THE LIGHT FAN­TAS­TIC

Porsches and chan­de­liers – seems like it’s a match made in heaven

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Word & pho­tos: Robb Pritchard

What do chan­de­liers and Porsches have in com­mon? At first glance not all that much but Régis Mathieuʼs life re­volves around both and his ab­so­lutely stun­ning ex­hi­bi­tion cel­e­brat­ing the com­bi­na­tion of light and au­to­mo­tive art is both ut­terly unique and very spec­tac­u­lar. We visit the Cité de lʼau­to­mo­bile in the French city of Mul­house to meet the man be­hind the dis­play

It ʼ s one thing to write about an unimag­in­ably wealthy per­son who can go to a Sotheby ʼ s auc­tion and buy pretty much what­ever takes his fancy, but it ʼ s an­other en­tirely to talk to a man who started with next to noth­ing and has spent half of his life work­ing his way up. At first barely able to keep his road cars run­ning, but over the years as his busi­ness grew adding slowly to his col­lec­tion, Régis is one of the lat­ter.

To­day in his mid-40s he is a world-renowned chan­de­lier de­signer and re­storer, his works hang­ing in the Opera Paris, the Lou­vre and in the Monaco Opera, and with clients that in­clude Cartier and Chanel – but it was a long road to get where he is to­day. While still a teenager he de­cided to res­ur­rect his late fa­therʼs busi­ness of de­sign­ing, mak­ing and restor­ing chan­de­liers. He had to start ab­so­lutely from scratch, though, and it has taken over twenty five years to build up his amaz­ing per­sonal col­lec­tion of Porsches.

ʻChan­de­liers and Porsches are ac­tu­ally sim­i­lar,ʼ he ex­plains. ʻWith re­gards to func­tion­al­ity and prac­ti­cal­ity, to get you from A to B an old Lada is re­ally all you need. A Porsche crafts­man, though, gives you a lot more than what you re­ally need in a car, from the lines of the body to the nice in­te­rior, the trim and the pow­er­ful en­gine un­til it be­comes some­thing very spe­cial. A chan­de­lier is much the same be­cause es­sen­tially itʼs just a light, but one that is crafted into a form of art. This is why in my opin­ion putting them to­gether works so well.ʼ

Walk­ing through the main hall of a col­lec­tion of 600 cars, one of the big­gest and most im­por­tant car col­lec­tions in the world, they be­came merely back­ground as he opened a door to a side room. With thou­sand points of suf­fuse light catch­ing the fa­mil­iar lines of var­i­ous Porsches, it was im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous that itʼs an ab­so­lutely in­spired idea.

His pas­sion for Porsche started at a young age, be­ing en­am­oured with the time­less lines of the VW Bee­tle which, in a slightly non-lin­ear way, he thinks has its ul­ti­mate ex­pres­sion man­i­fest in the 911. This was a car that in his youth he could never hope to af­ford, though, un­til one day in the 1980s he dis­cov­ered that there was a com­pro­mise half­way be­tween the Bee­tle and the 911; the 356. At the ten­der age of 19 he ac­quired an SC from Ger­many which he was very happy with... un­til while in Cal­i­for­nia, try­ing to get his busi­ness es­tab­lished in Amer­ica, he came across the bright red Speed­ster dis­played here. It was love at first sight.

ʻI had to sell the SC to pay for it but it was a good de­ci­sion be­cause so many years later I still have this car and

when you have a Speed­ster you have a dream, be­cause itʼs so light and easy to drive. I have done the Tour de France six times in it and for many years have been on hol­i­days with my wife. In fact, a hol­i­day with­out the Speed­ster is­nʼt a hol­i­day at all. I live in the south of France so it is very easy to drive to Cor­sica, Sar­dinia, Spain and Italy.ʼ

The next ac­qui­si­tion he made way back in the early days of his col­lec­tion was a very cheap 2.2 911E, but he did­nʼt keep it long… and as crazy as it sounds to­day, swapped it for a 2.7 RS! ʻIt sounds an incredible story to say it now but in 1992 no one wanted a 2.7 RS. Back then the 964 RS had just come out so the 2.7 was con­sid­ered just an old and un­der­pow­ered car, and ei­ther peo­ple ripped them apart to make them go faster or they got rid of them in ex­change for some­thing quicker. This one was re­ally orig­i­nal, which to­day is amaz­ing, but back in 1992 meant that it was just slow. It was my dream car as a boy which is why I wanted it. I had no idea what it would come to be worth.ʼ

It was bought with a big chunk of cap­i­tal, though, so with the busi­ness still slow and un­pre­dictable his life goal was just to pre­serve th­ese two cars, and the busi­ness was ba­si­cally to make sure that they were per­fectly looked after. ʻI did­nʼt need an apart­ment, did­nʼt need to go out to restau­rants or on hol­i­day, so it was OK,ʼ he smiles. ʻAc­tu­ally, for two years I could­nʼt even af­ford the in­sur­ance for them as the busi­ness was­nʼt so good back then.ʼ

With a com­bi­na­tion of per­se­ver­ance, self-belief and busi­ness acu­men Régis man­aged to build Mathieu Lus­trerie into a renowned name in the ex­clu­sive world of chan­de­liers, and with its suc­cess al­lowed him­self the lux­ury of buy­ing some older cars, although noth­ing too spec­tac­u­lar. Yet. ʻThe 1967 soft-win­dow Targa 912 is a fan­tas­tic car for driv­ing in my home re­gion of Provence. Itʼs a con­vert­ible but with the Targa roof on you are not out un­der the hot sun which is

re­ally great. While the small four-cylin­der en­gine is not so fast it is made up for by the fact that this car is so easy to drive. And when you want to en­joy it a lit­tle more, on some nice roads for ex­am­ple, the 50/50 weight bal­ance is per­fect.ʼ

Be­yond the Alfa Rome­o­red 914 there is an or­di­nary look­ing 911, but the fact that it has pride of place in the dis­play in­di­cates that there may be some­thing more about it than at first meets the eye. Régis found it by ac­ci­dent around the back of a garage heʼd stopped at to look at a 914. It was dirty, had bad wheels and even worse seats, but the VIN num­ber started with a ʻ3ʼ not a ʻ9ʼ so his in­ter­est was piqued be­cause it meant it was a pre-pro­duc­tion model.

Look­ing at the Car­fax he saw that it had been kept by Porsche for four years and, in­trigued, he con­tacted a friend at Porsche to find out a lit­tle more… and got a very sur­pris­ing an­swer. ʻHe said, “where did you find that? Itʼs a fa­mous press car, weʼve been look­ing for it for years!”ʼ

They were keen to buy it but Régis de­clined be­cause own­ing a car that had been Porscheʼs press car and was fea­tured in many brochures and magazine test drives, as well as be­ing used in pro­mo­tion pho­tos with Ferry Porsche him­self sit­ting on the front, is a great feel­ing. ʻItʼs of course very nice to drive light and fast, just like any 911, but the car has far more value to me be­cause of its his­tory. It re­ally is a priv­i­lege to own a car like this.ʼ Porsche have asked to use it for a few ex­hi­bi­tions and Régis is more than happy to let them dis­play it.

A few years ago when then the busi­ness started do­ing very well Régis de­cided to make a real in­vest­ment, but in­stead of buy­ing stakes in a com­pany or prop­erty, or some­thing equally as bor­ing, he de­cided to put his money into some­thing much nicer: two se­ri­ous race cars. The 904 Car­rera GTS had only cov­ered 1800km when he bought it, which was the low­est mileage of any of the hun­dred 904s in the world. It was so orig­i­nal it still wore the orig­i­nal tyres. His love of own­ing such a car is equalled by his love of driv­ing it, so he has more than dou­bled the mileage (it cur­rently stands at 3800km), but it is still pos­si­bly the low­est of any 904.

“THE 904 GTS HAD ONLY COV­ERED 1800KM WHEN HE BOUGHT IT…”

As a lover of the Speed­ster he was also on the look­out for a 550, but came across this glo­ri­ous 718 RSK in the UK in­stead and was smit­ten. At some point in its life it had had an en­gine change so is not a match­ing numbers car, but the sale came with 13 fold­ers full of his­tory in­clud­ing pho­tos of it be­ing driven by Ri­cardo Ro­driguez, younger brother of the more well known Pe­dro, and so this be­came an­other star of the col­lec­tion.

ʻWith th­ese two cars itʼs like how I was with my first ones all those years ago, I run my busi­ness so I can look after them! But in the last few years the prices of some Porsche mod­els have gone up like crazy so now I could­nʼt af­ford to buy my col­lec­tion again,ʼ says Régis.

Th­ese are the Porsches on dis­play but the chan­de­liers that suround them are also amaz­ing, even if theyʼre not some­thing we know too much about. The most im­pres­sive of all is a sand-cast three-feet tall bronze piece that is a painstak­ingly ac­cu­rate replica of one com­mis­sioned for Madame Pois­son, who had the rather du­bi­ous sound­ing ti­tle of the ʻof­fi­cial chief mis­tressʼ of Louis XV.

The dis­play will run un­til the mid­dle of Oc­to­ber and is well worth a visit as no other Porsches have been seen dis­played quite this way be­fore. The Cité de lʼau­to­mo­bile is open all year and in­cludes 600 cars from the dawn of mo­tor­ing up to a Bu­gatti Vey­ron, and is surely one of the most spec­tac­u­lar au­to­mo­tive sights any­where in the world. CP

Left: It’s an in­spired idea, com­bin­ing the owner’s love of Porsches with a dis­play of his finest chan­de­liers, all set in one of the world’s largest car mu­se­ums…

Above and be­low: The RSK is a more re­cent pur­chase and, while not a match­ing numbers car, it has in­ter­est­ing his­tory, hav­ing been raced by Ri­cardo Ro­driguez

Above: Al­most un­be­liev­ably, the 1973 Car­rera RS was ac­quired in a swap for a 2.2litre 911E, back in the days when RSS were of lit­tle value

Be­low: Régis couldn’t imag­ine life with­out a Speed­ster – it was his sec­ond Porsche, sell­ing an SC coupé to buy it. His stable now in­cludes the 914 and, of course, a Bee­tle…

Be­low: Soft-win­dow 912 Targa is a per­sonal favourite, one which Régis loves to drive on the roads of his na­tive Provence

Above: Sub­dued light­ing and clever use of mir­rors gives the ex­hi­bi­tion an ethe­real at­mo­sphere, quite un­like any other we’ve seen

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