By Herman Brouwer
Most Bugattistes know the story about the "Sleeping Beauties". Those magnificient cars, Bugattis, Lancias, a Ferrari, and many more, stored in some old sheds and even outside, owned by an excentric old man, who leaves the cars to rot and decay, and refuses to let others enjoy them.
This is the impression that the book by Mr. Hesselman likes to give you. This book is from the beginning of the 80s. Now, more then 20 years later would these cars still be there? What is their fate? Judging from the photos, not much is probably left of them. But still, those fantastic machines? And the owner, Michel Dovaz? Is he still alive? And would he be approachable?
These were the questions that Ard op de Weegh had, when he started investigating the fate of the "Sleeping Beauties". After years of research, his achievements are remarkable. He teamed up with a researcher, that was trying to achieve the same goals. Also, his son proved a great companion in achieving that ultimate goal: Tracing the cars, and writing a book about them: "Het lot van de slapende schoonheden / the fate of the sleeping beauties". A cooperation of three remarkable men, that reveil the truth about the Sleeping Beauties.
Friday the 21st of 2008, Ard organised a book presentation, to introduce the book to the press and to all people that helped him in the process. But more important, also to Michel Dovaz... Yes, Mr. Dovaz was not only still alive, but he was also present on the presentation.
Location of the presentation could not be better: The Louwman Collection / The National Car Museum in the Netherlands houses some magnificient examples of car manufacturing during the years, including a fantastic Bugatti type 50 and type 54.
I was invited as well, and took my father with me. I reached the museum one hour too early, but there always seems to be a greater Bugattiste: Jean Prick was already waiting in his car...
After reception of the guests, the Bugatti Ventoux of Mr. and Mrs Dufilho entered the hall of the museum. This car is well known as a former "Sleeping Beauty", as it appeared on the cover of the Hesselman book, and on a poster. This amazing car was later to be accompagnied by the Atalante of Kees Jansen. (a beauty, but not a sleeping beauty...)
In the cinema, housing 80 people, Ard held a whole-hearted speach, explaining the history of the book, and the difficulties that had to be overcome. A fine mix between emotion, passion and humor, and a well deserved respect for Mr. Dovaz, who had the guts and the stubborness to cling to his cars, thereby saving them from being scrapped. The two main conclusions of the speach were that the cars were in much better shape than the Hesselman pictures suggest, and the description of Mr. Dovaz was plainly wrong. He proved to be a friendly car enthousiast, still owning part of his collection.
The first book was handed over to Mr. Dovaz. If there is someone who deserves this first book, it is him. The book was handed over to him by the president of the KNAC, the Royal Dutch Car Federation. More or less ironically it was also the KNAC that translated the Hesselman book to Dutch, and had many copies printed...
A movie was shown, compiled of old material, and new material shot by the 3 writers of the book. This film, showing all major phases of the collection, had great athmosphere, and was well received thoughout. Thank you, Arnoud! Also check some of the footage on Youtube: Click here for the movie
After this official part it was time for the rest of us to obtain a copy of the book. Michel Dovaz proved to be a gentleman by signing all books that were presented to him, adding a humorous note when appropiate, and clearly having great fun in the process. The athmosphere was great, and many people stayed for quite a long time. Among them no less then 12 Bugattibuilder.com forum members.
Michel Dovaz and me
Michel Dovaz has had a bad name among car lovers, for letting those magnificient cars sit in his garden and sheds. Although the more well informed people knew better, it was not until Ard op de Weegh, Arnoud and Kay wrote this book, which takes the edge of the Hesselman story. A massive task, well done.