By Michael Ross, CNN
The sleek, dark gray lines of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, flanked by two Cold War veterans, the French Dassault Mirage 4 and the French F-104 Starfighter, aren’t what you normally expect to encounter when crossing the yard. A 700-year-old French castle.
The apparent presence of these three fighter jets in such an unlikely location provides a taste of what this historic mansion has in store for its guests.
The Château de Savigny-lès-Beaune, in the small Burgundian village of the same name, dates back to the 14th century and simply would be one of the most prolific wine estates in this historic region of France, were it not for the personal passions and initiative of the Michel Beaune man. .
Pont, a winemaker, race car driver and mansion collector, bought the mansion in 1979 and over the next four decades, until his death in 2021, transformed it into a treasure trove for anyone interested in mechanics and engineering.
“My father drove Abarths for five years, between 1968 and 1973. He kept his cars and, at the same time, started collecting motorcycles. Most of them were acquired as scrap,” explains Christophe Bont, Michel’s son and current owner. And the director of the palace.
By the end of the 1970s, Bont had already amassed a large collection of vehicles, including 10 Abarth race cars and more than 300 vintage motorcycles. However, he was just getting started. This initial batch of cars and motorcycles continued to multiply and soon began to diversify.
Private group record
In the mid-1980s Pont, then a former soldier, inquired with the French Air Force about the possibility of displaying one of their decommissioned Mirage III fighter jets at the château. The request was accepted and Six months later, what would become the nucleus of the world’s largest collection of private fighter jets was on its way to Savigny-les-Baune.
It’s no exaggeration to say that few national space museums would be jealous of what’s on display: hundreds of aircraft of various makes and confirmed appearances are all perfectly lined up on the palace grounds.
The list reads like “who’s who” from 20th century military aviation: many different versions of French Mirages and Mysteries, American F-100 series fighters and Soviet-made MiGs and Sukhois are among the many types of aircraft and helicopters you can find here. . .
For years, Michel and Christophe Pont have traveled all over Europe and beyond expanding their collection. The planes they could purchase were then disassembled and taken to Château-Savigny for on-site reassembly.
As the exhibits continued to grow in size and scope, word spread and soon the Pont family began getting displays to accommodate all kinds of instruments.
Many of them eventually found their way to the mansion, which now houses nine different display areas ranging from satellites and space technology to tractors and winemaking equipment, as well as collections of planes, cars from the Abarth race, and historic motorcycles.
Fire trucks, hovercraft and more
While the outdoor show of aircraft is enough to get any aviation fanatic’s heart pounding, the range and diversity of the other groups can be overwhelming at times.
The scale of this magnificence becomes even more apparent when you visit the many pavilions scattered around the grounds or slowly make your way through the halls and corridors of the palace.
As you move from room to room, each seemingly filled with thousands upon thousands of scale models of every conceivable type of aircraft that has ever flown and every type of automotive product ever, you come across a myriad of interesting objects, from ejection seats and Parachutes from fighter jets to disengaged engines, are strewn about everywhere in a seemingly random way.
Perhaps one of Château-Savigny’s most colorful collections, quite literally, are the fire trucks, created in collaboration with Jean-Claude Picot, Pont Senior’s friend.
Biko drove emergency vehicles for a commercial building and, after retirement, brought his own set of fire engines to the mansion, demonstrating the evolution of firefighting equipment throughout the 20th century.
Then there is a room dedicated to maritime issues. Remarkable for a location hundreds of miles from the sea, the palace not only contains a small nautical gallery, but also many of Bertine’s hovercraft. They were designed in the 1960s by Jean Bertin, a French engineer who is also credited with developing the Aérotrain, a futuristic technology for running high-speed trains on a cushion of air that slides over concrete tracks. The “Bertins” were recovered by Pont from the scrap heap and taken to the mansion where they now stand next to one of the estate’s vineyards.
Preserving the future
“Right now, I’m no longer looking to add museum pieces,” Christophe Pont told CNN. My main goal is to preserve and continue my father’s work. I have to ensure the continuity of the groups. In this goal, I resold some of the pieces, which allowed me to purchase a portion of my brothers’ collections, and also gave me the opportunity to reduce the collections a bit in order to highlight some of the more valuable pieces. His wish for the future is that “in twenty years our aircraft collection will be housed in an indoor museum that will protect it from the weather.”
All of these many and varied interests do not prevent the Pont family from continuing to take an interest in the vineyards. After all, the traditional business of the castle was and remains viticulture.
While most of the 30,000 visitors to the castle each year are drawn to its unique collections, there are also offerings for those interested in pure wine tourism.
With the Burgundy wine region boasting as many as 84 Appellations of Viticultural Origin (“Appellations d’Origin Controle” or AOC, in French), one of which is for the village of Savigny-lès-Beaune, it’s no surprise that Château-Savigny also has tasting rooms and its own boutique. .
No matter your reason for visiting this corner of the French countryside, it’s best to plan some time into your schedule, because this most eclectic French chateau is guaranteed to keep you occupied for a long time.
Savigny-les-Bains castle, Rue General Leclerc, 21420 Savigny-lès-Beaune, France; +33 3 80 21 55 03
™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc. , a Warner Bros. discovery company. All rights reserved.