, but they have fewer items.
ʻSo, there is nothing to compare with us, and it is good that we have a very good relationship with Porsche. We are very pleased with this collaboration, of course, and they try to help us, which is kind of them because they could also try to stop us. But they are shrewd, and nice enough to let us develop this business, and at the same time we have the opportunity to sell other items created by other manufacturers like Nicolas Hunziker and so on.
Thereʼs a neat twist to the tale: not only does Bertrand sell Porsche memorabilia, he also owns a Porsche: in pride of place amongst the air-cooled cars is an orange 912. Itʼs his personal toy, its restoration completed just in time for the grand opening.
Itʼs been a long time coming: ʻI found it on ebay nine years ago in London, and a friend checked it for me and said it looked OK, and so I bought it for £7000, which was a good price then. There were some parts missing but the guy found them, and it was running, so I drove it to the ferry at Dover. But arriving in Calais, a friend came with a trailer to pick it up because I didnʼt feel confident about crossing the whole of France with it.
ʻThe original colour was Bahama Yellow, and when I bought it, it was red, but my favourite colour is tangerine, so I decided I will make it tangerine. So, a friend and I dismantled the car and another friend painted it, but after it was finished I left it in my garage and didnʼt touch it. And then two weeks ago I said letʼs make it ready for the opening, and here we are.ʼ Indeed, an apt transition from one Porsche construction kit – to whole a shelf-full. CP
Above: The 917-inspired chairs have proved to be a big hit with customers. And at €250 each, they wonʼt break the bank…
Below left: Bertrand with his freshly-finished 912, which he originally found for sale in London nine years ago
Below right: Everywhere you look, there are surprises, like a headlamp thatʼs now a Martini-inspired clock…
Above right: Bertrand Vienʼs business started small and has grown – and grown. A major on-line presence brings in a world market
Above: Posters form a big part of the collection, and are a popular line
Below left to right: Gulf livery is popular, for rather obvious reasons. How about this liveried desk lamp? And if watches are your thing, then Selection RS has a large range, including original Porsche items. Clothing? Thereʼs a massive range to...
Above: Some of the models will look familiar to regular readers of Classic Porsche…
Below left and right: Whatever your particular favourite is, Bertrand is sure to have a model of a famous Porsche race car for you, be it a 550 coupé or a Gulf 917