Rétromobile is a french event dedicated to classic cars and, in a broader way, classic car culture. To most french petrolheads, Rétromobile is also considered to be the beginning of the “car season”, after the big winter break, where nothing much ever happens. The organizers of the event always strive to bring some of the best cars in the world: from the race cars with astonishing racing history, the rare and exclusive models (ex: the 330 P4 in 2015), to more “common” cars, with whom our grand-parents & parents were brought up.
That being said, even if you’re not necessarily a fan of classic cars, believe me, there is enough to satisfy your carpetite. Mainly because some cars are considered to be part of what I would describe as an elitist group: you sort of “have to” know them & appreciate them. Not so much because of what they are but what they represent: cars such as the Ferrari 250 GTO, the Lamborghini Miura, the Jaguar D-Type. Those are considered to be the unicorns of classic automotive. And you CAN easily find them at Rétromobile. This year was no different. Rétromobile 2016, with over 500 classic vehicles exposed, and countless clubs, associations, manufacturers, artists, brands, memorabilia sellers and places which ressembled heaven for car parts. There is a little something for everyone, there’s so much diversity and things to do. They have animations & shows (100-year old cars, the Rhomboid cars…), they even had a tank. Yes, a TANK. And it drifted.
I started Rétromobile 2016 in a very cool way. A friend of mine asked me if I could come to take pictures of the unloading of a very special cargo which was set to arrive. It was a Bugatti cargo with 3 very interesting and exclusive models.
The Bugatti EB110 SuperSport is part of the Bugatti folklore. This specific one actually broke the world speed record on ice (+296km/h) sometime in 1995, at the hands of its previous owner, famous Monaco car collector Gildo Pastor. The latter decided to build a prototype for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the second car, the Bugatti EB110 SuperSport “Le Mans”. How do you differentiate both cars (let’s face it, they’re pretty similar). Well, the “Le Mans” version is the one with the bigger wing and “racey wheels”. The third car is an oddity.
Most people who saw the pictures on my social media immediately recognized a familiar shape: indeed, most thought it was a Panamera. But the fact is the EB112 predates Porsche’s 4-seater. It was built in 1993 in only 3 units, before Bugatti bankrupcy. To resume things in the easiest way, the EB112 was supposed to be an EB110 for the city, more luxurious, less sport.
Those cars were there for the Artcurial auction on friday. The auction has become part of the whole Rétromobile show and gathered massive exposure in 2015 when they sold the famous “barn finds” from the Baillon collection, including a super rare Ferrari 250 GT SWB (used to belong to Alain Delon). This year was no exception, because they were selling, among other very rare & incredible cars, a Ferrari 335s which used to belong to Pierre Bardinon. But we’ll talk about this a bit later. As you can see, some of the cars meant to be sold at the Artcurial auction involved very rare things, like the UNIQUE 1986 silver Ferrari Testarossa “spider” with blue lining. This one used to belong to Gianni Agnelli, patriarch and big boss of FIAT, that alone is enough to give the car a lot of extra value. Other cars: a yellow Lamborghini Diablo, a white Porsche 959…
I went to the “opening soirée” the day after, and it was a pretty cool way to meet friends and discuss stuff around cars (it’s what I like the most, really). Hell, I even saw former Scuderia Ferrari F1 pilot Felipe Massa (got my selfie yay) and other automotive stars like Jean Todt (no photo though, didn’t want to annoy the guy).
The Rétromobile show itself was, as every year, baked in success and awesomeness. So many exceptional cars could be seen. For those who aren’t 100% into classic cars and “don’t get it”, It is an interesting way to discover them: visitors have a lot of freedom and the atmosphere is passionate. For those who are experts, it is a fabulous place to see models they haven’t yet seen (specific chassis numbers, etc) or simply they have never seen before.
Out of all the stands, the Fiskens booth is probably the one I like the most, every year. It’s very subjective, obviously. JD Classics, RM auctions and their Jaguars (XKSS, D-Type) and so many others had impeccable ones as well. But there’s just something about Fiskens. The way the cars are presented and brought to light, very spacious, and their legendary scottish motive all around. The models present are also quite spectacular. This year, the 1970 yellow Ferrari 512M from Escuderia Montjuich is without a doubt my favorite of the show. I don’t even need to know the history of the car, its specifications or get technical about it. There’s just something with the livery that speaks to me, a gorgeous yellow & red Ferrari 512M, that’s all I need to know. This car instantly spoke to me. It’s a call of the heart that can’t be explained!
There also were other greatness such as a 1967 Alfa Romeo tipo 33/2, a 1990 orange Porsche 962c (god knows I love that car, and it’s probably the best livery I’ve seen for it as well), a pretty interesting Porsche 934 RSR Turbo which raced Le Mans (and I’m fairly certain Magnus Walker would love this one) and several older F1 cars. Only after seeing older F1s do you understand racers back then had a LOT of courage, to put it politely. Their masterpiece was a light blue Porsche 365 Abarth, which funnily enough I didn’t really fancy. I mean it was cool and all, but it’s no yellow 512M now, is it?!
I’ll be very selective about all the other cars from the show. It is sort of impossible for me to give you a full glimpse of all there was. All I can do is give you a very personal selection of what I thought was the “best of the best”, what really caught my eye. As you can see, it’s not always very old and rare cars, but more “famous cars everyone knows”.
Marvels from the show included a Jaguar XJR-9 at the Jaguar stand (that model actually won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1988), a pretty good-looking Porsche 911 GT1 (I had seen it being unloaded the day before), a gorgeous dark blue Ferrari 275 GTB with a french-flag stripe (obviously, I had to like that one) wich was in very good company next to an F40 (no explanation needed there, really). There were a bunch of Lamborghini Countach, Porsche 2.7 RS, at least two Lamborghini Miura, an insane amount of 300 SL Gullwing and other awesome models. Rétromobile 2016 définitely was incredible in quality as well as quantity!
The Ferrari F40 LM also caught my eye. The fact that it was surrounded by a very rare Ferrari 250 Tour De France (in a very cool livery) and a Ferrari 365 Daytona AND a Ferrari 250 SWB as well … well, it was quite brutal. The Ferrari F40 LM is probably the epitome of racing cars for an enthusiast, considering the F40 is seen as one of the greatest of its era. Also, I’m clearly a Ferrari guy at heart, so no wonder all this didn’t leave me untouched.
I had been coming to the event for the past 3 days, ever since February 1st when unloading the Bugattis. Can you imagine? 3 days of Rétromobile 2016 ? I had gone up and down the alleys many times and I sort of was starting to know everything = believe it or not, this is actually a bad thing, because it gives me the feeling that I’ve seen it all, that I still have time to take more pictures. I usually don’t, it’s merely an impression. Also, on one of those days, my friend Varun was visiting from India, and I therefore decided to spend yet another day with him and show him around: he wasn’t disappointed. Many “first times” for him. He really enjoyed the show and said he would definitely need to comeback!
By the way, there also was the Bugatti Vision GT, the unique model Bugatti built for the Gran Turismo video game franchise. Granted, it’s absolutely NOT “retro”, nor “vintage” nor “classic”. But didn’t I tell you you’d always find a reason to go there? If you’re into modern & Veneno-like cars, well, your jam was there! I had already seen the car during the Festival Automobile International, so I didn’t really pay much attention to it, except it looked cool with the black Bugatti mural depicting all the models since the beginning of the brand (they had it the year before too).
THE ARTCURIAL AUCTION
The Artcurial Auction was on Friday and it officially started around 14h. Everyone was waiting for it. Everyone wanted to watch history unfold as the Ferrari 335s was being auctioned, with an estimated price of 28-32 million euros. Now is the time to talk about this car.
The 1957 Ferrari 335s Scaglietti chassis 0674 is one of only four models. This one was kept “hidden” in the private collection of massive french enthusiast, Pierre Bardinon. The car also has a neat racing history, having raced in the 12 Hours of Sebring, Cuba Grand Prix, the Mille Miglia and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, among the most famous races. It was driven by legends such as Sir Stirling Moss.
Bardinon was a visionary, he’s one of the first in the world to start collecting what we nowadays call “historic Ferrari”: older models with a racing history. Back then, they were worth practically nothing (at least compared to their value today). Nowadays those same cars reach mind-boggling amounts at auctions, like the Ferrari 250 GTO (+40 million €). FYI, Bardinon had 3 of those at one point in his massive collection of the MAS DU CLOS. For more than 40 years, the car stayed in his collection, next to other rarities such as a P4 and countless others. After Pierre Bardinon’s death a few years ago, I’m afraid we’ll start seeing his collection being scattered all around the world, going to other look-alike private collections of massively rich collectors. Sadly, places other enthusiasts will probably never get to see, locked away in golden prisons. Which is why seeing them during auctions is such an incredible event in itself. Also, on a more personal level, it was sort of a “french pride” thingy, having one of the biggest Ferrari collectors in the world being french.
I started queueing to get inside. Even met Harry Meltcafe from EVO. They were only letting in registered bidders at first, which is pretty normal: if you’re going to bid a few thousands on a car, if not much more, it stands with reason you should at least be comfortable and get a seat. Because believe me, standing up for more than 4 hours was a very long and painful experience for my precious feet haha, but it was worth it in every way despite the pain. Yes, I like to complain a lot when my feet hurt.
Seeing all the lots being sold one after the other (more than 80% were sold), you could feel the excitement growing. Slowly but surely. I invite you to check the official prices by Artcurial too. Some that caught my eyes were the dark blue Ferrari 250 SWB, which unfortunately didn’t meet the reserve price, so it remained unsold. When the hammer dropped, the bid was at €9,8 million = the car didn’t reach the 8 figure mark. Remember the silver Testarossa spider we talked about before? Well this one DID sell, for about 1 million € (estimates were 600-900k). More interesting cars included a 1975 Lamborghini Countach LP400 “Periscopio”, a 1963 Aston Martin DB4 Convertible Serie 5, a 1970 Lamborghini Miura S, a 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera 2,7L RS Touring… And so many more (224 lots that day).
Only during an auction do you realize how much some cars can go for, cars you wouldn’t even suspect of being worth that much after looking at them. Good thing I had the catalog to follow a little bit, while learning more about classics, listening to the animations by Matthieu LAMOURE and Maître POULAIN, the Artcurial auctioneers. Something that intrigued me, a 2010 manual Ferrari California being sold for +370k € = I didn’t know manuals were THAT sought-after on modern cars. I guess it spoke more to me because I’m more of a modern-car kind of guy. But still, auctions are always impressive, even if you do quite a lot of them.
Then finally, the moment came. The lights were turned off. A brilliant film started playing on the two big screens, depicting the life story of the masterpiece of the auction. You could feel people buzzing, discussing. After more than 3 hours, the moment most people were waiting for arrived. The Ferrari 335s arrived on stage like all the other cars, being pushed by 4 gents dressed like mechanics from yore. After a longer yet very interesting introduction by Maître POULAIN, the man himself started the auctions: starting price would be…. 20 million euros. As he spoke the amount, all the audience was amazed, you could HEAR people whispering. There’s some sort of understandable fascination with such high amounts of money, wether it’s for a car or something else. Something I didn’t quite understand, the bidding went from 20 million to 25 million really quickly, because they already had an offer for that amount. Even if I can understand it, I thought that was a bit weird, and it sort of took away some of the suspense and thrill of seeing the price slowly rising with each bid.
A 20-minute battle started. Obviously, there aren’t many people in the world who can bid on amounts like this one. And those who can would always rather stay discreet, which is somewhat understandable. Which is why they often ask for representation. The bidding battle quickly became a 4-way. On the phone, and 3 people in the audience. Eventually, only two people were left bidding. It was a slow-paced fight, really. Even if the amounts were considerably bigger, it had nothing to do with when I assisted to the auction of the Mercedes-Benz W196R at the 2013 Goodwood FoS.
When one of them outbid the other for +50k, the crowd booed. A very common reaction, considering people tend to think: “Come on, if you can put 27 million on a car, what’s 100k or 500k more? Come on”. But that’s the thing “common folk” like you and I don’t necessarily understand = it’s not because you can that you should. It’s all about tactics and respecting your budget (like collecting 1/18 cars, at a somewhat MUCH bigger level lol). The price was stuck around the 27 million range for a while, but however, when the price reached 28 million, everyone in the audience cheered and clapped. That would be the end of it. There would be no more bid.
The Ferrari 335s was hammered at the incredible price of 28 million euros. Which, after taxes & other charges, gives it a final price of 32,1 million euros. The most expensive Ferrari sold by Artcurial. EVER, and arguably the most expensive in the world (though I believe this title is held by the Ferrari 250 GTO still). That’s more than the WHOLE collection Baillon from last year. I didn’t really know what to think at the moment, I simply sort of enjoyed the moment, enjoyed being there and having lived this physically. Apparently the car will go to Canada / USA to a famous collector called Brian Ross. Even if those are merely rumors, I’m fairly certain it will end up being true (if it isn’t already).
When you think about it, on the one hand I was very amazed by such an amount (who wouldn’t?), on the other hand, I had heard rumours of prices going up as high as 40 million. Deep inside of me, I wanted this scenario to unfold, but we quickly noticed it wouldn’t. Then again, after a crazy past few years, there had to be some sort of ending to insane speculation and price rising in historic cars. At least, that’s what it felt like to me, during the many auctions taking place during the Retromobile period (Artcurial, RM Auctions & Bonham’s). I’m not an expert on auction houses, nor on classic cars. But it didn’t escape to anyone that prices of some cars have known an exponential growth, most of those being bought for investments and as “safety values”. Eventually, things would calm down and the marked would sort of stabilize itself. It’s funny to talk about stabilization when a car sold for +32m though haha.
All in all, the Retromobile 2016 event was a success. More than 110000 visitors showed-up to Porte de Versailles in Paris. The Artcurial auctions (there were 3) totalized 56 million euros, which is simply mind-boggling. As far as I’m concerned, I have discovered new cars, seen new ones I wanted to see.