The Salon Champenois in Reims, France, sure thing for enthusiasts, tinkerers and collectors of French automobilia. The most sparkling event of the spring.

We’ve been here before and we’ve reported on it earlier, the Salon Champenois in the expo halls of the French Champagne capital of Reims. Inside the expo halls, but mainly outside of them. Do the halls mainly cover stands of the (local) clubs and traders in new parts and literature, outside, on the immense square in front of the halls, lies the true heart of the Salon Champenois. This is where you can find literally anything. Row by row, stall by stall, you stumble upon the parts, cars, road signs, bicycles, toys, there is not a thing you could possibly imagine that isn’t here. And it all has that one common factor: It’s old, often really, really old. Vintage, rusty, used. If you can’t find it here, it simply doesn’t exist.

From every corner of the world, visitors manage to find this event. The Salon Champenois hasn’t been exclusive to the French since, well forever. This is an event where people from all over gather, where there are so many more languages spoken than just French. This is where one thing appeals to all, the relaxed atmosphere and the chance to score that one particular part you have been searching for so long. If you know exactly what you’re looking for, that is. Me, I gave up years ago, for me Reims is nothing more than an excuse for a day amongst friends, soaking up that first spring sun and gaze at the immense display of what’s on offer. Enjoying the scene, the abundance and the satisfaction of being able to recognize something I might have tinkered on myself in the past.

That one specific rear light cover, piece of bodywork or carburettor, those are doable, but crate after crate of switches, camshafts, valve springs or brake cylinders. I take my hat off for those who can find that one perfect article amongst all the other stuff. I rather go there on Sunday, when the real bargain hunters have taken their prizes home to the shed, when the real tinkerers are back in their workshop, with their wire brushes and cleaning solvent. When the area is taken over by the families, the friends, the people who enjoy enjoying the place. I’ve been here on Saturdays, clutching to my shopping list, the prices of the parts I’m looking for stored in the back of my head. I’ve gone home with that one slightly over priced windscreen wiper motor that has never been used in the end. I gave up. It is looking for a needle in a haystack. But what a magnificent haystack it is!

So I am driving home with the backseat of the family car folded down. Softly rattling, the piece of scrap, being smuggled North wrapped in layers and layers of plastic, proves that it is possible. That amidst all those parts you can find exactly that what you think you’ll need. Today I am but the transporter for someone who doesn’t have the room in his classic for taking a complete rear axle of a Citroën Traction Avant. No, let’s be fair, a Suspension Grégoire, a period correct aftermarket part that turns every Traction Avant into a flying carpet. A part that made at least two people happy today. I do agree, it is quite a hefty needle, but the fact that you find it here, is exactly what makes the Salon Champenois here in Reims such a special event.
Marc GF Zaan

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