With the annual Retromobile Show in Paris, the new season always starts on a high. This year was no exception with the hundreds of exhibitors once again bringing their very best, ranging from formidable collections of Formula One cars, the finest model cars to a superb lineup of ever impressive Group B rally racers. The five-day event not only attracts vast crowds of enthusiast spectators but all the major collectors and dealers usually also venture to Paris. To make the most of their presence, three major auctioneers stage sales during the week; local company Artcurial hosts the official sale as part of the show, while RM Sotheby's and Bonhams use locations nearer to the city center.
Not having missed an edition of Retromobile for fifteen years, we were once again at the Porte des Versailles exhibition center to capture all the highlights in this 300-shot gallery.
RM Sotheby’s Paris Sale
During the evening of Retromobile's opening, RM Sotheby's kicked off a three-day auction marathon with their traditional Paris sale at the Place Vauban. The British/Canadian auctioneer brought together an interesting collection of around 70 lots. Included in the sale was a selection of Porsches from a Swiss private collection. The top seller was a very rare 959 Sport, which changed hands for just under $2.1M. Another Porsche that grabbed our attention was an even rarer 911 Turbo Cabriolet, which combined the 993 body style with the 964 Turbo drivetrain. One of just 14 built to special order, it rushed past the top estimate and eventually found a new owner for over $1.3M. A Porsche that did fall short was the 917/10 prototype, which was presented in a striking testing configuration but ultimately was sent back to its current owner. Topping the sale was one of the quintessential Grand Prix cars; the Alfa Romeo Tipo B. It took just shy of $4M to pry it away from its custodian. At the end of the day 77 percent of the lots were sold for the princely sum of $2.9M.
Bonhams Les Grandes Marques du Monde
Worth a visit for the incredible venue alone, the Bonhams sale at the Grand Palais in downtown Paris was scheduled for the second day of Retromobile. Dubbed the Les Grandes Marques du Monde or the great marques of the world sale, this year's collection of lots was interesting but perhaps lacked the big ticket items that grab the headlines these days. The biggest ticket was the Aston Martin Ulster with contemporary Le Mans history, which brought just over $2.1M. Only two other cars commanded seven-figure prices; a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL 'Gullwing' and a Bentley S1 Continental Park Ward Cabriolet. Among the great marques crossing the block was Lancia with a superb Stratos and a very rare Hyena both selling well. As at the RM Sotheby's sale, the Porsche 911s, and in particular the Turbo models were high in demand. Of the 130 motor cars offered, 68 percent eventually changed hands for just over $14.8M.
Artcurial Retromobile Sale
The official Retromobile sale, organized by local specialists Artcurial Motorcars, proved to be a marathon effort, running close to eight hours on Friday. Taking center stage in this sale was the one-off Ferrari 206 Dino Speciale, which had originally starred at the 1965 Paris Auto Show and was now offered at no reserve from the first owner. One of the all time great designs, it eventually changed hands for $4.6M. It was acquired by a European collector, who will, hopefully, preserve this rolling sculpture. It was one of a total of seven cars sold for over a million euros (approx. $1M), which helped bring the total up to just under 32 million with 73 percent of the lots sold. Among those lots were a custom Cadillac Series 62 and a Harley Davidson offered by French singer Johnny Hallyday for charity. These clearly brought out the best in the people attending the auction as both sold for many times the top estimate for a combined total of $580K. Also doing exceedingly well was a Bugatti Type 57 offered by the Ogliastro collection, which sold for twice its estimate.
Usually sharing their Retromobile stand with their respective clubs, manufacturers are always keen to highlight their heritage. Among the regulars were the likes of Mercedes-Benz and the PSA Group, which includes Citroen and Peugeot. Renault was also on hand with, for the first time, a separate stand for Alpine. Surrounded by classic models, taking center stage was the new Alpine Vision concept car. As had been stressed before, this was not yet the definitive design for the new production car but it certainly is not far off. Jaguar Land Rover Classic were also on hand. The continuation Jaguar XKSS made its European debut, while the company also showed the first ever E-Type restored in-house. On the other side of the stand, their first restored Range Rover broke cover. We were also particularly taken by the Fiat Group's display, which featured such rarities as the Raymond Loewy designed Lancia Loraymo, a Pininfarina penned Abarth record breaker and the prototype for Zagato's Alfa Romeo 2600.
Like most events will do this year, Retromobile paid special attention to Ferrari's 70th anniversary. Tucked away in the furthest of the three halls was a fine display of some of the company's most eclectic models, which included the ex-Alberto Ascari World Championship winning 500 F2 and the highly original 250 LM from the Schlumpf museum. Although impressive, the 'official' Ferrari tribute was upstaged somewhat by the formidable lineup of Ferrari Grand Prix cars from the second half of the 1960s and early 1970s brought by Tradex and Methusalem. These machines are rare in their own right and seeing seven of them together was truly spectacular. Similarly impressive was the display of five of the six Delage 15 S8 Grand Prix cars built. Achingly beautiful to look at these cars won the equivalent of the F1 World Championship in 1927 and some were raced in contemporary events for a further two decades. Another special display was dedicated to the cars of David Brown, the savior and longtime chairman of Aston Martin. There were not just DB4s, DB5s and DB6s on display but also a Volvo P1800 powered by an Aston Martin four-cylinder engine. We were not aware that this unique car even existed and it is machines like this that make Retromobile the must-visit event that it is.
It is tough to list but a few final highlights as the 2017 Retromobile show had many, which included the one-off Porsche 917 K/81 presented by the Ascott Collection or one of the Le Mans class winning Ferrari 550 GTS Maranellos, which is still with its original owner and was brought by Girardo & Co. What certainly was impossible to miss was the 'Bugatti meets Bentley' display created by Swiss dealer Lukas Huni. Covering many square meters, the stand featured some of the finest Bugattis and Bentleys including custom coach-built road cars and their closely related, thoroughbred racing cousins. Across the isle, French watchmaker and Formula One enthusiast Richard Mille provided a fabulous lineup of unconventional Grand Prix cars from his collection; they were either four-wheel drive or featured six wheels. The Retromobile show was also used to present the plans for upcoming meetings by the likes of Peter Auto (Spa Classic, Tour Auto, etc.) and also the Les Grandes Heures d'Automobile, which is scheduled at the end of September at Montlhery.
There is no event quite like Retromobile, which never ceases to amaze. Larger than ever before, this year's edition was certainly no exception as we were treated to some absolutely fantastic machinery. It is also a great place to catch up with old friends and make new ones, which is a key reason why people travel from all over the world to visit the show every year. A graphic impression of what the show is all about can be found in this 300-shot gallery.