We’ve visited Retromobile 2020 and selected a top 10 of the amazing rarities and beauties present on the show.
The cars that may only come once to Retromobile classic car show!
Road Rug Cars is definitely ruthless (if not useless). Why? Retromobile barely closed its doors. So we decided it was the perfect time to promote the Parisian classic motor show and select a top 10.
At least, the common sense would have led us to deal with popular cars (not the ones everybody can afford, but those everybody loves). Yes, but no, that would have been too easy. Of course we love Gullwings, and Miuras. But we aimed to share stuff which was not present on every stands.
Because now, in addition to be expensive, a car must be rare to figure in our articles. I know, car dealers’ job is becoming harder and harder… (laughs)
I hope you will appreciate Lazare Jefroykin’s analog pictures. Lazare contacted me few weeks ago as he presents a cinema school. He choose to focus on classic convertibles despite he nearly knew nothing about car stuff. I’ve been touched by its approach, its sensibility and the way he managed to understand our passion.
1- Bugatti Type 59 sports (chassis #57248 / engine #5)
The Scottsdale auction (Arizona), The Pebble beach auction (California), The Amelia island auction (Florida) : Gooding’s calendar is definitely US-orientated. This is why, when the renowned firm announced a spring sale in London, the 1st of April, it sounded like they will offer something exceptional to the European market.
Take a look at the impressive shortlist. It includes some rare and genuine Bugattis (57S Atalante ; 35C Grand Prix), Bentleys (3 Litre ; 4 1/4 Litre Cabriolet), Rolls-Royce (40/50 HP Silver Ghost)…. Patriotism you will say (or chauvinism, it’s more appropriate for a Frenchman), but, to me, the most interesting piece of the sale is french, and comes from the Molsheim factory.
Indeed, our best of show is a Bugatti Type 59 sports. Well, a Bugatti 57/59 to be precise, as the chassis knew two lives. Built in 1933, it started its career as a Grand Prix car. Fitted with a supercharger and an upgraded version of the mythical 8-cylinders, the 59 participated as a works car to the 1934 and 1935 seasons. After a win at Spa, it finished on the podium at Grand Prix de Monaco 1934 in the hands of the famous René Dreyfus.
In 1936, the car came back to the workshop, for chassis and body modifications. At that time, Bugatti decided to take the supercharger off. In 1937, the successful prewar driver, Jean-Pierre Wimille, dominated the season at its steering wheel. The 59 sports has then been sold to King Leopold III of Belgium.
But this fabulous machine is not just about a racing history. It is also a shape. Much more profiled than its sisters cars, the 59 sports denotes by its sensual design. Lights are integrated to the bodywork in order to facilitate air penetration. Its black patined robe adds to the mystical aspect of the beast. Meanwhile the sober and unrestored wood dashboard and leathers recall it is a proper racer car. This 59 is for sure, one of the most desirable Bugatti (if not prewar), of all times.
2 – Aston Martin LM7
Aston Martin built LM1 and LM2 having in mind an assault to Le Mans 24-hours 1928 as a works team. Three years later the British firm produced ML5, LM6 and LM7.
LM5, driven by Augusto Bertelli and Maurice Harvey finished the race 5th overall and 1st in class, covering 140 laps, for a total of 2287.6 Km, at an average speed of 95.316 Km/H. A great performance, considering its small engine capacity (1,5 ltr). But it was still far from the wining Alfa Romeo 8C. Its driver, Earl Howe and Henry Birkin, appeared 185 times in front of the main grand stands, for a total of 3017.7 Km, with an astonishing average speed of 125.7 Km/h.
LM7’s pilots, Sammy Newsome and Kenneth Peacock, didn’t see the chequered flag, failing to restart during a pit stop. Obviously, the mechanic was not as reliant as today, because only 6 cars finished the race over the 26 entered.
LM7 is a genuine Le Mans car. Rebodied in the 50’s and apparently untouched since, it kept the marks of a life of labour. Even more incredible, it comes with a comprehensive documentation. Thomas, a member of the Kidston team, was proud to show me the meticulously preserved paperwork. Drawings of previous owners with all sorts of set up, invoices, conversations concerning the Aston at different periods, including letters sent during World War II…. There are tens and tens of them. That’s what we can call a piece of history!
3 – Amilcar C6 – W.E. Humphreys’ Brooklands voiturette
Amilcar (contraction of Lamy and Akar, the two co-founders) was a french manufacturer based in Saint-Denis (the north suburb of Paris). Mostly known for producing 4 cylinders engineered cyclecars, such as CS and CGSS, it also made around 45 C6 between 1927 and 1930, a competition model which received a serious double overhead cam shaft six-cylinder with a Roots supercharger.
The engine is in itself a piece of art. And of engineering: thanks to its 80 HP it was much faster than Bugatti 37. But it was also far more expensive. The C6 is also famous, for being the first 1100 cc to reach 200 Km/h, in a works competition version (100 HP).
The dealer, Dylan Miles told us that only 7 of them were imported to England. This particular example probably presents the most impressive english C6 curriculum as it competed 56 times at Brooklands between 1928 and 1937, in the hands of different drivers and owners, in both atmospheric and supercharged version. After the war, it still raced, remaining highly competitive. Its owner only stored the C6 in the sixties after an already long racing life!
Dylan’s Amilcar is absolutely immaculate, and shines from every angle. It is distinctive, being really low on the wheels due to the period suspension modification. I personally appreciate its continuous improvement over the years, making this Amilcar so unique. For example, in 1931, it received a new supercharger. The same year, the chassis was chrome plated, in order to facilitate cracks identification. In 1934, the car benefited from Lockheed brakes and special dampers.
I hope the future owner will pursue the racing job, a museum being the worst place for this stunning C6.
4 – Jaguar XK120 Jabbeke
Ok it’s politic. I wanted to select three prewars on Retromobile’s podium. Otherwise, the Jaguar XK120 Jabbeke could have been higher in the ranking, regarding its pedigree.
In 1949, Jaguar wanted to promote its brand new OTS. They sent a group of engineers at Jabbeke with a regular XK120 in order to break the world speed record. With a 126 mph top speed (more or less 200 Km/h), that was a thing done. Jaguar can put a little plate on each of its OTS indicating they are the exact replica of the Jabbeke XK. We can say that the English were the kings of marketing at the time!
Jaguar remained unbeaten until 1953. That year, Celso Fernandez reached 241 km/h on-board a Pegaso Z102. Pegaso was the sportive division of the ENASA, (Empresa Nacional de Autocamiones SA). A Spanish public company initially created to face the shortage of coaches and lorries. The Pegaso Z102 had an in-house V8 at 90° with four overhead camshafts, 4 Webers, for a total of 200 HP in the standard version, and even 260 HP if equipped with a Roots 0,6 bar supercharged.
A car designed to defeat Pegaso…
Jaguar challenged, decided to react with a brand-new XK120 in order to defeat Pegaso. But this time, it was a bit more radical. Hadrien, a friend lucky enough to work on the stand, took the time to introduce the bolid, sharing with us some funny details, and explaining its specific devices :
- A windscreen replaced by a bubble. Hadrien explains us that due to the fact engineers didn’t install protections, he needs to put a little cloth behind the bubble when opening it, in order to save the paint.
- A radiator grill partly obstructed in order to ameliorate aerodynamic. However, apprently, it also increases the temperature, so the driver continuouly needs to put the fan on.
- Bumper and side lamps removed.
- And above all, a C-type based and modified engine.
The results ? With 218 HP, the Jag’ eventually broke from 26 Km/h (for a total of 277 Km/h – 172 Mph) Pegaso’s record. And that particular car was displayed by Hamann. The funny part of the story ? The renowned car dealer presented a 1 of 5 Pegaso Z102 designed by Saoutchik, a french coach worker (4 of them bodied Pegaso back in the day: ENASA itself, Serra, Touring and Saoutchik), on the other side of the stand.
5 – Ferrari 312 P (#0872)
I know, there was a P4. And the presence of a P4, even at Retromobile, is rare enough to be mentioned. In fact, Ferrari only produced 3 of them, plus a P3/4 destroyed during le Mans 1967. David Piper made three official replicas. The P4 is a legend, since it finished second at Daytona 1967, along with a P3/4 (1st ) and a 412P (3rd).
But the 312P is less known, so it intrigued us. In fact, the 312P ‘s story is rather interesting. After a 1968 quiet season, as Ferrari contested the new FIA regulation impeaching the P4 to race, Maranello decided to develop a new sport-prototype, based on the 312 F1. Chassis number 0872 presented by Historic cars has been entered twice to Le Mans 24H, in 1969 and 1970. However, it only raced the first edition, in the hands of Chris Amon and Peter Schetty. And unfortunately, it collided with the flaming gas tank of a crashed 917. The two participations of the car to Daytona 24H were more successful, with respectively a 4 and 5th position in 1970 and 1971.
In 1971, a private owner dismantled it. And the parts has been incorporated to a Chinetti special. This could have been the end of the story. But a man, Carle Conway, decided to save it. He managed to buy both the original chassis and the Chinetti special in the 80’s in order to bring back the original parts together. The restoration ended in 1997, while the Ferrari was the property of another American.
Chassis 0872, with Bardinon’s 0870, are the two remaining 312P berlinettas. In this shape, the 312 P remains one of the most incredible design of the P family, sensualy brutal, and powered by the extraordinary V12 3.0L engine.
6 – Packard Twin Six
Osenat, a major french auction actor, had a 100% V12 stand this year. Despite they exposed probably the most interesting (as really genuine) Miura of the show, I preferred to focus on another model. A Packard Twin six, said to be (at least one of) the first V12 of the history.
The american firm has always been known for building luxurious and powerful cars in prewar times. But this twin six is probably one of the best demonstration of their know-how. Especially if you consider the fact it’s a 1917 machine.
Packard selected the top of modern devices for its time: ignition timer and distributor, electric starter, generator charged battery. This Twin Six definitely proves that engineers already invented most of major automotive innovations in the late 10’s….
Loïc, working for Osenat, was proud to open the bonnet. The 8 Litre V12 deliveres more or less 90HP at 2500 rpm, for a top speed of approximately 90-100 Km/h, a level of performance closer to the one reached ten years later.
This short wheel base Runabout is of a rare elegance. Really refined and perfectly designed, it shows how much some American cars were graceful before WWII.
7 – Ferrari 250 GTE 2+2 Polizia (#3999GT)
Considering the selection of Ferrari on display at Girardo, it was dared to choose a 250 GTE. But the model presented was quite specific and retained my attention.
In 1962, the Roman police achieved several successful operations against the city’s underworld. The legend says that the president of the republic asked to the officers how he could reward them. Guess the answer.
Enzo offered two 250 GTE to the roman police, hoping it would encourage additional orders from the government. Unfortunately, one of the two was immediately involved in a fatal accident. Once brought back to Modena, Il Commandatore decided to destroy it.
The second car known a better career. Indeed, it has been used by the police force until 1968, and then sold in 1972 to a private owner. The main driver was Spatafora. And one of his mission remained famous. One day, while purchasing a Frenchman (quite common story in the 60’s), he followed him over the stairs of the Plaza di Spagna. The Mafioso thought it would benefit from the pneumatic suspension of his Citroen DS, in vain, as Spatafora managed to catch him. Some marks of the stairs are still visible on the Ferrari’s bumpers.
That’s why we prefered the 250 GTE among the very best of the “modern” Ferraris (i.e. 288 GTO, F40, F50, Enzo). Even if we faced a difficult choice, as was also present a 412 T2, the first Scuderia Ferrari ever driven by Michael Schumacher.
8 – Talbot Lago T26C (#110002)
The Talbot Lago is one of the best example of how people can stand up and rebuilt after having known the worst. In 1948, the french manufacturer evolved in a country still devastated and marked by the different offensives of WWII. However, it produced one of the most elegant and impressive Grand Prix car of the 50’s.
26 refers to the 26HP produced by the 4 ½ Litre double overhead cam shaft six-cylinder. Not as powerful than its Italian supercharged concurrents, but thanks to its reasonable fuel consumption and good reliability, the T26C won at Spa, and in France, after a 2nd place in Monaco for its first season in 1949.
C stands for Course. And there is no doubt this car was made for competition. The long and perforated bonnet lets appear the 3 SU carburettors, and a free exhaust on the other side. The proportion, and the big tyres add to the idea the T26C is a proper beast.
The Talbot Lago looks pure, strong and fast. Interesting detail, it has a pre-selective Wilson gearbox, which allowed to anticipate the gear change, before a corner for example.
The model, chassis number 110002, offered for sale by Gregor Fiskens, was driven by Chiron and Mairesse among many others. In 1955, it has been exported to Australia for race purpose and remained there until now. Indeed, Retromobile was its first apparition in Europe since the 50’s.
9 – Ex-Philip Morris Lancia Stratos (#829 AR0 001003)
I surprised myself adding a Stratos to the Retromobile top 10. Especially a road version – stradale should we say-. But Carol, a gentlewoman racer working at William I’Anson, has been very persuasive, and took the time to explain me all the those little details which can make the difference.
Philipp Morris bought new this chassis number 829 AR0 001003, the third stradale produced, in 1974 in order to promote Marlboro, a brand of his eponym group. As a consequence, the Stratos presents a red and white Marlboro livery. Less known than the Alitalia green one, it perfectly fits with the car.
The Lancia followed during several years the Marlboro works competition team. At the beginning, it had no roof and no spoiler. But then it came back to the factory in order to receive both of them. It was the first stradale with a spoiler. Carol pointed my attention on the rather artisanal mounting brackets prototypes. They are really different to the one Lancia fixed on the later stradale.
We love little funny details and particularities as they bring stories to tell. That’s why we love with classic cars, and we appreciated this Lancia.
10 – Peugeot Indianapolis
You’ve already heard about the Peugeot if you read our article about Angouleme. Ivan Dutton, a famous Bugatti specialist brought it last October to the famous prewar street race, as well as to the Vintage Revival Monthlery.
Probably encouraged by the warm welcome the car received in its home country, he decided to backslide, in Paris this time, at Retromobile. Ivan Dutton himself recognize it, the car is a special, based on the 1914 Peugeot Indianapolis chassis. But it still has an interesting history. Originally built by a group of mechanics, les Charlatans, sponsored by the french firm, Peugeot rebadged the car after realising it had a lot of success.
The original engine was a 16 valves twin cam Peugeot. According Ivan, it would have been too difficult (if not impossible) to try to find spare parts or rebuilt it. But in exchange, he decided to install a 10 litres aero engine.
Sacrilege you might say ? Yes and no. The car lost its parts anyway, and it was common to prepar bolids of this category with plane engines. Ivan decided to restore it with a lot of humbleness. Always pleased to explain how he managed to prepare the car, he provides advice on his YouTube channel.