Bigger than ever
Now in its 39th year, the Retromobile show in Paris for the first time used the principle and biggest hall of the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre. Considering the appeal of and international interest for the annual event, it is hardly surprising more floorspace was needed but the move was not without risk; intimacy and the focus on quality prompted by the limited space traditionally available have always been the key ingredients of Retromobile's success. Fortunately, this notion was certainly not lost and despite being bigger, the 2014 show certainly did not offer more of the same. Among the many interesting displays was one with the cars of the Maharadjah, which prompted the organisers to invite an actual elephant on the opening morning.
In addition to the main event, Paris also hosted three major auctions with RM Auctions and Bonhams both staging sales in downtown Paris, while Artcurial was responsible for the official Retromobile Sale, which fittingly was the biggest automobile auction ever held in France.
Our photographers visited Retromobile and the auctions, which has allowed us to create separate galleries for the RM Auctions
sales and of course an all-encompassing Retromobile gallery
RM Auctions: Paris Sale
Continuously expanding their operation, Canadian company RM Auctions staged their first ever sale in Paris. For the location they picked a square in front of the imposing Hotel des Invalides, which was originally built as a retirement home for (injured) soldiers but now also houses several military museums. The RM Auctions sale itself was held in a purpose-built tent. Focusing on quality, there were only 50-odd lots in the auction. Seven of these were from the Peter Harburg collection and included a very original Jaguar D-Type (sold for EUR 3.7 million) and an ex-works Porsche 956 (EUR 2.53 million). Another interesting machine from the Harburg collection was a Ferrari 750 Monza, which was found several years ago in a rather derelict condition. Sadly, the body was beyond repair but Harburg did of course retain it, and it was displayed alongside the now fully restored machine. It found a new owner for just under EUR 2 million. Far exceeding its pre-sale estimate of EUR 80,000 - 120,000 was a completely unrestored Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman Landaulet. After a fierce bidding war, it eventually changed hands for EUR 537,600. At the end of the evening 80.9% of the lots were sold for a grand total of EUR 17.7 million.
Bonhams: Les Grandes Marques
On the other side of the river Seine, Bonhams once again used the hugely impressive Grand Palais as the location for their Paris sale. Known as Les Grand Marques du Monde
or the great marques of the world, the Bonhams auction was very much in keeping with the spirit of Retromobile as on offer were many rarely seen machines like a Metallurgique from Belgium or a pair of Majestic motorcycles. The sale got off to a great start with a Harley-Davidson Dyna Super Glyde and matching leather jacket selling for a combined EUR 300,000. Needless to say, this was not any old V-Twin but the actual bike and jacket gifted to Pope Francis by Willie G. Davidson. Signed by the Pope, it was offered for charity. As the afternoon progressed most of the interesting cars found new owners. The top sell of the EUR 17 million sale was a beautifully restored Ferrari 275 GTB/4 at EUR 2.2 million; a new world record for the type. Also attracting a lot of attention was a Bugatti Type 35B, which sold for EUR 1.6 million despite being based on a Type 37A chassis. One of the big surprises was the rare 4th Series Aston Martin DB4 GT, which more than doubled its estimate at EUR 1.2 million.
Artcurial: Retromobile Sale
Undoubtedly one of the main reasons for Retromobile to move to Hall 1 was the two-day Artcurial sale. With 175 lots, it was the largest ever automotive auction in France and a great way to celebrate auctioneer Hervé Poulain's 40th anniversary in the business. The sale was split over two days with the second reserved exclusively to Alfa Romeos. Like the Bonhams sale, Artcurial also managed to consign some truly unique machines from the sale topping Ferrari 166 MM/53 Oblin Barchetta (EUR 2.55 million) to the ex-Ringo Star, George Barris customised Chevrolet Bel Air (EUR 48,900). All of the other cars sold for over a million Euro were classic European luxury cars like a Gurney Nutting bodied Bentley 8-Litre and an Isotta Fraschini with bodywork by Ramseier. The 'Solo Alfa Romeo' sale on Saturday included many different examples from the Italian marque including rarities like an Arna. Not surprisingly, the car that attracted the most interest on day two was the TZ Alfa Romeo, which eventually sold for EUR 955,400. After two very long days Maitre
Poulain managed to sell 87% of the lots for close to EUR 30 million.
Retromobile at its best
One of the great draws of Retromobile is that visitors are almost certain to be treated to something truly special. This year was certainly no exception with several lovely barn finds but also rarely seen machinery of a more recent era. These included a pair of Mercedes-Benz CLK-LMs built in 1998. One was the sole surviving road car, while the other was the actual car that set pole position at Le Mans that year. They were shown together for the first time in Europe since 1998. Another striking pair were rivals of old, the Jaguar XJR-14 and Peugeot 905, which were joined for good measure by a Sauber-Mercedes C11.
Among the more traditional Retromobile surprises was most certainly the Ermini brought by Italian enthusiast Franco Meiners. Understood to be the very first Ermini built, it had been stored in a garage in Rome for four decades. Rarer still was the Maserati 4CLT-based Baird-Griffin. Constructed by Dennis Griffin for newspaper tycoon Bobby Baird, we were told it is the only Formula 1 car built in Ireland. Sadly, it never competed in the World Championship as the Formula 2 rules were adopted in 1952, before the car was completed.
Bucciali was one of the most intriguing manufacturers, pioneering among other things, front-wheel drive. Sadly the company has been all but forgotten as not one complete Bucciali is believed to have survived. Fortunately, several French enthusiast have now re-created one of the cars using a Cord L-29 as a basis. With its low-slung lines, the mighty machine was one of the show's most impressive cars.
As mentioned earlier, there was a special display this year for the cars of the Indian Maharadjas, who as we once again reminded, had a very particular taste. The striking machines on display included a silver Alfa Romeo RL Super Sport brought by the Museo Storico and one of just three Delahaye 135s fitted with an all-enveloping Cabriolet body by Figoni & Falaschi. On the nearby stand of the Louwman Museum, a pair of equally unusual machines were shown with an Indian theme; the Brooke Swan Car and its Cygnet.
On the other side of Hall 1, almost the entire competition history of Alpine was crammed into two small corrals. Brought by the son of company founder Jean Rédélé, Jean-Jacques and collector Hervé Charbonneaux, every iteration of the Alpine sports prototypes were on display from the original M63 through to the A441, which won the 1974 European Championship. For good measure they were also joined by an impressive line-up of production-based A110 rally cars and a Formula 3 car.
Another star attraction was the Lancia-only display created by Swiss broker Lukas Huni, which featured road going and competition cars like a Group 4 Stratos, D24 Sport and a B24S Aurelia Spyder.
Many manufacturers also bring special displays and this year Mercedes-Benz celebrated 120 years of motorsport activity, Skoda showed five rare examples including the oldest surviving of their 1935 streamliners and Renault marked the 50th anniversary of the 8 Gordini. Bentley, meanwhile, displayed the actual 1924 Le Mans-winning 3 Litre, which had been loaned for the occasion by the Le Mans Museum.
Key to the success of Retromobile are usually the cars brought by the clubs and dealers. Neither disappointed but the latter certainly were up to their best behaviour. One of the absolute highlights this year was the freshly restored Ferrari 330 P4, displayed by Franco Meiners on the back of an original racing truck. Subject of much debate in recent years, the car was first restored by David Piper from its 350 Can-Am form to a 330 P4 Spider guise, using a brand new body. Since then the car has been changed again, now to coupe form in the guise it ran at Le Mans. The work has only just been completed but we are hopeful, the achingly beautiful Ferrari will be out racing before the end of the year. Another freshly restored Ferrari was the 206 SP Dino displayed by Peter Wiesner. Amazingly, it was acquired by its current owner for just 8,000 German Marks four decades ago. In addition to the special Lancia display, Lukas Huni also had his familiar display, which this year included a striking line-up of Aston Martin competition cars; a DBR4, a DB3S and a DBR1. Gregor Fisken also impressed with a nicely varied selection that included a Jaguar D-Type and Williams Formula 1 car but also a Bugatti Type 46 and a very rare Turcat-Mery.
Retromobile once again lived up to its expectations. It was particularly comforting to see that the increase in size did not diminish the show's appeal; for once bigger really was better! Supported by three successful sales, the 2014 edition will certainly go into history as one of the most memorable. We can't wait to see how the 40th anniversary will be celebrated early in February of 2015.