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On Tuesday Andrew Boggis reported from RM Sotheby’s auction at Rétromobile – but there were two more! Indeed six days with 1,000 cars over 72,000 square metres on offer is well worth a visit, isn’t it?

Of course you could just sit back and tell yourself that you could see a thousand cars in many other places and you would be right – but the cars would probably not be quite as those found at Rétromobile. The French classic is one of the oldest grand meetings out there and in this 45th edition attracted more than 125,000 visitors. That’s a long way from the first show with 3,000 visitors, and ever since then Rétromobile has continued to carve out a niche in the classic fair world: Other fairs might claim the same but it is Rétromobile that is the true international meeting point for all those that are someone or something in the business.

The official poster gives an idea of what to expect: Cars of the highest calibre.

But the very high standard has also meant that the fair has previously been under-represented with cars from the more affordable segment. Surely no problem when you can feast on Stratos, Duesenberg, Bugatti, Pegaso and many, many a Ferrari instead?

Pegaso is known for some of the world’s most incredible car designs – such as this. But when the designers did the bumpers, the imagination had obviously evaporated, and they mounted a set of arm supports from a nursing home’s bathtub.

And yet not so: it is many years ago (Silverstone 1998, from memory?) that I saw about twenty Ferrari GTO’s collectively, and had to acknowledge that one can in fact have too much of a good thing. Yes, the same actually applies to ViaRETRO’s own little meeting: variety is the spice of life – also across genres and budgets.

And here we have one of the budget cars from Porsche’s cheap four-cylinder department? No, this 924 is a Carrera GTS and it sold for 212,750 Euro at the aforementioned RM Sotheby’s auction. At that price it wasn’t perfect either.

I was therefore delighted when a few years ago Rétromobile reserved an area specifically for classics below 25,000 Euro. It was disappointing the first year, but you have to crawl before you can walk, as we say in Danish – and this year it was much better. Frankly, Rétromobile is not on a par with the Bremen Classic Motorshow (held the weekend before) in this area, but it is not their core competence either. However, I am delighted that this second aspect has improved (as usual based on the philosophy that here I could in fact buy something) – and I’ll cover this area separately at a later time.

If you REALLY wanted cars for small money at the Rétromobile – well, then you should probably look for small cars. Here, too, the selection was fine.

Anyway, it remains at the opposite end of the market that Rétromobile puts the others in their place: The world’s strongest car dealers exhibit here (while not bothering to attend the larger German trade show Techno Classica taking place in just a few months), and both they and various clubs, brands, auction houses and collectors take pride in showing something that really makes people open their eyes.

This Alfa Romeo 33 was at Lukas Hüni’s stand, which this year was reserved for Alfa Romeo. TZ-fans would get very high blood pressure here.

Usually many succeed – this year too. For me, the best experience was Automoto Club Storico Italiano’s special exhibition of Bertone prototypes, several of them cars I had heard of but had never seen before. In fact, it was such a strong collection that I’ll pick it up in a later article so that it doesn’t drown in the crowd – it deserves better. I actually intend to do the same thing with the fair’s very best purchase – just to tease a little! But that was also really special and deserves mention separately. Patience, please.

Richard Mille showed a bunch of McLaren F1 variations…

…and as no F1 is boring that stand took some time to pass.

The Lamborghini Polo Storico showed a near-art installation of a Miura – and the real thing too, an SV updated to SVJ. The art installation was clearly the most beautiful of the two.

Bugatti, which at the time the EB110 was new was more French than it is today, was well represented. “110%” is an expression the old Ettore Bugatti would surely never have used.

The Youngtimer cars were popular everywhere, and they continue to come in streams out of RM Sotheby’s. There’ll be more: RM told me, the original Youngtimer Collection included over 400 cars.

Rétromobile is where you can see cars you never thought you would see: I’ve written about the Ferrari 312P but had never seen one – and here it was. It did not disappoint.

Here you just want to say “Prost”: These three fabulous TOJ racers were at Artcurial’s auction on Friday, but curiously none of them sold.

Whether you prefer the angles of, say, a Lancia Delta S4…

…or the curves of a Devin-Porsche, it was here.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Porsche 904 sold at 1.9 mio Euro while the two uglies remained unsold.

The above Mercedes-Benz 280 from 1985 had me pretty excited: excellent condition and originality and in a particularly attractive variant, the three-door top-motorized Geländewagen, which will soon become a classic here in Denmark (where we have a 35-year-cut-off). Its papers from Spain explained the body’s beautiful condition and the car was supposedly unrestored and had covered just 55,000 kilometers. Closer study, however, revealed a repaint and a look at the auction house’s documentation showed that there were 100,000kms missing in the mileage. Nevertheless, it went for 39,000 Euro.

I like the idea that sometimes there might be cheaper alternatives and these two …

… from the Artcurial auction demonstrate what I mean: A Venturi 400 GT is lovely too.

There were also alternatives in the category “cars where the idea is better than the execution”. Lamborghini LM002 versus Amphicar? Difficult duel.

I could easily go on like this: It was after all four days of wandering the halls and from auction to auction, but I shall split some of the reports so that it will not be too much of a good thing. The main point can probably be summarized as follows: Rétromobile is a trade show that has found its own profile, and that is as the truly international focal point for the finest of the fine, the best of the best. This applies to cars as well as dealers and, for that matter, buyers.

There are cars where the story is perhaps not so obvious, but still quite funny and says a great deal about our car hobby: This Land Rover was in relatively poor  condition, but note the colours: It matches the silver-and-red Delahaye in the background. Because the owner was the same person and he made his Land Rover match the colours! PS: They could still be bought separately anyway.

On that account the Rétromobile provides experiences that no other trade show does, and it does so with what some would probably call French charm (I’d personally call it mess, disorder and confusion besides that element) and not least the possibility of actually eating properly.

There were surprisingly many MGBs at the Rétromobile, both on display and for sale. However, unlike in our northern climate, the enthusiasts did not wear bomber jackets but were rather more colorful – like the cars.

If the exhibition isn’t enough, Paris is right on your doorstep and within five minutes (on foot) you can dine in a proper restaurant. This also counts for something, I think.

Try it. At least once: Rétromobile is certainly not for everyone, but most car enthusiasts will probably remember a tour of Paris with accompanying classic car show as one of the better experiences.


3 Responses

  1. yrhmblhst

    I agree completely ; I SHOULD go.
    I assume the staff of ViaRetro is taking up a collection to enable me to do so as we speak…


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