The Belgian Forest Graveyard

Chatillon Graveyard

I’ve heard stories and even seen a few photos of a massive classic car graveyard hidden somewhere in the Belgian Ardennes, but I hadn’t found much information or decent photos of the place. Reader Han K recently let me know about an old story here on flabber.nl about this incredible graveyard in more detail. According to the article, there were more than 500 cars parked in a straight line stretching between 200 and 300 meters (300 meters = 328 yards). Supposedly, these cars belonged to US Servicemen who had been stationed in the area after WWII. When they were finally sent home, most decided it was too expensive to have their cars shipped home, so they were just abandoned. Someone decided that the best place for all of the cars would be deep in the forest, where they would be out of sight.

Abandoned Classics

It looks like these cars were stuck in a traffic jam and all the drivers just decided to get out and walk home, leaving their cars to rust away. Over the years, the locals added more cars to the yard, making the whole sight just that much more fascinating. It seems it was the village of Chatillon’s dirty little secret, until a reporter by the name of Jean Cleemput caught wind of it. After he did a story about the graveyard and all the classic cars parked there, it created a lot of interest for the community.

Classis in the forest

Apparently too much interest, as the Mayor decided the cars needed to go. It isn’t clear if he decided they were bringing in too many unwanted visitors, if they posed an environmental concern or if he just didn’t like the idea of his lovely community being associated with a hoard of rusty old cars. Whatever the reasoning, this amazing sight has been destroyed and all that remains are a few photos.

Newer car at Chatillon

I’ll admit, I’m not sure I believe the story of US soldiers all driving their cars to the same location to abandon them. It just doesn’t make sense that they would all go to the same location, tidly park their cars in a nice row and then just leave them. It seems far more likely that a local towed the cars here after they were abandoned at various locations around the community.

Chatillon - returning to the earth

Now that the forest has been cleared of all the cars and all clues of its existence wiped away, I doubt we’ll ever know why these cars ended up out there in a long line. One thing is for sure though, I’m glad people had the sense to go out and document this find before all the cars were crushed. I wanted to thank Han for this tip! If any of you happen to know more about this fascinating graveyard, please share! More photos can be seen here on Rosanne’s Flicker and on Theo’s Flicker.

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Comments

  1. JW

    Looks like a scene from the AMC show “The Walking Dead” except they left out the most crucial part the Zombies.

  2. 1969Deuce

    I’ve seen several spots like this in Europe photographed. A really huge one is just like the above but all abandoned Russian military vehicles.

  3. z1rider

    It’s my understanding that at the conclusion of their service, American servicemen stationed in Europe could have a car shipped back to the states at no charge. I have a Citroen Traction full of docs indicating it was owned by a serviceman in the army, but nothing at all showing any charges for shipping.

    Hopefully a veteran can clarify for us.

    • Bill McCoskey

      For US Forces in Europe, if you were an enlisted man with a rank of at least E-5, you could ship a car back at the military’s expense if it met one of 2 requirements: It was of American manufacture, or it was brought over from the US by you or another US serviceman. If you were an officer you could ship any qualifying vehicle back, US or foreign made. Chances are, your Traction Avant was brought over by an officer.

      When I left Europe in 1975, I brought back my 1956 Chrysler Imperial, a very unusual vehicle that had been the Paris auto show car that year. It had been partially assembled in Paris by Facel, and had a special silk 3 tone interior with mouton carpeting. The car had French electrics & lighting. It also had 3, yes 3, head gaskets per bank of the 354 hemi V8 engine, lowering the compression to handle the poor fuel found in Europe at the time. The car also had a pre-production 3-speed Torqueflite auto trans with push buttons, installed about 6 months before they came out in production cars.

      I drove it as my everyday car for about 18 months, and toured all over south central Europe with this very reliable car. My car was well known in the Heidelberg & Mannheim areas, and I used to give the local German kids rides in it! Sadly the car was destroyed in a fire at my restoration shop about 20 years ago.

      And on a side note, my other car at the time was a 1963 Ferrari 250 2+2, I paid only $1,200 USD for it, I got it from an Alfa Dealer, the car had been traded in on a new Alfa Montreal. When I left Europe I had the opportunity to ship it back for $800, but I was advised not to do it because the Windshield was not AS1 approved, & replacing the windshield on arrival in the US was going to be at least $2,000. Plus, at that time very few people wanted a 4-passenger Ferrari! So I sold it to an American officer for the princely sum [at that time] of $1,800!

      The Imperial was trouble free [except the wiper motor burned up on my way to Bremerhaven to ship it home], but the Ferrari always required various services & repairs.

      • francisco

        Bill, I nominate you as Barn Finds veteran winner of the spelling, punctuation, and grammar award.

  4. francisco

    Looks like they’ve been stripped of parts.

    • Bill McCoskey

      Francisco — Thanks for the compliment, I’ve been writing semi-professionally for quite a while now, not making a lot of $ at it, but it’s fun.

      I’m currently working on a story about my involvement with the Royal family & king of a middle eastern country, they have hundreds of very rare American & European cars, many with ultra low mileage. A few examples; a 1954 Packard convertible, bright red, with only about 4,000 kilometers [about 2,500 miles] since new, a 1957 Chevy convertible, with Factory A/C & 1,400 miles showing, & a 1958 Cadillac Sixty Special with only 8 miles!

      All are mint & maintained well. These cars were bought new, or given as gifts when they were new. And to everyone who reads this; none of these vehicles are for sale.

      • francisco

        Nevertheless, I’d love to follow that story. Can I sign up for your blog?

      • Bill McCoskey

        Francisco — I don’t have a blog! I’m hoping to publish it in a well-known magazine, but I’m not allowed to divulge the name until everything is “inked”. You can contact me by email using my name [no spaces] at aol.

  5. Dave Wright

    Well…….I guess I am the veteran, and as we speak i am in Belguim. This is a fanciful story but I can explain how it may have happened. In the 70’s and earlier, the military had it’s own registration system for GI’s. If you bought a car on the economy as many of us did, you would process it through customs like it was being imported into the US. We has a regular American style license plate that was a bright green color…..We always thought it made a great target………. So, when one of these cars broke or was wrecked, it went to a military junkyard as being exported from the host country it would have to back through customs and be re imported into the country. We could buy parts off from them and if something interesting was in there we could buy the entire car to restore. One of my buddies worked at the yard, one day a young officer brought in a soft window 912 that he wanted to dispose of…..guess who got that one…..on shipping of the cars, if you shipped a car over, it got a free ride home, if you wrecked the car you shipped over you could replace it and that car would get a free ride back but the process was very difficult. One of my bosses had wrecked his car and was shipping home the Mercury Capri that he had purchased as a replacement. Took months of red tape……..another way you could get a car shipped free was if you bought a new car from AAFES, like I did…..it would come with gaurenteed shipping back to the states when you bought it. Off course! These were American cars. When I bought my Chrysler, unleaded fuel was not available yet in Europe so the cattolitic converter came loose in the trunk to be installed on import to the states. I imported 6 cars when I returned, the only one that was free was the new Chrysler I had bought for my wife. So……this looks like photos of some long abandoned American junkyard. With base closures all over it is very feasible that there would be one around. I had dinner next to my old base in the Eiful in Germany after visiting the Battle of the Buldge monument in Bastogne. (The Arden’s) Things have off course changed in the last 40 years, the GI’s cars today wear normal German license plates……probably a good thing.

  6. GJ Gerlach

    I wanted to visit the spot two years ago, but according to locals this scene has been cleaned up years ago by the mayor of the adjacent town. Unfortunately only 1 or 2 cars are still at the lot, it’s a pity as it was an amazing location.

  7. MikeH

    When I was in Germany in the late 60s, you could ship any car back to the US, regardless of where it was bought. That depended on rank, but I think it was E5 and above. And, you could sell your car to anyone, a GI or a local national. So, the idea of abandoned cars by departing GIs doesn’t make much sense.

    There were, however, some great deals to be made from departing servicemen. I bought a ’59 Opel Rekord and a ’53 Opel for $25. The ’59 ran but had bad tires. The ’53 didn’t run, but had good tires. I swapped the tires, got the ’53 running, drove it for a couple of months, and sold it for $25. I kept the ’59 for more than a year and sold it for $100.

    That ’53 was one of the worst cars I ever owned. I don’t know the displacement, but probably not above 1200cc. It had a three speed transmission!! In order to keep it from being run over on the autobahns, third gear had a very high ratio. What you ended up with was a third that was entirely too high and a second that was entirely too low–a huge “hole” in the transmission. It was not fun to drive in the city.

  8. Rich

    What a shame more officials don’t have the foresight to preserve sites like this (as has happened elsewhere) and charge tourists a small fee to take pictures. Tourism is big business.

    • Olaf E

      If it wasn’t the mayor that decided to remove all the cars, the EU would have forced them to clear the area. Same is happening in France, more and more old (car) junkyards are disappearing because of EU regulations.

      Here in NL the government looks at cars as nothing more than a cashcow and wants to be the clean car country of the world, trying to promote (SUBSIDISE!) hybrids an EV’s. Off course, pushed and supported heavily by the green fanatics. Some cities don’t allow diesel powered cars older than 15 years in the city centre anymore and fuelprices are among the highest in Europe if not the world!

      • JW

        Olaf E. This will be coming to the progressive US in a few short years. We have our green meanies too.

  9. John b

    Be careful pokeing around- could be a few un-denotaded shells left over from the Bulge.

    • francisco

      Minefields too!

  10. Eric R

    I’m living a few kilometers away from there and never knew about that place. Can’t imagine how it would have been if I had knew it when I was young boy. Sad…

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