An automobile show in Paris is bound to be very French – which is actually a rather precise description of the Retromobile: And we all know the French, right?
Well, I thought so: But it turned out, that Retromobile had dug out some French of which I had never heard. And that I was excused, as not many had.
But let me begin with the fact that this was my first visit to the classic French show, held since 1976. For the past two I have wanted to go, as I was well aware of it’s status as something special: The best food, the best cars and and a certain glamour quality in itself. Not a season opener, though many believe so – but that honour goes to the Netherlands and Maastricht. Not even number two as witnessed by my report fro Bremen last week (Report: Bremen Classic Motorshow 2017). But something else – and in Paris, the city of (head?)lights, not least.
This year the stars aligned, I went with high expectations and here’s my report – fresh from the airport at Charles de Gaulle and elsewhere, and therefore somewhat short for which I apologize.
First of all, Retromobile WAS indeed different from other shows, but it is rather difficult to pinpoint exactly why. The Paris Expo center is nothing special and as every other show the Retromobile basically consists of a lot of cars and motorcycles, some for sale and some not, and a plentitude of automobile related items thown in for good measure. But I was there on the Thursday and Friday and whenever I turned a corner I discovered something that I had not discovered when I turned the corner the first time.
And this must be said: I turned the same corners a lot of times, as the halls were absolutely crowded form mid day on. Quite often it seemed the gangways between the stands were simulating the traffic jams that Paris is also famous for. Some may find this charming and very French and the last may be true but I found it annoying and uncomfortable and would like to suggest Retromobile to prohibit rucksacks and trolleys to at least help the situation a little bit.
However, there was no doubt about the quality on show as such, and that is of course what matters the most: A lot of people must have pulled a lot of strings to make a host of quite simply wonderful vehicles appear at Retromobile. And the spectrum on show was happily wider than I had expected:The Retromobile is famous for amazingly rare, exclusive and expensive cars form the uppermost echelons of the automobile hierachy, most notably from the extensive French side of this history.
And so it was and no one could tire of the fabulous turnout of Bugattis, but even more amazing to me was the array of rare Voisins, Delahaye, Delage and Talbot-Lago. Cars you simply do not see at lesser shows at all – they were in Paris and out in force.
An ignorant might say that these old dinosaurs are no interest of his, but frankly should then be ashamed to call him self an enthusiast. It was to me particularly fascinating to see this early part of the automobile history displaying early spells of aerodynamics, perhaps most spectacularly illustrated in a fabulous Talbot-Lago “teardrop” coupé, for sale at RM Auctions laeter in the year. Or dwell in the amazing display of Delage Grand Prix cars in stages from full race ready condition to a very dismantled formerly crashed example of this “first modern Grand Prix car”.
Ferraris 70th anniversary was not ignored either: The specific celebration display was not presented very well, but when it in front is featured Chinettis Le Mans-winner, the first of many winners from Ferrari, it speaks for the quality. I particularly enjoyed the anorak detail that the 250LM on display was a roadgoing version, fitted with full interior but otherwise identical to the last GT-type car to ever win a general victory at the 24 Heures.
I was also pleased with the fact that it was not that high flying all along: I have a firm penchant for budget classics and as a Renault 5 GT Turbo-owner my self had looked forward to another special display, Les annêes Turbo. All of the cars on display pooled together would not have bought the lessest Ferrari of the celebration, but was on no less interest to me. Most of the early Renault turbocars were here, and I felt rather inspired – surely a 9 Turbo is rarer than many a Ferrari?
However this special display was even worse displayed and one could barely get around the cars and it was all to easy to overlook completely. This was in fact the case with many things on the Retromobile and while this made it very exciting to see what was waiting around the next corner it did not make much sense to me that so much quality was so poorly presented that you had to discover it for yourself.
Others were more obvious and I had heard much of the current French automobile makers presentation of themselves. The absolute star here was Alpine, about to be resurrected after some years of absence. The prototype of the new Alpine attracted enormous interest, but of course to this Danish retro-visitor all the older ones were much more attraction. It was all there from the earliest to the latest and quite bravely all in white. Frankly I look forward to seeing the future for Alpine – I am quite sure the new one will be good news for the old ones as well.
As said some cars were on display, others for sale – and I spent a lot of time amongst the last ones. The three auctions during the Retromobile week are expected to deliver some sort of status of were the Classic Car market is going. And from what I hear from the RM Auctions and from what I saw at the Bonhams’s is seems to be going fine. Results from the Artcurial auction yesterday are not public yet but I will try to follow this up later with some sort of market view.
For now I will just say that the supply of vehicles on the auctions as such was spectacular. Simply spectacular. Again you could indeed get in there with ordinary money, as witnessed by a lovely Simca Bertone 1000 for 12.000 Euros plus premium – or you could outspend yourself with a Porsche 917 estimated at 3 million Euros. But in between there was so much else that anyone armed with a good checque book should not need to go home unsatisfied.
Neither should anyone visting Retromobile. It was a fascinating show of very French quality: Some aspect were simply brilliant, others rather annoying. Just like theirs cars, then? Yes, quite. If you like French cars you simply must go. If you don’t like French cars but consider yourself a car enthusiast you must go as well. It is a simple as that.
I can’t mention all and everything in either words or photos – which should really be reason enough for you to go for your self. But I have tried and the below gallery should elaborate on that.