The big interviews – Jacques Swaters, madly in love

Pilot, team manager, collector of memorabilia, a Ferrari , and much more. Jacques Swaters was born a few kilometers from Brussels on the 30th of October 1926 and was one of the most important figures of sports cars of the twentieth century: among other things, has created the Scuderia Francorchamps, the eponymous Garage, and the first museum dedicated to the sport of Maranello, known as “the Bunker”. To summarize the importance that the belgian had in the history of the Prancing horse, simply return to the presentation of the 456 GT, characterized by a color to him, inspired, Blu Swaters, and unveiled in a world preview at the Garage Francorchamps (and not in a classic Salon international). The interview with Swaters, signed by Stany Meurer, appeared on Wheels in October 2003, seven years before the death of the great collector.

A 77-year-old Jacques Swaters is a man satisfied (even if the age he put on a wheelchair). The reds have given him everything: joy, love, money… In career, has sold 3,500. Today, in the basement of Garage Francorchamps, in Belgium, the first importer in the world of the Cavallino cars, Swaters hopes to still have forty years ahead to make order among his extraordinary heirlooms. We went to see him.

That report had Enzo Ferrari with the retailers?
None. For him, to sell the road models had a single purpose: to swell the coffers to be able to run. Estimated, but the importer was the United States, Luigi Chinetti. With me, close, very good relations from the beginning of the 60’s and towards the end of his life he was very close to Daniel Marin, managing director of Ferrari-France.

And with customers?
Most not saw them ever. Loved to, instead, meet the celebrities, the star of the show, and the members of the royal families. With them, yes, he was very affable and showed all her charm. You should have seen how gongolava when brought Ingrid Bergman to dinner the Purposes in Modena.

The way he behaved with the competitors?
Them despised it. Felt superior and did nothing to hide it. He was so proud that he would have preferred to die rather than to inquire directly about what they were doing. He preferred the others were to talk to him about it, putting them under pressure. When the Maserati drove a car better of her, there was evil, but never ever would have been willing to admit it.

It is true that he liked to put pilots against one another?
No, it is fake. Were some pilots to put around this item. Enzo Ferrari loved riders of the hardening of Nuvolari, Villeneuve and Mairesse. Or those, such as Stirling Moss, who never managed to engage: and to think that there was almost succeeded, the day before the accident. For the timid he had no respect, as well as for those of the second category, the “short arms”, he called them to him. These were to fuel some rumors. I can’t make names, because among these there are also some samples of the world.

The journalists were not all roses and flowers…
He didn’t like, but if I needed when he needed it. Considered them to be of whores ready to sell themselves for a piece of paper. When he had the opportunity, with them, he was ruthless.

And dad Enzo as it was with the son who is Dino?
It was very strange. He pretended to go crazy for his son, a young man rather trivial that has never become an engineer like he wanted the father. A guy very polite, but, in my opinion, insignificant. In his regard, the father has played his role until the end, then idealized.

Is saying that Ferrari was a good actor?
A splendid actor: he could even cry at that moment in time! I saw him pull out the handkerchief and wipe tears for things that they don’t care at all.

In company he behaved as a dictator?
Unlike many leaders today, Ferrari knew how to listen. Before an important decision took note of the opinions of others. Then he assumed the tone most severe of which was capable of and announced: “I have decided that we will do a 4 cylinder”. But had not decided anything, he simply pulled the sums of all that had been said.

He recognized their mistakes?
He was a righteous man, but could also prove to be a model of bad faith. If she was wrong, he admitted, but in his own way. I can still hear him when he said: “we are wrong”.

She kept a grudge?
No, but he had an iron memory. As a good opportunist, if he considered that could be interesting useful to put a stone above the problem, he did it without hesitation.

He was stingy?
Until the lack of money, a lot. Then it became the most generous: it helped different people and given generous donations to foundations and institutes are charitable. An aspect that was never put quite in that light.

What was the key period in the history of Ferrari?
The second half of the 50s. It was then that Enzo Ferrari has lost his son Dino. It was the era in which it was passed by the sports naked and pure to the industrial age with the advent of the “250 GT”, and, fruttandogli a heritage, he resolved suddenly any financial problem. Those years have also marked the start of its relationship with Pininfarina. In this regard, it seems to me appropriate to stress that the success of the Red is due to at least 50% to the work of Pininfarina. Until then, the Ferrari was first and foremost an engine. In that period, the discovery of the importance of the role of the frame and its components.

Mr Swaters, where was born his love for car racing?
In ’46 I was twenty years old and I had just been discharged from the army. It was the end of a difficult period. I was out of phase and I needed something violent to express myself.

When the first contact with the Ferrari?
In 1948, I ran the 24 Hours of Spa, my first race car, on a small MG of the pre-war period. During the tests, Luigi Chinetti passed me with a fireball which emitted a roar simply extraordinary, a real melody. Return to the pit, I rushed to see what had produced that sound. And so I saw my first Ferrari. It was a shock. I immediately fell in love with madly, just like you fall in love with a woman fifteen or sixteen years. I’ve never forgotten that first meeting. And I have always been loyal to Ferrari.

And so was born the Garage Francorchamps…
Not exactly, in fact was born fifty years ago, in 1953. But already a few months before I had sold a Ferrari 212 Inter”.

Things have not always been easy…
I had a lean spell until the beginning of the 70’s and have been several times on the verge of bankruptcy. Fortunately, some of the small miracles I have saved. There story one. At the end of the season in ’67, tried in vain to sell my “412 P”, frame 0850. At the time of the old Ferrari race were not sophisticated as today. The months pass by, one day I receive a phone call from the singer Dean Martin. I remember it as if it was yesterday the day that is sealed in the workshop. He was literally struck dumb by the beauty of the car and was determined to have her. Two conditions, however: that there installassi the air conditioning and to replace the original engine with a V8 Chevrolet. Also if I needed money, I said no. Offended, Dean Martin made as if to leave. In the end, however, he bought it all the same. Has paid out $ 20,000, a fortune at the time, and with that figure, the Garage was able to pull ahead again for a few months. Of course, just back in California, Dean Martin did make the changes immediately for which I was the opposite of my refusal…

In some way, and then, his collection is attributable to the lack of money?
Not being able to afford the cars, I have dedicated myself to collect papers, documents and objects Ferrari. I’ve always had the mind of the collector. So, as soon as I got the passion for the Ferrari, I began to collect everything that had to do with the Horse. When I rebuilt the Garage, a dozen years ago, I decided to dedicate a wing of the building with a gallery reserved to my collection.

It is said that many of the documents now in his hands came directly from the house of Drake. Is that true?
Yes. Enzo Ferrari did not preserve anything. He used to say: “What I did yesterday that I don’t care; what I care about is what I will do tomorrow”. He threw away everything: letters, documents, plans, drawings, tools, and even models and moulds of passenger cars. I had to devote my time with more method to the dustbins of Maranello… down There, there were priceless treasures. Another golden period for collecting it was after the death of the Commendatore. The young talent arrived in Maranello and in those years, were agreed on one fact: the old Ferrari them not interested, it was necessary to save only the last ten years and put a cross above all the rest. So they gave life to a huge repulisti. Many Houses such as Alfa Romeo, Mercedes and Renault have museums, why, always, their leaders are interested in the past. Home Ferrari none if there is never concerned until two or three years ago. But it is a bit late, now there is nothing more!

The arrival of new owners in the Bugatti, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Jaguar poses identity problems in these brands?
You have to be realistic. Despite having nostalgia for theancien régime, I have to recognize that today there is no more room for craftsmanship, individualism, and the human adventure. Progress is fatal and inescapable. If the Jaguar is dead, and is become the Ford, it is a good thing for the survival of the company. The Ferrari still has the ability to continue to handle it alone for a few years. Then we must be careful that it does not disappear, as he has done in his time in the Bugatti. Its autonomy has its days numbered. I quote the example of Charles Lindbergh, who in 1927 it crossed the Atlantic alone in 33 and a half hours aboard the “Spirit of Saint Louis”, with a load of fuel, a small thermos of coffee and three sandwiches. That feat is only his; his and no one else. Forty years later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon: they pushed three buttons, and an army of 150,000 engineers did the rest. It is impossible to compare these two exploits. As it is impossible to make a comparison between Schumacher and Nuvolari. They are both pilots, exceptional, far above all his contemporaries. But I do not believe that the victories of Schumacher are due to the 90% of the talent in the guide, while in the case of Nuvolari, I do not hesitate to bring this percentage to 99%.

What is, according to her, the Redhead is the most beautiful?
The “P4” is a top-of-the-art Ferrari. Coincides with the end of the period, the sentimental and the beginning of the industrial era. It is the end of Lindbergh and the beginning of Armstrong, the decline of the patrons of the arts and the affirmation of the sponsors, major tobacco in the head. Ferrari them he detested. For nothing in the world would have wanted one of his cars bring a brand of cigarettes. He said: “my machines don’t smoke.”

What other car could compete with the charm of a Ferrari?
Several: the Aston Martin, the Mercedes, the AC Cobra, the Lamborghini, the Facel-Vega, but, above all, the Maserati, often superior to the Ferrari on both road and track. The difference is, however, in the longevity. Since the post-war period, there has always been the Ferrari, and only after the other, occasionally. The Red will not be perhaps the most beautiful machines, but they are certainly the most significant. From their body radiates a strong emotional charge, the substance of the personality of Enzo Ferrari, his rage and his will. For the whole life, has followed a straight line marked only by three elements. In this order: cars, women and good food… strictly Italian.

Source: Quattroruote.en – Edited by Anthon K.