Guy Vermant proudly posing at his Mechelen premises alongside his Volvo 122 S...
Classic cars are becoming ever more popular. Many enthusiasts, old and new, have now their shining treasure standing in their garage. But of course there is more to it. One has to drive it. That is where the problems for many owners begin. Who will service and maintain my car, eventually store it and keep it in running condition at all times so it can be fully enjoyed? This is where Guy Vermant steps in with his new concept, recently presented and launched at the Antwerp Classic Car Salon. We commented about this in our columns already. Just klick the following link: http://www.autoprova.be/2018/03/04/vermant-nv-launches-collection-a-full-service-for-classics/
This was also a good reason to have an in depth interview with Guy Vermant, and about his love and passion for classic cars…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
“Hans, I am a total car buff.” Guy Vermant started the conversation with a broad smile. “ I was born and raised with cars and that is my thing. Already as a little boy I was convinced, cars were just it. I got the microbe of classic cars pretty quickly. I remember it like yesterday, my first classic was an Amazon when I was about 12 years old, and my dad had that car. Which we – actually my father – restored with great dedication, and when it was ready I had discovered that Volvo made even more beautiful cars, and so soon there came a P 1800.
My father shared my passion only up to a point. He did not understand that if you had the opportunity to drive new cars, that you got it in your head to step on a hot day in an old four wheeled hothouse without air conditioning, but that microbe bit me and I never got rid of it.
I then started collecting cars for myself. I think at one point I had a unique Volvo collection with a lot of cars, but very few cars were really in top condition. I had some very special cars nonetheless.
Guy Vermant has now a collection of pristine, meticulously restored Volvo’s, also rare and unique examples, which he also borrows to Volvo Car Corporation for shows…
One day my father said to me, look, I’m not going to go be two hundred years, think about what you want to do, because to keep all those cars in running condition is impossible. And so I brought my collection down to 16 cars. Because in the end, a bad or a good car takes just as much space. And if you sell five average ones, then you might have the opportunity to buy one good car, and that’s how I built up a fairly small collection with some very nice examples.
But the blood crept where it could not walk, and soon enough a collection of sixteen cars proved again too small. I also started looking sometimes over the fence, and besides Volvo I discovered there were also other nice cars around. I must admit that I thought that at some point I would get less car-minded, but I find that the older I get, the crazier I get about cars. That is a virus that digs still deeper, and especially those classic cars, that’s my thing.”
I attend the big European fairs and shows, like Technoclassica, Retro Stuttgart, Padova, Maastricht.”
Business grows too alongside the passion…
“Of course, alongside my passion for classic cars,” Guy continues, “the Volvo dealer business has always taken front seat: now we have grown from one to three Volvo branches, we started a Kia dealership in Mechelen, another Kia branch in Antwerp, and then we have also started a new and important bodywork repair activity. We were successful because I am very driven and value not only the company but also attach also the greatest importance to the people who work in it, and I think the motivation of and the attention we give to our people is our key to success.
My love for classic cars also goes to Ferrari’s and Porsches…amongst others!, says Guy Vermant.
We were running out of space and so we bought a new building in Mechelen north, with the idea to transfer this location to these new premises. That did not go through, last but not least because Volvo likes this location very much in terms of location and accessibility.
Then we wanted to use half of that new building and rent the other half, and in the meantime I was looking for someone to take care of and expand my own collection.
All this because in the meantime I have a collection of Volvo’s which is still quite unique,and is subsequently very much in demand. Now two cars from my collection are going to Technoclassica for Volvo Car Corporation, who are displaying there my cars.
Discovering the true specialist with passion to carry on the project…
Ruben Bosch welding the sill on a Volvo PV 544…
So I was looking for a talented, passionate specialist. I met a young engineer, Ruben Bosch, and I told him, you must not come to me, I will come to you. I knew that he had restored a car in the barn of his grandmother, and I went there to take a look.
That was quite a story. His sister got a Renault Clio for a certain amount, and he said to his father that he would rather have a classic car, and so he had bought an old 911. He restored this car and sold it, and from the proceeds he bought a 911 S short wheelbase, but mind you, that car was just a heap of parts in boxes.
Five people had tried to restore it, and failed. But Ruben Bosch won with this car the second prize at a concours(!).
I soon realized this is what I want, a man with passion, who has an eye for detail and really wants to go to the limit.
In the meantime the building had been added, and then we said, we are going to start a small classic car department, also because we have a lot of customers who have a classic car and ask us if we can work on it and maintain it. And then we thought, if we do something, we are going to do it well and so we have developed “Collection by Vermant” in three months. This was an intense and fascinating period, because this is something that is close to my heart, and there are many people in the classic world, but there are very few people who give full service, especially in a high-quality way.
People now buy cars at auctions, cars that have not driven for years. These people will encounter many problems when they want to enjoy their cars. We want to be a service company which is a one stop shop for someone with a classic.
Selling cars was not my intention at first, in the meantime we said we are going to do it, but in our own way. For me it is very simple, this business is for car lovers done by enthusiasts. And I have said, I have three holy rules. I want nice customers, I want nice employees and nice cars. And with pleasure and fun I mean the passion for cars. We want to deliver historically correct quality work, and we want to do this in a very qualitative way. At the Antwerp Salon the presentation of our concept it was a great success, and what I did not expect, maybe twenty cars were thrown into my lap.
Of course, I would like to buy cars which I consider to be quality, and I would sell these cars at a reasonable market price. I will only sell cars which are without problems or at least which we can solve and cars we can maintain and service so they continue to run trouble free. This is our philosophy and this is what we want to do. We are not going to make promises which we cannot keep. Ruben and his two colleagues have come to us and have unbelievable drive and enthusiasm. We go for top quality and top service.
We have planned two events, one “open house” event on April 26, and a rally in July. Our ambition is of course also to create a pleasant meeting place, a quarterly event, a nice showroom with a bar, where classic car lovers can meet…
I am convinced that when it comes to having a unique automotive experience and enhancing Vermant brand value, we have a good concept. In my opinion, only when the purchase of a product is a unique, personal and rewarding experience, (car) dealerships have a future. Our Vermant Collection Concept totally fits into this trend.”
We thank you for this interview.
Hans Knol ten Bensel