The Château de Savigny-lès-Beaune looks much like any other grand historic home in France. However, this medieval castle belongs to eccentric owner Michel Pont. And since acquiring the idyllic property in the 1980s, he has filled it with an astonishing array of historic relics.
Looking at the stunning property, it’s hard to imagine a more picturesque setting. The grand home sits cozily within the green undulating landscape of France’s Burgundy region. Furthermore, its four-pointed turrets evoke memories of the fairytale castles from children’s stories.
As its name suggests, the château is situated in Savigny-lès-Beaune, in the east of France, and it lies within the wider region of Côte de Beaune. As its endless vineyards attest, the area is known for producing Burgundy, but Château de Savigny-lès-Beaune is no ordinary home in the wine country.
In keeping with its evocative appearance, the building boasts a rich history. As its fairytale image suggests, the castle was once the domain of real-life aristocracy. That’s because it began life way back in 1340, when it was constructed on behalf of the Duke of Eudes.
However, the original château was torn down in 1478, after King Louis XI of France invaded the region as a result of his spat with Marie of Burgundy. The castle then lay dismantled until the Bouhier family finally acquired the ruins in the early 17th century.
The Bouhiers rescued the Château de Savigny-lès-Beaune from obscurity, with the first owner in the family, Etienne, decorating the building and returning it to grandeur. When Etienne died in 1635 his son Jean inherited the castle. He installed a large internal staircase, while the former’s son Bénigne later added the so-called “Petit Château” to the grounds.
However, the Bouhiers’ tenure of the castle eventually ended in 1689, when it fell into the hands of the Migieu family. Through marriage, the General Count of La Loyère then acquired the château, and it was passed down the generations of his family until 1972.
That year a winegrower, who already operated one estate in the Côte de Beaune, bought the castle. It was then later purchased by Michel Pont during the 1980s – and it seems that the ex-racing driver had big plans for the property and its 27 hectares of land.
Revealing the state of the Château de Savigny-lès-Beaune when he bought it, Pont told Guinness World Records, “The 12 hectares of property were mostly wasteland and brambles… After buying the castle I had to come up with ways to make this investment viable.” And luckily enough, Pont had a plan up his sleeve.
With that in mind, Pont spent years transforming the estate into a gigantic museum of curiosities. He had collected hundreds of rare artifacts from across the globe, housing them in the castle’s extensive room and grounds. And as time passed, he created a tourist attraction unlike any other.
So what are the items that tend to tickle Pont’s fancy? Well, as his former racing career suggests, it seems that the quirky Frenchman is somewhat of a motorhead. So to reflect his interest in all things with an engine, Pont has acquired a vast number of aircraft, cars, motorbikes, and trucks.
Nowadays, the Château de Savigny-lès-Beaune is no longer a simple country residence in one of France’s most famous wine regions, but an expansive moto-museum. And thanks to Pont’s avid collecting, his array of treasures promises to excite and enchant all visitors – no matter their age or interests.
Among Pont’s fascinating collection is a shed full of old firetrucks, 200 vintage motorbikes and a total of 36 collectible racing cars. The Frenchman’s vehicle haul also contains some rare prototypes of the Fiat Abarth car. Meanwhile, at the slower end of the motor scale, he also has more than two dozen high-clearance tractors.
But land-dwelling vehicles aren’t Pont’s only passion, because the château is also home to a wide range of aircraft. On the back lawn of the castle, there sits a 1970s hovercraft alongside a Soviet helicopter. What’s more, Pont is the owner of a jet that once held some of France’s atomic arsenal during the presidency of General Charles de Gaulle.
Some of the jewels in Pont’s airplane collection include Russian MiG aircraft, French Dassaults and four jets that once belonged to the precision aerobatic wing of the French Air Force. But there’s another item of particular interest to any aviation fan – one of the oldest airplanes in the world.
However, one of the most impressive parts of Pont’s endless collection of relics is his record-breaking assortment of World War II fighter jets. Thanks to this selection, Pont is currently the biggest private collector of fighter aircraft on the planet and has earned a spot in the Guinness World Records.
According to the Daily Mail, Pont told the Guinness World Records, “Collecting jet fighters is very different from collecting postcards or stamps. I’m ex-military from the air force, so I had the opportunity to meet pilots and see the planes back then. That’s how I caught the bug. I started buying planes in France.”
Pont continued, “My home is now the only place in France where people can take pictures and get close to planes, almost close enough to touch them. In the military airbases, when planes were declared unfit for service, they were put on sale. So 30 years ago I started buying these planes to save them from being destroyed.”
Clearly proud of his achievements at the Château de Savigny-lès-Beaune, Pont added, “All military bases are closed to the public so this is the only place to see a wide variety of planes from all over the world. When I bought this property, I could never have imagined that some day I would be crazy enough to collect jet fighters.”
But despite his achievements as a collector, Pont expels a modest demeanor. Though eccentric in other ways, he appears unassuming, preferring to dress in casual clothes that could be associated more with a groundsman at the château rather than the owner.
However, Pont’s relaxed approach to his appearance belies the passion he has for his collecting. He has acquired items from all corners of the planet, sometimes going the extra mile to bring them home. On one such occasion, he dismantled an aircraft singlehandedly as it stood on a runway in Djibouti.
Elsewhere, Pont has salvaged treasures from World War II boneyards located in Poland and Belgium. Apparently, it seems that the internet is also a handy source for rare vehicles and aircraft collectors, where interested buyers can snap one up almost as easily as buying an old car.
But not all of Pont’s shopping adventures have gone to plan. Following one trip to Warsaw in Poland, a customs officer stopped and searched Pont at the German border on suspicion of smuggling weapons. The collector later recounted the worrying incident to Guinness World Records.
Pont revealed, “Everything was going well. We took the planes apart, put them in our vehicles and then we reached German customs. The customs officer said, ‘What’s happening here? Nobody move.’ They almost handcuffed us. There were flashlights, police dogs. They thought we were trafficking planes for war.”
Continuing to recount his story, Pont revealed it took several hours before he was finally allowed through the border with his swag. He said, “We were stuck there at 3:00 a.m. and spent the night in our cars. They ended up phoning the police in Dijon to find out who I was, then we finally got through.”
According to Pont, it’s simply his instincts that lead him to his best discoveries. In August 2019 he told Messy Nessy Chic, “When you have a head for collecting, you find a way.” And judging by his haul of cars, jets, and motorbikes, Pont certainly has a talent for sniffing out interesting artifacts.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pont’s unusual use of the Château de Savigny-lès-Beaunte has raised eyebrows among some in the nearby community. And according to Messy Nessy Chic, some locals have been known to refer to Pont’s assortment of vehicles as his “crazy collection.” But Pont doesn’t seem to care.
Pont is eager to share his impressive collection with the wider world, so he has opened the château up to the public, transforming it into not one but nine specialized museums. And each of the spaces is dedicated to a different part of his collection.
Among the museums on Pont’s estate is the ”Musee de la Moto,” which houses Pont’s collection of 250 motorbikes, all of them dating from 1902-1960. There’s also one dedicated solely to Abarth racing cars, similar to the kinds that Pont used to race. Then there’s the “Musee de l’Aéronautique” which boasts something close to 80 aircraft.
Continuing the aviation theme is the “Musee de la Maquettes d’Avion.” This is where Pont houses his collection of scale model aircraft, of which he has an impressive 2,500. There’s also a museum dedicated to tractors, as well as the “Musee du Matériel Vinaire et Viticole” which celebrates viticulture. Then there’s the “Musee des Pompeurs,” which contains Pont’s collection of fire trucks.
To gain admission to Pont’s carefully curated wonderland, there is a small charge of around $13 per adult. Children aged ten to 16 pay $6, while those aged nine and under go free. Furthermore, tickets allow visitors access to the grounds all year round.
Included in the entry price is access to all nine of the museums at the château. However, while cars, trucks, and aircraft may take up a lot of space within the property, even non-petrol heads can surely find something of interest within the confines of the medieval castle.
Alongside the various museums that house Pont’s collection – there is also a series of wine cellars hidden below the Grand Castle. These caves date from the 14th and 17th centuries and house barrels and bottles of fine French wine, much of it originating from the 27 hectares of vineyards surrounding Pont’s medieval castle.
What’s more, the estate has its own restaurant, known as the “Le Cellier Volnaysien.” Visitors can dine in the finest French fashion, sampling local wines and enjoying regional delicacies including snails and parsley ham.
And for a true taste of the kind of high life that Pont enjoys, Château de Savigny-lès-Beaunte can be hired privately for special occasions such as weddings. From images posted on the castle’s website, it appears nuptials can be hosted in a number of the property’s unique corners, including elegant reception rooms and medieval stone cellars.
Pont’s estate truly has something for everyone to enjoy, and his museums have been a hit among the general public, judging by the largely positive online reviews. Indeed, a 4.8 out of five rating on Facebook and a Certificate of Excellence on TripAdvisor doesn’t come easy.
One such glowing review posted to TripAdvisor in August 2018 came from a family of five. They consisted of two adults and three kids aged 12, ten and eight. And speaking of the Château de Savigny-lès-Beaunte, they wrote, “Well, it was almost worth driving from England just to see it. What an amazing collection of cool stuff!”
It would have been quite easy for Pont to keep his collection and the château to himself. But instead, he shares both of these aspects of his life with others, keeping the history of the medieval castle and his beloved vehicles and aircraft alive. And hopefully, the 40,000 visitors he receives each year will keep the château thriving well into the future.
So while his collection has taken decades to amass, for Pont it’s all been worth it. He told Guinness World Records, “I enjoy saving them, these objects that no one else wants anymore. If I had not been crazy enough to buy these planes they would have all been cut into pieces and made into aluminum bars.”
Preservation is Pont’s driving force, however he also takes joy from sharing his treasures with others. He continued, “My collections make me happy, but I’m glad other people who are passionate about them can enjoy them. It’s comforting to know I’ve not wasted my time.”