Me & My Decauville

Images: Alberto Lenz & Raquel Jimenez

On my 15th birthday, my dad bestowed upon me a vintage car – a profound moment that filled me with pure joy. It marked the beginning of my journey with my first car, an extraordinary gift that left me in disbelief. My fascination with cars had been ingrained since childhood, where I would immerse myself in play with two or three miniature cars, engaged in races and perfect parking scenarios. Even back then, I couldn't resist taking them to school, a habit that earned me more than a few scoldings from my teachers who confiscated my cherished toys.

Photos taken of the 1904 Decauville in 1968, before restoration

At the age of 12 or 13, my father introduced me to the world of the Pan-American race, an experience that ignited my passion even further. I found myself captivated by the makes, models, and years of the vehicles parading through the streets. A notable escapade involved a spontaneous trip to the town of Cuautla with my mother, during which, in a moment of youthful daring, I took the keys to our 1949 Chevrolet while she slept. This escapade led to a run-in with the law, a police officer, and a panicked call to my mother, resulting in stern punishment for my impulsive act.

Even if the car was complete, it was in dire need of being restored

The vintage car that my father had gifted me became a daily fixture in our garage, a constant reminder of the promise I made to my parents – to restore my grandfather's car with my own hard-earned money. As the years passed, life took me abroad for studies and work, and it wasn't until 1964, at the age of 26, that I returned to Mexico with the determination to breathe life back into the old vehicle.

Now restored, the Decauville is the oldest car in Mexico

Joining forces with a friend, Eduardo Valverde, and armed with a passion for restoration, we embarked on the challenging journey of disassembling the car. Rotten wood, deteriorated leather seats, rusted sheet metal – the challenges were abundant, but our dedication prevailed. The discovery of the car's name, Decauville, added a layer of historical significance to our project.

The Decauville with other veterans & enthusiasts with Alberto Lenz at the centre. This is on 7th November 2008.

Letters were written, inquiries were made, and parts were sourced from around the globe. The restoration process demanded meticulous attention, with the engine's resurrection standing out as a particularly daunting task. Three years of hard work, collaboration, and determination passed before the Decauville, proudly bearing the engraving ‘1904’ on one of its wheels, was ready to hit the road again.

Pic of the Decauville from the 1970s

The joyous moment arrived as we successfully kick-started the engine with the efforts of eight people. From that point forward, the Decauville became a participant in antique car exhibitions, a star in parades, and a symbol of triumph in various competitions.

Notable among its adventures was a 500-mile tour in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1980, where it emerged as the sole Decauville amidst 150 cars predating 1916. The car's resilience shone as it covered 12,000 kilometers without a hitch.

In 1996, I eagerly anticipated participating in the London to Brighton event, only to face disappointment due to transport delays. Though a setback, it fueled my determination, leading to subsequent attempts, and while success at the London to Brighton event eluded me, the Decauville continued to garner accolades in numerous exhibitions across Mexico.

A pair of twin-cylinders in line to make a four; this was common practice then

This vintage masterpiece, manufactured in 1904, stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of passion, dedication, and the unyielding pursuit of a dream, embodying a legacy that continues to captivate audiences in the world of antique automobiles.

Chassis number of the car

In 1969, it won first place at the Antique Automobile Show in Puebla. In the following years, it participated in several events in different cities in the Mexican Republic. It was a winner in the traditional great Elegance contest in Mexico, and on several occasions at the Automobile Gala, as well as at the Retromobile Mexico show, was recognized as one of the oldest and most striking cars on display in Mexico.

The command position of the four-seater Decauville


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