France. For Americans, France is not top of mind for racing until it comes time for 24 Hours of Le Mans or Formula 1 at Monaco. (Yes, Monaco is actually its own entity but you can only get there along the French Riviera “really rich” or by sea “really, really, really rich”).

Most are unaware of rally sport racing which is practically as common in Europe as short track late model racing is here in America. From open wheel to motorcycles, France has hosted a long history in motor sport. However, as Americans, we rarely acknowledge it. Most of us relegate France to some big, bicycle race that was cool while our guy was over there kicking it only to be kicked himself for dope cheating (another time).

A brief look at French racing sets the stage as an introduction to a man who now makes Roanoke his home. He has a bit of a wheel man background, he is a respected professional photographer in the area and continues to be fascinated by speed.

Early 1990s France – Flathead Hot Rod photo by Benoit Pigeon
France – Hot Rod road trip with Benoit Pigeon
France – Roadside Hot Rod – Photo by Benoit Pigeon

Benoit Pigeon is, at first glance, a humble and reserved gentleman. As a photographer, his professional focus is also a bit reserved. He very well may be the “go to” camera man for product photography in the region. Furniture, jewelry, industrial, electronics… And yes, cars!

It is quite likely you’ve seen his work on billboards and other advertising in the area. He has a long history with furniture manufacturers and retail centers. He has the required eye for detail and lighting which is essential for making even the most mundane stand out. For his automotive images he takes this attention to detail down to the highlight bouncing off the smallest bit of chrome.

As a driver, he is a family man and a business man so, yes, he has a mini van. However, as he was coming of age back in France, his driving instruction included hands on lessons from Maïté Poussin and husband Jaques Poussin. Benoit was getting first hand driving lessons from rally-cross champions! During this time he was working at a Renault automotive shop which was also an Alpine dealer which catered to sports car enthusiasts. His fascination with cars was being further reinforced. His first race experience was a visit as a kid to a drag race event in southern France. Later, in the mid-1980s, he visited a drag racing school in Florida. He garnered some funny car and dragster track time which led to a magazine article on the experience.

Florida – Drag Racing School – Benoit Pigeon getting wheel time on the strip

Benoit even pulled a stint with French car manufacturer, Citroen, driving and testing at LaFerte Vidame where Peugeot / Citroen has a private track. The area of the historic palace and fortress with the track close by has been host to car shows and races.

He still had his photography interest floating in his mind and attended photography school, which set his path to land in Roanoke. He met the woman who would be his wife while she was attending a close by university. This led him to America. New York, to be specific. He worked at a custom, professional photographers’ photo lab. From New York, he came to Roanoke and camera / photo store Ewald Clark and then to became a working photographer at Moody Graphics.

He went on his own, developing clients from known associates and expanding his experience as he went, He came to New York in ’92 and has been running his own commercial photography business in Roanoke since 2005.

For racing, Benoit has an impressive resume and his work has been featured in varied print and online outlets. His knowledge of photography and the nature of racing at a drag strip is a key to his image quality. There really is only one chance to grab the shots as those cars power off that line. Watching the lights and the tires compress and feeling the vibrations from the engines all calculate to the timing of clicking off the shutter. His photos bring you into his view and his world within a fraction of a second.

Cover and feature photos in RPM magazine by Benoit Pigeon

He’s very good at it. He has also developed a reputation for shooting and showcasing the cars for their owners. From specified highlight photos for an article or wall art photos of clients’ cars, Benoit Pigeon has the eye and experience to get it done beautifully.

Benoit’s commercial website: Pigeon Photography
Find more race photos: Bang Shift online

Benoit Pigeon – Micro Gallery

It’s always a bit of a blast to go to a car show. The variety in personality of the owners and the cars they bring highlights the styles and individuals in the automotive arena. It’s all about the love of the car… The one you have, the one you drive, or the one you want…

There is no doubt the automotive world is in a state of major change. It’s been there before. Whatever comes of it will be the new basis of alterations and customs. For now, we still have pistons, fat tires, chrome, color, speed and sound. Such was the case on Saturday, October 23rd, at the Berglund Center in Roanoke, VA

Richmond based Spend Trend Society organized the show with RevMatch Clothing and CVA Performance. Funds were raised on site for The Children’s Heart Foundation through entries and a 50/50 raffle.

Interesting vehicles were pulling in for the show as early as 10AM. There were way too many to showcase all of them, however, we did note a few that caught our attention in one way or another.

First – A hot rod Mercedes. Granted, a late 60’s Mercedes is a classic on its own. However, when you drop a Corvette V8 in place of the original diesel power you get a classic that will surely surprise the drag race challenger at the line.

1960’s Mercedes-Benz 200 Diesel with a boost from Corvette V8 power

Second – In a row of turbo-mod imports there was a throwback classic. A big, open engine V8, no fenders, practically square fat rear tires and the rolling shell of a Ford Model T. Yep… a vintage style “T-Bucket”. When asked how many people under the age of 40 asked what it was, owner and builder Phil Harwick simply replied “lots…”.

Technically, it was a gift for his wife but the “T” is always a fun drive to local shows. It’s one of many examples that populates his country garage and his job with MAC Tools lets him network with other “car” people in the area. Phil has some racing history, a builder’s knowledge and an owner’s passion.

Third – A mix of classic hot rod and modern design. The body is based on a 1939 Ford Coupe with modern touches from the interior to the chassis. It’s a candy red head turner. The owner, Troy Cook, is no stranger to style. His Roanoke based business specializes in lighting, furnishings and specialty fabrications with a national reputation.

1939 Ford Coupe – Owner: Troy Cook (Renaissance Contract Lighting)

Check out a larger sample of the Speed Trend Society show below and keep an eye open for more area car shows down the road.