Pierre de Meerler’s father was an aeronautical engineer who built and designed aircraft for the entirety of his career, and Pierre was also technically inclined from a young age, a leaning that was surely bolstered by parental guidance and support. He set out on his own path working with cars rather than planes when it came time, and while he designed car parts at a design office during the weekday, on the weekends he was to be found in the garage working on his 2CV.
He drove it occasionally on weekends and the like, but it was in consistent need of mechanical attention, and eventually the VW Beetle made its way to France and the car captured the interest of a young Pierre who decided to build one of these instead of fixing the Citroën.
After the Beetle entered his life, his son Nicholas was brought into the world. Happy to share his passion for technical work with his son, the two embarked on all sorts of projects together with the associated triumphs and pitfalls inherent in the resurrection and modification of older mechanical objects. Indeed long before he could operate anything himself, Nicholas was often handed a screwdriver and a carburetor to play with, learning to dissemble and assemble them as his father worked nearby on the machines they fit into.
Soon enough Nicholas was riding around on a Yamaha Piwi 80, and when he outgrew that his first car echoed his father’s earlier interest in the Beetle—Nicholas bought himself a ’62 after he got his driver’s license. They went to pick it up together, and once it was brought home, promptly set about modifying it. The garden shed behind their home turned into a workshop, the tools and machines multiplied, friends started to gravitate towards the less and less makeshift garage to work on their own projects—small jobs like oil changes, souping up Vespas, that sort of thing—but the “Modern Garage” as they called it would soon host a more ambitious project for the de Meerlers.
They started toying with the idea of building a car together, and they found the candidate by chance, following a gas leak left on the road that led them to a man with a lot of tractors on his property and a reputation as a sort of scrap dealer.
He took the father and son around to one of the sheds he stored his equipment and parts in, and nestled among the utilitarian shapes of the various tractors stashed in their, the de Meerlers noticed a trio of shapes with a bit more romance to them: an SP, an S90, and an AT2 (the Type 2, or second series of the 356A). Three 356s, tucked away in a French barn—you know where this is going.
The farmer only wanted to sell the cars if they could be taken as a full set, and after a lot of weighing of options and lengthy discussions Nicholas convinced his father to undertake the challenge alongside him. They went to pick up the bodies, and with them a rather large amount of boxes stuffed with spares. After spending a few weeks sorting through the payload in front of them, they discovered that the Type 2 A had the most original-to-the-car parts included with it, so they decided to sell the other two and focus efforts on the car with the most matching-numbers pieces.
The body was put on a rotisserie with the help of their friend Jules, an expert in such matters, and by the time the body was completed Jules and Pierre had sunk an estimated 800 hours into the work thus far. When it came time to finally coat the reworked metal in some paint, they knew they wanted to avoid the common colors for the 356, so they settled on Auratium Green after much deliberation. Their good friend Jean-Phillipe Duval put together the leather upholstery. As you can see, the car isn’t exactly as it would have been in ’59, and on the mechanical side they also updated a few things to make it more reliable without sacrificing the soul of the early 356. They put together a car that reflected who they are.
After seven long years of work, the car was finally ready for its roadway reentry, both father and son were both acting like kids again.