Barn-find collection heads to auction at Retromobile

The most valuable car found during the December discovery of the Ballion Collection was this 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder.

Remember that collection of 100 cars unearthed in a barn find in France last December? Many of them are going up for auction next week.

“The Past Still Has a Future” is the theme for the 40th Salon Retromobile, Europe’s massive annual classic car celebration and break from winter, which this year takes place Feb. 4-8 inside the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, and not far from the Eiffel Tower.

Automakers bring cars from their museums, major classic car dealers bring their finest vehicles, and Artcurial, Bonhams and RM stage major auctions, with Artcurial’s featuring all of those barn-found vehicles from the Ballion Collection.

How large is the show itself? Consider more than 500 classic vehicles displayed in an exhibition center that spans half-a-million square feet, and with 100,000 people in attendance over the days of the show.

Featured displays:

Featured displays will focus on Pegaso and the history of the Spanish marque, the Corrado Lopresto collection of Italian coachwork, the vehicles produced by French automaker Matra, a display of 50 years of motorsports photography by DPPI, the French photographic agency, and from the Musee des Blindes, the only surviving working example of the Royal Tiger, the German tank considered the largest, heaviest, most powerful and most destructive ever.

Then there are the three Bugatti Royales coming from the Cite de l’Automobile in Mulhouse to help celebrate Retromobile’s 40th anniversary. It will be the first time the cars — the Coupe Napoleon, the Roadster and the Limousine — will be showcased in Paris, and with the Roadster now restored to its original Esders coachwork after its second owner installed a chauffeur-style coupe body on the chassis.

Renault’s stand is typical of how European automakers showcase their history at Retromobile.

In addition to the featured exhibits, Bugatti, Citroen, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot, Porsche, Renault and Skoda will have special displays. Among those features will be the 60th anniversary of the Citroen DS; the stunning Mercedes 540 K Streamliner; the anniversaries of several Peugeot models (including a Type 163 found after being abandoned in a shed near Lyon for nearly 70 years); the 50th anniversary of the Renault 16; the 60th anniversary of the Alpine brand; the only surviving 1950 Skoda 966 Supersport racing car; and the 1905 Laurin & Klement Voiturette A, the first car ever produced in Czechoslovakia.

And that’s not all: A special tribute to Carroll Shelby will showcase a Le Mans-winning Ford GT40, a Shelby Cobra 427, and a Shelby Cobra 289, while the Wimille, a revolutionary post-war car by Jean-Pierre Wimille, will be displayed on its 70th anniversary.


Artcurial stages its sale Feb. 6 and the event has been very much anticipated because of the discovery, after half a century in open sheds in western France, of some 60 cars from the Baillon Collection, a recent amazing barn find. However, the auction will include more than those cars, with some 175 automobiles on the docket.

Also in the sale is a 1927 Bugatti Type 43 Grand Sport driven by Malcolm Campbell, a 1932 Bugatti Type 55 cabriolet, three rare Maserati convertibles, a 1934 Mercedes0-Benz 380 K Cabriolet A, and the 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/2 given to Jane Fonda by her then-husband French filmmaker Roger Vadim.

Bonhams showcases Campari’s 1931 Alfa.

Bonhams will offer more than 300 cars, motorcycles and items of automobilia Feb. 5 at the Grand Palais, where the featured lots will be a pair of Alfa Romeos, the ex-Giuseppe Campari 1931 6C 1750 4th series supercharged Gran Sport Spider and a 1930 6C 1750 Supercharged Gran Sport.

Campari started working at Alfa as a teenager and became a successful racer, winning the 1924 French Grand Prix, the 1928 and 1928 Mille Miglia and the 1930 Italian Grand Prix. The 1930 model being offered was raced by Boris Ivanowski, an officer in the Russian Imperial Guard who was exiled in Paris after the Russian revolution.

RM staged its Paris debut in 2014 and returns this year to Place Vauban, site from Dec. 4 until Feb. 1 of the Festival Automobile International, a display of concept cars and tribute to car designers.

French-war-hero-designed Lancia coachwork.

The RM catalog includes some 60 vehicles, including the 1939 Alfa Romeo 6C2500 Sport Berlinetta known as the “Mussolini Mistress” car, a 1935 Delahaye 135 S that raced three times at Le Mans and was owned for many years by Hean-Philippe Peugeot, and a Pourtout-bodied 1934 Lancia Belna Eclipse that features a retractable hardtop.

The 1939 Alfa was a gift from the Italian dictator to his mistress, Claretta Petacci. In the spring of 1945, the car was disguised with Spanish diplomatic license plates and Petacci and several family members joined a convoy that included Mussolini and that was headed for Switzerland. But partisans stopped the convoy; the dictator and his mistress were captured and soon were executed.

An American Army Air Corps officer took the car to the United States, where at one point it was owned for several years by Ron Keno, father of the Leigh and Leslie Keno of Antiques Roadshow fame.

The 1934 Lancia has coachwork done by Marcel Pourtout and designed by Georges Paulin, a dentist who designed a succession of beautiful cars in post-war France. Paulin was part of the French Resistance, passing secrets though his dental office until being caught and executed in the spring of 1942.

Eclipse was Paulin’s name for the retractable hardtop that stored beneath a rear-hinged rear decklid.

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