Passion for Cars, The Unique Collection of Thierry Dehaeck

by Thierry Dehaeck & David Hawtin

“After some hesitation, I finally decided to write this book. My worry was that it would be considered pretentious, but good friends convinced me to share my passion with other enthusiasts and people equally passionate about classic cars. The collection has grown to encompass a wide variety of interesting and iconic cars, whose detailed histories feature in this book.

In truth, we are only provisional owners of our classic cars; once we leave this world they will have new owners. This is the reason why it is our responsibility to research and document their history. Thus this book is a testimony of my passion and a record of each car’s life story.”

What sounds like a car part but is a pastry? 

That would be vol-au-vent which means “windblown” which alludes to the lightness of a small hollow case of puff pastry. Half a million (ka-ching) Pidy pastries are sold a day—and Pidy stands for Patisserie Industrie Dehaeck Ypres, Dehaeck as in Thierry Dehaeck, the fellow behind the cars in this book. He’s actually the fellow behind many more cars than are in this book, but those are part of, first, a classic car sales business he started and then later expanded into a restoration/service shop.

Dehaeck sold Pidy years ago so let’s move away from the pastries. Heretofore, if you wanted to see Dehaeck’s collection, in Belgium, you had to make an appointment, and bring at least 14 friends or book an event at the museum. Now you can simply buy this book. In fact, if you buy it at the museum, every ticket holder gets €10 off the purchase price. The museum is quite the place to experience in person as a great deal of attention is given to the total effect. Dehaeck does put thought into his cars and into their display and use, but so does everyone who is a serious, intentional collector so the subtitle’s use of the word “unique” is not a useful descriptor. 

If you know your Citroëns, the thumbnails on the right page will make your knees quake. Except for the van, all those DS and SM models are coach- or custombuilt rarities. When the Pebble Beach Concours had a Postwar Custom Citroën class in 2018, all those cars would have fit the bill but only his Chapron Mylord got the nod.

Dehaeck’s car choices are certainly unique in the sense of being “personal” but the word mustn’t be solely seen in the context of rarity or a sort of generic desirability/collectibility—which is why he is as pleased by his bread-and butter Bentley T2 as his limited-production coachbuilt Bentley S1, and gives his Messerschmitt KR200 microcar as prominent a parking spot as his Ferrari 275 GTB. If you know your cars, you know that these choices represent wide swings of the pendulum. But they all fit on Dehaeck’s spectrum of “cars that are iconic and difficult to find or of which only a limited number were built.” Also, “I never buy a car without a story.”

And those stories really are what makes this book different from other “catalogs” of collections because they make up the bulk of each car’s presentation. Fifty cars are described (nine of which in completely original condition) each in a standard format of one photo spread, then a brief model history, then owner/restoration/concours history plus remarks by Dehaeck regarding the acquisition or other items of note, as well as a sidebar containing vital stats/key specs (including chassis number; gold star!). Each car will also be shown in one or more pages of close-ups or historically important photos (as in the case of the land speed record Citroën, below) alongside paraphernalia (see above) such as build sheets, handbooks, or correspondence and the like. The marques are presented in alpha order and within that chronologically, and the specificity of the Table of Contents obviates the need for an Index.

An SM is a rare thing in the US any day but through much of the 1980s “The Rig” was a common sight at Bonneville and El Mirage, and in 1985 cracked the 200 mph barrier. Dehaeck bought The Rig in 2021, barely in time to make it into this book!

That this Belgian collection should be covered by a Belgian publisher is a happy circumstance. (They have another car book, about the Mahy collection in Belgium.) Lannoo Publishers specializes in books that are big on visuals, which deserve and require nice paper, printing and binding, all of which are present here (a rounded spine . . . pinch me, someone . . . and the main title in raised lettering . . .). 

Passion for Cars, The Unique Collection of Thierry Dehaeck
by Thierry Dehaeck & David Hawtin
Lannoo Publishers, 2021    [In US: ACC Art Books]
352 pages, 380 color illustrations, hardcover
List Price: $80 / €59
ISBN-13: 978-9401479660
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