"A car nut's dream town?"
Well, France was just a day trip from Switzerland this time around. I'd hoped to get to Paris some time, but today I was driving to a specific location in Switzerland, and was re-directed across the border to Pontarlier, France.
I'd come to see the workshop of Franco Sbarro, a custom-car builder to the elite, wealthy car buffs of the world. He only builds a few dozen a year, so they're hard to find, but at $100,000 - $300,000+ per vehicle, he doesn't need to build many to survive.
He's well-known in the higher echelon custom car market, so I won't bore the reader with details, but he does top-notch work, VERY exclusively, and VERY, VERY expensively.
(If you can't put your house up as collateral towards the purchase of one of his cars, don't bother flying to Switzerland for your first meeting!)
His museum of prototypes, one-offs & design show cars is, for some reason, just across the border, in Pontarlier, so I headed off through the valleys, forest & plains, to find the medium-sized French town.
A quick slice of pizza & a large beer in town, and I was ready to view the 100+ cars in the warehouse museum on the outskirts of town.
From minor modifications of everyday vehicles, to a few design studies, to one-off copies of the custom-built cars he shows off at the Geneva Auto Show, everything he's done is here.
"See my travelogue for more details on the cars!"
The museum is laid out very plainly, but I came to see the cars, not the architecture.
I kept 384 pictures from those I took here (yes, a digital camera DOES come in real handy sometimes!), but I'll keep these displayed on VT to a minimum. For those of you that appreciate this stuff, check back on these pages in (summer 2003?) when I should have a really complete personal web page to refer you to, with ALL the pics! :>)
An automotive paradise
"A wolf in sheep's clothing?"
I have to begin with my favourite Sbarro vehicle - the Monster G.
Built in 1987, it's a 4-wheel drive Range Rover, with Boeing 747 tires on modified wheels.
A 350-hp, 6.4litre Mercedes engine powers the beast, but unfortunately, as with most of Sbarro's vehicles, performance is not the intended final product - design is... so there are no performance numbers to crank out & compare.
However, there's a good chance that you'll be the first off the mark when the treffic light turns green - everyone else will be picking up their jaws from the floor!
*An EXTRA special characteristic of this baby is the mini-motorbike stored behind the left-rear wheel-well - if you break down on the highway, you can motor to the next garage!
"The Silver Streak"
Next is the car that started my visions of wonder, back in 1985 - the Challenge. It's perhaps the best-known of Sbarro's works
Built on a Porsche chassis with a 911 Turbo engine, this sleek, smooth, wunder-auto blew away everyone at the Geneva Auto Show that year.
A cross between a cow-catcher and a rocket, its Lamborghini-style doors allow you to 'ooze' into the seats.
The Osmos Dream Car from 1989, is not just a purely fantastic design study, but was the test vehicle for Sbarro's mind-bending Orbital Wheel.
Sbarro's Orbital Wheel was a design study in itself, except that it worked!
Most wheels have an axle, with spokes out from the centre, to balance & support the rim around it.
But here, he's attached a solid rim to just one point. It may not be the safest way to travel (don't know if it would be road-legal), but it's gotta be the coolest!
Sbarro has started some design schools for up-and-coming students, and many of the vehicles in the museum are products of fertile young imaginations (somewhat more toned-down than the wild fantasies of the founder!).
This Citroen Berlingo has been turned into tourism/utility vehicle, with an over-the-top viewport, and full-size, double-doors opening at the back.A perfect way to transport your invalid grandmother to enjoy a day at the beach with the family!
Lest you think that none of the vehicles here are practical, some of the designs are of multi-passenger carriers, like this one - I'm afraid I missed its name - which can transport a driver & 7 passengers, with plenty of room on the floor for luggage.
"Parking? No problem!"
This is one of my favourites - the Robur - a Peugeot 205 turned into a Paris traffic dream vehicle, as bought by a wealthy Frenchman.
Powered by a 2.1litre 200-hp Audi 200 engine
The 2 half-circles dropping below the rear in the picture are in fact, chain-driven wheels - if the parking spot doesn't let you parallel park, just drive forwards into the spot at an angle, press a button & the extra wheels drop down - the car lifts up off the regular rear tires & the 2 wheels run you sideways, like a crab, into the tight spot to the curb.
Its name comes from the client - Pierre le Rouvre.
"One for the road..."
To finish off this travelogue, I've chosen this little guy - not all of Sbarro's vehicles have 4 wheels!
Call it a moped, a trike, a triped... whatever you call it, it must be a sweet ride!