The high prices fetched by cars at the three elite auctions held during the Retromobile Exhibition in Paris every February often tend to divert attention from the Retromobile event itself, which in terms of automotive history, is the jewel of the collector and enthusiast global show circuit.
The industry has developed from the hobby of a hardcore band of enthusiasts collecting and restoring automobiles and in a short time has grown to gargantuan proportions, with major retro automobile shows in every major country and massive restoration markets in every European country, America, Canada and Australia.
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Retromobile has grown three-fold in two years. Now there are two more halls and an entire hall just for clubs. The main floor is comprised of manufacturers, shops and high end dealers. Originally the focus was more of a swap meet for antiquities. Slowly the big dealers squeezed them into a corner, but promoters know that this is what brings the crowds in ... so now there's breathing room, and some more of the club and artisan level stands are getting folded back in.
It is hard to describe Retromobile in relative terms to any American events. Maybe if you took a bit of the AACA Hershey Meet with its swap meet and club presentations, added in dealers with Pebble-Beach-quality-cars and price tags to match, you'd start to get a picture of what to expect.
The clubs area is where American enthusiasts might get some real joy. Let's say you're interested in, say ... Alfa Romeos? Each club stand is usually quite welcoming for members with wine and cheese. It's an opportunity for a visitor to meet new people from different countries with common interests and it works just great. You can join the Italian Vehicle Club, The Alfa Romeo Club or other organizations catering to historic vehicles, get their newsletters and keep up with the clubs activities, perhaps even arranging to join in with friends in other countries.
Organized tours that let you use your car
An interesting trend on the social front is that of actually using your collectible vehicle, and the number of vintage tours and vintage rally packages with large driving components is growing. If you fancy driving a car or riding a motorcycle around France, or Germany or the Alps for two or three weeks, there's a tour coming up.
All the logical things you'd might like to do now seem to be on offer. Quite a few tour companies, when you look around the vast array of stalls, offer not just the predictable delights but offbeat tours, from the eccentric and delightful through to scary and very testing adventure tours. Fancy a tour around historic buildings in Europe in your own car? They can scratch that itch. Feeling a little more adventurous ? How does Peking to Paris sound?
The changing of the guard is nigh
Collectors always wonder who will step in and take over their collections. Another generation is indeed stepping in, but the new generation has different tastes. Cars such as the Porsche 356 and 911, for example, have left the station as far as making an investment at the start of their climb to becoming very valuable cars. Now 914s, 916s and 928s are met with a gleam in the eye. Newer Mercedes, Ferraris and Volkswagens have a following. An ever changing market and an ever changing event. Just the thing for an ever changing world ... and conversation.
The pics are all courtesy of Somer Hooker, as are the thoughts on the event above. The captions are a collaboration. If you love this stuff, Somer's adventures in Paris captured in the photo gallery makes for a wonderful journey around Retromobile.
Don't forget that Techno-Classica in Essen is not far away, too. Techno-Classica is much bigger in terms of visitor numbers, artisan and club stands, and floor space than Retromobile (and hence a better destination for the bulk of collectors and enthusiast needs) but at the high end, Retromobile is still the most important retro venue for cars in the world.
The gallery contains many more images. The following pics were just the highlights.
The world's first motorcycle
Two motorcycles lay claim to being the world's first motorcycle and this is one of them. It's the steam-powered Michaux-Perreaux produced somewhere between 1867 and 1871. The other contender is the American Roper Steam Cycle. It was a brave man who would entrust his nether regions to such close proximity to a steam engine of the day.
The steam-powered Michaux-Perreaux appeared at roughly the same time as the Roper (between 1867 and 1869), but Roper never patented his work whereas Louis-Guillaume Perreaux patented his steam velocipede on December 26, 1869. It's all academic, because they operated independently anyway and solved the same equation of functional powered two-wheel transport with the same steam power source, but arranged different ways. They are both perfect examples of humanity's ingenuity at its finest. I'd bet it was a pig to ride just the same.
The Shah of Iran's Bugatti
This one-off Bugatti Type 57 C Cabriolet was given by the French Government to the Mohammad Pahlavi, Shah of Iran in 1939. The body is a collaboration between Vanvooren and Saoutchik. It has been restored to its glorious best by Auto Classique Touraine with more than 5,000 hours of labor and at a cost of €1.0 million.
Talbot-Lago T150-C SS Coupé by Figoni et Falaschi
Considered one of the most beautiful automobiles of all time, only 16 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS Coupés were made by Paris coachbuilders Figoni et Falaschi. This example is the second car built with front spats, and has remained in Switzerland the vast majority of its life. The recipient of a magnificent, concours-quality restoration in 2002, it will go to auction at RM’s Lake Como (Italy) sale on May 27 during the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este weekend. The car is estimated to sell for between €3.2 million and €4.2 million.
Don't recognize it? It's a Ferrari. Boasting unique coachwork by Carrozzeria Fontana, the car was named “Uovo” for its distinctive egg-shaped design. In having this car designed for maximum efficiency and performance, Giannino Marzotto commissioned coachbuilders Fontana of Padova and the famous sculptor, Franco Reggani. The Uovo held the lead in the final stages of both the 1951 Mille Miglia and the 1951 Giro di Sicilia before it was forced to retire. Later that year, it won the Coppa Toscana, and featured in many major races of the period in both Europe and America. It will sell via RM-Sothebys in Pebble Beach this August.
The Amphibious Motorcycle
Among a vast array of rare French motorcycles was this gem - an amphibious motorcycle. It was built by Simca for the French Military in the pre-WW2 period for a perceived need for go-anywhere transport. The rules for traditional motorcycles were completely thrown out in the design, with an inverted (crankshaft above cylinders), 314cc two-stroke in-line twin and a propellor for water-borne propulsion. The punchline is that the bike is regularly seen at European get-togethers and always accompanied by its authoritative owner, FranCois-Marie Dumas, who is the author of numerous motorcycle books including "Unusual Motorcycles: A Collection of Curious Concepts, Prototypes and Race Bikes." Could there be a more fitting motorcycling ambassador?
The first of nine new Jaguar XKSS models from 1957
Jaguar Classic has finished the six Lightweight E-type sports cars it never completed back in the '60s and is now in the process of completing nine 1957 XKSS models that were planned but never finished. The continuation cars are hand-built to the exact specifications of the originals, giving buyers the rare opportunity to buy a completely new classic car for £1 million. The first such car broke cover at Retromobile and the full story of the old new model is told here.
Ten AJS 7R Boy Racers
One of the stars of Retromobile at Port de Versailles in Paris this week was a collection of 10 near perfect AJS racing motorcycles (variously from 1949 to 1962) on the Movendi stand. Movendi is a prestige car dealership, and alongside a Bugatti EB110, Porsche 959 and Ferrari F50 was this gorgeous set of period racing motorcycles, and a discrete price tag of €750,000 for the lot. Read the full story here.
One of three: 1936 Bugatti 57 S Atlantic
You see some very rare cars at Retromobile, and this 1936 Bugatti 57 S Atlantic is a prime example, being one of three extant. It was nearly destroyed in an accident in 1955, before it was restored in an extended rebuild.
Freddie Frith's World 350cc championship-winning
1949 KTT Velocette Mk. VIII
Bonhams Spring Stafford Sale invariably throws up a couple of gems each year and this year Bonhams took their gem to Paris to preview the show. The bike is the 1948 KTT Velocette M VIII on which Freddie Frith won the 1949 World 350cc Championship. Can't wait to see what this one fetches. The official estimate states £120,000 to £150,000. | Auction Page
Don't forget there's a lot more in our Retromobile 2017 photo gallery.View gallery - 37 images