As he makes his way deeper into the quarry, urban explorer Vincent Michel may not know exactly what lies ahead. But when he finally makes the startling discovery, it becomes apparent that he’s unearthed something of major historical significance.
Fifty-six-year-old Vincent Michel, a physical education teacher, hails from Belgium. On the side, he’s a keen photographer and explorer of urban environments. And it was during one of his expeditions in a French mining tunnel that he made an astonishing find.
In August 2016, Michel was on a trip to uncover the secrets of an abandoned urban area. This journey, however, would soon offer so much more than spectacular backdrops from which to take pictures.
Rather than being just another empty quarry, the tunnel in central France contained a huge hoard of vintage cars. They were rusting away and looked like they hadn’t seen daylight in decades.
Among them were vehicles which appeared to have originated in 1930s France. There were, in fact, dozens of such cars, all parked in neat rows – Renaults, Peugeots and Citroens among them.
Unfortunately, however, the cars weren’t exactly in great condition; if they weren’t broken up, they were covered in rust. Indeed, some of them were so dilapidated that they must have been destroyed prior to being hidden.
In fact, pretty much all of the cars had been gutted; all that remained of most of them were shells. It’s likely that over the years some of them may even have had parts taken away by whoever knew about the vehicles or had access to the quarry.
In any case, Michel made sure to document his find before posting the results to Flickr. And alongside the pictures, he wrote that he suspected the cars had been brought into the quarry at the start of the Second World War in order to hide them from the Nazis.
As it was, in May 1940 – some nine months after the war had started – the German army commenced its invasion of France. And six weeks later, the Nazis had largely assumed control of the country, claiming the north and west regions as a “German occupation zone.”
Michel wrote that the Nazis may have wanted to requisition the cars found in the quarry. And this might have been the reason why they were hidden away, before the war began, in “an old underground quarry that almost nobody remembered.”
Requisitioning vehicles was a common practice by the Nazis during the war. They would strip metal and other resources from the cars in order to use them for their own war machines and weaponry.
It’s therefore not hard to imagine that the locals may have driven their cars down into the quarry to protect them from being scrapped. And in such a situation, it’s likely that they would have planned to retrieve the autos after the war had ended.
Of course, this theory is simply Michel’s take on what may have happened – something he freely admits to on his Flickr account. The true story could easily have been something else entirely.
For instance, any individual responsible for the huge stash of cars may have simply been a collector or hoarder. And it’s possible that said individual wouldn’t have survived the war, in which case they wouldn’t have been able to return to the quarry to retrieve the vehicles.
Unfortunately, this is all conjecture. And despite the best efforts of Michel or anyone else, we may never know the true story behind how the cars ended up rusting away in a quarry for decades on end. Still, at least now they have been brought to light.
Whatever the truth, moreover, the owner, or owners, of the cars clearly didn’t return to retrieve them after 1945. And so they lay abandoned for years – until Michel stumbled upon them on that never-to-be-forgotten August day.
However, it seems that someone did have access to the quarry at some point during those decades. Indeed, alongside the rusted vehicles are a handful of newer models, some of which have even retained their original paint – such as a blue 1960 Opel Kapitän.
After he made his astonishing discovery, Michel said that some of the cars were later removed from the quarry and sold. And no doubt their age, if not their condition, made them collectors’ pieces. Many of the vehicles, though, were simply too damaged to be moved.
“Most of the cars are still at peace inside the quarry,” Michel told Fox News. And although the discovery was certainly out of the ordinary for the explorer, he hopes it won’t be the only time such an event happens. “It was an unbelievable experience, and I really hope to find a similar place in the future.”
After all, it’s not every day you stumble across a stunning treasure trove in a quarry in France. And while the cars within may have rusted away beyond use or worth, they provide an amazing snapshot of history – making them absolutely priceless.