FEB 05th 2016

Retromobile – classics on show, French style

Retromobile, the annual Paris-based classic car event opener, began with the usual array of the beautiful and bizarre. Eye-wateringly expensive classic Ferraris are out in force at the event, with one example in particular looking set to make headline news.  A 1957 Ferrari 335 S Sport Scaglietti will be under the hammer of a local French auctioneer later today, estimated to fetch up to £24million or more.

For those with shorter pockets, a wealth of 1950s to 1980s Ferraris can be found in the busy exhibition halls at Retromobile, ranging from some stunning 330s and 250s for millions of Euros, through to more recent 1980s 348s and Testarossas from £100,000 upwards.

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Although expensive Ferraris seem to be for sale at every turn, this year’s Retromobile also has a fine and diverse spread of other delectable classic road and race cars as well.

Two themed central displays focus on the more unusual aspects of historic motoring, at which Retromobile usually excels. A small but intriguing selection of rhomboids, with their wheels in a diamond pattern, are making their Retromobile debut, including Pininfarina’s 1960 study in aerodynamics, the X prototype, plus the weird 1947 Alamagny, a French microcar with passenger entry via opening front and rear sections.  A pair of 1990s city cars, styled by the French industrial designer Phiillipe Charbonneux, also join the display, with the star turn being the crowd-pulling Automodule.

The totally spherical Automodule was the invention of Jean Pierre Ponthieu, introduced as a publicity vehicle in 1968 under the Eifel Tower. A Fiat 500 engine, with complex hydraulics to control the suspension and the angles that the Automodule can be driven, powers this one-off round car.

In addition to his two rhomboids, a rare and interesting selection of other Philippe Charbonneux-designed vehicles and industrial white goods form another themed display at this year’s Retromobile. The vehicles include Charbonneux’s one-off Renault 16 saloon (he designed the standard five-door production model), plus an early 1950s GRP-bodied Salmson 2300 S barchetta and a rebodied promotional Citroen 2CV.  A huge aerodynamic Berliet Stradair-based Pathe-Marconi promotional truck for the 1953 Tour de France dominates the display.

Many of Europe’s leading classic cars dealers are displaying a rich range of significant vehicles at the Paris event, offering everything from early pioneering voitures, through to recent ‘young timer’ classics.  We will be selecting a handful of some of the best and most interesting of these cars at Retromobile over the coming day, so watch this space…

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