Held for the 40th time this year, the annual Retromobile Show is traditionally the kick-off of the new automotive season. As much a social event as it is a car event, Retromobile attracts enthusiasts from around the world to the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles. There have been some changes in recent years, in particular an increase in the floor space available to the exhibitors, but the event has not lost much of its charm. Where else in the world would you see the only running King Tiger tank in the world lined up alongside three Royale Bugattis? As an added attraction, three major auction houses also stage sales in Paris during Retromobile. While local company Artcurial Motorcars is the official Retromobile auctioneer, Bonhams and RM Auctions were located elsewhere in Paris.
As always, we ventured to Paris to capture the Retromobile show as was as the three auctions. The result is this 230-shot gallery
from the show itself and these separate galleries from RM Auctions
and Artcurial Motorcars
RM Auctions Paris Sale
Relatively new to the Paris scene, RM Auctions was present during the Retromobile week for the second time. The Canadian auctioneer had once again used the tents setup on the Place Vauban for the Festival Automobile International a few days earlier. On offer was an eclectic mix of sports cars and competition machinery from all ages. While some of the top lots failed to attract bids high enough to meet the reserve, the sale was still an improvement compared to last year with a turn-over of just over EUR 19 million. The top seller was a bright red Ferrari 250 GT Lusso, which sold for EUR 1.6 million. Another impressive result was EUR 1 million for a beautifully restored Iso Grifo A3/C Stradale and EUR 1.4 million for an equally well presented Porsche 904 GTS. We were particularly taken by the one-owner Lancia 037 Stradale in the sale, which had covered less than 14,000 km and sold for well over the top estimate at EUR 336.000. Another favourite was the lavishly appointed Voisin C3, which found a new owner for EUR 212.800. At the end of the day 82% found a new owner at an average price of EUR 333.000.
Bonhams Les Grandes Marques du Monde au Grand Palais
For several years now, Bonhams holds their annual Paris sale in the historic Grand Palais, just across the Seine from RM's location. The striking building used to house the Paris Auto Salon and some of the cars listed in Bonhams' inch-thick catalog had already had their day in the sun at the Grand Palais. Close to 150 cars crossed the block during the long sale on Thursday afternoon. These ranged from very early horseless carriages right through to modern machines like a Ferrari FXX Evoluzione. Attracting the highest bid was an Aston Martin DB5 Convertible. One of just 123 built, it found a new owner for a world record breaking EUR 1.9 million. Another top seller was the James Young bodied Alfa Romeo 6C 1750, which changed hands for close to EUR 1.2 million. Far exceeding the expectations was a rare unmolested AC Shelby Cobra, once owned by Amschel Rothschild, which sold for EUR 937,250. After the 145th motor car was hammered off, Bonhams had sold 76% of the cars on offer for just shy of EUR 21.5 million.
Artcurial Motorcars a Retromobile
Certainly the most highly anticipated of the three auctions was the Artcurial Motorcars sale on Friday afternoon as it included the spectacular Baillon barn-find collection. Presented in a dark room, the 59 cars, many fallen victim to rust due to many years of neglect, provided mixed feelings. At least for us, as bidders seemed to see only the appeal of these machines and most sold for well over their top estimate. One of the more baffling results was EUR 1.7 million for a Saoutchik-bodied Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport. Although once a show stopper, it had not only been exposed to the elements for decades, it had also suffered from substantial accident damage. As one observer noted, the bidders were basically buying a hole to shovel more money into. Topping the sale, was the Ferrari 250 GT SWB California once owned by actor Alain Delon and been acquired by Roger Baillon in the late 1960s. It sold for a staggering EUR 16.3 million, setting a new world record for the type and also making it the most expensive car ever sold at auction in France. After the Baillon collection cars had sold, part 2 of the sale included many more highlights, making this by far the most successful car auction in France ever. At the end of the evening EUR 46 million worth of cars had changed hands.
One corner of the Paris Expo Portes de Versailles was reserved for a fabulous collection of over a dozen Pegasos. Built in Spain throughout the 1950s, the Pegaso Z102 was an engineering work of art. Responsible for the design was Wilfredo Ricart, who had previously worked for Alfa Romeo and perhaps brought some of his design with him to create the Pegaso, as it was conceived in a remarkably short time. The car was powered by a quad-cam V8, which was available in various sizes and states of tune. Most examples were bodied by Touring with a very elegant Coupe body, while Saoutchik also clothed several examples as did the factory. Constructed mainly by students, the build quality was an issue and is one of the reasons the cars are today so difficult and expensive to restore. A simple valve adjustment requires the entire engine to be removed as the bottom valve covers nearly touch the front fenders. Despite these issues, the Z102 is highly sought after. Among the cars on display at Retromobile was the unique Touring 'Thrill' and one of the two Le Mans Spiders. Displayed elsewhere in the Paris Expo on the stand of a Spanish dealer was the oldest surviving Pegaso, fitted with a Coupe body crafted in-house.
Another area of the exhibition centre was reserved for a selection from the Lopresto Collection. Carefully assembled over many years by Corrado Lopresto, the collection consists of Italian cars meeting one of these three criteria; a one-off show car, the very first example of a production model or a special coachwork car. A regular entrant (and winner) of concours d'elegance, many of the cars brought by Lopresto were familiar but they rarely fail to impress. Among his personal favourites are the Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Bertone Coupe designed by Mario Revelli di Beaumont and the unique Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider Prototipo, also bodied by Bertone but this time with a design penned by Franco Scaglione. Lancias were also well represented and ranged from the striking Florida show car with suicide doors to the Stratos-based Sibilo, which had originally been shown at the 1978 Turin Motor Show. Even more unusual was the Autobianchi A112 Giovani created by Pininfarina in 1973. This small off-roader used the underpinnings of the Abarth-tuned A112 Autobianchi.
Perhaps most in keeping with the original spirit of Retromobile, when it was never certain if a car displayed was for sale or not, was the display of Swiss dealer Lukas Huni. He had brought a superb collection of competition Talbot Lago T26s and Bugattis, none of which were officially for sale. That was quite a contrast with the equally superb line-up on the Fiskens stand, which were certainly all available. The lovely range of machines ranged from the unique Delage Bequet to an ex-works Porsche 911 Carrera RSR. Two V8-engined Maseratis also grabbed our attention; the Frua-bodied 5000 GT once owned by Ali Khan and a one-off Frua-bodied prototype of what would become the Mexico. Another interesting machine on display was the Porsche 904 GTS originally delivered to Stirling Moss Automobile Racing Team (SMART) and finished in light metallic green with British Racing Green wheels. As mentioned above, there were no fewer than three Bugatti Type 41 Royales on display. These are the ones that are part of the former Schlumpf collection and were brought out to mark the 40th edition of Retromobile.
Although Retromobile has changed and crucially has grown over the years, the unique charm of the event has not been lost. Open slightly earlier this year, the event once again attracted thousands of spectators, who were treated to a fabulous selection of cars and other automobilia. The real story of the event, however, was Artcurial's auction of the Baillon Collection, which beat even the most optimistic expectations and by quite a margin. It will be very interesting to see when and in what condition the cars will reappear.