Machine Revival: Building Bespoke Restomods And Porsche Hot Rods In France
Photography by Mathieu Bonnevie
Just off the banks of the Rhone River about an hour south of Lyon in France, a region with perfect driving roads, you almost wouldn’t notice Machine Revival’s HQ if it weren’t for several air-cooled Porsches, a Ferrari 308, a first-generation Range Rover, and an Austin Mini lined up outside. Led by a team of mechanics, creatives, craftsmen, and engineers, the group of enthusiasts that make up Machine Revival spend their time turning each project into a story beyond a simple restoration. Machine Revival stands out in the scene by not shying away from the culture of hot-rodding. They don’t put a limit on what a car can be, preferring the unfettered approach of restomodding in place of strict restoration.
And instead of having employees, the company is probably better described as a group of eight friends; Nicolas, the founder and leader of the troupe, is a mechanical engineer whose love of cars predates his memories—familiar to many of us, I’m sure—and among the others is Clement, the head mechanic, who worked as a watchmaker before applying his talent to cars. He brings a keen sense for detail to the team, with his obsession with precision on clear display in the workshop. In addition is Julien, Machine Revival’s leather and wood craftsman, and Etienne, an illustrator and tattoo artist who’s in charge of branding. Each member of the team brings a unique talent to the table, and their philosophies around unique, high-quality work make up the middle of their Venn diagram.
Nicolas’ first question to potential clients is how do they see themselves driving the car; a straightforward enough question, but an important thing to clarify at the outset. From that initial conversation, the team works on turning the potential use-cases into a list of components and settings for the car itself, before the creative portion of their work takes over when they go digging through the always-evolving concepts folder before moving on to the tangible build itself.
What you get from the team’s collaborative effort is a tailor-made hot rod like the Porsche they call “Peyotl,” a backdated 964 pictured here along with another of their latest builds, “Jaya.” The concept can start with something as simple as a favorite year, race, driver, whatever it may be, and in the case of Peyotl, it started with the team’s desire to create an homage to the Panamerica race that ran from in the early 1950s through Mexico from its US to its Guatemalan borders. The team read everything they could on the race and Mexico, finding inspiration in the folklore around the peyote plant, or in its original Aztec pronunciation, “peyotl.” When the right car came along, they decided to make their idea into something tangible. The car is an ’89 964, and the restoration and modification started exactly 30 years later, at the end of 2019—fitting, seeing as the peyote plant is a cactus which blooms 30 years after it’s been planted.
Given the sense of adventure the team wanted to instill in the car, they chose to make it rugged, but without turning it into a safari build, allowing it to feel at home off pavement without turning the dial all the way. When exploring the potential color schemes, they settled on the particular bluish green of the peyote cactus, and the pink of its flower for the interior. A rebuilt 3.6L with 280hp is in the engine bay, and the car has also seen a complete suspension and brake upgrade set to the client’s preferences. The wheels are inspired by the original Dunlop type Ds featured on the old lightweight Jaguar E-Type competition cars.
Despite a perpetually revolving door of Porsche projects, Machine Revival will take on other manufacturers. During my visit there this past winter, the guys were rebuilding a first-gen Range Rover and modifying a Ferrari 308 with a drivetrain taken from a 355. Any project that speaks to them gets taken on, and they’ve been enjoying a steady inflow of cars and vintage SUVs.
And now that they’ve outgrown their current shop, the team is planning on moving to an old estate on the Atlantic coast near Biarritz and turning it into their home as well as their garage. Customers will be able to stay with them for a couple of days, immersing themselves in Machine Revival’s ethos and taking the time to discuss their dream car in every detail.
As European countries like France continue their infernal and indiscriminate war on speed, with the government recently passing legislation to outsource speeding tickets to private companies that can run mobile speed traps 24/7, Machine Revival may have touched on the best way for us to keep enjoying our passion for vintage cars; by creating story-driven builds that exude personality and uniqueness when parked.