Salon Champenois: time to travel through a proper car show

We all know and love Retromobile, the inevitable classic car exhibition taking place each beginning of February in Paris. Most of us agree that it represents the best European show in its category, due to the presence of the most amazing cars, (sometimes less amazing) displayed by the most prestigious dealers. You know, those you can’t afford? 

The quality of this event is so high, that you risk to be disappointed if you go to any other vintage car show. Except if you reset your mind and go back to your roots of petrolhead. Except, also, if you believe Retromobile isn’t real life. In that case, you may appreciate some other kinds of experiences. The Reims Meeting, known as Salon Champenois du Véhicule de Collection, is one of them.

(Positive) discrimination on the parking 

Coming back from a trackday, I had no other solution than to arrive with a modern Lotus (sooorry guys…). Directly rejected from Salon Champenois parking lot, I had to park on the other end of the town. Funnily, I was quite happy of this situation : that was to me a good signal! 

If you come to the Reims Show, you have to take a classic, otherwise you will get in trouble, classic car parking being a serious matter. The good thing? All oldtimers are admitted, provided they have 30 years old, at least. Apparently tanks and tractors too, if I had known.

This is why the parking is an experience itself : all sorts of cars are mixed, rare beauties cohabiting perfectly with people’s cars.

I wasn’t born in the 60s (nor even in the 80s, and I do not remember 90s you may say), but I can imagine that Le Mans 24H parking lot could have been like this, back in the days. Some people were coming with their week-end sports car, parking the latter besides other people daily drive. At Salon Champenois, everybody is sharing the same passion, and is happy to be here to have a chat and provide information about their vehicle.

The owner of a superb orange Mustang introduced me his bolide, meanwhile 3 guys were doing mechanic on their Renault 4 CV. At this time of the day, I hadn’t passed the gate of the event and already saw hundreds of cars!

A Parking can hide another one

Guess what I discovered on the other side of the gate? Another parking! Full of booths this time, offering all sorts of bits and pieces ready to be installed on the car you are rebuilding. From the memory of the young lad I am, I have never seen such a number of available spare parts.

If you are looking for an old car toy, a vintage bicycle, or for a petrol gas station advertisement, Salon Champenois is also the place to be. I surprised myself playing the game, starting to look for some parts for an Alfa Romeo I am working on. Then I felt in love with an old motocycle from the 30s. But I lacked time and needed to reach the main building where I was expecting to find cars.

I finally entered in the building divided in three halls. And guess what? On the first one, I found another range of stands full of pieces. I really wondered myself whether it was a car show!

A leopard cannot change its spots!

Or, in French “chassez le naturel, il revient au galop”.

GAR 1100 Bol d'Or 1927
GAR 1100 Bol d’Or 1927

I eventually managed to reach the two main halls where cars were exposed. My habits came back to me and I immediately tried to find race or luxurious cars. I shot a stunning 135 M at the Delahaye’s club, the ex-work GAR Bol d’Or 1927 (I am a rogue, this is dad’s car…), an ex-Le Mans 1965 Alpine driven by J Cheinisse and JP Hanrioud.

Delahaye 135 M

But I realised that it was bad habits and tried to disconnect from my mind of jaded man. I made a second tour of Salon Champenois, trying to match with the mood of the show, starting to speak with owners, stands tenants, attempting to perceive their passion, the history of their cars.

I finally understood that this show wasn’t like any other show: this was more like a fair, a place where people are here to meet old friends. And more importantly, a place where people are happy to rediscover cars which have (unfortunately) difficulties to find their place in shows becoming more and more refined …

Coming out of the exhibition, walking along remaining cars on the parking, I saw a band of mates working on their Renault Dauphine. I thought this day has been an amazing opportunity to go back to the roots of my passion: cars and their history, no matter their price or the communication made about these.

That was such a good lesson ! Next year, for sure I will be back to the amazing Retromobile, but I also plan to visit more events such as the Salon Champenois, Epoque Auto, Automedon …

14 Comments

Feeling classic car shows lack authenticity? You've to visit the Salon Champenois!

    1. Hi Giacomo. The shape is not far from a Type 35, because it is the same period. GAR (or Gardahaut) have been produced from 1922 till 1934. This particular model exposed at Reims is unique : it is the works race car, built in 1927. It participated 3 times to the Bol d’Or. The engine is a 1100 specially prepared Chapuis Dornier fitted with a Cozette supercharge. Do not hesitate to contact me if you want further information 🙂

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