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before Tesla, the first electric sports car was French

If the name Venturi does not necessarily speak to the general public, for enthusiasts it evokes the great hours of the French automobile.

Founded in 1984 by designer Gérard Godfroy and engineer Claude Poiraud, Venturi is synonymous with French sports cars. Particularly high-performance cars, with a timeless style, capable of competing with the giants Porsche, Lotus or Ferrari.

Only here, in 15 years of existence, the manufacturer has passed from hand to hand, without ever really having the means of its ambitions. This is what once again brings Venturi to the bar of the Commercial Court.

A billionaire’s son in charge

On May 17, 2000, the Commercial Court of Saint-Nazaire announced that Mr. Gildo Pallanca Pastor, a Monegasque car enthusiast, who had already bought the Bugatti name in the past, was taking over Venturi. Another takeover candidate tells us: “After a call, it was the Monegasque file that was chosen. From there, everything went very quickly. Honestly, we were pretty optimistic for the sequel. The buyer obviously had a lot of money, he liked the car, even if he seemed a bit dreamy and naive. »

Money, Gildo Pastor has it. A few years later, we learn that he received €500,000 in pocket money each month from his mother.

Direction Monaco

The buyer seems motivated and barely a few weeks later, the head office is transferred to Monaco. Venturi leaves Couëron near Nantes. An employee at the time specified: “There were a good dozen semi-trailers of spare parts that were transported to Nice. What seemed odd to us was that the tools were immediately resold. While everyone was waiting for the restart of production of the Venturi Atlantique 300, Venturi had no more factory, no more machines, no more tools. Shortly after, we were told that the Atlantique 300 no longer passed the standards and that it was abandoned. »

We change everything

For Gildo Pastor, the future of Venturi goes through a whole new model. The boss sets up offices in Monaco in the “Gildo Pastor Center”, his office building and begins to surround himself with a small team. To reconnect with the Venturi spirit, he tried to contact Gérard Godfroy, the brand’s founder and first designer.

“I learned long after that the new boss of Venturi wanted to work with me. But I never received a call. I think there was a communication problem. »

Finally, it is the promising designer Sacha Lakic who will design the next model.

Fetish, a vehicle full of promise

Sacha Lakic starts from a blank sheet to design a bold vehicle. Futuristic tray design, strict two-seater, Renault engine at the rear, the Venturi Fétish is a success.

To go from drawing to prototype, Venturi calls on the company Duarte, a specialist in prototyping and industrialization. In just thirteen weeks, the car takes shape to be presented to the public at the Geneva Motor Show in early March. With its aluminum frame, it weighs less than 900 kilos.

Its manufacturer confirms: “It will be available by 2003 at a price of €35,000. “A real stone in the pond when you know that in the absence of Alpine, France no longer produces any sports car.

Gildo Pastor driving his baby.

You need a motor…

On the Venturi stand, order forms are pouring in. “About thirty orders had been taken. But it all seemed a bit unreal to us. We were taking orders but we only had a model. We had neither the place to build it, nor the staff, nor the skills,” recalls an employee at the time.

But the most urgent thing is to find an engine. Pit neighbor with Venturi, one of the directors of the French manufacturer PGO says: “They announced to everyone that they would use the Renault engine of the Clio RS. They had just forgotten to ask their opinion. Renault refused to supply them with this engine. It was not in their habit to provide small series of blocks to other manufacturers. As we were buying Peugeot engines for our PGOs, he came to ask us how we were doing. We could have sold Peugeot engines to them and we started talking about that. »

On the buyer side, “We weren’t really kept informed of the progress of our reservations. At first we were told that it would be Renault engines, then Peugeot before talking about an Alfa V6,” recalls Pascal Crand, one of the few to have signed an order form. The price for its part swells dangerously, we are now talking about 60,000 €.

… and a factory

While the car was presented at the “Michelin Challenge Design” at the Detroit Motor Show, and customers grew impatient, Venturi had neither engine nor factory. “As we were in contact to provide them with a Peugeot engine and we had a large factory that was a little oversized for us, Gildo Pastor asked us if we could not build their cars here,” says the former PGO employee. But it didn’t happen, and one day the project was completely abandoned. »

Gildo Pastor never had the structures or the staff to make cars.

Gildo Pastor understood that the future was electric.  Photo Venturi

Gildo Pastor understood that the future was electric. Photo Venturi

Change of course to electric

Finally, due to a lack of engine, Gildo Pastor decided to change everything and go for a 100% electric engine. Unheard of at the time on this type of car. Gérard Ducarouge, a renowned motorsport engineer, is recruited.

In 2004, it was a shock, the secret had been well kept and Pastor presented: “The first electric sports car in history. The boss has understood that the future is electric. Two years before the Tesla roadster, Venturi can take a decisive lead in the market with “the sports car of the next twenty years”.

You don’t improvise as a car manufacturer

On paper, this electric Fetish has it all. Despite its 350 kilos of lithium-ion batteries it remains light and allows 350 kilometers of autonomy. Energy recovery makes it possible to recharge while descending towards Monaco, and it goes from 0 to 100 km/h in five seconds thanks to its 241 horsepower.

But the price will surprise more than one: “I still had my thermal order form when I arrived at the presentation. But obviously when I saw the advertised price of €538,000, I withdrew my order, remembers our buyer Pascal Crand. Gildo immediately refunded my deposit. But I wondered who was going to put this price. »

One of the few order forms from Venturi Fetish.

One of the few order forms from Venturi Fetish.

Never produced?

Despite its status as a pioneer, despite oiled communication, no one is rushing to buy the Fetish.

“Once, we lent the car to Prince Albert of Monaco for a photo shoot, it broke down, remembers an employee. The truth is that they were quite incapable of developing it and even less of producing it. We had a serious problem with the batteries which weren’t ready yet. »

But exactly how many Fetish have been sold? Twenty-five says the official communication of the brand. “A fortnight”, replied Gildo Pastor in an interview a few years ago.

“The truth is certainly more cruel. With no registration in France, no trace of commercialization, no Fetish seen in circulation or on social networks in more than 15 years, no vehicle having changed hands at auction, the production figure is certainly zero. , believes the former PGO competing engineer.

Enough to feed regrets when you see what Tesla has become.

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