Tag Archives: Retromobile

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Paris Métro

Paris in February is a cold and grey place but for those of us who appreciate the automobile there is a hot spot to be found at the Porte de Versailles, within the halls of the Paris Expo. I refer, of course, to the Rétromobile, a cornucopia of motoring excellence from all points of the compass. The Special Correspondent patrolled the aisles and uncovered these treasures for your appreciation.

In 1931 the oil company Yacco was seeking to obtain publicity for its products and bought a Citroën C6F with which to tackle long distance records at Montlhéry using its oils. Re-clothed in an aerodynamic body in aluminium, this car, baptised “Rosalie” after Sainte Rosalie, went on to attain 14 international records.

The Citroën-Yacco team returned to Montlhéry in 1933 with a special version of the 8CV model. Known as the “Petite Rosalie”, this car covered 300,000 kilometres at an average of 93 km/hr

This is the second prototype Bentley and the oldest surviving Bentley. Known as EXP2, it is the first Bentley to win a race, having crossed the line the winner of the Whitsun Junior Sprint Handicap at Brooklands on 16 May 1921 with F.C. Clement at the wheel.

It was eventually used as a practice car for the 1922 Tourist Trophy in the Isle of Man.

Very rare indeed is this Micron cyclecar, the nose of which seems to steer with the wheels! Made in Toulouse by Henri Jany, it had front wheel drive and used single –cylinder engines of either 350 or 500 c.c. Its claim  to fame was that four of them were entered for and successfully completed the Bol d’Or, Europe’s very first 24 hour race.

In 1953 Lancia introduced their first proper sports racing car, the D20 Coupé. This scored a third place in the Mille Miglia and won the Targa Florio but persistent cockpit heat caused Lancia to make a spyder- bodied version, the D23.

Painted pale blue, this model first appeared at the Gran Premio dell’ Autodromo di Monza at the end of June. This was a race for sports cars of up to 3-litres capacity and Felice Bonetto finished 2nd to Villoresi’s Ferrari in this actual car, which is chassis 0002.

Bernard Pichon and André Parat formed in the late Forties a coach building company at Sens. Initially they modified production cars, especially the Ford Vedette. Having made a fixed head coupé on the Panhard Dyna Junior, they introduced a more sporting “berlinette” based on the Dyna chassis, the first example being shown on their stand at the 1953 Salon de Paris. Much lower and lighter, the body was made of Duralinox and the model was known as the “ Dolomites”. Some 20-30 of these Panhard Pichot-Parat Dolomites were produced between 1953 and 1957 and sporting successes were achieved, for example, Bernand Consten and Pichot came 5th in the 1956 Rallye des Routes du Nord.

The example shown is a 1954 model with the earlier split windscreen.

In the Spring of 1936 Panhard introduced a radically new model, the Dynamic. Although it still used a sleeve-valve engine, two six cylinder sizes being offered, it had torsion bar suspension, independent at the front, and a completely new Louis Bionier-designed aerodynamic body with enclosed wheels and, most unusual of all, a central driving position, albeit on the earlier cars.

The pictures above show the driving position of one such car dating from 1936; the complete car shown is a 1939 example with the later left-hand drive.

Two views of the Serenissima V8 3-litre that ran at Le Mans in 1966, retiring with gearbox trouble.

Eugène Mauve, who created the Bol d’Or race in 1922,  built and raced the Elfe cyclecar from 1919 to 1921. This is a truthful replica of the version he ran in the Gaillon hillclimb in 1921 – it has a V-twin Anzani engine.

The work of Robert Bourbeau  and Henri Devaux, the Paris-built Bédélia was considered the first successful French cyclecar. It was like a wooden coffin on wheels with tandem seating and the driver at the back! Power came from single cylinder or V-twin air-cooled  engines at the front driving the rear wheels through enormously long belts.

It looked rather crude at first sight but these machines turned out to be surprisingly effective: one of them won the 1913 Cyclecar Grand Prix at Amiens and they were used by the French Army as field ambulances in the First World War.

TAILPIECE

What a Giant! This Berliet T100 is one of two survivors of the four originally made. They were conceived for work in the Algerian desert and the 50 tonne machine has a V12 Cummins diesel. It appeared at the commercial Salon in Paris in 1957 but for this year’s visit it had a journey from the Fondation Berliet (Lyon) of four days on a low-loader trailer hauled by a Volvo FH 16 of 750 h.p.

David Blumlein, March 2019

Parisian Cat Walk

The 2019 edition of the Rétromobile was well up to the high standards that we have come to expect from this French Classic. It has become something of a must attend event for those of us who ply our trade in this arena, being the first serious event of the year adds a taste of optimism to encourage us, no matter how misplaced this rush of blood ultimately turns out to be.

So to whet the appetite I am flagging up a few delights, some familiar, some less so. I will have a few other posts to produce in the next few days in between the doing the paying stuff…….

Arriving on Tuesday evening I barely made any progress past the Peter Auto stand, ambushed by various gangsters that I am acquainted with, all of us keen to catch up on gossip, rumour and the occasional fact……one of the cars on the Peter Auto stand was very familiar, on old friend from a couple of decades gone, McLaren F1 GTR, #24R. Originally a factory Schnitzer car for the 1997 Le Mans 24 Hours, it then turned up in the Gulf/Davidoff team for a few races in that year. It was driven by Thomas Bscher and John Nielsen till the Dane royally stuffed it in Practice at Suzuka at the end of summer. Once refettled Steve O’Rourke acquired it for his British GT campaign and then achieved a fantastic fourth place overall in the ’98 edition of the French classic……….the stuff of dreams.

More memories were to be found round the corner on Gergor Fisken’s stand, always a source of truly classic cars in every sense of the word. True to form Fiskens had on display a cornucopia of automotive goodness, including one gem that really struck a personal chord. My first attendance endurance race was the 1971 Brands Hatch 1000Kms, it proved to be a slippery slope, which is how and why you are reading this doggerel. So it was quite something to encounter the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/3 that Henri Pescarolo and Andrea de Adamich drove to record a memorable victory that over the Gulf Porsche 917s, the first international success for the Italian marque for 20 years.

I reflected on the 1971 season, and its impact of my young self, some time ago HERE – while it has been largely downhill on the personal front since those heady days, the T33 still looks stunning.

Artcurial run the auction based at the Rétromobile and they always come up with much that is stunning, 2019 was no exception to this rule. The Serenissima Spyder was captivating, another treasure from Count Volpi’s outfit and, even more appealing, exactly as it ran at Le Mans in 1966.

The timing of its competition career was unfortunate as it was crushed along with the rest of the field by the Detroit bulldozer that was Ford’s GT effort at Le Mans that year featuring no less that 15 GT40s on the grid. No matter, the patina and graceful design are timeless, who ever acquired this exquisite car has won a motoring lottery.

Also at Artcurial was this headline grabbing Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring which went under the hammer for a pretty respectable €16.4 million, quite understandable when considering this beautiful creation.

One of just five examples built and with an almost complete history, it is a slice of motoring royalty……….one can dream…………

On a completely different scale in every sense of the word was this giant Berliet T100, at the time of its introduction the largest truck in the world……it dwarfed everything else at Rétromobile.


Even this Panzer MK IV had to yield to the Berliet………………….

Another French star on the boards was the WM P88, holder of the top speed record down the Mulsanne Straight, posting 407kph in 1988…………….


Back into the 21st Century is the Maserati MC12 Corsa that was to be found at Girado’s impressive stand. The Corsa was the track day version of the MC12 for those who wished to emulate the performance of the wildly successful GT1 racecar.

The Corsa had a claimed 745bhp from the V12 6.0 litre engine, shared with the Ferrari Enzo. Only 12 examples of the Corsa were built, making it ultra desirable as if it needed any further enhancement.

Another extremely stylish and rare Italian that was to be found in Paris was a concept car that appeared at the 1966 Turin Motor Show, the Lamborghini 400 GT Flying Star II.

This striking shooting-brake displays all the confidence of the mid-60s and was based on a 400 GT platform. Its other very significant attribute is being in the final wave of creativity from Carrozzeria Touring which was experiencing financial difficulties at that time. The stunning Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Touring described above was also part of the history of that venerable styling house. As to the Flying Star, it is very much a case of what might have been……………..

The final initial glance at 2019’s excellence at the Rétromobile is another one off Italian, another Lamborghini, this time from the house of Bertone. It is hard to see how one might improve on the visual impact of the Miura but the P400 Roadster makes a convincing attempt. There are subtle differences to the ‘standard’ car, the angle of the windscreen was lowered, a spoiler was added at the rear and the exhaust was re-routed.

After a number of decades of almost neglect this piece of automotive art was restored to its original very cool blue metallic livery. In Paris it graced the Kidston display, formed exclusively of Lamborghinis, mainly Miuras. What a fantastic collection…….

More from Rétromobile later this week………….

John Brooks February 2018

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.

2016 Retromobile

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…………..

2016 Retromobile

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.

2016 Retromobile

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.

2016 Retromobile

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..

2016 Retromobile

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.

2016 Retromobile

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.

2016 Retromobile

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.

2016 Retromobile

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.

2016 Retromobile

 

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.

2016 Retromobile

 

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.

2016 Retromobile

 

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.

2016 Retromobile

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.

2016 Retromobile

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.

2016 Retromobile

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.

2016 Retromobile

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.

2016 Retromobile

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’…………..

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
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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.

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.

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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.

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).

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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.
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.

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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

2015 Retromobile

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

2015 Retromobile

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

2015 Retromobile

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