In 2004, The New York Times published a story about high-end automobile mechanics and restorers. The piece begins, “‘I was worried,’ David Letterman said, ‘that he wouldn’t see me when I called him.’” The “he” Letterman was referring to was François Sicard.
Sicard, who speaks English with a very strong French accent, is 77 years old yet has the lean form of a marathoner and moves impishly around the cars in his care—which at the moment include a 750 Monza, a 250 GT PF Cabriolet, two 330 GTEs, a 365 GT and a 512 BB. He got his start in the Ferrari world working on Luigi Chinetti, Sr.’s Le Mans cars in the 1960s, then moved in and out of the racing world, working on everything from sports cars to Can-Am, from Formula 5000 to Formula 1, before opening his current business in 1979. Although Sicard counts Letterman and Larry Auriana as his primary clients, he’s far from a mechanic to the stars; he works for people he likes who really like their cars.
Passion, not money, motivates Sicard, which is why he usually doesn’t answer his telephone, preferring instead that his apprentice, Tom Yang [“Against All Odds,” FORZA #87], screen potential customers for their suitability. He lives and works deep in the woods at the end of a gravel driveway which has no markings or address off the main road. Even with directions, it’s easy to get lost trying to find him.
FORZA visited Sicard at his secluded home and modest-looking workshop to talk with him about his decades of working on Ferraris.
How did you get started as a mechanic?
Originally, I wanted to race. My father told me if I wanted to be a race driver I should learn mechanics. I was racing bikes [motorcycles] and one of the guys who took care of my bike taught me everything you need in four years—but he taught me in two years. I passed my professional certification as a mechanic. Then I did my two years in the Army where I never touched a car.
After the Army, you got a job as a mechanic?
Yes, I started to work for Mercedes in Paris. After six months, they sent me to school in Stuttgart, where I learned to prepare rally cars. I was doing the assistance in rally and, as an Inspector Technic, I went around to the dealers in a truck and taught the dealer mechanics. Then Mercedes gave up rally racing.
When did you start working on race cars?
In 1962 and ’63 I was doing some rallies with Audi; the car was an Auto Union. I was working with a good French driver, André Guilhaudin. He was my teacher, he won Le Mans in ’62 [specifically the Index of Performance] in a C.D. Panhard, and the year after. That was the first car I built for Le Mans.