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.
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
The Shah of Iran's Bugatti
Talbot-Lago T150-C SS Coupé by Figoni et Falaschi
The Amphibious Motorcycle
The first of nine new Jaguar XKSS models from 1957
Ten AJS 7R Boy Racers
One of three: 1936 Bugatti 57 S Atlantic
Freddie Frith's World 350cc championship-winning 1949 KTT Velocette Mk. VIII
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