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Retromobile Paris ... features Art and History on wheels


Paris, 5th - 9th of February, 2020

Paris is always worth a visit, especially in early February when the annual Rétromobile is celebrated in the fairground at the Porte de Versailles. While the rest of the year a lot of couples spend their honeymoon at the Seine or explore the museum and the parc in the City of Love the one week is purely dedicated to the love of old cars. In times when people talk about the environment and climate change and burning fuel for pleasure seems to be very politically incorrect the pre-war luxury cars and the 1950s race cars seem to be even more anachronistic. But even in times when some people consider these vehicles as outdated status symbols there are still a lot of fans interested in them. This could be easily seen each morning with the long lines outside the halls before the exhibition opened, even the preview day on Thursday evening seemed to be more busy than ever.

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And the cars to be seen did not disappoint at all. Every year the Retromobile features a lot of highlights and together with the three auctions of Bonhams, RM Sotheby´s and the official Retromobile auction at Artcurial there are countless gems to be seen.

Two of the main booths in the middle of the main hall are the ones from the London dealers Gregor Fisken and Max Girardo. Whereas Fisken is a fixed one for more than a decade the one of Girardo is only that big for the second year after taking over the open space that was left by JD Classics.

Both of them had 14 cars on display and Fisken always brings a very colorful mix ranging from Cricklewood Bentleys, a very rare supercharged Squire on the pre-war side over the 1950s racers like the Jaguar C-Type or Maserati A6 GCS, the popular 1960s GT cars like the Ferrari 275 Competizione to more modern racers like the Audi R8 or the Ferrari 550 Maranello.

Max Girardo also presented some common classics like the Lamborghini Miura or Ferrari 275 GTB but his focus is also on the more modern supercars as he had another Maserati MC12 Corsa on display, an orange version following last year’s silver one. The display also included the 4 supercars of Ferrari staring with the 288 GTO, the F40 and the F50 as well as the Enzo. Some of the racers that are eligible for the upcoming Le Mans Classic included the BMW M1 as well as a Ferrari 308 Michelotto.

Last year Simon Kidston made his first appearance in larger scale with a display of Lamborghini Miura promoting his upcoming Miura register and it seems that the Miura took a boost in the last years. About every larger dealer display had one on offer and even Lamborghini Polo Storico displayed their latest restoration of a very rare SVJ as well as an installation of parts showing their spare parts for upcoming restorations. This unpainted body with engine and brake-parts very much forged a bridge to the view of classic cars as a piece of art as this display could have been in a museum of modern art just as good as on the Retromobile.

Coming back to Kidston: the Brit in Geneva did show a very lovely Ferrari 250 MM with highly original interior, a car that has changed hands and color several times in previous years and was consigned to him at least 5 times. The main feature on the display was one of the 19 original Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato, this one in red rather than the typical Aston Martin green. So it is already rare to see one DB4 GT Zagato, but it is even rarer to see two of them and even both in red. For the very first time the American Auction Company Gooding & Company made it over the Atlantic to present their first ever European Sale with the “Passion of a Lifetime” of Hubert Fabri to be sold on first of April in Somerset House in London. And although the Aston is a big car it gets even bigger with the unique Bugatti Type 59 Sports. After seeing 4 of the original Type 59 GP in Pebble Beach last year this car has a very special history as it went on in sports car racing after being converted from the GP model when the German Silver Arrows took over the GP scene. Campaigned by Wimille the car finally was sold to King Leopold of Belgium who had the car repainted in his favorite color black with a yellow stripe for the Belgium racing colors. Now, about 80 years later the car in in remarkable original condition with great patina waiting for its next owner to take care of it for the coming years.

Overall the Retromobile did change a little bit in the last years. Whereas about 20 years ago one of the main attractions where the numerous French Car club displays showing the elegant pre-war cars from Delage, Delahaye and Bugatti they are getting much less and so do the pre-war cars. One has to look around to see a few great ones like a freshly restored Lancia Astura Pinin Farina in white, the sister car of the one winning Pebble Beach a few years ago. But this year had a particular highlight for all fans of the pre-war sports cars. Lukas Hüni uses the Retromobile every year more for a demonstration of his network and clients he is dealing with than a pure sales display as few of the cars are actually for sale, most of them are in very prominent collections. This allows the Swiss Dealer to set a theme every year and after spectacular shows of Bugatti, Ferrari or Lancia in previous years the main focus this year was Alfa Romeo. Just in front of his display one could see no less than six Alfa Romeo 8C in different body styles including two Monza by Brianza, Zagato, Touring and Pinin Farina Spiders as well as a long chassis Le Mans. Furthermore an Alfa Tipo B P3 could be admired as well as the unique Alfa Romeo Bi-Motore featuring two straight eight engines, one in front of the driver and one in the back. Long-time exhibit from the Donnington Collection the car is now in private hands.

Furthermore some nice Alfa 6C 1750 rounded of the pre-war display whereas the Giulia/Giulietta was featured with the racing version TZ and SZ as well as their street versions.

Richard Mille always shows of a themed display as well this year it featured the McLaren F1 in different variations, the car that not few consider the Ferrari 250 GTO of the generations to come. One of the cars that actually draws a lot of attention in the younger visitors.

Just opposite of Mille was the booth of Tradex and Methusalem, once again featuring the Ferrari P4 chassis 0858. With the recent film about the Ford-Ferrari war at the Le Mans race 1966 the P4 was once again in the spotlights and not few think this is the most beautiful of the Le Mans racers of this era. Next to the P4 was one of the star cars of this year’s show, a freshly restored Ferrari 166 MM Berlinetta. Not only since the fantastic Touring Ferrari Rally these wonderful little cars have a special place in our hearts but this is a very carefully restored example with a lot of attention to details. A veteran of three original Mille Miglia this car was disassembled for decades until it came back together in the present form. Unfortunately the last owner passed away just recently before enjoying the car the way it deserves it but the next owner will be able to get into some of the most interesting events in near future, hopefully a second edition of the Touring Rally as well.

So despite the trend against the normal combustion engine in most of the major cities in Europe facing the traffic collapse every day the car hobby is still vivid. Maybe it will change a little bit in the near future but there is still some interest in old cars, especially if they have a certain quality. Maybe the lower market of rather mass produced cars might fall off a little bit more in near future as one could see by the recent price corrections in the market of cars like the Porsche 911, but the big price region will still attract a lot of buyers as these cars have left the normal purpose to drive them around a while ago (at least for some people). These cars will be seen on concours or even in special exhibitions like the recent Legends of Speed exhibition in the Phoenix Art Museum.

And the Retromobile in Paris seems to be the best place to present them. Paris has the most international visitors compared to the other big shows like Essen. A reason might be the venue that allows a family vacation with the wife and the kids entertained even without looking at cars but also the tradition of being the oldest of these shows.

We are looking forward to next year’s edition that will open the European season again in 2021, apparently in different halls as the long serving hall 1 is said to undergo a refurbishment.


Report & Images ... Peter Singhof