Bonjour Paris – Retromobile 2019

BONJOUR PARIS. RETROMOBILE PARIS.

It has been quite a while since I last have been to Paris – widely known as the city of love and romance. However, in the second week of February the center of affection rather than couples, were classic cars and motorcycles displayed in the Expo Center at Palais Porte de Versailles. This year’s rendez-vous with vintage automobiles got a staggering number of more than 132 thousand automotive enthusiasts coming from all around the World. This has made 2019 edition the biggest to-date, beating the 2016 record, when the famous Baillon collection went on sale. For me, it was the first Retromobile and I was super excited about my three-days trip to Paris.

OVERWHELMING AREA, FILLED WITH AUTOMOTIVE GEMS

There is no debate about the size of the expo – the show was massive and there was lots to be seen. If you only had one day to see it, there is no way you would be able to cover it all and enjoy it. I spent two-and-a-half days, early morning to closing time and even then I feel like it has been quite a rush for me.

There were three halls in total. The first one showed the most exciting cars and you could expect to see all the big brands here. To complement that, there was a section devoted to automotive arts, one to miniatures and models and another for books, publications and journals. Second hall was set on two levels. The first story was an extraordinary mix – with cars, car parts, models and automotive clothing, wrapped up at the very end by a large exhibition of Artcurial Auctions. Taking the escalator down, however, one was teleported to the exciting world of car auctions, opened for few hours a day, when the bidding was on.

Third hall was the least exciting, mostly filled with car parts, clothing and classics for sale priced under twenty-five thousand Euros. As you probably can imagine now – the entire show truly was huge. But the most breathtaking were the exhibits, and whilst I am sure I will not be able to cover them all, I will try to summarize what appealed to me the most.

LAMBORGHINI POLO STORICO, BUGATTI AND BMW CLASSIC

Ever since Lamborghini started nut and bolt restoration of their classic cars, period-correct, vintage Lambos were leaving their original factory as brand new… just for the second time. Presented on their stand this year was an incredible Miura P400 SV in Rosso Corsa, golden lower band and black interior. Bearing a chassis number 3673 it has an interesting story behind it. Being one of 143 SVs ever produced, it was built in 1972 on a chassis of a ‘regular’ S version, after the original had crashed back in 1968. Judging by the quality of the craftsmanship, its new owner – current FIA president Jean Todt – should be over the moon.

As Bugatti are celebrating their 110th anniversary this year, they decided to bring something special for the fairs in Paris. What better way is there to celebrate such a milestone, than showcasing alike and contradictory at the same time 1932 Bugatti Type 55 and 1994 Bugatti EB110 GT? Both looked incredible and each model contributed to the brand’s history and years-long tradition. Type 55 was produced only in 38 pieces and back in the days, was able to run as fast as 180kmph. And the latter? It was the first time for me to see the EB110 live and whilst there were three at the Retromobile, this one was doubtlessly the most exciting. Probably as much as it is to go 351kmph in the EB110 Super Sport version.

BMW Classic, in comparison to the two above, had much bigger stand. However, all the exhibits were nicely split into sections, each thought-through and tasteful. There was one underlining the company’s involvement in the one-and-only Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este and consisted of a BMW 507 and… a 507 motorboat. What a stunning combination. On the other hand, there was the new 8-series and the Z4, right next to a sliding-door Z1, which made everyone ever more curious. What appealed to me most, was the BMW Motorsport section, with a jaw-dropping BMW 320 Group 5 and a M1 Pro Car. If you cannot believe me – just look at these photos!

FISKENS CARS AND GIRARDO AND CO.

Both Fiskens Cars and Girardo & Co. brought a set of truly amazing automobiles. To me, their stands were quite similar to each other, not to mention located on the other sides of the same alley.

Fiskens absolutely killed it with the diversity of the exhibits, almost all of which appealed to me. How can one not enjoy a 1969 BMW 3.0CSL ‘Batmobile’ in a Jägermeister livery, placed right next to a 1935 Bentley 3.5L Vanden Plas Tourer? But there was much more to that, for example a great set of three Ferraris. With the trio out there, one could satisfy all the Prancing Horse needs. There was a stunning convertible, in form of a 1958 Ferrari 250GT LWB California Spyder, complemented with a 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/6C Berlinetta Scaglietti – serving for a perfect gran turismo and possibly best 275 of the show. Oh, and if you needed something for the track day, they have got it covered, too – just get their 1972 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Competizione!

All of these cars have great history, but there was one more racing beast out there – a 1955 HWM Jaguar. Widely known in the racing circle, it took part in the Mille Miglia, Goodwood and Silverstone. It was during a trip to the latter that the driver, Joe Bekaert, was stopped by the police by speeding exactly 100mph above the limit. What a ride!

Girardo & Co. was spectacular, too. What had me at hello was Porsche 935 K3, which was truly special. In its grand history of races, it participated three times in both Daytona 24 hours and Sebring 12H. It even came in second in 1980 at Daytona. It is in pristine condition, restored from scratch to a single bolt of its beasty, air-cooled, twin KKK turbo engine. There was also a 1983 Lancia 037 Rally Group B with successful rallying history, started by coming in 2nd at Targa Florio in its year of production. Last but not least, a focal point was a Bugatti Type 37A. In this particular occasion, the potential buyer was not only getting in possession of a vintage automobile, but also a ticket for this year’s Mille Miglia – as this car is already on the starting list.

MIURALANDIA BY KIDSTON

If I was to choose one winner, hands down, it would be the so-called Miuralandia prepared by Kidston. It doubtlessly ticked all the boxes of what a perfect exhibition space should look like. Spacious? Check. Classy and tasteful? Check. Spectacular exhibits? Check. A little bit extravagant? I would take the purple carpet for it! And just to explain a little bit why was it called Miuralandia before you all got into the pictures – apart from one Lamborghini 350GT there were six! Miuras total on the stand plus an extra chassis of one.

And those were not ‘just’ Miuras, for the histories behind them were just amazing. Two of the Miuras were owned by the Shah of Iran. As a true automotive fanatic, he owned a total of four, and the exhibited examples were red P400 restored to an unbelievable state and… the most expensive Lamborghini ever – the SVJ, owned previously by Nicolas Cage, who bought the Jota in 1997. Besides another SVJ, and a P400 S offered directly from a 45-year-long ownership, there was one-off Miura Roadster, known also as Zn45. In shiny brocade, light blue body contrasting with black-and-white interior it made a huge impression on me. And although not everyone found it appealing, there is no doubt that these widened air-intakes and naked V8 had lots of charm to it!

RACING EXRAORDINAIRES ON THE CULTIVATED COLLECTOR STAND

Thanks to a very friendly staff at The Cultivated Collector stand, namely Tom Hale, I had a unique chance to learn more about the stunning cars they brought to Paris. The first was one of six Porsche 962 CR, which belonged earlier to the racing team Schuppan. Powered by a twin-turbo flat six, generating a staggering 600HP it almost has zero mileage! It was supposed to be used at Le Mans in 1994, as the team was supposed to bring one race car and one road legal, to confirm homologation.

As Team Schuppan decided to bring one car and swap it from road to race specification and they were found out, they were disqualified and needed to return home. Later on, when Shuppan’s company declared bankruptcy, the car was believed to had been a debt re-payment. Its next owner kept it in his office, as the legend says. Being road legal, it was driven just for 8 miles, including a short ride at Jay Leno’s Garage episode. What a car, what a history.

Next to it, there was another racing beast – one of 53 ever produced by Jaguar Sport, a V12 powered XJR15. I had a chance to look inside the racing interior of the TWR Special Vehicle Operation’s car and captured few details, such as dedicated racing headsets. Amazing! Just few steps away was the very famous Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR, owned by Eugenio Amos, who lent the car for the show. After having a short glance inside it turned out to be number 08 of 25 ever produced. Truly spectacular automobile, Eugenio. Congratulations!

Wrapping the stand from the other side was another zero-mile Porsche. It was a 911 993 GT2 Evo in a Le Mans specification, restored to the very single nut and bolt whilst preserving its originality. It was done so nicely, that the original sticker from 1992 Le Mans homologation is still there on the roll cage! If it was not for you Tom, I would not be able to see all of it – thanks so much for the tour and… the homologation hat!

ALL THOSE STRATOSPHERICAL LANCIAS AND CITROENS

On Retromobile Paris there was one more stand that was out of this planet – simply Stratospherical. Lucas Huni displayed lots of Lancia and the way he did it was just amazing. There were seven Lancia Stratos lined up, every single one in a different color. They looked like a rainbow… or Skittles, if you like. They even had one in Alitalia livery! Behind these, there was a Lancia Martini festival, with two stunning Deltas and a 037 painted in the very famous branding.

Next to the all-Lancia exhibition, there was the Citroen Collection, featuring all possible kinds of the Chapron bodied Citroens one could ever imagine. Henri Chapron started his coach-build factory in 1920 and bodied many French luxury brands, such as Delahaye or Talbot. He then used to buy the DS from Citroen dealership and re-body them, for he could not agree to buy the unfinished cars directly from the Citroen factory. These automobiles were just brilliant and so unique – starting from La Croisette with elongated doors, through Chapron Paris and Le Dandy to an unbelievably configured Le Caddy Convertible. It was featured in green body with orange interior – a combination to die for.

Then there was the official Citroen exhibition, a true show-off from the manufacturer celebrating its 100th anniversary. The visitors could walk the historic line-up of first production cars, some of the company concepts – including Camargue and GTbyCitroen, as well as the rally heritage. In the latter there was an admirable DS from 1971 Rally de Morocco, a 2CV Africa Raid and the ever so successful Citroen C3 WRC, marking the brand’s 100th victory. A real walk through the history.

ARTCURIAL AUCTIONS: CARS, MOTORCYCLES AND AUTOMOTIVE COLLECTIONS

From Friday on, day-by-day, Retromobile Paris featured three automotive-focused auctions, organized by the French auction house Artcurial. Friday was the main auction offering cars, the focus switched onto MV Agusta Motorcycle bidding on Saturday whilst Sunday was dedicated to auctioning F1 memorabilia, such as pilots’ helmets and race suits. The auctions were nothing but success for Artcurial Motorcars, totaling a bit more than 42.3 million Euros, 31% more than last year.

The first auction was doubtlessly a highlight. Its brightest star was the Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta from 1939, sold for an astonishing 16.745.600 Euros including premium. This made the car the third most expensive pre-war car ever sold. Overall, the hammer went down three times at over one million Euros and forty-three times over 100 thousand Euros. My personal winners were a 1936 Bugatti 57 Atlantic, a replica by Erik Koux and a 1964 Ferrari 250GT Lusso. Both sold for just under a million.

Although I am not too big a fan of motorcycles, I definitely appreciated the quality and size of the MV Agusta collection, totaling ninety lots. My personal favorites were the ‘Disco Volante’s with very specific, bulky, disc-alike fuel tanks.

Last but not least there was a huge amount of F1 overalls and helmets. If you could think of a driver and wished to purchase a gear he wore, you would probably get the chance. Auctioned were racing suits and helmets of stars like Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost (54.6 thousands for a helmet), Kimi Raikkonen and many, many more! The entire F1 Tribute collection sold for more than 2.2 million Euros.

An interesting fact about all the Retromobile Artcurial auctions was very high selling rate, set at 76% as well as huge participation. The estimates confirm there were more than 3000 people in the room!

A SHORT PERSONAL WRAP UP TO TOO LONG AN ARTICLE

Retromobile Paris 2019 was a fantastic show with great exhibitors, fantastic organization and atmosphere. Some stands were jaw-dropping, some mediocre and some could be great, but failed at composition. It is amazing how even the greatest cars can disappear if they are not given a space to shine. As a great example can serve a stand with a yellow Enzo, an F40 and many supercars more… yet, it did not stand out.

There were countless incredible vehicles and there is no chance I could describe them all here. It would simply be a novel and not an article anymore (a too long an article already). I have not mentioned anything about my beloved Gullwings, which there were a lot, not a single word on the Daytona Spider, Aston Martin DB4, Lamborghini 4000GT Flying Star or even a good old friend from last year at Villa Erba – the Lancia Stratos Zero.

What I did not cover with words, I hope the rest of my photos will. Enjoy the rest of them below and… au revoir for now!

Text & Photos: Adam Pękala ©

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