In the small town of Chatillon, Belgium, there was a mysterious graveyard of cars that snaked through the forest.
It was like looking at an ancient airport shuttle service traffic jam–except there didn’t appear to be an end in sight.
For over 70 years, a staggering 500 vehicles slept there, buried in trees, vines, critters, and forest foliage.
But what was really weird about this strange scene is that the cars looked like they were left behind in a hurry. What could cause such a strange occurrence?
The Legend Behind The Car Graveyard
The story that most people are familiar with revolves around the ending of World War II. When it was time to return to the US, American soldiers realized they could not take their cars with them.
On a soldier’s salary, how do you ship a vehicle overseas? So they went to Plan B. Leave them in the forest behind the small village of Chatillon—and have them shipped later.
Except that didn’t happen.
In fact, locals insist the whole thing never happened. They claim that the cars were parked there as part of a regular junkyard. The proof, they say, is right on the vehicles. Most were made post-World War II, the 1950’s and ’60’s, and very collectible.
Okay. Point taken.
It is true that before 2010, there were many vintage cars abandoned in the beautiful Belgium forests. There were four graveyards with 500 classic vehicles, including the Chatillon mystery graveyard.
According to some, we’ll never know the answer to the Chatillon mystery. (Spoiler alert: see below) In 2010, amidst environmental concerns and car part thefts, the vehicles were removed.
What we do have is Urbex Photography to thank for their stunning photographs of these ancient vehicles.
With a philosophy of, ““Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time,” the team of photographers travel world wide to remote locations, filming the bizarre, the unusual, and the beautiful. (A little of all three here.)
The Real Story (Or Long Story Short)
But according to Ronan Glon, also a photographer, we do know the real story. It’s long and complicated so I’ve abbreviated it here.
Canada was looking to construct air force bases around Europe and settled on France in 1951. The Canadians had a difficult time adjusting to the French life, so they migrated to a border town called Virton in Belgium because it was more industrialized.
Canadians bought American cars but there was a shortage of mechanics. However, in Chatillon, there was a mechanic who was very good at working with American cars. Parts were difficult to get so the mechanic (name unknown) relied on junk cars, or cars that were considered too old to be saved.
That’s how this man started his wreckage collection. As the owner of the shop got older, he slowed down his business, but never fully retired. When he died, all of these classic cars still remained, attracting enthusiasts everywhere.
Sadly, this story makes a whole lot of sense, which means the legend of the American soldiers is probably just that, a legend.
Sadder still, the cars and remnants of that era are all gone. The only thing left is the stellar photography of Urbex. For that, we are truly grateful.