30th Anniversary For A Very Special Car Club

Images: Xavier de la Chapelle

The Club De La Chapelle is a rather exclusive and small club, made up of owners of cars that go by the brand name of De La Chapelle. Yet the once-a-year get together of this club is fairly well known in France as it’s a wonderful experience of like-minded automotive fans with a passion for the cars that Xavier de la Chapelle has been making since some 35 years now (https://magazine.derivaz-ives.com/when-inspirations-become-sought-after-historic-vehicles/).

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Driving through the beautiful old city of Riquewihr with typical Alsatian homes

For this year’s get together, the club met from the 4th to the 6th of June last month. It was in the heart of sunny Alsace, in the Northeast of France, that the members met, welcomed and guided by Isabelle and Patrice Laurent, owners of one of the brand's very first Type 55 Roadsters.

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More of Riquewihr

The reunion was euphoric, and everyone was so happy to get together after the pandemic and stopped the gatherings during 2020 and 2021. Determined to catch up on all that had happened, to exchange news and memories of the earlier meets, all the members enthusiastically partook in the fun. Also, a few new members were welcomed into the club.

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A De La Chapelle Type 55 Roadster leads the pack in Riquewihr

Morale was very high and the spirit too, and the celebrations were most enjoyable as 22 cars and crews came from all over France. It was seen as a good ‘score’ given that many were probably being driven for the first time since the last two years, hibernating away in their stable!

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An Atalante and a Type 55 Roadster in Riquewihr

The date was significant—as it was the 30th anniversary of the founding of the club. In fact, after the first five tours had been organized by the De La Chapelle company (from 1987 to 1991), the customers themselves decided to create the ‘Club De La Chapelle’ in 1992.

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Barn find as cars were garaged at Thannenkirch since a hailstorm was expected

The original idea was that each year, a member of the Club would introduce the other members to a new region: his (or her) own!

“These meetings, based on the involvement of every member for many years now, have made it possible to weave very solid bonds of friendship among all the participants,” claims Xavier de la Chapelle.

Under the presidency of Guy Mitaux-Maurouard, one of the very first customers of De La Chapelle, a one-time test pilot of the Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft, the statutes were filed.

From Provence to Brittany, from Alsace to Occitania, from the Bay of Somme to Tuscany, without forgetting Corsica, Auvergne and Switzerland, the outings follow one another, each time unravelling the riches of each region. With leather helmets on their heads, and sunglasses balanced on their noses, each crew savours the landscapes that they have been traversing every year.

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Visiting a wine cellar and then lunch at Voegtlinshoffen

With each bend revealing, in front of or behind it, a pearl string of cars sparkling in the sun…it has always been the lesser known winding roads which have been the preferred routes.

Climbing hilltops to get to sun-kissed villages, stopping to take pictures and videos, each car highlighting the next one, none exactly the same as the other: one may have bigger headlamps, the other a bigger steering wheel, the leathers in different shades, dashboards different, each done to the taste of the owner.

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At Voegtlinshoffen with two Atalantes: the black and yellow one is Xavier's while the all-black one is Andre Dufilho's

Under the amazed gaze of bemused passers-by, many applauding the passage of the cars, sometimes the horns blaring and the sound ricocheting off the valley, the engines roaring...

The days were punctuated with visits to cellars, churches, and museums, all very enchanting and varied, revealing the secrets of the regions. “We are always welcomed by enthusiasts, happy to share their joys and pride, and we have since been exchanging photos, names, and addresses,” explains de la Chapelle.

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Parked inside the very well known museum Cite du Train in Mulhouse

With gastronomy being an inherent part of the culture, the organizers always planned great meals, in wonderful and distinctive settings. “We were always discovering the specialties, tasting some great wines, and as you know…France has many of them.”

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Dufilho family with their three De La Chapelles (two Type 55s and one Atalante); Father André, mother Sabine, and children Vincent and Marie with their wife and husband

The outings last from three to six days, depending on the distance and the availability of the participants. When the time comes to part, WhatsApp takes over: photos, comments and videos circulate to the delight of everyone.

“Of course, when you return, you put your baby away in its box,” explains de la Chapelle. “Finely cleaned up with chamois, the car is covered, and it falls back to sleep again, to be taken out once again with the first ray of sunshine, when the garage door opens and out it comes, providing new joy and excitement for the owner—many of whom have had their cars for more than three decades.”

- with inputs from Sabine de la Chapelle


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