Volume 47 Issue 08
Apr 16, 2022
Marc Sonnery visits Retromobile, Europe’s international and most prestigious indoor classic car show. Several significant Ferraris were there along many other sights.
After the cancellation of the 2021 edition due to COVID, Retromobile, Europe’s international and most prestigious indoor classic car show, made a popular return.
This year’s Parisian Retromobile Salon took place March 16th to 20th after being rescheduled from the traditional early February date.
Inevitably, it was a smaller edition than usual with less surface divided into two halls; not the Grand Hall 1, but two other more compact exhibition spaces. I did not see one American visitor and hardly any Brits were present.
It was still a good edition with plenty of major cars on display including some true jewels from Maranello.
Sport et Collection, a stalwart of Retromobile, was present to announce the return of actual races at its June 2nd to 5th event, and not just any races. A front-engine class with a late 1950s 246 Dino F1 and several Maserati 250Fs, and a 1960s grid with rear mid-engine entries.
A 275 GTB, S/N 08507, sold new in the Paris area by Franco-Britannic and still based in the area graced the stand.
The stand also featured a 500 Superfast, S/N 5979 SF, born in gorgeous Oro Chiaro (light gold) with black interior though it is now painted red.
Sold new in Palo Alto in 1964 to Alejandro Zaffaroni but unfortunately involved in a bad accident during which it also rolled. Restored in dark red it was owned in 1970 by Thomas Perkins in California before Scottsdale auctioneer, Thomas Barrett III, acquired it. After a stint in the hands of Bill Lassiter in Boca Raton, Florida, it found itself in a 1993 auction in Zurich, Switzerland, where it sold for $150,000; yes, that is what a 500 SF sold for three decades ago. It then went through a couple of German owners before being offered by well-known German dealer Mario Bernardi and more recently by Parisian dealer MMC.
Guikas GTC, the dealership founded by Jean Guikas, was back for the first time in quite a few years and had one of the most impressive stands. It was ably managed by his daughter, Camille, who had recently enjoyed some track time at Paul Ricard.
One of the cars on display and a very unique one too was the 1972 365 GTB/4 NART Spyder Competizione, S/N 15965, bodied by Michelotti. Standing completely apart from the “normal” Daytona Group 4s it has a very atypical history.
It was first shown at the 1975 Geneva show by Michelotti. It is one of four Daytonas rebodied by the firm, ordered by Luigi Chinetti of NART. It was given a rollbar and targa top to increase rigidity. It was entered at Le Mans 1975, just three months after Geneva and was fitted with a full-on Group 4 engine. It was decorated in a unique colour scheme of red bottom, white top and light blue highlights. In the Sarthe it was to be driven by Frenchmen Jean-Pierre Malcher and Patrick Langlois. Then all hell broke loose.
One of the other entries, a NART 308 GT/4, S/N 08020, was bumped out of qualifying right at the end of the session. With more cars being entered than available grid slots, seventeen cars were to be eliminated and the NART 308 GT/4 was one of them.
Chinetti became furious and tried to line it up for the start anyway but the organizers stood firm. He then retaliated most dramatically by swapping drivers around, but the ACO refused to allow that. To everyone’s shock just 90 minutes before the 4PM start Chinetti withdrew his other three cars including our Michelotti Spyder and the team transporter left before the race started, a unique case in the annals of Le Mans.
In 1988 it was bought by Patrick Ryan of Montgomery, Alabama, who, twelve years later, gave it its actual competition debut. This took place in May 2000 at Road Atlanta in the Ferrari Historic Challenge where he finished 12th overall and 1st in class in the first race. The following year it was bought for the first time by Jean Guikas who raced it at Le Mans Classic and Spa.
In 2006, Swiss amateur, Michel Abellan, became its next caretaker. He put the car back into the original 1975 racing livery and raced it very extensively at Tour Auto and even at Monterey in 2007. Raced again in 2010 with a last run at the Tour Auto 2014 before Jean Guikas reacquired it.
The star of the Guikas booth was the 1972 312PB S/N 0886, one of the last racing prototypes built by Ferrari and raced officially by the Scuderia. The 312PB was one of the most successful Ferraris of all time.
True to form this one had a winning debut in the 1972 1000kms of Buenos Aires, with “Super Swede” Ronnie Peterson and Australian Tim Schenken triumphing on January 9th. Weeks later in Sebring on March 25th, the same pair came second overall two laps behind factory teammate aces Mario Andretti and Jacky Ickx in another 312PB.
Our men then dropped to the last step of the podium in the Monza 1000kms on April 25th. They fought back and had one last hurrah winning at the Nürburgring Nordschleife on May 28th after 1000kms. A gruelling effort that demonstrated the 312PB was not only fast but could resist all conditions from the poor Sebring surface to the bumps and jumps of the Eiffel course. It was then retired, racing career over.
Arizona dealer extraordinaire Harley Cluxton did not hesitate at the chance of buying it from the factory in subsequent years. It then passed through the hands of Ron Finger, of Georgia, Jeff Hayes also from the US, before George Palby, of Australia acquired it in 1990. In 1994 was bought by Robson Walton, who raced it three times in the Monterey Historics in 1994 to 1996 as well as the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 1996.
It then went to Germany in the hands of Axel Urban who had Jacky Ickx drive it at major track events at Spa in 1998 and the new Nürburgring in 1999. The Belgian also demonstrated it at the Goodwood Festival in 2000. Later British collector Irvine Laidlaw added it to his fine stable.
He would race it at least six times in the Ferrari Maserati Historic Challenge winning four races, all at Mugello in April and August of 2008, selling it to Guikas some years later.
Another Guikas offering featuring well-known livery was the Charles Pozzi Ferrari France 1978 Le Mans Thomson 512 BB S/N 24127 entry. This one along with its twin sister and another by Chinetti’s NART was part of the first proper race-modified 512 Berlinetta Boxers. It was to be driven by Jean-Claude Andruet and Spartaco Dini. The pair ran well after an early delay in the race until the engine failed less than two hours from the finish.
Its destiny after that was an unusual one. Instead of more races it was sold off since Charles Pozzi and his manager Daniel Marin knew the more advanced 512 BB/LMs were coming. The buyer was none other than Albert Uderzo the creator with René Goscinny of the world famous Asterix the Gaul cartoon series whose albums sold in the millions globally. Uderzo wasn’t going to put it in his private museum or simply do track days with it, oh no, he had other ideas; he wanted to make this full-blown competition car street legal and against all odds he did, complete with rear wing!
This had to be one of the most extreme high-performance cars ever registered. He got rid of the Thomson livery, making it plain red but with a discrete Italian tricolor stripe along the side. French television did a segment on him and the car and wherever he passed everything stopped. I can recall around 1979 or 1980 being at a car model shop near the Pozzi headquarters when there was an almighty rumble; there he was, on his way. In 1996 he sold the car to Jean Guikas who has since shown it at the Chantilly Concours after bringing it back to its Thomson livery. The stand also displayed a couple of 246s and a 365 GT 2 + 2.
On another stand nearby sat a stunning 365 GT4/BB S/N 17953, while an insurance company displayed a gorgeous light blue 275 GTB.
The number of dealers was much reduced compared to a standard year, numerous Ferraris could be seen such as a 250 GT PF Coupe, a 250 GTE, and a 330 GT 4-headlight. Ferrari Classiche had a stand with an F40 on display. What looked like a 250 GT SWB on the stand of a Dutch dealer was in fact a rebodied 250 GTE.
French restorer Atelier des Coteaux showed an unexpected Maranellian: 212 Inter Berlinetta Vignale S/N 0125 EL. Some cars lives are more complicated than others such as this one. According to Marcel Massini it was badly crashed within days of delivery during the Liege-Rome-Liege Rally and rebodied into a cabriolet by Vignale.
It was then displayed in the 1953 Brussels Motor show. This was followed by a period of relative calm in the US from 1956, first with George Potter in Tennessee, then by Tom Oleson in Santa Barbara. Italian Ugo Isgro acquired it in 1985, Axel Urban in Germany in 1987, but then came arguably the worst period for it. An Italian restorer re-bodied it with a completely wrong and failed interpretation of a racing barchetta as per the whim of a German client. It then went through several other German owners. Thankfully, the body it had had for all but its very first days was refitted in 2017. With Vignale bodies of that era it is a matter of personal taste.
Missing this year was Swiss dealer Lukas Huni, as well as major British dealers Fisken and Girardo among others.
Kidston was the only British dealer with a stand though the firm is Geneva based, displaying a selection, not necessarily for sale, in any color you want, as long as it is a McLaren F1 supercar; no less than seven of them.
Along the aisles I met Borzou Sepasi, who had flown over from Tehran for the launch of his book “Fit for a King, the Royal Garage of the Shahs of Iran”, a superb piece of research over 18 years. Made difficult by the post-revolution regimes whose successive administrations wanted to bury anything to do with the Shahs, including documents and archive photos. Many of the cars are to this day in a museum in Tehran exhibited as seized items.
We had communicated years ago so it was great to meet him as well as his co-authors Ramin Salehkhou from Iran and Gautam Sen from India.
You never know who you will bump into in the aisles: personalities this year included Jean Berchon who had organised several of the pentannual 250 GTO international meetings in France; historian Adolfo Orsi; Gerard Larrousse, two-time Le Mans winner aboard Matras lamenting the very recent passing of his ex-teammate and Daytona Group 4 racer, Vic Elford.
The star of the show however, no contest whatsoever, was the recreation of the oldest self-propelled motorized vehicle in the history of mankind. No, not the Mercedes impostor of 1885 but a French creation born more than a century previously: the 1769 “Fardier de Cugnot” complete with its staff in period outfits.
Nicolas Joseph Cugnot (1725-1804) spent many years of his life on his creation which works by way of a steam boiler transmitting its energy via two pistons to the front wheels. While the original survives and is in the Musee des Arts et Metiers in Paris, this recreation, perfectly identical, was made in 2009.
Its “power source” is cantilevered even worse than a Porsche 911 or Beetle but the massive wooden chassis prevents it from tipping over. Performance? Hold on to your hats; a dizzying 4kmh (2.5 mph) but since the brakes were useless, it is just as well. To see it function just outside the salon was absolutely awe inspiring to all generations alike.
Unlike the Bonhams and RM Sotheby’s auctions which decided to stick to the early February scheduled dates for logistical reasons, Artcurial’s auction inside the actual Retromobile salon grounds had no choice but to go along with the rescheduling.
There were two auctions with cars and bikes on March 19th and memorabilia on March 20th.
As usual the customary lineup included an impressive Prancing Horse selection, not inspected for lack of time.
The star lots were obviously the late consignment of a Monaco-based collection of supercars included one-each F40, F50, Enzo and La Ferrari, all practically unused and shiny like new with number plates not even removed or covered. The other Maranello offerings seemed in good to fair condition.
One unexpected sight was a rather ratty Russian 1967 Zil 114 limousine reserved for heads of state and VIPs, the popular joke being that with the sanctions against him it would soon be the only ride Putin would be able to afford.
The next day Artcurial held its huge memorabilia auction with amazing Bugatti and Citroën Bronzes as well as various other baubles. A Chris Amon race suit went for €7,478, though it was not from his Ferrari days but from right after with Matra.
A child-sized pontoon-fendered Testa Rossa with a Yamaha 225cc engine was ready to make some very spoiled kid happy, selling for €72,160. A Dino Ferrari service sign with clock went for €1,968. A Daytona tool kit reached €7,216. A pair of black Daytona seats went for €7,872.
The F50 was the highest priced Ferrari at €4,161,600 only beaten overall by one lot, a factory Porsche 907 at €4,390,400.
The next venue for Artcurial Motorcars will be on July 2nd at Le Mans Classic, another event making its welcome return this year.