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2003 Retromobile
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This weekend Paris was the host of two prestigious historic automotive events. On Friday, both events opened their doors to the public at exactly the same time. The Parc des Expositions housed the 28th edition of Retromobile, which included a Christie's auction. On the other side of Paris the Palais des Congres was the scene of an auction of over 30 Mercedes Benz automobiles originating from one collection. To provide you with an perfect impression of these great events we compiled a report and slideshows of both Retromobile and the Meyer Mercedes Benz Collection.

Retromobile / Christie's auction
Click here to open the slideshowAs always Retromobile offered a wide variety of vehicles, ranging from record breakers of the first half of the century to the BMW Z4 and the recent Rallye Monte Carlo winning Citroen Xsara. The four star-cars were brought over from the British Beaulieu Museum. These record breakers were lined up down the centre line of the hall. Only 38 years seperates the four, but the performance difference is tremendous. Built in 1922 the Sunbeam 350hp was, as its name suggests, good for 350bhp and a top speed of just over 235 km/h. No longer powered by a piston engine, the jet-powered Bleubird CN7 Proteus was good for 4500bhp and a top speed of close to 650 km/h.

The record breakers were surrounded by stands of many manufacturers, clubs and merchants. Each and everyone of them brought out the best cars they had to offer, with high-speed as common factor. As can be expected the French manufacturers were featured prominently, with Citroen as clear highlight. Alongside Sebastian Loeb's Monte Carlo winning Xsara, a series of off road Citroens was lined up. Making its debut in Europe was a highly modified Citroen SM, which recorded a speed of over 200 mph on the Bonneville Salt flats. Today it's still the world record holder for sub 3-litre engined cars!

Both Alfa Romeo and Ferrari / Maserati brought out some very interesting motors. Star of the Alfa Romeo stand was the 'Bimotore'. Which is powered by not one, but two engines. On is mounted in front of the driver and one behind, both power the rear wheels. A setup that was good for 540 bhp shredding up the rear tires, when the tires did last it managed a top speed of 325 km/h. On the Ferrari / Maserati stand a higly original 250 TR resided. It looked completely untouched since it last raced in 1961 and took many visitor's breath away.

The French Corvette Club celebrated the 'Vette's 50th birthday and lined up one of each of the five models produced. They ranged from one of the very first Corvette C1s to this year's 50th Anniversary model. Jet engined cars today hold almost all top-speed records, the very first one was set in 1952 by the Rover Jet 1. It recorded a top speed in Jabbeke, Belgium of 245 km/h, with the turbine spinning at 40,000 rpm.

Not all of the displayed vehicles were about speed alone. The clubs and merchants brought out some of the most exquisite looking examples. Clear highlight was a Talbot Lago T150SS, fitted with a Figoni & Falashi designed 'Teardrop' coupe body. Swiss merchant, Lukas Huni displayed a very fine example of a Series 1 Ferrari 250 GT Pininfarina Cabriolet. A rare and pleasant sight was a Cord L29, one of the world's first front wheel driven cars.

Heart of the Christie's auction was formed by the estate of Alfred H. Heineken, who passed away last year. His collection included a wide variety of Rolls Royces, Bentleys and various American vehicles. Other highlights included a very rare Pininfarina bodied Alfa Romeo 6C 2500, three Bugatti EB110 prototypes, the 1958 and 1959 Mille Miglia winning Ferrari 250 GT TdF and the 1928 Targa Florio winning Bugatti Type 35B. Highest price was offered for a 1932 Bugatti Type 55 SS, the ex-Le Mans racer sold for 1,680,250.

Poulain le Fur Mercedes Benz auction
Click here to open the slideshowOver 30 cars, mostly Mercedes Benz, filled the halls of the Palais de Congres. Interestingly, all of them originated from one collection. This private collection was formed by German industrialist Rolf Meyer in the last 20-30 years. He strived to collect examples that had a special history, the list of previous owners of his cars include Clark Gable, Cher and Marechal Tito. To house his collection Meyer purchased an old bowling alley and turned it into his private museum. Rarely opened for the public, most people only got a chance to see Meyer's cars when he campaigned them in historic events. He modified various cars to race in events like the historic Paris - Peking rally and the historic Carrera Panamericana. In 2001 he had a fatal accident in a 300 SL Coupe, doing what he liked best, racing!

All cars of the Meyer collection were in pristine collection, carefully maintained by his private mechanic. The auction was the chance for the enthusiast to purchase the perfect example on a wide variety of Mercedes Benz models, ranging from a 1914 Benz 8/20 Torpedo to a 1992 300 SL Coupe replica. Most of the cars were lined up in the main halls of the first floor of the Palais de Congres, the three star cars could be found in a seperate hall and a mint 500 K Cabriolet was present on the Poulain le Fur stand at Retromobile.

The three cars set up in the seperate room were a 1929 Mercedes Benz SSK, a 1930 Mercedes Benz 27/170/225 PS 710SS and a 1935 Mercedes Benz 500 K. The SSK offered is a competition version of which only 16 (half of the entire SSK production) were built between 1928 and 1934. It was campaigned extensively by Argentinian racing driver Carlos Zatuszek. British coachbuilder Thrupp and Maberly were responsible for the body found on the 710 SS offered. After a thorough restoration Meyer showed his 710 SS to the public at the Monte Carlo Concours d'Elegance. The 500 K was shown at Monte Carlo as well in 1996 and its meticulous restoration was duly rewarded. H.J. Mulliner of Great Britain penned out the body for this glorious machine.

Rolf Meyer did not only collect Mercedes Benzes; his collection also included two Horchs, a Volkswagen and a BMW Dixi. Especially one of the Horchs in his collection deserves a closer inspection. This multiple concours d'elegance winning 1934 Horch 710 Spezial Roadster features a body designed by coachbuilders Reinbolt & Christe. In elegance this swooping body is only matched by later designs of coachbuilders like Figoni & Falashi. However, the graceful body does not only impress by its overal lines but it excells in details as well.

His collection also included two very striking replicas. The first one was a semi-finished 300 SL based 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe replica. The lot included the partly finished car, a series of moldes and drawings to reconstruct the SLR straight 8 engine. The second is a 300 SL Coupe replica, built in 1992 by Gullwing Cars. It uses a modern straight six engine but closely follows the classic 'gullwing'
lines. Other highlights included two 300 SL roadsters, various 300 Sc Coupes and Cabriolets and a 600 Landaulet.

As expected the perfect cars fetched top prizes at the Sunday evening auction. The ex-Zatuszek competition SSK changed hands for an incredible 3,082,488. It was followed on considerable distance by the 500 K on show at Retromobile ( 921 660) and the 710 SS ( 843 288).

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Mercedes-Benz 710 SSK 27/170/225 hp Rennwagen 19 Number of shots
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Mercedes-Benz 710 SS 27/170/225 hp Cabriolet A 6 Number of shots
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Report and images by Wouter Melissen.