Bernard Marreyt’s interest in cars is first triggered as a five-year-old when he joins his father to collect the first family car, a Citroën.
From that moment on, a passion develops and flourishes over the years: Bernard keenly observes the neighbourhood cars from his observation post in the front garden and voraciously reads Spirou and Tintin comics, mainly because the cars in it are so well illustrated.
As a student, he finances his studies in microbiology by repairing and selling 2CV’s in his free time, and saves up to buy specialist car magazines. After graduating and while in full-time employment Bernard expands his focus to other cars that fascinate him.
This is when he discovered the world of classic cars. Whereas the scene in Belgium is still very much populated by hobby enthusiasts, there is already a professional scene going on in England. After a prosperous 10-year career in microbiology, Bernard Marreyt leaves the security of his permanent job to pursue his passion: classic cars.
Luc Swerts’ father not only passed on his passion for car mechanics, but also inspired his son to work hard and keep on learning from an early age.
After completing various mechanics-related studies as a young man, Luc started working at an engine overhaul company. His evenings and spare time are devoted to his true passion: in his farm he set up a garage where he worked on classic cars, at first by himself as a hobby and eventually as a self-employed person with about nine mechanics.
He carries out his work with respect for the soul of the car and in awe of the beautiful mechanics. His experience in the engine overhaul business and his unmistakable perfectionism Luc emerges as something of a classic car expert who sees every mechanical problem as an intriguing challenge: “There’s a solution to everything.”
Bernard Marreyt is the first person to introduce the professionalisation of the classic car in Belgium, as per the English example. In 1990, he founded Marreyt Classics, from his home in Dilbeek. Marreyt Classics buys and sells classic cars, but also collects parts. Bernard’s customers ask him to supervise repairs to their classic car, and he recognises a demand for a specialist who can execute historically accurate and respectful restorations.
Bernard Marreyt and Luc Swerts get to know each other as a result of an advertisement for a spray booth in the newspaper. A casual collaboration soon ensues between the two, each one passionate about their own classic car speciality: Bernard searches and sells classic cars with a unique character, Luc repairs and restores the mechanically complex cars in the garage on his farm.
The collaboration between Bernard and Luc turns out to be a perfect match, which they decide to officially continue professionally in 1994 so that they expand their solid partnership as a “twin cam”. It’s not a coincidence that this is the term for a tuned engine consisting of two complementary camshafts. The key to success is the reciprocity between two distinct personalities, each with their own expertise. Based on their shared passion, their respect for the soul of the car and the motto “we always find a solution”, Marreyt Classics evolves into a renowned classic car specialist in Belgium.
The garage on Luc’s farm gradually becomes too small for the success of Marreyt Classics. In 2003 Marreyt Classics moved to Victor Bocquéstraat 15 in Aalst near Brussels. Bernard and Luc found a building with just as extraordinary as their own quirky personality. The building houses a large showroom and a fully equipped workshop – known simply as “the workshop”. The cars in the showroom are placed back to front “because we want to see them too” – the workshop is set up with authentic machines from the old workshop and recently purchased, but always authentic machines that allow refined restorations by hand, according to the rules of classic car workmanship.
Marreyt Classics may well specialise in refined English and Italian post-war sports cars on a daily basis (including Aston Martin, Lancia, Jaguar, Maserati, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Fiat ...), but Bernard and Luc do not shy away from taking on striking, high-profile classic car challenges, too. Over the years, the pair have repeatedly amazed the Belgian and European classic car world with spectacular achievements:
Construction of the conceptual Bugatti T57 Gangloff
After five years of work using the original, almost forgotten plans, Bernard and Luc unveil their construction of the iconic Bugatti T57 Gangloff from 1935, the Bugatti model that was never built after design due to war conditions.
First prize at the Villa d’Este
Marreyt Classics won first prize at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este for the restoration of the Invicta S-type Low Chassis with Corsica DHC body from 1933.
Lancia Flaminia in the Preservation Class of Pebble Beach
Marreyt Classics has an annual appointment at the Pebble Beach concours d’élégance. In recent years, Marreyt has been increasingly in demand for classic cars for the Preservation Class of the event, such as the dazzling Lancia Flaminia Sport Zagato from 1964.
A multitude of Mille Miglia entries
Thanks to Bernard and Luc various Marreyt customers have taken part in the most beautiful race in the world. The right car, with excellent restoration and live rally assistance ... The Mille Miglia is an expertise in itself. Every Marreyt car that has ever entered the Mille Miglia also finished the legendary rally.
After more than thirty years of craftsmanship in classic cars, Marreyt Classics is ready for the next step. Entrepreneur and classic car enthusiast Koen Matthijs will join the Swerts-Marreyt partnership in early 2020 supported by the prominent PE Group led by Stefan Yee. This move guarantees continuation and further growth driven by their passion and the ambition to bring ideas to life.
Private equity and corporate finance company PE Group was founded in 2006 by Stefan Yee and several entrepreneurs with the Van Rompay family as reference shareholders. The group enters the Marreyt story with a partnership perspective and has a long-term vision in mind. Not only will the group play a role in the transition of the Marreyt generation and thus ensure succession, it also wants to grow the company professionally regionally and internationally in order to put Marreyt even more firmly on the map as the classic car brand. The PE Group operates from the classic Marreyt values – passion and craftsmanship for the full classic car experience – and guarantees continuity in the continuation of Bernard and Luc’s life’s work.
The partnership with the PE Group marks a new milestone for Marreyt. Or as the Bernard – Luc - Koen trio themselves describe it: thanks to our collaboration, Marreyt has its “wings for her quantum leap”. So the formation changes from two to three distinct personalities, each with their own specialism and approach, but united by their passion for the profession and a clear vision for the future: fulfilling classic car dreams.
Opening of Experience Room in Knokke
The new trio’s first achievement is already a fact: in July 2020, Marreyt will open the doors to the Experience Room in Knokke, where the classic car experience is brought to life. Monthly themes will highlight different aspects of the classic car world, ranging from the history of a brand like Aston Martin, the individuality of Italian car mechanic Zagato to the vision of Bugatti in the 1920s. Because, according to Marreyt, a classic car is not just a car, it’s about dreaming, discovering, sensing and connecting, it’s the complete experience.
It doesn’t cost any more to make something pretty.