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Paris, 8th -12th of February, 2016

Once again early in February the Collectors Car World had its epicenter in Paris for the annual Retromobile. Indisputable the best trade show for classic cars in the world this year’s edition got a lot of publicity by the sale of the Ferrari 335S at the official salon auction house Artcurial. One year after the fabled Baillon-Collection Sale the local hero secured another highlight for their flagship sale and with its record sale it did not fail to meet expectations. Many visitors might have come to Paris purely to see this car but they and all the others were awarded with a spectacular line-up of cars of all eras in the two main halls of the Parc d´Exposition at the Porte de Versaille.

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Although the tourism of French capitol struggled a little bit in the past few week after the attack in November as seen in by a bigger free hotel capacity than usual the show was very well visited not only by the major collectors who could be already seen on the preview and media day but also by the masses resulting in very crowded halls during the following days. As usual the space in the exhibition was very well filled with car traders, artists, book stores and not to forget scale model builders for whom this is the major event of the entire year. Special exhibitions organized by the Salon itself attracted early horseless carriage, small egg-shelled visionary city cars, a display for the Le Mans organizing ACO (Autmomobile Club d´Ouest) celebrating their 110th anniversary and the collection of a Lady (Julia de Baldanza).

But certainly the main attractions were again the extraordinaire booths of the major dealers, this year especially Lukas Hüni, Gregor Fisken, Axel Schütte, Tradex and for the first time Steve Tillack. One year after bringing two Pegaso to last year’s special display Tillack seemed to be convinced to set up an own booth with his racing Ferrari and Lancia headlined by the 1952 Mille Miglia winning one-off Ferrari 250 S Vignale Coupé (0156ET) that seems to be on the market for quite a while with a massive price tag from the late Lorenzo Zambrano collection. From the same stable came the 2nd overall winning Ferrari 212 Inter Vignale (0161EL) of the 1951 Carrera Panamericana represented in its original livery. Although replicas the Ferrari Dino 246 F1 and the Lancia D24 and D50 next to the Ferrari are the best possibilities to experience those racers at speed as almost nothing original of these types survived and all three cars were seen at Goodwood in previous years showing their eligibility for those events.

Just around the corner of the MM winning 250S of Bracco was the Ferrari 225 S (0152ET) at Laurent Auxietres booth as raced to a class victory in the very same race by Brivio. Formerly at the Gnutti collection it was one of several cars of this former collection that was seen in Paris and benefited from a recent restoration back to the MM configuration including the typical three-digit starting number.

Just next to Tillack was the booth of Franco Meiners and Mario Linke showing further race cars from the 50s and 60s. Very interesting was the comparison between the Zagato design on the earlier Maserati A6 and the later A6 G54 chassis with very different proportions. Even more sportive were the trio of long distance racers from France, Germany and Italy named Alpine 220, Porsche 907 and Ferrari 512 S. In contrast to the sports cars two single seaters from Maranello were present, the 312 B3 and the famous 312 F1 with his “spaghetti exhaust pipes”.

A little bit more diversified was the display of Lukas Hüni who again presented a nice cross section of the type of cars he is dealing with rather than a sole sales booth as few of the exhibited cars are currently for sale. But the cars clearly show the quality of collectors he is working with and most of them could be seen at some point at his booth having a chat and a coffee. Hüni might have had the best pre-war car display with all the big names ranging from Mercedes, Bugatti to Alfa Romeo. No less than three cars from Molsheim were present to please the French public with most likely the most filigree pre-war GP car, the Type 59. Raced by Dreyfus during the 1934 season it won the Belgium GP in Spa. But Bugatti was not only famous for their race cars but especially for the elegant road cars based on the finest technology available just like the T55 that clothes the Type 54 GP chassis with a wonderful Jean Bugatti design both available as roadster (as present in Paris) and even rarer coupé. After the Silver Arrows of Mercedes and Auto Union took over the GP scene Bugatti produced one of its most iconic road model, the Type 57. The T57 S(C) Atalante of the late Dr. Williamson collection is certainly the second best possible option on this chassis behind the Atlantic he shared home with back then.

As iconic as the T57 chassis is without doubt the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 that suited in different configuration a wide range of purposes including the GP racing Monza’s, the Mille Miglia winning Touring and Zagato Spiders or this very late example of the third series bodied by Figoni. It was brought over all the way from the US so that the French visitors could have a rare look at the car coach built just a few miles away.

Almost coarse in comparison was the Mercedes-Benz 680S, although also clothed by French elegance of Saoutchik. Only a handful of these Ferdinand Porsche designed supercharged straight-six got a French body and a sister car just won Pebble Beach a few years ago.

But Hüni did not only display pre-war cars but on the podium in the middle of the booth was a superb selection of 1950s sports cars led by the preserved Jaguar D-Type that won the preservation class in Pebble Beach last years. After the dominance of the D-Type came to an end, the XKSS was sold as road legal variation. Last but not least on the podium was the 1955 Aston Martin DB3S.

Usually in a close battle for the most impressive booth in Paris is London based Gregor Fisken. Unlike Hüni the booth represents very much the current inventory of the show room making this selection even more impressive. Spanning several decades ranging from the wonderful Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Figoni Cabriolet to the Porsche 962C the display included several iconic examples of the different makes. One of the show stoppers was without doubt the beautiful black-white little Alfa that was displayed very prominently at the corner of the booth. Opposite of it was the ex-Briggs Cunningham raced Jaguar E-Type semi-lightweight as seen at the Scottish Holyrood concours last September. Right at the entrance was the Porsche 356 Abarth GTL proudly wearing the French racing colors and the Tricolore as used in Le Mans 1961 were the car failed to finish.

Four Ferrari were present on the booth, ranging from the 166 Dino Tasman F2 racer, a 512 BB Competizione as raced by the Ecurie Francorchamps and the last true Sports Racer of the Enzo era, the 512 M. Most notable was the very rare 365 California Spyder that shares it small production number with the high valued 250 GT series. Maybe not as pretty in its shape it is still a very interesting car and is now presented in its original color.

Showing the sportive genes of Alfa Romeo was the 6C 2500 SS Competizione and the long tail T33/2 Le Mans.

They were certainly much more notable cars in Paris, just to be mentioned are the brutish Bentley 8 Litre VdP Tourer with its huge exhaust pipe at Axel Schütte´s booth but star of the show was without doubt the Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Touring Berlinetta at Jack Braam Rubens display. Being in a Dutch collection for 4 decades now it made one of its very rare appearances in public and was admired by a lot of visitors. Just one of five Touring Berlinetta on the long chassis its older restoration and originality in details contrasted the Pebble Beach (winning) restorations of the other examples, two of them were seen earlier in January at the Cavallino Classic.

A personal favorite of the show was another Coupé, the 1930 Aston Martin International “Headlam” Coupé (chassis S44) built for its first owner by E. Bertelli. Maybe not that much in the focus due to the underestimated Aston Martin pre-war history it shares some of the lines of the later Alfa Romeo 8C Coupé by Touring, certainly one of the finest coupé in history. Restored to its former glory by Aston Martin Club registrar and pre-war specialists Jim & Bruce Young it since changed hands and was part of the De Baldanza display alongside “Lydia”, the Bugatti T40 Fiacre bodied by a young Jean Bugatti for his sister Lidia.

Once again the Retromobile did not disappoint at all. Certainly the show also reflects the market and when the Retromobile was very well known for its variations in French coach built pre-war cars most of the exhibits were more of the popular 1950/60s with a focus on Ferrari. This was not only visible in the halls but also in the different auctions were only few Bugatti/Delahaye/Delage were on offer, it seems that a new generation of collectors is more interested in the driving machines of the 1960s and the young timer rather than the flamboyant curves of Figoni & Falaschi.

With just a couple of days after the Scottsdale auctions people were curious in observing the market in Europe after unexpected results overseas. It looks like people are getting more picky and cars in the 1-3 Million Euro range have to be in extraordinary condition to attract buyers. With 6 auctions within two weeks (taking Barrett-Jackson as a separate story) it also becomes more difficult to attract superb examples for every auction.

Report & Images … Peter Singhof

Related Material
... Download List of displayed Ferraris with chassis numbers (.docx format) >>>

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