About Stefan Chaligne

stefan-chaligneMy name is Stefan Chaligne. I can easily argue that my passion for cars runs in my veins : my grand-father, Paul Chaligné came from the Le Mans in the Sarthe, as most of the people bearing the name Chaligné and his father before him, Sébastien-Placide Chaligné had already owned two cars in 1910 : an Amédée Bollée, made by the famous Le Mans car maker which one can argue was the first to invent the sports car ; and a De Dion Bouton, another French car built in the Parisian suburbs at Puteaux. On top of that the same Sébastien-Placide was also the owner of the land on which the famous Le Mans racetrack would be built in 1923. The strange irony is that Sébastien-Placide died in a riding accident.

In fact my passion for cars is in reality rather more linked to two separate events : The first is the friendship of my father Jean-Claude with Walter Glocker, the famous German racing pilot, when they were both at Champéry, the ski resort in the Alpes. Jean-Claude, then only 20 years old, had been lucky to be benefit from a ride to Château d’Oex in the latest racing Porsche 356 which belonged to the German champion. At this time professional racing cars were allowed to use the open roads and it was not unusual to see the racing pilots take to national roads after competing in a race. We are in 1951 and the wounds of the Second World War were still fresh ; today the image of a young Frenchman from a family that had lost members fighting for « La Patrie » going for a car ride with a young German may seem a symbol charged with hope and reconciliation, but at the time it was difficult for a Frenchman and a German to overcome the traumatism and share the same passion. Even today my father reminds me of how the bus driver searched for the grey 356 he had just overtaken in his rear mirror, or the intentional sharp 180 degree turn on a narrow mountain road in order to get back in the right direction. As a child I replayed these images like a film in my mind numerous times imagining myself the passenger. I came away with the conviction that a sports car had to be light and compact otherwise it would be unable to perform at high speed on a twisty road. I also became convinced that a sports car should embellish the landscape, fit into its environment, magnify nature. For me it is impossible to dissociate the car from the concept of the journey, the open road, movement, even if it is stationary in front of a beautiful contemporary house or a beautiful church.

The second event was a recurring one, as each summer my family would travel by car from Paris to Greece, where my mother is from. My father had been looking through car magazines for a while trying to find a car that would be capable of carrying 6 passengers, a Zodiac with its outboard engine and my grand-mother’s wardrobe. Only an American station wagon seemed capable of fulfilling this task. The chosen car was a 1973 Oldsmobile *Custom Cruiser » armed with a V8 engine and 455 cubic inches. At full speed on the Italian motorways this tank like car terrified its passengers and other road users alike. Squashed in between my father and grandfather, I looked enviously at the Alfa Romeos GTV 1750s and the Lancia 1600 HF’s, as they speed by us, light and nervous with their engines barely a quarter the size of the American monster. I have, however, wonderful memories of the varied landscapes and roads we passed, to the point that nowadays I find it hard to find total pleasure driving on a racing circuit which is only a closed road of varying length on which one drives round and round. Only the marvelous Nürburgring circuit in Germany allows one the same liberty as the open road within an enclosed space; the pleasure of driving is not only driving an exciting car, but also a beautiful road, a wonderful journey, a great adventure.

The end of my studies and the start of my professional career marked the end of my status as a passenger/spectator and the beginning of that as driver/protagonist. From then on it was clear that my first savings would be invested in a car worthy of its name. I chose a Porsche Carrera 3.2 1986 which to me symbolized all the qualities of a sports car : speed, beauty, lightness and force. Unconsciously this car also represented a dream come true for my father who could no longer pursue his passion for cars due to his failing health. After criticizing this unnecessary and unreasonable expenditure for a few minutes, my father was naturally the first to be taken for a drive, his great joy evident for all to see. Living in London at the time, I came to the sad conclusion that it would be wrong to keep such a thoroughbred enclosed in an urban pace and I decided to leave the fruit of all my sacrifices at the family country house. The pleasure of finding the object of my desire was only made greater by the possibility of offering it the large open spaces that were the measure of its potential.

It was only years later that I realized that true car enthusiasts only take out their toys in ideal conditions, away from the eyes of the crowds when you can have the pleasure of seeing the pure athletic thoroughbred machine travelling through space. During 30 years of driving sports cars I have always tried to combine a beautiful road with a beautiful car or even better to find the road most
appropriate to the character of the car. It is perhaps a kind of homage to those who design these driving machines which enchant us so.

Yours truly,
Stefan Chaligne.