Photo: Cold Stone/YouTube (screengrab)

A Belgian photographer recently visited an old mining tunnel in central France filled with classic cars that he thinks may have been hidden away against Nazi forces during World War II. The decaying old cars he found are astonishing.

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The photographer, named Vincent Michel, was quoted by Fox News as saying:

We suppose the cars were brought into the quarry at the start of the war to stop them being seized.

Many of the cars—mostly 1930s French vehicles— aren’t looking so hot, and not just because of rust. Many appear to have either been wrecked before storage, or had parts picked off over the years.

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There are also some newer models in the collection, which the news site said were probably added by the owner of the quarry. Here’s a look at the underground junkyard:

Michel said some of the cars from the collection were removed and sold after his visit, but most of the cars from his Flickr photo album— called Trésor de Guerre, or “Treasure Of War”—are “still at peace inside the quarry, too damaged to move.”

Here’s Michel’s admittedly romanticized version of what he thinks brought these cars to perhaps their final resting place in the underground tomb (translated from his Flickr album description):

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In 1940, it was the debacle! France after a lightning war is invaded by the German army and is obliged to capitulate! It is then that the population will be forced to a certain form of collaboration by requisitioning private vehicles, in order to recover the metal that will be used to manufacture war engines. In this little corner of France deep, we organize quickly for vehicles escape this requisition. The villagers then had the idea of ​​hiding them in the depths of an old underground quarry that almost nobody remembered. It was on a dark and deep night that a small convoy quietly left the village in the direction of the neighboring countryside, climbed the old stony road and plunged into the woods. One after the other, the vehicles were pulled in by tightening them as much as possible to save space ... It is 5 am when we close the metal grid behind all these cars that we had pampered during Years ... What happened during the war of the owners of these vehicles? No one knows precisely ... it is that the end of the war, the cars never came out and fell into total oblivion; The ambient humidity accelerated the appearance of rust and plunged them into an advanced state of decomposition! Possibly a local scrap dealer, owner of the land, a few years later will still place a vehicle or the other less ancient ... (History totally romanticized ...)

It’s a fascinating story, though we may never know how true it is.