It is often the special, exclusive and very expensive cars that are preserved, while the ‘ordinary’ cars often have the greatest impact on people and society during their lifetime. That is what makes Jacques Kemp’s collection so beautiful. It consists of modest builders who should be preserved for the coming generation. He calls them workhorses of reconstruction. It is his modest ode to the pick-up.
The pick-up is a special automobile that shares its fate with the van. Neither is built to be beautiful, fast or comfortable. They only exist to work: the loading platform must provide as much space as possible for often heavy items, which put a heavy burden on the chassis and mechanics. They are not allowed to complain, they must do their work with as few complaints as possible, preferably as many days a week as possible. No wonder that a pick-up or van often collapses forever after retirement and disappears into the shredder. Peace at last.
Its short, hard life is the great tragedy of the automotive workhorse. For a short time everyone sees them everywhere, but because they are so commonplace and have no time or effort to stand out, everyone quickly forgets about them. This fact triggered Jacques Kemp (73) and, before he knew it, would lead to a special collection. Before he retired about eight years ago, Jacques Kemp was a bit searching. He liked cars, but had no specific preference. “When I retired, I set myself the goal of doing something special. Then you can of course drive rallies with a Porsche or a Jaguar XK, but you can hardly call that unique. I decided to be inspired by my sympathy for the pickup.”
Goliath tricycle from the greengrocer
Jacques knows exactly how this sympathy arose. “I come from a middle-class family and therefore have a thing for entrepreneurs and their economic considerations,” he says. “I have always remembered the Goliath tricycle from my youth, a typical car of the greengrocers of that time. If you look at such a Goliath now, you see a very simple pick-up, but you should not forget what a huge efficiency gain that pick-up represents compared to the cargo bike that preceded it. When you are in it, you can almost feel the economic progress.”
While Jacques talks, he takes a seat behind the wheel of the Goliath (the blue one with blue hood in the photo above) that is part of his collection. In his eyes there is a glimpse of the amazement of all those entrepreneurs who have realized what such a simple Goliath could do for their business. One giant leap for mankindWho said that again?
The great thing about jumping is: you can do it in many forms and each form has its own charm. It’s the same with pick-ups, as proven by the workhorses that Jacques has gathered around him. Sometimes they are real gems, for which Jacques had to search for a long time and which he often found in the most unpredictable places. Take the Daf 750 pick-up, a unique piece that almost no one knows about. The Daf 750 was the stronger version of the Daf 600 that the market craved in the early 1960s, with a 750 cc engine under the hood that boosted the power to a not exactly staggering 30 hp. Daf built about 800 of these pick-ups, Jacques also knew, but the problem is that almost without exception they did not reach retirement age. “It turned out that three more existed,” he says. “Two of them are in America, and the third? You won’t believe it, but after a long search I discovered that it was in my hometown, where it had belonged to a horticulturist. After ringing many doorbells, I finally found the car and it was given to me by the old owner. What a coincidence, right?”
Exactly the same Daf
Much less unique, but infinitely more dear to Jacques himself, is the other Daf in the workhorse collection, the 33 Combi. The connoisseur will immediately see: that’s not even a pickup, but that doesn’t make it any less of a workhorse. The dark blue copy in Jacques’ collection was used by a painter. “But,” says Jacques, “my parents had four butcher shops and they had exactly the same Daf as a company car. As a small child I already collected pictures of Dafs, our national pride. That makes the fact that I was later allowed to ride in that 33 Combi, that I was allowed to clean it every Saturday and that I was eventually even allowed to drive it even more special. Now having such a car yourself is very special. My parents would certainly have loved that.”
Speaking of beautiful: what do you think of the pickup version of the Citroën 2CV? The pun ‘a strange duck’ is too predictable in this context, but this is also an almost unknown variant of a car that everyone knows. This small pick-up was not built in France, but in Slough, England, where Citroën produced cars between 1926 and 1966. At that time, the 2CV pick-up led an inconspicuous existence, because entrepreneurs opted en masse for the van, which still has a cult status today. The Royal Navy, which had been looking for a versatile, reliable and off-road vehicle for its deployment in overseas areas for some time, decided to embrace the charms of the 2CV. The low weight of the Citroën was a decisive factor, as it allowed the Ducks to be lifted by helicopter from aircraft carriers such as HMS Bulwark, to be landed anywhere in the world. “In total, only around 120 of these pick-ups were built,” says Jacques. “Half of that was for the navy, which deployed them in Borneo and Kenya, among other places. He dropped at least one of them under the helicopter. I still have a photo of that somewhere. The Navy eventually dumped its Ducklings in the sea, mine belonged to a Scottish farmer.”
Dark green Fiat Topolino pick-up from 1951
An equally beautiful gem in the collection is the other 2CV, a Fourgonnette in almost new condition, which drove its 40,000 kilometers in sunny Gard, just above the French Mediterranean coast. That is also the modest dark green Fiat Topolino pick-up from 1951. It was built as a finger exercise by Carrozzerie Speciali, Fiat’s own ‘coachbuilders’ department, which also designed the beautiful 8V. Only a handful of Topolino pickups saw the light of day, Jacques managed to locate one in a northern Italian village near Mantua. Both in color and in origin, this Fiat contrasts beautifully with the canary yellow Morris Minor of the British Post Offices Telephones – the predecessor of British Telecom – with a period-correct ladder on the roof and a sign on the side. friendly reminder that it is cheaper to call your friends after six o’clock or on the weekend. And although Saab never ventured into building pick-ups, Jacques’ collection also includes a Saab 95 pick-up, which was built in Sweden and was fitted with the short nose of the Saab 93. The hood can only be closed when the engine is not running, Jacques reveals. “But that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.”
That’s the best thing about this collection of modest workhorses: Jacques genuinely thinks they’re all beautiful. He plainly calls the Porsche tractor art and also puts the nose of his German Tempo Matador, based on Volkswagen technology, in that category. “Look at that Matador,” he says. “It was built at a time when everything had to be as cheap as possible, for people who especially valued the working capacity of such a car. How is it possible that they manage to design such a beautiful nose? I also know that art is an experience, and that is different for everyone, but I feel more emotion with my collection of workhorses than with painting.”
Art should be admired and Jacques sees it as his next mission to make his collection accessible to a wide audience. “I currently receive visitors by appointment, but I would prefer to ensure that my collection is included in a museum, so that these workhorses are preserved for future generations. They deserve this, because they are scarce, but especially because of the role they played in the reconstruction. This collection has no financial motive, but it does have a vision. I wanted to show something that people hadn’t seen yet. That is my answer to my children’s question why I do this. That’s why I do it.”
This story was previously published in AutoWeek Classics 2 2023
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