It is said that it is possible to describe a nation by the cars it produces and the same could be said for the classic car shows they present. From the moment you walk into the door of Retromobile you can tell you are entering an exhibition of something a little different – a little French.
The show has become a great and established forum for meeting all those old friends and acquaintances you had forgotten to contact/send a Christmas card to, over the winter break and I think it would be fair to say that, without the dealers glittering stands, the event would be seriously marginalised.
Gregor Fisken had a lovely Ferrari 275 GTB in an interesting solid shade of Rosso Rubino and sitting on alloy wheels not wires. Maseratis were also to the fore with an ex Musso A6GCS and the Benoit Musy 300S. Looking back to earlier years was an ultra-rare barn-find Squire, whilst the ex Peter Sutcliffe GT40 fronted the show.
Next, Hall and Hall came with such rich fare it was almost enough for indigestion with Alfa P3, Vanwall, Alfa TZ2, Osca and the Drogo 250 GT Ferrari last seen at the Goodwood Revival. For me though, the car of the day on the stand was the ex Bonnier ’66 Cooper Maserati T81.
Lukas Huni came complete with a set of Ferraris that were enough to temporarily reduce the ability of any self-respecting Prancing Horse fan to communicate with his fellows. Special cut-down Dino 206S as used at Mugello (the proper circuit), Targa Florio and hillclimbs; GP Super Squalo as raced by Martin Stretton a few years back, 750 Monza and 250 Europa, you name it, he had it, plus the added attraction of pre-war Alfa and Bugatti.
A Lancia D50, along with three of its very close contemporaries, sat on a stand that, if you looked upwards far enough, apparently represented the GP cars driven by Fangio. Included were Mercedes W196, Maserati 250F and Alfetta 159. Certainly enough to keep most happy but, in that quirky Retromobile fashion, the stand seemed to be somehow isolated and peculiarly unexpected.
Perhaps the greatest surprise and certainly one of the most impressive stands, was the Rofgo Gulf Collection. One man has been lucky enough to be able to assemble the definitive set of Gulf-sponsored racing cars from the original GT40-based Mirage of 1967, through to the almost contemporary LMES Lola Aston Martin. On the stand, the route between these two ran through Brabham BT26, Porsches 908 and 917, Kremer K8, GT40 and CanAm Mclaren M20 amongst others. The whole collection is under the supervision of Adrian Hamilton and this was his first opportunity to publicise what must be one of the most exciting groupings of historic motor racing vehicles for some time.
Other typical Retromobile oddities were an ex Monte Carlo Rally Facel Vega Facellia complete with Facel motor instead of Volvo, a 1950s race car transporter in semi-derelict condition that carrossiers Lecoq were planning on restoring and a great collection of disparate 4CV sports-prototypes based on Panhard and Renault components. At various other points, a Ferrari 857, 250 GT SWB and other examples cropped up almost at random while a nice 250 GTE sold well in the Artcurial auction sale on the Friday.
In addition to the vast array of automobilia available, it was whilst I was wandering through all this that one not-so-small item caught my eye. Sitting looking rather forlorn, amidst a selection of various automotive artifacts, in one corner of an at-the-time deserted stand, was a late 1980s Ligier JS31 Formula One car.
It is this ‘vive la difference’ of the show which is such a major attraction, if you’ve never been, make sure you don’t miss next year’s.
It has been traditional, for many years, for Retromobile to be accompanied by a quality auction of historic and classic cars and ephemera. In the immediate past this has been held by Bonhams but they moved their sale to the Grand Palais on the Saturday leaving the slot at the show free. This was taken up by Paris-based Artcurial and they held their event on the Friday with some very interesting results. Perhaps the most staggering of these was the sale of a Lancia 037 Stradale for over double bottom estimate at Euro 222k.
Automobilia main attractions were two Geo Ham originals. The first was the Pilote Bleu, which was estimated at Euro 30k and bidding eventually stopped to produce a breathless 145k. The second took, in comparison, an almost inconsequential Euro 70k, until you noticed that estimate was 20k.
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