Tag Archives: Retromobile

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Italian Treasures

The Rétromobile was an affair of the highest order, quality automobiles and automobilia presented in an entertaining and stylish manner. We have been fortunate enough to have the Special Correspondent weave us through his menu of Rare and Interesting and now it is my turn to try and please the readers. Time constraints mean that this will be attempted in smaller chunks rather than as a grand symphony, I trust that this will meet with approval.

There were almost too many highlights to cope with but I will make a start with the fine display of Abarths from the collection of Engelbert Möll. The excuse for this treat was the 110th celebration of Carlo Abarth’s birth, which sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

In a real treasure trove perhaps the highlight for me was the 6 litre V12 engine developed in 1967 to power a prototype at Le Mans and the other endurance classics. In July of that year the CSI, under the bidding of the ACO and without notice, introduced new rules to reduce the engine capacity in the Prototype class to 3 litres for the 1968 season. Despite howls of protest from those in the sport who had invested in the larger engines the French were completely inflexible, never happened before or since. Of course a loophole in the regulations and Ferdinand Piëch’s vision led to the 917/512 years so it was not all bad. The question in my mind is what would this handsome beast have sounded like at full throttle…………..

Enjoy a look round this wonderful exhibition of Italian speed with style.

John Brooks, February 2018

The Judgement of Paris

 

Today is a significant day as the Special Correspondent turns 80 although you would never know it to speak to him or to read his wonderful articles. In defiance of convention the Birthday Boy gives us all a present, his thoughts and reflections of the recent Rétromobile. The show is without doubt one of the highlights of the motoring year, the 2018 edition maintained the high standard set by its predecessors. So please enjoy this cornucopia of automotive ‘Rare and Interesting’.

This is a Matra-Bonnet Djet and is the result of Engins Matra taking over the assets of René Bonnet’s small sports car company in 1965. These cars were made initially in Bonnet’s factory at Champigny-sur-Seine before production was transferred to their own plant at Romorantin.

One of the surviving pre-war prototypes of the 2CV Citroën. The car was designed to carry four people and 50 kilos of luggage at 50 km/h in great comfort. Its introduction was delayed by the declaration of war and it was finally presented to the public at the 1948 Paris Salon.

A Talbot Lago, a Coupé America of 1962, and one of the very last of this famous name.

Simca took over the Talbot Lago marque and its factories in 1958 and went on to complete just five more of these elegant coupés, equipping them with their Simca Vedette V8 engines.

With a 4-cylinder 951 c.c. engine, this Renault Type KG1 was the company’s response to the big popular demand for cars after the First World War. The early Renaults were characterised like this one by their scuttle-mounted radiators and it was only at the 1929 Paris Salon that policy changed and their cars henceforth had their radiators mounted at the front. A wide choice of bodywork was available and this cabriolet dates from 1923.

A one-off Siata built for 500 c.c. class records. It is based on an upgraded Fiat Topolino chassis with the engine reduced to 488 c.c. The bodywork was by Motto of Turin and Borrani made special wheels.

First seen at the Geneva Show in 1947, the Maserati A6 1500 was the company’s first true production road car. The elegant body was by Pinin Farina and the car was in the vanguard of the evolution of the GT car. An example, in the hands of Franco Bordoni, won the 1500 class in the May 1949 Coppa Inter Europa at Monza, the first race for GT cars. This car dates from 1949.

The Renault Type A G was the first proper Parisian taxi. From 1905 it gained in popularity despite customers reluctantly giving up the horse-drawn equivalents. It achieved immortal fame as the type of Renault which became known as the “Taxis de la Marne” when General Joffre needed urgent reinforcements to repel the German attack threatening Paris in 1914. It had a 2-cylinder engine of 1206 c.c.

A 1912 Mercer Type 35 Raceabout. This car was the work of Finlay Robertson Porter and it put the company of Trenton, New Jersey, on the American motoring map. It had a 4916 c.c. T–head engine and was capable of 75 m.p.h. It was often raced and would usually be driven to and from events. Two raced in the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, finishing in 12th and 15th  positions; in 1912 one came 3rd while a year later a Mercer finished 2nd. Its great rival was the Stutz Bearcat and their respective fans would taunt each other with remarks such as “There’s no car worser than a Mercer” and “You’ve got to be nuts to drive a Stutz”!

This 1950 Jaguar XK120  was raced privately in period and came 9th and 2nd in class in the first Goodwood Nine Hours race in August 1952.

A Peugeot Type 176. This model was introduced in 1925 and was made in the factory at Issy-les- Moulineaux in southern Paris. It had a 4-cylinder sleeve-valve engine of 2493 c.c., being classified as a 12CV. The body was by Ets Charles Felber. During the Twenties Peugeot used sleeve-valve engines for all their larger capacity models.

There is no longer any trace of the original Citroën 2CV Barbot so this is a replacement – its history is too interesting to ignore. It was the dream of the engineer Pierre Barbot to transform a 2CV into a competition car – he cut off the roof, shortened the chassis, lowered the suspension, changed the aerodynamics and modified the engine extensively while reducing the capacity to less than 350 c.c. to qualify for records in Class J. On the 27th September 1953 Barbot and Vinatier father and son, aided by Yacco oils, drove the car at Montlhéry for 12 hours at an average of 90,960 km/h and for 24 hours at an average of 85,02 km/h, breaking 9 international records. Jean Vinatier also drove the car in the 1953 Bol d’Or at Montlhéry,  car no. 80, finishing in 19th position and winning its class. Interestingly in homage to the records, this replica ran on the track at Montlhéry in 2016 for 6 consecutive hours at an average of 104,31 km/h; among the drivers was a certain Jean Vinatier.

Velam was the Isetta bubble car made under licence in France and the company built this special car with a 236 c.c. motor to tackle records in Class K ( under 250 c.c.). At Montlhéry in 1957 drivers Bianchi and Peslier won seven international records including 24 hours at an average of 109,662 km/h. This is the actual car that achieved those successes.

This is one of two Guépards built in Paris between 1952 and 1953 by S.E.R. It is the car for Paul Bobet and has a tuned Renault 4CV engine and originally a barchetta body by Pichon.

 

It raced in the 1954 Bol d’Or with Bobet finishing 22nd and after an accident Bobet decided to have it re-bodied with the intention of making an attempt on the world records for the 750 class.

 

Marcel Riffard designed the new body which was similar to those he had done for Panhard’s Le Mans cars; it was made by Heuliez. The car took on the new name of Riffard-Renault. In 1956 it was raced at Montlhéry but again it was involved in an accident.

At the 1927 Paris Salon Chenard et Walcker presented two new sporting cars: this one, the ”Tank” Type Y8, a 1500 c.c. with an i.o.e. engine conceived by the engineer Toutée. It was based on the very successful racing “tanks” of 1925 and although a road car it was to be found in private hands on race tracks (one ran in the 1931 Spa 24 Hour race) and in the hugely popular Concours d’Elégances.

On the neighbouring stand a Chenard-Sénéchal, a roadster with more conventional body with cycle wings – the Y7 “Torpille” which used the same engine. In 1928 the Sénéchal name was dropped ( Chenard had been making the popular Sénéchals for Robert Sénéchal in the preceding years).

This Y7 saloon was 4,000 Francs more expensive than the roadster and did not find public approval!

Industrialist Jérôme Donnet bought the Zedel concern in 1919 and produced cars of conventional design to become France’s fifth largest car manufacturer by 1927. He then acquired the Vinot Deguingand company with their factory at Nanterre which he expanded considerably and inherited a 4CV design which he produced as the Donnette. This is unusual in having a twin cylinder 740 c.c. 2-stroke engine designed by the engineer Marcel Violet, the acknowledged master of the 2-stroke cycle. Possibly about 100 only were made and this car is thought to date from c.1932.

Marcel Violet presented his cyclecar in 1924 with a 496 c.c. air-cooled flat twin 2-stroke engine. It scored numerous successes, claiming in 1925 alone the Championship of France, two world records and winning all the major races in the 500 c.c. category. This car dates from 1925.

Think of Amilcars and we tend to remember the sporting CC, CS, CGS and CGSS but over the years Amilcar had developed a range of tourers and at the 1928 Paris Salon the Model M was introduced. This Model M3 came in October 1931 and had a lowered chassis, powered by a 4-cylinder side-valve engine of 1244 c.c.

This strange looking machine is a Dolo. It was first seen at the Paris Salon in October 1947 and subsequently at Brussels and Geneva. It had a 592 c.c. horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine driving the front wheels and all-round independent suspension by torsion bars. It had a rigid box type chassis and the roof was a “plexiglass” dome, a new material at that time. During 1948 two cars travelled across France, visiting fairs etc. This came to be stored under the Autodrome at Montlhéry and was rediscovered in 1967.

The Deep Sanderson 301 Coupé which made the marque’s first (of three) appearance at Le Mans in 1963. It used Mini mechanicals set transversely amidships (before the Miura!) and was driven by Chris Lawrence and Chris Spender before being flagged-off for covering insufficient distance.

TAILPIECE

Fernand Maratuech was an inventor/constructer who lacked the means to build his own aeroplane so he made this “aeroplane without a wing”. He used a 250 c.c. single-cylinder motor-cycle engine and covered more than 5,000 kilometres in his 3-wheeler.

David Blumlein, February 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rare and Interesting at the 2017 Rétromobile

The Special Correspondent has been on his travels, the target in February was the Porte de Versailles and the Rétromobile, that celebration of the automobile that is an unmissable part of classics scene. He brings us a menu of rare and interesting……….


Today hatchbacks are justifiably popular but to the French they are nothing new. Citroën and Peugeot were, for example, making the “commerciales” from the late Twenties onwards. Here we have a 1939 Traction Avant Citroën Commerciale showing off the considerable capacity available.

Jacques Bignan was one of the big names in French motor sport in the Twenties. He made a variety of sporting cars , a 3-litre version winning the 1921 Corsican Grand Prix, a race considered to be the first proper sports car race. This car is a blatant case of badge-engineering – it is a Salmson AL3 with a Bignan radiator! Ever the enthusiast, Bignan spent too much money on racing and his company did not last the decade. However, one of his 2-litre cars won the 1924 Monte Carlo Rally and Jacques himself went on to win the 1928 event in a Fiat 509.

This is a very rare car, in fact the only known survivor. It is a Crossley Bugatti Brescia, part-machined and assembled by Crossley Motors Ltd of Gorton in Manchester.

Bugatti’s factory was in a pretty poor state after the Great War and he licensed out some production of his successful Brescia model to Rheinische Automobilbau AG in Dϋsseldorf in Germany ( the Rabag cars), to Diatto in Italy and to Crossley. Not many were made in England, possibly 24/25. A Diatto-Bugatti led home two O.M.s in a race at Brescia in 1921.

This was a surprise because this unique car has normally resided in the Le Mans Museum. It is the 2-litre class-winning Moynet which ran at Le Mans in 1975 with an all-female crew.

Still at Le Mans but a year later and again a unique car. This Lenham P71 used a 1.8-litre Ford engine but retired just after half-way.

The DB3 was Aston Martin’s first sports racing car. The company was hoping that the Le Mans organisers would soon abandon the prototypes which were introduced after the war as a temporary stand-in and get back to production-based sports cars but the prototypes were too big an attraction, so Aston Martin was obliged to join in!Prof. Eberon von Eberhorst was called in to design the car but its development turned out to be too protracted; furthermore it was late on the scene, it was too heavy and was powered only by Aston’s 2.6-litre engine which was inadequate.

It did take some class wins and won outright the 1952 Goodwood Nine Hour race against works Jaguar C-types but Aston Martin only found real success when “Willie” Watson, on his own initiative, offered the team his much lightened version, the DB3S.

J.A.Prestwich (JAP) was famous for making single and twin-cylinder engines for a wide variety of motorcycles, cyclecars, road cars such as the three-wheeled Morgan, the 500c.c. Formula 3 racing cars and others. In 1908 JAP decided to construct some V8 and V4 engines aimed at the budding aviation industry.
Here we see an overhead valve JAP V8 engine mounted in a pre-WW1 GN wooden chassis. It is the prototype unit and is one of only four known surviving JAP V8s; it has a capacity of 5-litres.
In a more modern context, JAP made the cylinder heads for the Lotus Cortina.

This is a DB Panhard 848c.c. with bodywork in aluminium by the coachbuilder Cottard of Bourg en Bresse. It was lighter than the plastic-bodied cars but only five were constructed, all in 1958. The third car made was destroyed during that year’s Tour de France Automobile at Reims.

A rare sight indeed! We associate the all-conquering 1100c.c. Salmsons of the Twenties with their superb twin-cam engines but before these Emile Petit had devised a clever arrangement whereby his 4-cylinder engine had its valves operated by only four pushrods! The special rockers can be seen.
TAILPIECE

Breguet was well- known as a French aircraft manufacturer from Toulouse and, because of the acute shortage of petrol during the German occupation in World War Two, Louis Breguet joined the ranks of electric car makers.

This is his A2 2-seater coupé with a Paris-Rhône motor mounted at the rear. It had a range of 65 miles, top speed 30 m.p.h.

David Blumlein, March 2017

Delicious Dinos

2016 Retromobile

The range of Ferraris that bear the name of Enzo’s son, Dino, hold a special place in the automotive heaven. Grace, beauty, style, and class are all associated with this sub-brand. To my generation the cars known as Dino conjures up the vision of the 246 GT from the late 60’s but of course Dino covered a far broader spectrum of cars and engines, both on road and track.

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There were two reminders of just why this name is held in such respect and affection at Rétromobile. The ACO were celebrating the 110th anniversary of the formation of the club and favoured the Parisian crowds with a display of cars from their museum. Even in such august company one vehicle caught my attention. At first glance this Ferrari 206GT was both familiar and strange at the same time, the lines had much in common with the road car that, presumably, it preceded but there were questions…………..

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Some light digging through the library answered these enquiries. This Dino was a one-off, a road legal version of the racing Dino 206S and dated back to 1965. That autumn it was the star of the Paris Salon, an audacious piece of styling from Pininfarina.

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The mid-engined, pocket-sized GT turned heads with its swoops and curves, the Plexiglas nose stretched over the full width of the car, a precursor of the similar treatment that would be seen on the Daytona.

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One of the motivations behind this GT and the whole Dino program in the middle-60’s was the desire for to homologate the V6 Dino 65º 4-cam engine, the rules stated that Formula Two powerplants had to be based on a road unit. This suited both Ferrari and Fiat who would produce a Fiat Dino in roadster and coupé formats utilising the race-bred engine..

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The Dino was also part of the financial tidal wave that would see Fiat acquiring 50% of Ferrari’s shares in 1968, thus guaranteeing financial stability at Maranello. The Italian industrial giant would swallow up almost all of Ferrari by 1988. Ironically Fiat’s own financial issues are currently being resolved by the flotation of Ferrari on the New York Stock Exchange, Gianni Agnelli’s investment and foresight really paid off in the long term.

Another important Dino was to be found in the halls downstairs, that will be dealt with in a future post.

 

John Brooks, May 2016

 

 

The Italian Job

2016 Retromobile

Name the odd one out – Maserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Pagani, Bugatti, Lancia, Alfa Romeo. Easy I hear you cry, Bugatti! – Though Ettore Bugatti was born in Milan almost all of the cars that bore his name were built at Molsheim in the French province of Alsace. Since the acquisition of the marque by the Volkswagen Group production has returned to Molsheim. The rest are all Italian car companies so that is that.

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However, there was, some 30 years ago, an attempt to revive Bugatti and locate it in the shadow of Modena (where else in Italy?) at a purpose built factory in Campogalliano. The author of this plan was Italian automotive entrepreneur Romano Artioli who somehow persuaded the French state-owned industrial conglomerate, Snecma, to sell him the rights to the brand of Bugatti, succeeding where so many others before him had failed. Perhaps he made them an offer they could not refuse.

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Artioli had a vision of the car he wanted to create, this had been hatched over several years with an old friend, Ferruccio Lamborghini, yes that Lamborghini. This was going to be the fastest, greatest car in the world and to achieve this aim Artioli recruited some of the stars of the local auto industry. Designer Marcello Gandini was a logical choice given his record with such supercars as the Alfa Romeo Montreal, De Thomaso Pantera, Ferrari Dino 308GT4, Iso Grifo, Lamborghini Miura, Lamborghini Countach, Lancia Stratos and Maserati Khamsin plus many others. The technical side was handled by Paolo Stanzani who drew up the initial concept of a two seater mid-engined sportscar with four-wheel drive, powered by a 3.5 litre V12 with four turbochargers giving over 600bhp in extreme form. Chassis were initially planned to be aluminium but this lacked the necessary rigidity so French aeronautics experts, Aérospatiale were called upon to develop and build a carbon fibre unit.

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Artioli managed to fall out with both of his project leaders prior to launch but the EB110GT continued its development and during this period recorded a record speed of 212.5mph, making it the fastest production car on the planet. The EB110GT was launched in 14th September 1991 at La Grande Arche de la Défense to the west of Paris to a crowd of 5,000 media and guests. The date was the 110th anniversary of Ettore Bugatti’s birth and 1,800 VIPs celebrated into the night at a sumptuous reception and dinner at the Palace of Versailles.

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Such extravagance set the tone and were to have consequences particularly as there were cost overruns at Bugatti and, to compound matters, Artioli acquired Lotus Cars from General Motors. He also launched the Ettore Bugatti fashion brand, all of this funded by a combination of personal wealth and borrowings. Artioli’s luck deserted him, his principal income streams, a large Ferrari dealership and being Suzuki’s agent in Italy, were experiencing difficulties with the general economic situation and the financial crisis that hit Japan at that time. Two other factors worked against the EB110GT, failure to get a foothold in the vital North American market and the arrival on the scene of the McLaren F1 which took SuperCar performance levels to a new dimension.

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In an attempt to drum up business in the face of the new arrival from Woking an even more extreme version of the EB110 was launched, the Supersport, but it was too little too late. The planned output of 300 units per annum was never achieved and in the end only 140 cars were built, including 38 Supersports.

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The end for Artioli’s Bugatti dream came in September 1995 when the corporation was declared insolvent with debts of $125 million, eventually after a couple of years of financial and legal wrangling the Volkswagen Group acquired the Bugatti brand. The Veyron was the next exotic chapter in the story of Bugatti and the recent launch of the Chiron at the Geneva Salon points to the future.

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So the EB110 is a rare beast, so to encounter two of the Supersports sharing the same stage is highly unlikely scenario, that they were in the company of a prototype EB112 saloon is even more so, this is hen’s teeth territory.

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The trio had been owned by Monegasque businessman, Gildo Pallanca Pastor, and closer inspection showed the cars to be even more important that I had first believed. The two Supersports appeared to have competition history, that much I figured from the sponsors’ logos, one turned out to be a world record holder. On 2nd March 1995 Pastor set a new record for a car on ice of 296.34 km/h (184 mph) at Oulu Finland, the record being set on winter tyres without spikes.

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Pastor was not finished with returning Bugatti back to the race-tracks, following the lead of Michel Hommel who entered an EB110SS in the 1994 Le Mans 24 Hours. The car ran competitively till an accident near the end of the race forced it into retirement. Pastor took his other SS to the USA and ran in two races with two finishes in 1995 before heading to Japan for the Suzuka 1000kms, a round of the BPR Global Endurance Series. He was partnered with 1993-Le Mans winner Eric Hélary but transmission problems caused the Bugatti to retire. Pastor entered the 1996 Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. Joining him at the wheel was Derek Hill, son of 1961 F1 World Champion Phil Hill, and Olivier Grouillard but they went out after 154 laps with gearbox failure.

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This inspired Pastor to enter Le Mans but that initiative sank almost at the start of Pre-Qualifying when ex-Ferrari F1 star, Patrick Tambay, crashed the Bugatti beyond immediate repair and, aside from a club race at Dijon a few months later, that was the end of the competitions career of Bugatti, which is unlikely to be revived under the current ownership.

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The EB112 also warrants more attention, something it attracted in spades at the 1993 Geneva Salon when it was shown to the world for the first time. Powered by a 6 litre V12, the elegant saloon design was the work Giorgetto Giugiaro at ItalDesign. The engineering team was under the guidance of the great Mauro Forghieri, whose work for Ferrari in the ‘60s and ’70s is legendary, producing four drivers World Championships and eight Constructors titles. Two EB112 prototypes were built and the project was set to go into production in 1996 but the financial disaster that engulfed Bugatti ended that dream.

Under the new owners Bugatti returned to its spiritual home in Molsheim, the automotive Risorgimento was done.

John Brooks, April 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’…………..

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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.

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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
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.
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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.
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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!
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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.

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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.
TAILPIECE

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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

Rétromobile 2015 – Classics with a Gallic Flavour

2015 Retromobile

The 2015 edition of Rétromobile had the usual top quality ingredients, a combination of cars, clubs, manufacturers, dealers and petrol heads served up as automotive haute cuisine.

2015 Retromobile

Perhaps the biggest act was the Artcurial sale of the Baillon Collection. This made headlines all around the globe…..nothing like a “barn find” raising millions to grab the attention.

I looked at it earlier HERE

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Back in 1977 this Porsche 936 and its drivers, Jacky Ickx, Jürgen Barth and Hurley Haywood came from last place to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, destroying the hopes of Renault along the way. More on that HERE

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The Bugatti T41 aka Royale was the last word in luxury motoring between the wars, just six were sold, all different. This example is described HERE

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Another fantastic restoration job from the folks at Mercedes-Benz Classic on this 540K, the full story can be found HERE

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The Retromobile is a must see/do for anyone with petrol in their veins, make a date in the diary for 2016.

John Brooks, April 2015

Heavy Load

2015 Retromobile

In Paris for the Retromobile, that great classic car show, that truly brings Gallic automotive flair out for admiration. Sometimes though muscle will beat brains, Goliath gets David and this 70 ton monster was the Big Daddy back in 1944. Nicknamed the Königstiger or the King Tiger it was, perhaps, the most feared armoured vehicle that the Allied soldiers on either the Western or Eastern Fronts would have to face.

Even at rest in the Porte de Versailles it has real menace and when the bellowing 23 litre V12 engine was fired up we all jumped for cover. If you are in Paris over the next few days get down to the show, it is packed with great cars.

John Brooks, February 2015

Old Paris

The month of February brings the Retromobile in Paris, our Special Correspondent jumped on the train to see what was on offer. Now he shares some of his wisdom with us.

2014 Retromobile
Sunbeam 350 h.p.
This car was the creation of Louis Coatalen in 1920. A native of Brittany, he had worked for various car companies including William Hillman before becoming Chief Engineer at Sunbeam in Wolverhampton. Sunbeams had been very busy during the First World War producing aero engines (so much so that the production of their popular Staff car had to be farmed out to Rover in Coventry) and Coatalen selected one of the company’s V-12 18.3-litre Manitou engines, albeit modified for his new record/sprint car.

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On its first appearance in 1920 at Brooklands it crashed in practice but in October that year René Thomas set a new record at the Gaillon hill climb. On 22nd May 1922 Kenelm Lee Guinness set a new Land Speed Record of 133.75 m.p.h. on the Railway Straight at Brooklands. A month later Malcolm Campbell borrowed the car and reached 138 m.p.h. at the Saltburn Speed Trials.
Campbell persuaded Coatalen to sell him the car, painted it blue and re-named it Blue Bird. After a futile trip to Fanoë in Denmark, Campbell sent the car over the winter of 1923-24 to Boulton Paul at Norwich for wind-tunnel testing – they recommended a streamlined cowl over the radiator, a long tapered tail with a headrest and the rear suspension cowled; the rear wheels had disc covers. This work was then carried out by Jarvis of Wimbledon.
Late in August 1924 another trip to Denmark proved unsuccessful and Campbell then discovered a suitable beach in Carmarthen in South Wales. Here on September 24th on the Pendine Sands Campbell set a new Land Speed Record of 146.16 m.p.h. – by just 0.15 m.p.h.! He returned the next July and raised this to 150.766 m.p.h. in the car now fitted with a long exhaust pipe.

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Lancia D24
In 1953 Lancia raced the 2.9-litre V6 D20 Coupés, scoring third and eighth places in that year’s Mille Miglia. Maglioli then gave the car a win in the Monte Pellegrino hill climb and in the Targa Florio. But the pretty coupés were noisy and uncomfortable because of cockpit heat. Lancia therefore commissioned Pinin Farina to produce an open spyder version, the D23. In August 1953 for the first Nϋrburgring 1,000 km race Lancia produced the D24, a 3.3-litre version of the D23. The two D24s suffered broken batteries when leading the race. However, in 1954 the model won the Mille Miglia in the hands of Alberto Ascari and this chassis gave Taruffi victory in the Targa Florio after earlier winning the Giro di Sicilia.
This chassis 005 was the last built and is the unique survivor.

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Rolls Royce EX17
There had been criticisms of the Rolls Royce car, suggesting it was old-fashioned and of poor performance. So Henry Royce decided to build a Sports Phantom at the end of 1925 and this car, 10EX, was used for extensive testing especially at Brooklands. Royce sanctioned three more experimental Sport Phantoms of which the third was 17EX. This was running by the end of January 1928, although waiting for its body from Jarvis of Wimbledon. Tested alongside 10EX, 17EX was noticeably superior in acceleration and lower speeds. The blue-painted body was delivered to Derby in July and testing resumed until October when the car passed to the Sales Department, having covered just 4,400 miles.

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1921 Delaunay- Belleville

Delaunay-Belleville was a manufacturer of ship and locomotive boilers at St Denis, Paris. From 1904 cars were made and a familiar feature of the early cars was the rounded radiator, reminiscent of the boilers! From 1910 the cars were generally chauffeur- driven. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia was a regular customer and both Lenin and Trotsky liked driving their Delaunay-Bellevilles. This car is a 6-cylinder 5-litre 30CV model with a 4-speed gearbox and body by Lambourdette of Madrid.

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The engine used side-valves but some manufacturers provided covering to give the impression that more sophisticated valve-gear was used!

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Alfa Romeo Van
We tend to think of Alfa Romeo in terms of sporting and racing cars but the company produced high quality commercial vehicles especially in the Thirties when the State-controlled firm needed to supply lorries for Mussolini’s military ambitions.

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Diversification after the war included the production of these light vans (1954-68) and this example has true Alfa Romeo pedigree – it is powered by the Guilietta twin cam engine mounted well forward.
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1932 Amilcar C6
Amilcar of St Denis made small capacity sports cars in the interwar years. This C6 is rather special: Clément Auguste Martin replaced the six-cylinder engine with a four-cylinder unit which he had modified and pursued a very successful competition career with it, especially in the Bol d’Or races where it scored class wins.

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At Le Mans in 1932 the car finished 8th overall, winning the 1100 c.c. class. It also ran in the 1930 Routes Pavées (3rd in class) and in the 1932 Spa 24 Hour race.

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1964 Facel 6

Jean Daninos introduced his luxury Facel Vega car at the Paris Salon in 1954, powered by a large V8 Chrysler–based engine. In 1960 he presented the smaller Facellia with its own 1.6-litre twin cam 4-cylinder engine designed by former Talbot engineer Carlo Marchetti. Unfortunately it was noisy and very unreliable. A Volvo-engined replacement was offered in 1963 and then this 6-cylinder version using a linered down Austin-Healey 3000 unit. The original company was declared bankrupt in 1965.

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1955 Cooper Bristol
The Cooper Car Company of Surbiton created for 1955 a central-seat sports car based on their F3 designs. This car, the T39, was powered by the new Coventry-Climax FWA 1100c.c. engine and was clothed in an attractive aerodynamic bodyshell whose tail was cut off- a Kamm tail, named after the German physicist who demonstrated the aerodynamic benefits of such a design. The car immediately acquired the nickname “Bob-tail”.
A young Australian, Jack Brabham, obtained agreement to build one of these cars with a 2-litre Bristol engine for use in Formula 1. The chassis was extended by 2 inches and all the sports car equipment such as lights was dispensed with. This one-off T40 ran at Aintree in the British Grand Prix but the engine overheated causing retirement. Brabham then had a wonderful duel with Stirling Moss’s Maserati 250F at Snetterton finally finishing fourth behind Moss and the two leading Vanwalls.
TAILPIECE

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Peugeot World War 1 Lorry
This is a Type 1525 4-ton lorry dating from 1917. It has a 4.7-litre 4-cylinder Type KM engine, a 4-speed gearbox and, as can be seen, shaft drive. Expect 22-30km/h when fully laden!

David Blumlein, February 2014

 

 

Retro Retro

2013 Retromobile

It is safe to say that the Classic Car Season really kicks off when the Retromobile comes round.

2013 Retromobile

Held at Pavilions 2 and 3 at the Parc des expositions, Porte de Versailles, Paris, the Retromobile has grown in stature and importance, as well as size, reflecting, perhaps, the general rising level of interest in automotive heritage.

2013 Retromobile

The Show is a cocktail of many ingredients, from the flea market to the top dealers, car manufacturers to the car clubs, enthusiasm abounds and there is much to see for even the casual visitor, let alone the dyed in the wool enthusiast.

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This Delahaye is typical of the quality that was found throughout the Retromobile.

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Despite the difficult trading conditions that prevail in Europe’s car market, especially for the French, there were prominent stands from Peugeot, Citroën and Renault, the latter having a well designed circular effort with the stars being

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a 1937 Renault Nerva Grand Sport

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and, from 1968/69, an Alpine Renault A220 that ran at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

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I also liked the contrast between the Renault 8 and Renault’s first modern day F1 car.

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The 70’s graphics are still striking.

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I witnessed the Renault RS01’s first race at Silverstone in 1977, the turbo era had arrived, though we did not appreciate it that day. We were more concerned with James Hunt and John Watson, and some crazy Canadian, Gilles Villeneuve making his debut.

2013 Retromobile

As with every show, anniversaries and birthdays are celebrated, any excuse and the Retromobile was no exception. So 30 years of the 205, one the quintessential hot hatches, was a focus on the Peugeot stand.

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Citroën’s DS19 did not have any obvious celebration to make, except being about as Gallic as is possible for a car. There were many fine examples of this ground breaker to be seen.

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The Germans occupied a big slice of Parisian territory with one of the show’s highlights being the Mercedes-Benz stand.

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Leading the fine selection of Mercedes rarities was  a joint exhibition with the Louwman Museum of the pair of recently restored Prince Heinrich 1910 Benz. The pair of cars had left in store room for decades, and recognising the importance of these cars, the two organisations decided to pool their efforts at restoration.

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“Since the beginning of the twentieth century, a large number of car races have taken place in Europe. Sons of wealthy families and rich sportsmen were the main competitors. One of these races was the Prince Heinrich, named after a keen sportsman who was the brother of Kaiser Wilhelm II. It was restricted to four-seater touring cars.”

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“On 10 June 1910 no less than 10 Benz cars took part in a 1,900 kilometer race across Germany and part of France. They had 80HP and 100HP engines with lubrication pumps, drive shaft transmission replacing the old chain system, and elegant ‘tulip’ bodywork. A month later, some of these cars took part in the ‘Kaiser Nicolas’ race in Russia covering 2,800 kilometres in eight days.”

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Speaking of the Louwman Museum, they had as a companion to the Benz a 1903 Spyker as they describe it. “This was the first car in the world to be equipped with a six-cylinder engine, and the first petrol-driven car with four-wheel drive and all-wheel brakes. This Spyker 60-HP is therefore one of the most significant cars in motoring history.”

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Rounding off the display of Mercedes Benz’ rich heritage was the “Blitzen Benz”.

One of the key goals in those early years of the 20th century was to break the then magic speed barrier of 200 km/h. Benz was the first company to do so, with a petrol-engine automobile: the 200 hp racing car took to the track at the Brooklands circuit in England in 1909, achieving an average speed of 202.7 km/h. This record-breaking racing car, with its massive four-cylinder engine, would however go on to achieve its greatest successes in Florida, USA. In 1911, Bob Burman reached the amazing speed of 228.1 km/h on the sand track at Daytona Beach, so making the “Lightning Benz”, as the model became known in the US, the fastest vehicle in the world – faster even than any aeroplane or train. It was a record that would remain unbeaten for eight years.”

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Porsche began the first of many celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the 911 with a fine selection of examples of the model through the years. Yes I know it’s a 935…………….

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BMW’s stand was frankly disappointing with some strange concept cars paying homage to the 328 and the M1, must have sounded better on paper than it looked in reality.

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Bentley had a small stand with the amazing Embiricos 4¼ Litre Pourtout Coupé on display, the impact of this important car only slightly diminished by obscure location and lighting of the stand. This will be the last appearance of this Le Mans’ veteran on this side of the Atlantic for a while.

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Sharing with the men from Crewe were fellow VW Group members, Bugatti, who brought out a Type 59 Grand Prix racer from 1934. I drew encouragement from the fact that it sported a tax disk, meaning that someone drives it on the UK roads.

2013 Retromobile

Skoda displayed an interesting array of rarely seen competition cars dating back to the 60’s including this sports prototype, the 720.

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There are always a selection of quite obscure vehicles at the top shows, tucked away in a corner was a stand celebrating Germain Lambert, an enterprising engineer who ran Automobiles Lambert from the 20’s through to 1953. This is the Lambert 6CV.

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Lambert was also an enthusiast, who raced his own creations, this is the CS Cabriolet Sport

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The output of another French engineer, Marcel Leyat, was also exhibited at the Show. His idea was to have a lightweight wooden chassis powered by a propeller, a plane without wings.

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During the 20’s he managed to sell around 30 of these strange contraptions but the concept never really caught on.

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One of the delights of shows such as the Retromobile  is finding the unexpected, here I encountered the Scuderia Filipinetti Ferrari 512S as driven at Le Mans in 1970 by Mike Parkes and Herbert Müller. They were eliminated in the notorious accident early in the race that took out the three 512s of Regazzoni and Wisell, as well as Parkes, I am sure it made for an interesting debrief.

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Another 70’s Ferrari present was this immaculate 512 BB LM

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And Paul Knapfield’s 312PB, with extra air intake to cool the F1 spec engine.

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And one last Prancing Horse, from the early days, a Ferrari 340/375 MM Berlinetta Competizione, promoting the Villa d’Este Concours.

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Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera had a stand to show off their skills and it contained a rarity from Lamborghini, dating back to 1966, the Flying Star II prototype. This was a collaboration with the factory and based on a Lamborghini chassis.

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The Retromobile had a wide range of automobilia for sale, from the likes of Hortons Books to several stands offering fine wines, and of course there are the ART stalls.

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Steve McQueen still has a power to fascinate……………..

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Someone’s wall is incomplete without this

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The Lukas Huni stand had several outstanding cars, the pick of which was this Type 57 Bugatti

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And this Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza

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I might be a bit biased but to my mind the two stands that were head and shoulders above the others came from across the English Channel.

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The sheer quality of the cars on Hall & Hall and Fiskens, or Fiskens and Hall & Hall, depending on whose stand you were on, was staggering.

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Highlights at Fiskens were two Le Mans’ veterans, the 1926 Bentley 3L Le Mans and Scuderia Filipinetti Ferrari 275 GTB/C that was a class winner in 1967, these endurance classics were just part of a fantastic set of cars that the well known London based dealer had in Paris.

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I caught up with Gregor Fisken who gave his thoughts on the 2013 Retromobile.

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“Every year it gets a little bit bigger, a little bit better, I think the show has really found the right balance. It is important that it still has elements of a flea market, it is important that the modern manufacturers can come in and embrace their heritage as well. It is important that there is wonderful art, models, parts but it is also important that it is Europe’s pre-eminent début event of the year. It kicks off the year and everyone leaves here motivated, they see old friends, they make new friends, they plan for the season and they have the opportunity to review what they are going to use in the future.”

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“What we have here on the stand today, I think, is a little bit of something for everyone. We have arguably one of the most important Le Mans’ Bentley team cars to come on the market in recent years and we have a Bugatti T37A that has had 50 years of one family ownership, so that is a special opportunity. Of course with the Ferrari 275 GTB/C there is an opportunity to purchase a car that raced in Les Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans three times and it won its class. We had Claude Sage on the stand, from Scuderia Filipinetti, who ran the car in period. He remembered driving the car from Geneva to Le Mans, the car running in the race and then being driven back afterwards, absolutely fantastic.”

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I think cars from this period, the 60’s GT era, were the last that could be genuinely driven from the factory to Le Mans, win their class and be driven home. I think for a lot of new people that are coming into the market they find the opportunity to use such a car on the road and on rallies, events and races is very attractive. They can go to the Le Mans Classic and have a pretty prestigious way to travel down the Mulsanne.”

2013 Retromobile

It is hard to imagine but this impressive array of classics were matched by the Hall & Hall display. Endurance Racing was again well represented with Porsche 956/001 supporting Jaguar XJR-12 chassis 288, with the unique record of a victory in both the Le Mans and Daytona 24 Hours. Another flash from my misspent youth was a Lotus 49C in Gold Leaf Team Lotus livery, this being an unraced spare built for Ford.

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Rob Hall gave me his views on the Retromobile. “We have been attending the Retromobile for seven years now, it starts the season off for us really, it is a good shop window for the selling side of the business, a few of the cars here are not for sale but they add to interest to the exhibit and it gets our name noticed. It costs us certainly but during the rest of the year we recoup the outlay, either through picking up work or picking up sales.”

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“I had a quick look round the Show early today before things got busy and it is clearly a great event. There is something for everyone, whether it is old, new or something to help you work on your car.”

2013 Retromobile

“The Show is quite a big commitment but what has made it a lot easier is that it is now condensed into one weekend and a few days as opposed running over two weekends as it did in the past. The cost of hotels and travel and having staff on site has been reduced and that acts as an incentive for us to come to Paris. So both parties benefit.”

2013 Retromobile

A show would not be a show without an auction taking place and Artcurial provided the necessary ingredients, with many fine lots. The hammer came down the loudest when a 1936 Talbot Lago T150C Roadster went to a new owner for just under €1,500,000, despite the financial storms that rage in Europe there is still some money about for a classic car.

2013 Retromobile

The 2013 season is now underway having been launched at the Retromobile, it is worth a visit and especially as Paris is but a short train ride away, it can be done in a day and enthusiasts should be making their plans for February 2014.

John Brooks, February 2013