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After the preview and media evening on Tuesday the halls officially opened on Wednesday morning for the
masses who flooded the three halls over the next days and according to official numbers the amount of
visitors is not short of those when the Retromobile was still held over two full weekends giving an impression
how packed the corridors were at peak times. Many high profile dealers but also special displays had many
highlights on offer for every taste. Not to forget that the Retromobile is also a main event for the scale models
collectors’ scene and with the addition of the “Village of Artists” the place to look for automobilia related art.
2017 marks the 70th anniversary of one of the most iconic brands on the market – Ferrari. Looking over the
auction results of the last year’s most of the top prices realized are by the marque with the prancing horse
and despite the fact that the classic Porsche 911 are on the rise the scene is still very much focused on the
Italian Sports Cars. Celebrating a round birthday certainly a special display of Ferrari was one of the main
attractions although for some reasons it was placed in the last hall 3 that was added to the show for the first
time and therefore not in the focus of everyone.
Although Ferrari today is more linked to Formula 1 Enzo Ferraris first creations were especially successful at
road and long distance races, early models were named after the victories at the Mille Miglia, the Tour de
France, Le Mans or Monza and maybe one of the most beautiful designs ever to grace a Ferrari represented
this early era with the 166 MM Touring Barchetta. Although Pininfarina should become the choice to cloth the
later models the first examples of the 12 cylinder engined 2-litre cars very bodied by Carrozeria Touring of
Milano just as some of the most iconic pre-war Alfa Romeo in a time when Enzo Ferrari was still team
manager of the Alfa race department. Scaglietti became the coachbuilder for a lot of racing cars like the 500
TRC on show, one of the 4-cylinder cars that should be both used in road racing or in Formula 2 just like the
500 F2 on show. After Alfa Romeo winning the championship the previous year with the Alfetta it was Alberto
Ascari to secure Ferrari its first Championship in open wheel races founding an everlasting relationship of
Ferrari and F1 to the present day. In the 1960s the GT cars became more important and the 250 GT SWB
and the Pininfarina Series 1 Cabriolet on show are two great examples. When Le Mans went towards the
prototype racers it was the 250 LM securing Ferrari the last victory at La Sarthe, the example at Paris was
the highly original example of the Schlumpf Collection in Mulhouse making one of its rare appearances
outside the museum.
But as mentioned earlier Ferrari today is more linked with Formula 1 than it is with sports car racing. Ferrari
today is the only existing team to enter a car in every season of F1 but although people all over the world
support the Scuderia the actual F1 cars rarely get the display they deserve. So it was a more than pleasant
surprise to see the booth of Methusalem Restoration of Mario Linke and classic car dealer Tradex of Franco
Meiners setting up a display of no less than 7 examples of late 1960s/early 1970s. Although this was not the
most successful era for Ferrari struggling to keep up with the Ford and Cosworth engined cars of Stewart,
Rindt and Fittipaldi the early Ferrari 312 F1 nevertheless is famous for its artfully designed
“Spaghetti”-exhaust pipes. Both chassis 017 and 019 on display were driven by Chris Amon and Pedro
Rodriguez during the 1969 season but never made it to the podium. In 1972 it was the 312 B2 that was driven
by Ickx, Regazzoni, Andretti and Merzario and the displayed chassis 008 was driven to a third place by
Regazzoni in the Spanish GP. The car was later in the famous Albert Obrist collection before being displayed
in the Ferrari Museum on a long term loan. Now the car is out of the museum and intended to be carefully
brought back to track over the next years. Also in Obrist’s collection was the B3 prototype nicknamed
“Spazzaneve” or “Snow plough” due to its form. In 1974 finally the high air box was seen in F1 and the 312B3
on show was the Regazzoni car.
Highlight of the display was another highly original car, the Ferrari 1512 F1 of 1965 driven by Surtees and
Bandini. With only 1.5 Litre displacement the 12-cylinder engine is rather fragile and a work of art. This might
be a nightmare for every scale model builder but great to look at and another car every Ferraristi cannot wait
to see being back on the Race Track prepared by the specialists of Methusalem.
Talking about filigree 1.5 litre engine brings us directly to the next special display of this year’s show. In 1927
Delage won the GP Championship with a total victory over Bugatti and Talbot with the new straight-8 twin am
1.5 litre engine. 6 cars in total were built and no less than 5 of them found their way to Paris for an
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these jewels reunited on one place including a bare chassis with the
beautiful engine. Especially two chassis are today prominent highlights of two of the best
collections/museums of their kind, chassis number one of the Collier Collection in Naples and chassis
number 6 of the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard. The first built is considered the best preserved
example still carrying its original components as well as the first body. The last chassis on the other hand
was “upgraded” in 1950 with an ERA-engine when the original failed, it was entered in time by privateers rather
than the works team just as was chassis 5 on display as raced by Prince Bira and therefore in the typical
Siam color rather than French racing blue.
Other F1 related displays could be seen at the booth of Richard Mille who brought some impressive
machinery including the two unusual 6-wheeler, the Tyrrell P34 and the less known March 2-4-0.
Less obscure from the outside but not less exotic were the other 4 F1 cars on display as they all represent a
very small species of 4wd single seaters. The Lotus 63 remained a small chapter of the otherwise very
successful Lotus history both works drivers Hill and Rindt refused to drive it in the Grand Prix as it was
difficult to set up and was not considered safe by them. The history of the other 4wd cars is even shorter as
the BRM P67 was only used once in practice by Richard Attwood and the McLaren M9A was only driven
once by Derek Bell in 1969. But even if these cars were not winners it is even more impressive that someone
puts love and money into them and present them together as a rarely seen history lesson.
When talking about the Retromobile one has to mention the high profile dealers who set up their great
selection of blue chip cars year by year for their international clientele. Whereas Gregor Fisken, JD Classic or
Axel Schütte always have a diversified selection of sports, race and luxury cars both post and prewar usually
Lukas Hüni goes a different direction. Rather than showing his current inventory he sets up a themed display
of cars he dealt in the past or who belong to very good customers who entrust him to show them in Paris.
This year’s display was dedicated to the different approach from famous marques with the “B”. On one side
Bugatti with the artificial approach of the design and on the other side the “fastest lorries in the world” (acc. To
Ettore Bugatti), the large capacity engined Bentleys.
Although many of the cars are well known on the concours circuit it certainly is a show-stopper to see a
Bugatti Atlantic (the “Holzschuh”-Car), both a T57S (c) and T57 Atalante as well as a wonderful T57 Aravis by
Gangloff. Although the Atlantic has a rather difficult past the Figoni-modified Atlantic design is certainly an
eye-catcher and one can leave it to the experts to discuss the originality of this particular car. Not far behind
in design is the T57S Atalante of the former Williamson collection where it shared a stable with the other
Atlantic that is today in the Mullin Museum (and won the recent Arizona Concours). Not less interesting was
the pack of GP cars including the T59, T54 and a highly original patinated T51/35C. One of the favorite design
of many Bugatti enthusiasts is the sports car derivate of the Type 51, the T55 Super Sports with the design of
Maybe less elegant but not less exciting are the creations of W. O. Bentley. At the end of the 1920s the 4-
and 6-cylinder cars from Cricklewood dominated Le Mans and all the key models were lined up, a typical VdP
bodied 3 Litre Speed Model as well as a 4 ½ Litre Tourer, one of the original 50 Bentley Blowers built, the
Speed Six “Old Number Two” as raced at Le Mans as well as the late 8 Litre Tourer of Woolf Barnato himself,
Bentley Boy and longtime financier of the company.
To talk about all the other special cars on display would break the mold but one has to mention the Aston
Martin display of the David Brown Era including one of the famous James Bond DB5 as well as the jubilee of
the Rally Group B cars as shown between hall 1 and 2.
The Retromobile 2017 was again well worth a visit and certainly the most interesting of the indoor shows but
one cannot overlook that it develops in a more commercial direction as well. More and more car dealers are
packing their booth with cars as one is used from the Techno Classica and the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL is
represented by no less than 4 different companies alone. This might be a good development for some but on
the other side the Retromobile is losing a little bit of its French charm. A good example is the repositioning of
the club stands into hall 3 at the end of the display. One might argue that they are together now as are the
artists but unfortunately the hall 3 was the least frequented of them all and the loosening up element in
between the high money cars was missing.
Still it was a great show and with no less than three auctions to visit during the week it was worth the travel.
The date for the 2018 edition is already set running from the 7th-11th of February, for more information please
Report ... Peter Singhof
Images ... Peter & Wolfgang Singhof