The annual Retromobile Show, hosted by the Porte des Versailles exposition centre, is traditionally one of the highlights on the classic car calendar. Particularly among in-door events, there are few that can rival the Paris show for quality. With relatively little room available and strong competition, the exhibitors are forced to bring their very best cars, and they usually do. What really gives the event its character are the separating walls between the booths, which prevent visitors from looking too far ahead; there can be a surprise around every corner. Among the exhibitors are many of the world's leading dealers but also clubs, manufacturers and numerous vendors of related products ranging from books to spare parts. In addition to the official auction hosted by Artcurial
, Retromobile also attracted sales from RM Sotheby's
As always, we have tried to look around every corner and have returned with this 210-shot gallery
, which complements the three auction galleries.
RM Sotheby's Paris Sale
On Wednesday evening, RM Sotheby's kicked off the four-day auction marathon with a sale staged in front of the Palais d'Invalides in the centre of Paris. With just over 60 lots consigned, it was a relatively modest auction and there were no clear stars. At the end of the evening 81% of the lots had changed hands with a turn-over of just over 19 million Euro. The most expensive car in the sale was a beautiful Series 2 Ferrari 400 Superamerica that just failed to break the 3 million Euro mark. Even more impressive was the result for the early Porsche 550 Spyder, which exceeded its top estimate with a final selling price of 2.7 million Euro. The auction included three of Ferrari's iconic supercars with the F40 and F50 selling at around the bottom estimate, while an Enzo that had been virtually rebuilt from scratch by Ferrari after a massive accident did well to sell for 1.5 million Euro. Among the lots that failed to sell were fine examples of the Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Villa d'Este Coupe and TZ.
Bonhams' Les Grandes Marques du Monde au Grand Palais
Across the river Seine from RM Sotheby's location, and inside the iconic Grand Palais building, Bonhams held their annual Les Grandes Marques
sale. The packed catalog also featured a fine selection of motorcycles but our focus was on the 130+ cars consigned to the sale. As with the RM Sotheby's auction, there were no absolute highlights that really stood out but the sale was headlined by a Ferrari 275 GTB that was offered at no reserve. Although finished in a beautiful blue colour, it failed to attract the expected interest and sold for 2 million Euro, which was well short of the bottom estimate. Another star car, the very rare Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR road car also did not live up to expectations as bids fell short of the reserve. What was very impressive was the line up of V12-engined Ferrari Grand Tourers from the early 1980s straight to the end of the 1990s, and all in red. Bidders had the choice of every Testarossa variant and could also choose between a pair of 550 Maranellos. After a long day in the Grand Palais the combined automobile sales were good for just over 12 million Euro.
Artcurial Retromobile Auction
There was no shortage of star cars at Artcurial's official, two-day Retromobile Auction. The absolute headliner was the Ferrari 335 S consigned by the estate of legendary collector Pierre Bardinon. His Mas du Clos collection was one of the greatest ever and the spectacular quad-cam V12 engined Ferrari was among its best members. The pre-sale estimate was a startling 28-32 million Euro and following an opening bid of 20 million Euro, the interested parties ensured that the sale lived up to expectations. All in, the 335 S changed hands for 32.1 million Euro, which, with the current exchange rates, is a world record for a car sold at auction in Euros and also Pounds Sterling. The record-breaking auction had a grand total of 56.1 million Euro with around 80% of the lots sold. Among them was a rare 1903 Moonbeam yacht that sold for 1.1 million Euro and also a unique Ferrari Testarossa Spider built for Gianni Agnelli, which shot by its top estimate at 1.2 million Euro. The second day was dedicated to the Citroen collection of Andre Trogano, which saw 99% of the lots sell and included a 172,800 Euro world record for the rare, twin-engined 2 CV Sahara.
Not your average motor show
Not only do the exhibitors try their very best, the Retromobile organisers also work hard to present the visitors with something interesting on special displays. One of these was filled with highly unusual prototypes for city cars. These included several oval shaped machines like the Pininfarina PFX and the l'Alamagny, which looked like it had two noses. Talented French designer Philippe Charbonneaux was also honoured with a display of some of his most famous creations like the Delahaye 235 Coupe that was built by Italian company Motto and a striking Barchetta based on Salmson 2300 S underpinnings. The Retromobile organisers also invited the spectacular Fiat S.76 'Beast of Turin' and the equally impressive Darracq V8 from the UK. The cars were conveniently lined up near the exit so they could be pushed out and started up to entertain the crowds. On the bridge connecting the two halls, Le Mans organisers, the ACO, celebrated their 110th birthday with a special display that included iconic cars from the Le Mans museum and also a reconstruction of their first office.
A surprise around every corner
What we like best about Retromobile is that there can be a surprise around every corner. One of the best this year was neatly presented by Dutch dealer Fine Automobiles; a rarely seen Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Coupe. It has been in the same collection for over 40 years and could very well come to the market. We do understand the owner's hesitance to part with his fabulous machine. Of an altogether different magnitude yet even rare was the BMW V12 LM brought by KW Autos. One of two works cars built for the 1998 Le Mans, it is the only one that has survived in its original configuration. Sold to a privateer, it was raced at Le Mans again in 1999, when it placed fifth and in 2000. Not used since, it was presented in a time-warp condition on behalf of the original owner, who also still owns an extensive spares package that literally includes everything except a spare tub. Having benefited from a sympathetic restoration by Swiss specialists Burgol, the Ford F3L brought by the Ascott Collection was easily one of the prettiest machines on display. Another striking machine was the ex-Kris Nissen Alfa Romeo 155 V6 TI DTM racer shown by Tradex. The owner explained that the highly sophisticated machine was fantastic to drive thanks to the trick ABS and all-wheel drive systems.
Porsches take centre stage
While a Ferrari may dominate all the 2016 Retromobile headlines, Porsches also featured strongly. Not just one but an eclectic mix brought by various dealers and the Porsche Museum. From the latter came the unique 718 W-RS, which was raced so extensively during the first half of the 1960s that Porsche mechanics nicknamed it 'Grandmother'. It was presented to mark the introduction of the new four-cylinder engined 718 Boxster and Cayman ranges. British dealer Fiskens brought three fine Porsches, including the second ever 356 GTL Abarth, finished in French racing colours. Tucked away in one corner of Gregor Fisken's display was a 934 that had been preserved in its original configuration, while on the other side a Richard Lloyd built Porsche 962C was shown, which had been raced at Le Mans by Derek Bell, Justin Bell and Tiff Needell. Perhaps our absolute favourite car on display was a highly original Porsche 904 that was displayed by German trader Axel Schuette. Delivered to Jim Hall of Chaparral fame, it was not raced in period but its sophisticated fibreglass body may have been carefully examined by members of the American automobile industry.
Retromobile rarely fails to impress and 2016 certainly was not one of these occasions. The buzz of the record-breaking Bardinon Ferrari combined with the many fabulous displays make it an edition to remember. In our 210-shot gallery
, you can see all of the highlights mentioned above and many more, ranging from a full-size, ready-to-build 'Airfix' Jaguar E-Type to a russion T34 tank.