On the introduction of Retromobile 2015 press release, the director Francois Melcion highlighted as, thanks to this event, which this year celebrated its 40th anniversary, Paris had become the world capital of historical car during February. At the same time, Mr. Melcion magnified the ability of the exhibition to attract more and more young people. A strong statement, vaguely chauvinist, but not without reasons: Retromobile is the historical car exhibition par excellence and thanks to all the events risen around it, Paris can claim his leadership. It is less easy to share the opinion on young people’s participation: standing some minutes on the entrance, the observer could notice that this type of event attracts a mature public, even if this one is eager to share his passion with sons and nephews. Certainly, the times in which historical cars were an expensive hobby for few rich seem to be far, but at the same time, probably, we are yet far from to see many more young people coming to own and drive an historical car.
In the consciousness that exclusive events attract elites, Retromobile has carried on his model of organization, successfully introduced some years ago: devoting large spaces to private collections has generated an even greater request for stand by collectors who are eager to show their precious cars, usually hided to public’s eyes. This is the case of Milanese Corrado Lopresto, who has developed his collections for many years: this architect, estimator of coachbuilders and designers, for the first time exhibited in Paris some of the cars already showed with great success during the best elegance contests in the world. Among the dozen of exposed cars, a beautiful Alfa Romeo 6C that Bertone built on drawings by the talented Piedmontese designer Mario Revelli di Beaumont, but also a prototype of the Giulietta Spyder and the 1973 Autobianchi Giovani.
Lukas Huni, a constant presence in the last editions of Retromobile, proposed from his magnificent collection the Talbot Lago T26 that Pierre Levegh drove near to victory in 1952 Le Mans 24 Hours. The car was surrounded by many Bugattis and a precious Hispano Suiza.
In the opposite side of the exhibition, Mulhouse Museum showed three Bugatti Royal: impressive the Limousine, intriguing the rebuilt Roadster after Binder’s mess, iconic the Coupé Napoleon, which was the outcome of Jean Bugatti’s talent, Ettore’s son. The three cars are not a news in these exhibitions, but the opportunities to see all them together are very rare.
A large area was dedicated to Pegaso cars, the GTs built in Hispano Suiza’s plants after WW2. The Spanish brand was controlled by state owned company Enasa, and in the early ’50 it distinguished itself building the Z-102 model from a project of Wilfredo Ricart. Given the limits in the Barcelona’s factory, Pegaso built chassis whereas coach builders as the Italian Carrozzeria Touring, the French Soutchik or the Spanish Serra provided bodyworks. Despite the high weight, Z-102 model displayed important technical innovations as alloy engine, double overhead camshafts, two barrels carburetors and a transaxle gearbox. The V8 engine grew up from 2,5 to 3,2 liters (with desmodromic valves) for race models. The first prototype was showed for the first time in Grand Palais of Paris during 1951 and the production was stopped after only six years and 86 cars built, due to unbearable costs. It is fair to say how public appreciated this stand.
A small stand was devoted to the Wimille, a revolutionary prototype designed by French driver Jean Pierre Wimille in 1945 and restyled by Philippe Charbonneaux, the man who designed Renault 8 and 16. The car, built with the support of Ford France, had a tubular chassis, a streamlined body with panoramic windscreen and was equipped with a semi-automatic gearbox. The engine, a 2150 CC V8, which at the time equipped Ford Vedette, provided 60 HP. Unfortunately, when the car was ready to production, Jean Pierre died in a race on Buenos Aires circuit, and without his leadership, the Franco-American firm retired from the project.
Something more was expected from carmakers’ official brands, especially from German ones, who during past editions had shown the masterpieces of their history. Porsche exhibited the 936 prototype, which won the 1977 Le Mans 24 Hours, racing the last laps with a misfiring cylinder. Mercedes faced the event with a wonderful 1939 540K Streamliner, whose lines astonished the observer.
The Friday auction by Artcurial increased attention on the show with a long queue of collectors who were wishful to observe the 59 cars from the collection owned by the entrepreneur Roger Baillon. In large part unrestored and many of them in very bad condition, all these cars were discovered in a courtyard of Echire some months ago and they changed owner at far higher prices than estimates, recording a total sale result of 46 million of Euro. At the top of the list, a Ferrari 250 GT SWB owned by Alain Delon and then bought from the French industrialist: this car was sold for the record amount of 16.63 million of Euro.
As always, the stand of Fisken, a well-known merchant of historical cars, showed interesting models: a Ferrari 212 used for ‘The Racer’ movie, the only Porsche 550A Spider ever entered in a Formula 1 GP, an Aston Martin DBR1 which won the GT1 class at 2007 Le Mans 24 Hours, a 1934 Maserati 8CM and a nearly original Bugatti type 54. In few square meters a real pleasure for eyes.
The area reserved to vendors of spare parts, accessories and automobilia was crowded. A particular mention is due to the story of Dirk and Trudy, two resourceful Dutch, who are touring the world with their Ford T (Dirk’s grandfather bought it directly from Ford). The project aims to raise funds for the NGO SOS Village d’Enfant, which takes care of orphan children in the poorest countries of the world. Today, missing the tour of Asia and Oceania, scheduled for the next year, the two have already raised 140.0000 Euro. A little bit for esteem, a little bit for gratitude, the true stars of the Retromobile were probably them and their old but reliable Ford T.