First held back in the 1970s, the Retromobile show each year attracts enthusiasts from all over the world to come to Paris, France in the midst of Winter. Maintaining the typical small scale approach and always good for a couple of surprises, this year's, the 38th edition was once again highly anticipated. Among the themes was a celebration of the Porsche 911 50th anniversary, a special display of DS Citroens and a showcase of Marcel Leyat's propellor driven automobiles. As always the dealers also pulled out all the stops to wow the crowd.
Forming an integral part of the event now are two auctions held during the five days of the show. First up was the Bonhams sale hosted in the fantastic Grand Palais in the heart of Paris, followed by Artcurial's Retromobile auction held right on the show floor.
Marking our tenth anniversary of covering this show, we were on hand bright and early to capture the Retromobile magic in a 140-shot gallery of the show
, a 50-shot gallery of the Bonhams sale
and a 40-shot gallery of the Artcurial auction
Bonhams' Les Grandes Marques du Monde au Grand Palais
Built in the late 19th century for the 1900 Universal Exhibition, the Grand Palais was the traditional venue for the Paris Auto Salon and later this year will also host the scrutineering of the Tour Auto. Providing an abundance of natural light through its class roof, it also promised to be an ideal location for an auction. Indeed, the numerous lots of the Bonhams sale were beautifully presented. Although the much anticipated Bugatti Type 54 Grand Prix did not receive enough bids to make the reserve, some of the other high priced cars did find a new owner in the EUR 13 million sale. Among them were an extensively campaigned Bentley 6 1/2 Litre (EUR 828,000), a rare Aston Martin DB4 Vantage Cabriolet (EUR 805,000) and the Bugatti Type 57 C built for Etttore Bugatti by his workers (EUR 690,000). In addition to the auction's lots, the PSA Group also brought some of their great racers for display purposes, including Sebastien Loeb's Citroën Xsara WRC and the 1993 Le Mans winning Peugeot 905. Also present was the unique Aston Martin DB4 GT Bertone Jet, which will be offered by Bonhams in their annual Aston Martin sale.
Artcurial Motorcars a Retromobile
For the third year, local auctioneer Artcurial Motorcars organised the official Retromobile sale. Being able to preview the lots on the show floor of course offers a distinct advantage. This prime position allowed Matthieu Lamoure and his staff to assemble an impressive selection of cars and bikes. Headlining the sale was one of six Talbot Lago T150C competition cars produced in 1936 and 1937. This well raced machine is a veteran of no fewer than four editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In more recent years, it was also campaigned in the Le Mans Classic. Built in the same period were the three Bugatti Type 57s entered; two with the 'standard' Ventoux style and one with a striking Cabriolet body by Vanvooren. Italian machinery also featured strongly in the sale with a lovely Fiat 8V Vignale Coupe and a Maserati A6G/54 2000 Allemano Coupe Speciale from the 1950s. Another Italian star was the time-warp Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet Series II complete with an original hard top. Having spent all its life in Marseille, it has covered only 15,000 km.
With a sell through rate of 90% and a total revenue of EUR 14.6 million, the Artcurial sale proved to be the most successful car auction ever held in France. Topping the chart was the Talbot Lago (EUR 1.5 million), a Duesenberg (EUR 1 million) and the barn-find Ferrari (EUR 846,000).
The French have always produced some of the most unusual and groundbreaking cars. One great example is the legendary Citroën DS, which was introduced in 1955 at the Paris Auto Salon, which still used the Grand Palais as a venue back then. At this year's Retromobile, Citroén's iconic model once again took centre stage with a special display arranged by Swiss dealer Lukas Hüni. Sourced from his own collection were various very rare variants, including a DS21 Cabriolet complete with a supercharger finished in the same green colour as the exterior. On display around the corner were no fewer than four examples of the French marque Lambert. Produced by the brilliant Germain Lambert between 1947 and 1955, these cars were very sophisticated. Using a plethora of lightweight materials, the small road and racing cars boasted front wheel drive. All four cars were presented in remarkably original condition and our eye was particularly caught by the 'Coupé', which closely followed the lines of the Bugatti Atlantic or the Teardrop Talbot Lagos.
Recognising the importance of the show, many of the major manufacturers traditionally send some of their finest examples of their collections to Retromobile. Particularly interesting was the Mercedes-Benz line-up with three early Benz racing cars. The 'Blitzen Benz' and 1908 Grand Prix car were a familiar sight but that was not the case for the 'tulip' bodied racer that was built specifically for the 1910 Prinz Heinrich race. In fact not one but two freshly restored examples were on display. The other was brought by the Louwman Museum, which was also in charge of the restoration of the two rare machines. Of the ten Benzes prepared for the race, these are the only two examples known to exist. Across the isle, Renault also pulled out the steps with a very diverse display that ranged from a very early Renault street sweeper to a striking V8-engined Alpine Le Mans racer. Other manufacturers like Bentley and Bugatti brought cars from private collections; the 'Embericos' Bentley and a Type 59 Grand Prix respectively. The latter was last seen at Retromobile in 2005 in 'barn-find' condition and has seen been completely restored for the new owner, who recently served as Bugatti's CEO.
Some of Retromobile's finest machines are often brought by dealers, who usually present an evocative mix of machines that are either for sale or offered for display from the collection of their numerous clients. In addition to his DS showcase, Lukas Hüni also brought some great machinery for his own stand. Particularly pleasing the two rows featuring three Alfa Romeo 8C 2300s and three Bugattis respectively. Among the stars of the Hall & Hall display were the final Lotus 49B Cosworth produced and the unique mid-engined Vanwall; both provided by the Donnington Collection. A much rarer sight was the particularly shiny Jaguar D-Type that had just returned days before from a two-decade sojourn Down Under. Fellow British broker, Gregor Fisken really outdid himself this year with a fabulous array of cars that included three early Bentleys, an ex-Le Mans Iso A3/C and a Maserati 250F that has been recently refinished in the striking white livery it sported for the 1959 Monaco Grand Prix. Grabbing most attention was the absolutely stunning Ferrari 250 TR, which stopped over in Paris on its way to Maranello where it is due for full certification.
One of the great attractions of Retromobile is that the show often offers a surprise around almost every corner. For various reasons, this year's edition was not quite like that but there were nevertheless more than enough rare and interesting machines to marvel about. Upholding the Retromobile spirit best was no doubt the display of four Lamberts. All this and much more can be seen in our galleries from Retromobile
itself and the Bonhams