Lieven Gheysens 

Interview Classic Driver

What's your oldest memory about cars/classic cars, maybe when you were a child?

My grandfather was a flax farmer in the French Normandy region. As a child, in the early eighties, I used to drive with his brother in law visiting other farmers through fields and woods on gravel roads. He used his horn at every crossroads, alerting other driver we were approaching at high speed….

My father is a car enthusiast and has been driving BMW’s and Porsche’s, even a Lotus Omega. Even though I am familiar with how sick you can get in the back seat, I have always enjoyed being in the car.

One of my favorite uncles was a car dealer and whenever the family united, I got to see, and experience, the latest sporty models he was driving. When I got older, taking the wheel at these “test drives”, was always a highlight I kept dreaming about.


Can you say this memory is at the origin of your passion?

I think so. My education at IVA Driebergen, a business school for petrolheads in The Netherlands, targeted at the automotive business and its management, reinforced this passion.


And how did you feed this passion since then?

Whenever I could, I spent holidays at car garages, first at Cady Cars, a classic car garage, where a mechanic kept me busy polishing an Austin Healey wing and bonnet for hours … Or at my uncle’s dealership, helping out in the showroom and the workshop. Thanks to him, I attended the yearly ‘Ypres 24 Hours Rally, during the times of the monstrous Group B rally cars. This event was held in my back garden, so to speak.


What has been your career before founding Bavaria Motors?

As I said, I started as a sales representative at a large VW-Audi dealer. At this dealership, I sometimes filled demands from customers for specific second hand cars. This was not the core of this successful family business.

My first external purchase of a car was in Munich, a fantastic city that made a big impression on me: tradition, success, values and pride, all what I dreamt of.

A bit stubborn, still young and without fear, in 2005, I founded my own company with a partner, and left my then employer. This was the start of Bavaria Motors, which is named after my passion for cars built in this area of southern Germany. In 2010, my wife and I bought out our business partner to become the single owners.

Bavaria Motors grew quite fast, necessitating bigger premises. In 2013, we moved into our newly built modern showroom and workshop on a prime location in Harelbeke, near Kortrijk, Belgium.


There's a mix of great modern sportscars and luxury cars, and a nice variety of classics. Has it always been the philosophy since the beginning?

Classic cars were not part of our offering in the early years of Bavaria Motors. The older I grew, the more nostalgic I became and started to develop an interest in the predecessors of the current sports cars and the stories attached to them. As our customer base grew, it also included more affluent people. Some of them asked me about the possibility to source certain classic cars for them.

Over the years, our knowledge of classic cars more and more complemented our know-how and passion for luxury-, sports and hyper cars. Our business is centered around our customers. We offer and source the products that they are asking us for, but only when we feel comfortable with our ability to judge the value and the origin of a car.


And by the way, how would you define the philosophy of Bavaria Motors?

We want to be a beacon of security, trust and integrity for an ever-growing group of national and international clients. We see many of them on a regular basis. Top of the line quality cars, an impeccable service and customer intimacy is in our DNA.


What differentiates you from other classic cars dealers?

We focus on our own strengths and try to do better deal after deal, constantly questioning ourselves on how we can serve our customers even better. All we do is with a long-term relationship with our customers in mind.



How do you select the cars you offer for sale?

Most of the classic cars we have on display (and under consignment) are collector’s cars. These car passionata sometimes rotate part of their collection and entrust the sale of their precious cars to us. The very attractive presentation, climate conditioned and highly secured premises, our large client base and word of mouth brings many people in our direction.

We supplement these with a small inventory of interesting cars with a story to tell and interesting history.

Of course, many of the cars we sell, only pass through our workshop for detailing and delivery and never make it to our showroom as we source them on demand, following specific wishes of the customer.


Do you see a strong difference of evolution since a few months/years between the market of modern luxury and sports cars, and the market of classics?

We feel the influence of changing fiscal regulations in the market for modern luxury vehicles. We even sell quite a few electrics now. In the high-end and supercars, most are bought privately, sometimes as a collectors’ item, and demand remains strong. Special series and exclusive cars are particularly wanted by a part of our clientele.

The business of classics is a tricky one: some hyped cars can fall out of grace fast. Well documented and well-maintained vehicles bought through a trustworthy source like Bavaria Motors, who can offer a correct value judgement, are still a good investment.


You also offer a nice selection of youngtimers, specially some nice BMWs, M3 and Z1. What is specific to this market?

The cars I dreamed about when I was young now appear in my showroom. They remind me of my youth (I was born in 1975) and the affection is big. It gives me extra energy to bring them to the market, often to same members of the same generation, now in their forties, working hard but as nostalgic as I. 
These cars are often regularly driven by their owners. Reliability therefore is important. We thoroughly check each vehicle for this purpose.


You also have a nice selection of Ferrari's, from classics of the 60's to youngtimers. How do you analyze the market of this brand and the changes that occurred in the past few months and years?

When I visited the classic car specialist Canepa in California, I was very impressed by a presentation of the cars by Bruce Canepa himself. When he proudly showed a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM, this appeared to be the last Ferrari to have won the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1965. Ferrari persists on participating in the most prestigious of car races, notably the F1. Even though results fluctuate, I strongly believe it radiates positively on the brand.

I hope Ferrari keeps building exclusive cars in limited numbers and will not succumb to market pressures to produce “mass market” cars. Let them keep building 499 units of a model for at least 500 customers…Ferrari’s cannot be absent from Bavaria Motor’s business.

We have a strong network of trusted sources (mostly Ferrari dealers and partners throughout Europe). And like I said before, a strong know-how helps us to give the correct advice and make the right choices in sourcing and selling these particular cars.


Do you think the future of the market of classic cars will be pulled by youngtimers?

The link with the buying generation is important. The current youngsters may not have an affection anymore with pre-WWII-war cars. And future generations may lose affection with gasoline powered cars all together, not believing there was a time you had to fuel up and drive the car yourself.

Classic cars may even become more like pieces of art. Not antique.

Classics of course will become younger and move up with the generations and good classic car dealers may evolve more towards arts specialists to give sound advice.


You have many automobilia related to Porsche in your office. Do you have a specific affection for this brand?

Yes, and with other brands built in southern Germany and the north of Italy. It is not a coincidence that all those brands are concentrated in this beautiful region.


Why?

I will always remember my encounter with a magnificent Oak Green Metallic Porsche 930 Turbo. It was during a trip with my parents driving towards the Cote d’Azur when we made a stop at the lake of Geneva and I saw this car on a sunny day. It’s still printed on my retina. The car looked like brand new. Never had I seen something more beautiful.

The Rothmans Porsche 959 Jacky Ickx participated with in the Paris-Dakar race in the eighties is another favorite. It made such a strong impression I had to buy a remote-controlled Tamiya scale model. Today I have a beautifully detailed model of the desert monster in my office.

A Porsche also was my first ‘affordable’ dream car, a Boxster I bought on the car market in Essen, Germany.

As you can see from the company name, I have a particular bond with southern Germany. BMW, Audi and Porsche were the first cars I sourced when I started my business. Although we have branched out to different brands, and built a thorough knowledge about these as well, some models of BMW and Porsche make my heart bounce a little faster.

I have 3 daughters and a 1975 BMW Bavaria model, from around the time I was born, in the workshop. In time, I will hopefully drive them to their weddings in this car.


What's your favorite modern sports car? Why?

The modern response to the ultimate Porsche philosophy is the Porsche 991 GT3 Touring. A manual with raw power, very reliable and not too aggressively looking, which can be used as a daily car. It’s a gentleman on urban roads and in the city, a racer on the track and on the German Autobahn.


And your favorite classic car? Why?

Legaly considered a classic car in Belgium, at 30 years old, I vote for the Ferrari F40 of 1987. It is a real classic, and a no compromise super sportscar, a tribute to the 40 year anniversary of Ferrari and now considered a ‘pre-homage’ to Enzo just before his death in 1988. It is based on the first ever true supercar, the fantastic Ferrari 288 GTO.


Do you drive "special" cars during your spare time? Which one, whatever modern or classics?

My wife and I just started participating to regularity rallies in Belgium and abroad. We really like it although sometimes it is a “relationship test”. Last weekend, we drove our 1970 Porsche 911 2.2S Coupe without sunroof. Pure adrenaline!