Rétromobile 2015 Highlights
The annual Rétromobile show in Paris seems to get bigger and better each year. It is difficult to pick out the highlights from the hundreds of vehicles on display, but here is a selection of the cars within our remit we were most excited to see.
There were plenty of Oily Rag exhibits this year in the single gigantic pavilion that now houses this unmissable annual jamboree. Among our favourites were two stately Edwardian coupés de ville, one the 1913 Renault we featured in the February issue, the other an equally unspoilt Delaunay Belleville HC4 of the same year with a very similar history, having been found in May, 2014, still in the garage of the family who had owned it from new. Unlike the Renault, this one had required quite a bit of work to get it back on the road, but the job (which included a new core for the cylindrical radiator) had been so well done it was practically impossible to detect.
French cars, unsurprisingly, tend to form the bulk of the exhibits at Rétromobile. This year’s crop included a barn find Peugeot from the factory’s own museum – a 1922 Type 163 fourgonnette discovered only last year bricked up in Lyon. With it was a bundle of petrol coupons on the front seat dated 1947.
In complete contrast, on Bruno Vendiesse’s stand, was a delectable 1927 Lombard AL3, an 1100cc twin ohc coupé by Duval. Formerly in Serge Pozzoli’s collection, its roof having been removed in the 1950s, it has now been restored with its roof reinstated. It was sold during the show for a substantial six-figure sum.
Jean-Albert Grégoire’s 1952 Socéma coupé on the FFVE stand looked decidedly space-age. A one-off prototype belonging to the Le Mans Museum, it is powered by a single-rotor kerosene-fuelled turbine said to deliver 100bhp at 25,000rpm. The Cd factor quoted is 0.19, which if accurate would make this one of the slipperiest automobile bodies ever.
Grégoire featured quite prominently elsewhere, with one of his rare post-WW2 Sport two-seaters on the cast aluminium Hotchkiss chassis in the show itself and a much earlier but equally scarce Tracta, his pioneering fwd design. The handsome 1930 Type E two-seater was powered by a 2.6-litre US-built Continental engine.
Of the regular foreign visitors to Rétromobile, Škoda always make a big effort. This year’s stand featured a charming little ‘streamline’ coupé of 1937 called the Popular Sport Monte Carlo, named in honour of Czech driver Zdenek Pohl and factory engineer Jaroslav Hanman’s achievement in finishing second in class in the 1936 event.
Pegaso was the featured marque at the show this year. Of 86 built, no fewer than 14 examples were on display, most of them highly restored and four for sale on dealers’ stands elsewhere in the hall. Touring of Milan’s beautifully proportioned coupé version predominated, in both Series One and Series Two form. Also by Touring, an open two-seater evidently prepared for Le Mans was on offer by Californian dealer Steve Tillack and the one and only Thrill coupé took pride of place on a plinth overlooking the main Pegaso display. Serra, the Barcelona coachbuilder, was represented by a very honest-looking 1955 two-seater in need of restoration. This car, chassis 0166, was once owned by director Don Siegel and featured in the 1957 film Spanish Affair.
From amongst this year’s dazzling assembly, our vote for car of the show went to the scruffily original little Voisin C7 Lumineuse on Swiss dealer Christoph Grohe’s stand. We had lusted after this car for some time when it was in UK ownership, but Grohe too had been after it and Lady Luck was very much on his side. Days after doing the deal, he was able to prove (quite unexpectedly, he claims) that it was the very car owned originally by Voisin’s friend
Le Corbusier, the great modernist architect.