Monthly Archives: March 2016

Upstairs, Downstairs

The 2016 Rétromobile expanded to an additional upstairs hall, mainly occupied by the Artcurial Auction lots. The quality was outstanding, like a museum display and The Special Correspondent had a field day.

2016 Retromobile
The Graham brothers built up their business by producing large numbers of trucks using Dodge mechanicals and then bought the Paige-Detroit Motor Company. In January 1928 the Graham-Paige range of cars was announced.
It was ambitious and in 1929 the firm made 77,000 cars – they even won the Monte Carlo Rally that year! The Paige name was dropped in the early Thirties and the company attracted plenty of customers with its new ”Blue Streak” styling in 1932, the cars having sloping grilles. In 1934 Graham offered a supercharger on the Custom Eight and, apart from the Auburn 851 Speedster, it was the only American company to feature a supercharger (until 1939). For 1938 a new styling innovation was introduced with sloping-back grille, square headlamps set in the front wings and spats on the rear wheels, this aggressive design earning the nickname “shark nose”. The public did not take to it and only 8,800 were made up to 1940.
The above car is a 1939 Type 97 supercharged cabriolet, a rare example having bodywork by the French coachbuilder Pourtout. It has a straight six 3.5-litre engine developing 115 b.h.p. and a 3-speed gearbox with overdrive.
A final thought: a Graham-Paige of uncertain vintage was bought in 1935 by a Mr Baker for less than £50 and ,with the 8-cylinder engine rebuilt and a two-seater long-tailed body made specially by Harrington of Hove, it went on to win in August 1939 the last ever race at Brooklands!
2016 Retromobile
1922 was the year that Georges Irat was making at Chatou an excellent 2-litre sports tourer with a 4-cylinder o.h.v.engine, the work of the former Delage engineer Maurice Gaultier. These cars performed well in the long-distance races of the era. In 1935 the company switched to making attractive 2-seater sports cars, first with Ruby engines and then with Citroën units.

2016 Retromobile

After the war a completely new prototype was shown at the 1946 Paris Salon with a lightweight magnesium alloy frame, a flat-four engine and all-enveloping bodywork. There was no positive response to this and a second attempt was made for the 1949 Paris Salon. This is the car shown here with its Lambourdette body found in the factory at Bègles (near Bordeaux) but it has since been underpinned with a Simca Huit chassis. Again it aroused no commercial interest and thus sadly represents the end of Georges Irat motor cars.
2016 Retromobile
Designed by Marcello Gandini, the Bugatti EB110 had a mid-mounted 3.5-litre V12 60 valve 4 turbo engine driving through all four wheels and a carbon fibre chassis made by Aérospatiale. It came about when Romano Artioli, a big Ferrari dealer in German-speaking northern Italy and the first to import Suzuki cars into the region, set up Bugatti Automobili S.p.A. in a brand new factory at Campogalliano near Modena.. The cars were produced between 1991 and 1995 after which the firm went bankrupt.
The appearance of the EB110S at Le Mans in 1994 has been well documented but less well-known is the racing history of this EB110SS of Gildo Pallanca-Pastor, a Monégasque entrepreneur who entered the car during 1995 and 1996 under the banner of his Monaco Racing Team.
The car’s first race was at the Watkins Glen 3 Hours in June 1995 where Patrick Tambay co-drove it into 19th place. Three weeks later Pallanca-Pastor came 16th on his own at Sears Point. A switch to the BPR Championship race at Suzuka in August brought retirement when a broken front drive-shaft sent Eric Hélary into the sand. The 1996 Daytona 24 Hours saw the car running in the GTS-1 class but there was no luck for Derek Hill (son of World Champion Phil Hill), Olivier Grouillard and Pallanca-Pastor, the gearbox failing after 154 laps. Even more disastrous was Tambay’s accident at the start of the Le Mans Test Day, effectively ending Pallanca’s hopes of running in the 24 Hour race.
The car’s last race came at the non-championship GT event at Dijon in June. Pallanca-Pastor finished 3rd in Heat 1 but Bertrand Balas, having initially led in Heat 2, was cruelly pushed off by Wolfgang Kaufmann’s bi-turbo Porsche 911.
To date this was the last racing appearance of a Bugatti in period.
2016 Retromobile
This is the Citroën 15-Six H (Hydropneumatique), a limited series available to selected clients only in 1954, which had the hydropneumatic rear suspension destined for the forthcoming DS19 which appeared at the 1955 Paris Salon. It served as something of a test-bed for the complicated new system and trials revealed that the front suspension needed adjustment to compensate – hence the front torsion bars were lengthened, being extended out at the front.
All this rather mirrors what Citroën did in 1934. Having launched a completely new range of 8, 10 and 15CV at the 1932 Paris Salon, they became known as the Rosalie series after Citroën had gone record-breaking at Montlhéry with Yacco-sponsored special versions, labelled “Rosalies”. In 1933 an 8CV collected many long-distance records, this car known as the “Petite Rosalie”. In May 1934 Citroën equipped the Rosalie cars with the independent torsion bar front suspension that was just appearing on the recently unveiled Traction Avant, Citroën feeling that it was wise to continue offering the Rosalie range while the completely new car was getting established.
2016 Retromobile
The Simca 8 Sport started life as an elegant cabriolet prototype with a Pinin Farina body at the 1948 Paris Salon in the Grand-Palais. The Head of Simca, Henri-Théodore Pigozzi, liked it so much that he decided to market it and production was entrusted to Facel-Métallon; the process was unusually complicated with the pressings made at Amboise, the assembly at Colombes and the final touches put on at Dreux! A fixed–head coupé accompanied the open version and the car was given an upgraded 1200 c.c. engine.
The coupé gained glory in the 1950 Monte Carlo Rally where the cars finished 4th and 5th overall, Scaron/Pascal winning the 1.5-litre class. A year later the cars were outclassed by the Jowett Jupiters, the Scaron/Pascal Simca Sport finishing 16th and even Trintignant managing only 48th.
2016 Retromobile



One of nine Frazer-Nash Le Mans Fixed-Head Coupés. It has the usual adjustable slats in front of the radiator, centre-lock wire wheels, an Austin rear axle, iron brake drums and adjustable torsion bars. It was ordered by Mrs Kitty Maurice of Castle Combe and completed in April 1955. It travelled to Le Mans in June 1955 as a support vehicle for AFN’s entries. Mrs Maurice did not keep it for long and AFN eventually bought it back in November 1957.
XMC 1 was sold to John Dashwood in March 1959 and he had AFN prepare the car for that year’s Le Mans race . The rear axle location was modified with a Panhard rod and rose joints in place of the original A-bracket. Driven by Dashwood and Bill Wilks, this was the last Frazer-Nash to race at Le Mans. After three hours Dashwood slid into the sandbank at Arnage when the brakes faded. The gearbox split as he tried to slow down and the steering was damaged.
2016 Retromobile
When launched at the 1934 Paris Salon the Renault Vivastella Grand Sport had a 3.6-litre 6-cylinder engine. But shortly after the Show the Vivastella Grand Sport became the Viva Grand Sport (Type ACX 1) and this had a 4.1-litre motor and more aerodynamic lines inspired by the famous Caudron-Renault Rafale aircraft, holder of the World Hour Record. The first Viva Grand Sport for 1936 (Type ACX 2) appeared in the summer of 1935 at the Concours d’Elégance du Bois de Boulogne. Refinements included a single-piece windscreen and a re-designed rear profile.

2016 Retromobile
This 1936 example is one of only three drivable surviving cabriolets. Notice how the gear lever, although operating a central change, is deployed through the dashboard! I note that the prominent French racing driver of the Thirties, René Le Bègue (winner of the 1937 Monte Carlo Rally and the 1939 Comminges Grand Prix) began his career using a Renault Viva Grand Sport.
2016 Retromobile
This is a Bugatti Type 40. Jean Bugatti took it off the production line in 1928 and designed a “fiacre” type body for it especially for his younger sister Lydia. The car was often “borrowed” by Bugatti racing drivers!
Bugatti launched the 4-cylinder racing Type 37 at the end of 1925. In mid-1926 he introduced the Type 40 to replace the Brescia as the 1.5-litre touring car. He took the engine of the Type 37 and fitted it to a new touring frame, stronger than that in the Brescia. He gave the car a narrower track and a new radiator.
Two French ladies, Marguerite Mareuse and Odette Siko, drove a Type 40 in the 1930 Le Mans race, finishing in 7th place.
Approximately 830 of the Type 40 and 40A were made.
2016 Retromobile
Back in 1908 you could buy a Detroit Electric car which would do 45 m.p.h. and have a range of 70—80 miles; not much progress since then evidently! There is currently a new vogue for electric cars in the name of zero emissions but, the moment the car is plugged in to recharge its batteries, the pollution is, of course, merely transferred to the power stations!
Under German Occupation during the Second World War, the French had little alternative to resorting to electrical power with a serious shortage of petrol and raw materials. All sorts of crude cars came on the market, this 4-wheeled Pierre Faure being one of the better ones. Constructed from October 1940 onwards at Vitry-sur-Seine, this 2-seater had a backbone chassis with a narrow track at the rear to avoid the use of a differential and front suspension by a transverse leaf spring. Six batteries were located in the nose and these gave a speed of approximately 25 m.p.h. with a range of some 50 miles.
The car was shown at the 1946 Paris Salon but could not compete with the new petrol cars and production ceased in 1947. It is thought that about 20 were made.

David Blumlein March 2016

Rétromobile 2016-style

The Special Correspondent made his annual pilgrimage to Paris and the Porte de Versailles for the Rétromobile. As might be expected there was plenty to see that was ‘Rare and Interesting’…………..

2016 Retromobile

The Renault 40CV was for 20 years the top of their range. A large luxurious model, it originally came as the 50CV with a 9.5-litre engine in 1908, the company’s first six-cylinder. By 1911 it had been re-named the 40CV with 7.54 litres. The model evolved to become by 1925 the Type NM, having in the meantime acquired 9.12 litres and cantilever rear suspension.

2016 Retromobile

By no stretch of the imagination could the big 40CV be considered sporting but in 1925 two successes gave it something of a competition reputation. First, a private 40CV NM Weymann saloon won the Monte Carlo Rally, and then Renault decided to go for the 24 hour record, an activity that was all the rage in the inter-war years. An open 4-seater with special bodywork by Lavocat et Marsaud went to Montlhéry and on the 4/5th June duly pushed the 24 hour record up to 87.63 m.p.h. Alas for Renault, Bentley arrived in September when Duff and Barnato stole their honour by averaging 95.2 m.p.h. for the 24 hours. Not to be outdone, Renault returned in 1926 with a single-seater streamlined 40CV, a re-creation (acceptable because the original no longer exists) of which is shown here. The car boasted three carburettors for the 9.1-litre side valve six, a 55 gallon tank in the rear, a radiator behind the engine as Louis Renault insisted (and as was normal for production Renaults at the time) and provision to carry nearly 8 gallons of oil! Plessier and Garfield dutifully won back honours for Renault in the July, leaving the 24 hour record at 107.9 m.p.h
2016 Retromobile
Production of the Renault 40CV was phased out during 1928 and the car was replaced at that year’s Salon de Paris by the new Reinastella, a 7.1-litre with Renault’s first Billancourt-built 8-cylinder engine and the first production Renault with a front-mounted radiator, the rest of the range soon falling into line. In 1930 a smaller Reina, the Nervastella, was introduced with a 4.2-litre 8-cylinder motor. This model soon won the Rallye du Maroc (taking the first three places) and it was followed in March 1932 by the Nervasport, a shorter, lighter version. In 1934 the engine size went up to 4.82-litres and then at the end of the year to 5.4-litres. This Nervasport dates from 1935 and commemorates the model’s outright win in the 1935 Monte Carlo Rally.

2016 Retromobile

Jean-Pierre Wimille was one of France’s greatest racing drivers. During the war (while working for the Resistance as a member of the Special Operations Executive) he planned a car (La Wimille) that would set modern trends for the post-war era: tubular chassis, mid-mounted engine, central driving position with three seats (recalling the 1936 Panhard Dynamic), aerodynamic bodywork and panoramic vision.

2016 Retromobile

The first prototype, with 11CV Citroën four cylinder engine, was built in 1945 and made its first public appearance at the occasion of the Grand Prix de l’Autoroute de l’Ouest on 9 June 1946 at St Cloud where Wimille first drove the Alfa Romeo 158. Other prototypes followed with bodywork designed by Philippe Charbonneaux and powered by a Ford Vedette V8 engine.

2016 Retromobile

Shown is the third prototype but the whole project came to nought, alas, when Wimille was killed in practice for the 1949 Buenos Aires Grand Prix in a Simca-Gordini.

2016 Retromobile
Pictures DSCN 3510, 3504, 3505
In 1961 Deutsch and Bonnet (DB) followed the then current trend towards mounting the engine behind the driver – all the result of Cooper’s Formula One World Championship successes in 1959 and 1960.

2016 Retromobile

A DB was run in that year’s Le Mans with the Panhard engine so positioned (finishing 19th).

2016 Retromobile
DB also made a Formula Junior racer with the Panhard engine ( modified to 954 c.c.) duly mid-mounted. It was entrusted to Gérard Laureau for a race at Rouen where it was outpaced and never raced again. The pictures show the one such car that was ever made.
2016 Retromobile
It is always a pleasure to see a Panhard CT 24. This was the last model of this famous firm which was one of the very first to produce motor cars. Still powered by Louis Delagarde’s amazing flat- twin, its aerodynamics gave it a respectable performance but Citroën had taken over at the Avenue d’Ivry and killed off car production in 1967.
2016 Retromobile
BMW broke into car production when it bought the Dixi car company in 1928. This Eisenach firm had been making Austin Sevens under licence and BMW initially took on this rôle, steadily developing the cars according to their thinking. Here is a 1931 BMW 3/15 DA4 model still with the 743 c.c. engine but the bodywork is by Ambi-Budd of Berlin and , although it still looks like Sir Herbert’s baby. But notice…it has independent front suspension, something no “real” Austin Seven ever had!
2016 Retromobile
This is the beautiful Bugatti T55, the body design the work of the talented Jean Bugatti. The model, which appeared for 1932, was the true successor to the T43 and , just as that car had used the T35B Grand Prix engine , so the T55 was powered by the T51’s 2.3-litre twin overhead camshaft unit.

2016 Retromobile

Surprisingly, neither of these cars achieved real success in the international sports car racing; Bugatti had to wait for the T57’s variants to stamp Molsheim’s name on Le Mans etc.

2016 Retromobile
Ets Ballot made engines (it was one of several French companies to produce the Hispano Suiza V8 aero engine) and after the Great War it built some racing machines with Henry-designed twin o.h.c. motors, competing at Indianapolis in 1919 and the French Grand Prix in 1921 and 1922. This design was used in the exciting sports 2LS and this van, based on the 2LT with single o.h.c., has been restored to represent a “works” version.

David Blumlein March 2016

Antwerp Classic Salon

John Elwin graces our pages with his take on the recent Classic Salon at Antwerp.

Forget the old stereotype jokes about Belgian heroes. For this years’ Antwerp show, organisers S.I.H.A. chose the theme of Belgian Racing Victories. Rather than focus on the exploits of Grand Prix stars such as Jacky Ickx and Thierry Boutsen the central display featured cars that had achieved (mostly) success in the Spa 24-Hours. Cars like the BMW 635 CSi from 1985 that Boutsen drove together with Switzerland’s Walter Brun and German Harold Grohs, or the earlier 530i crewed by Eddie Joosen and Dirk Vermersch with Frenchman Jean-Claude Andruet.


Tucked away in the corner was a Mini Cooper as driven by well-known Mini exponent Julien Vernaeve. However, they were all upstaged by a quietly-spoken lady who was keeping a watchful eye on a couple of the cars; in fact, someone who could be described as a Belgian heroine.

Yvette Fontaine made quite a name for herself as a fast lady driver in the 1960’s and 70s. Growing up close to the Zolder circuit, she was soon attracted to the sport, although she actually began by competing in rallying. Racing was her true metier and she quickly made an impression when she switched disciplines, so much so that works-supported drives soon came from first Alfa Romeo in Belgium, then Ford. She won the Belgian national touring car championship outright in 1969 at the wheel of a Ford Escort, and as well as contesting several Spa 24-Hour races she also co-drove a Porsche at Le Mans on two occasions.


A quite remarkable and unassuming lady, chatting to her at the show, it was hard to imagine her hurling her Capri RS flat-out through Eau Rouge or around the streets of Chimay, but the records show that she did so very successfully. Yvette now has replicas of both Escort and Capri race cars which she regularly demonstrates at events. Indeed, she was leaving Antwerp for another event on the Sunday.

The fact that Belgium has also had a car manufacturing history of its own must not be forgotten and after due deliberation the concours judges awarded ‘Best in Show’ to the rather splendid 1927 Excelsior Albert displayed by local company LMB Racing. It was a difficult decision but this imposing tourer ultimately won-out over another Belgian-built, but very different car, the 1928 Minerva limousine that Speed 8 Classics were showing, alongside a replica Blue Train Bentley.

Whilst these pre-war cars stood out, there was some equally eye catching machinery from later periods such as Oldtimer Farm’s 1947 Talbot T26, although this otherwise beautiful car was let down a little by the fact that it is missing a few minor parts. The 1957 Porsche Carrera with Mille Miglia history offered by IMBU certainly shouldn’t have been missing anything with a price tag of around 750,000 euros! It didn’t have ‘matching numbers’ as the original engine had been replaced, but according to my 356 expert that’s not unusual as Carrera engines had a tendency to blow-up. The magnolia-like paint job didn’t do it any favours though. More recent ‘youngtimers’ are becoming increasingly popular – cars like the metallic blue Lotus Europa Twin Cam at BBC Cars, or Car Cave’s Renault 5 Turbo 2. The value of Alpine Renault’s also seems to be climbing faster than the cars themselves did on the Monte Carlo Rally stages too.

For real rarity one had to dive into the private sale area, where one vendor was offering a clutch of unusual Fiat’s, including a 1959 1200 TV, an 1100 Pick-up, and a 1966 1500 Sconieri, with bodywork by Michelotti – the seller deservedly took a concours trophy home for that one.

If you fancied getting your hands dirty, there was a couple of ‘barn finds’ on offer. Flying Red Baron has a Fiat Abarth 850 for which they are asking 55,000 euros. You might need to spend a little more to get it back to A1 condition. At the other end of the scale a 1969 Ford Cortina 1600GT Mk2 with light front end damage was on sale privately. Comes with a donor car too.

As ever, the Antwerp show has much to offer – aside from the high-end dealers (of which there are many in Belgium and Holland) a lot of the clubs, representing a huge variety of makes, put on innovative displays, whilst the wide range of traders in the autojumble areas make for some happy browsing.
John Elwin March 2016

The Art of the Car

John Elwin is a man who enjoys many different aspects of the automotive good life, from Alfa Romeo to Lotus and here the art of customising………..enjoy his observations at the recent Essen Show.


Much is made of the BMW Art Cars, whereby somebody who is apparently famous for being famous, has randomly sploshed some paint over an otherwise innocent car and it suddenly becomes a work of art. Your average four year-old could achieve the same result but fame would most certainly not come his way, more likely a thick ear from his dad!
To my mind, the car itself is the art, having originally been created by a stylist who has toiled long and hard to create the right lines but very few car stylists become household names. Then there are those who feel they can improve upon the work of the original stylist, or even the engineers who created the oily bits. Some of these individuals have become well-known for their work, particularly in America, the spiritual home of customising. One might think that the increasingly stifling regulations dreamed up by bureaucrats the world over might have stymied this creativity, but far from it.
Visitors to the recent Essen Motor Show in Germany who remembered those wonderful Custom Car shows at London’s Ally Pally back in the 1970’s could have been forgiven for thinking they had been transported back in time. A goodly batch of cars had been brought over from the ‘States to join a large and varied collection of European cars. The different approaches were readily apparent for – hot rods aside – appearance is the dominant theme with some very detailed and labour-intensive paint work (no splosh jobs!) together with re-worked interiors. The Europeans meanwhile, have a more technical approach although current vogue seems to be how low you can get it.
Choice of vehicles varies; for the Americans it’s either Ford Model A-based hot rods, or large saloons from the 1960’s-70’s. For the Europeans pretty much anything is fair game, from the inevitable VW Combi to all generations of the BMW 3-Series. Why, even a Porsche Panamera got the lowering treatment, but one can only improve upon the looks of that thing!

I’ll let the pictures do the talking from here.
John Elwin, March 2016

New Kid on the Block

The Interclassics at Maastricht has been a feature of the classic car season in Europe for some time, late last year they expanded to a second event in Brussels for what was, by all accounts, a very successful début. Dirk de Jager is one of the masters of his craft, so enjoy his trip round the stands…………..

Zoute Suits You, Sir

The Zoute Grand Prix is one of the highlights of the Classic Car season…………a fantastic location and a selection of cars to match. Local hero, Dirk de Jager, braved the elements to bring us this gallery, bravo!