In 2018, at an abandoned car demolition centre in northern France, a Renault AHS3 truck was found with Motul logos underneath its rust and dirt. The truck was an official Motul oil delivery truck and was named ‘the Vagabond’ because of its wide-ranging journeys through the villages and cities of France over several decades. As the final video of the restoration process was released last week, we talked with Loic Michel, one of the two craftsmen responsible for the restoration process.
Loic, even as an experienced restoration expert, this has been quite a special project, wasn’t it?
Yes, the Renault truck was brought here by Romain Grabowski, head of brand at Motul. When we started talking about this project, it soon became clear this was a restoration with a very special history and needed a specific approach. After a military career, the Renault truck was bought in the fifties by a Motul reseller and served for decades as a delivery truck for Motul oil. During the restoration we discovered the truck’s nickname ‘the Vagabond’ on the driver’s cab. It must have seen practically every garage in the northern part of France during these days. To rediscover such a ‘forgotten’ vehicle with such a rich history, is very valuable for a company like Motul.
Motul was the funding partner behind the restoration. How did the collaboration go?
Well, quite smoothly. It was clear from the beginning that the truck needed a body-off restoration. Often, for cars of this area, hardly any spare parts can be found. It led us to the restoration of 90% of the current parts, which we could save. The other 10% we had to recreate from bare metal or raw wood, such as the wooden floor for the cargo space in the back. Our third co-worker Gaston, who owns a domestic electricity company, recreated all the electric wiring by hand using cotton, exactly the same way it was done in the good old days.
Restoring the classic patina and recreating hand-painted letters is not an easy task though. How did you succeed?
It’s quite a coincidence that, when I started my career, long before the digital age, I was a letter and logo-painter by hand. For two years, I mastered the skills to paint logos, brands and all types of publicity designs. So, for me, this restoration combined some old skills, too. After the painting was finished, we aged the fresh paint with very fine sandpaper and some special techniques.
How long did the full restoration take?
Well, Fred and I actually worked non-stop for six months. Add another two for external companies and reworking the electric wiring by Gaston, for a total restoration time of eight months. Afterwards, the Vagabond honoured its name and pedigree by travelling again as a special guest at Goodwood Revival, Le Mans Classic, Tour Auto and other automotive events inside Europe.
How do you feel after the completion of the Vagabond?
Well, after 30 years of doing restoration work, this has become our daily job. But nevertheless, hearing the car come to life after sitting idle for so many years at the car graveyard always feels good. We’re already working on some new projects, which keeps me busy and satisfied.
Discover the final Vagabond video here: