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  •   Alastair Clements reacted to this post about 11 months ago

    Critics carp on about France’s economic woes - and indeed they are very real and biting hard - but Paris has never been a smiley upbeat place like, say, Miami or Monterey. No, Paris is brooding and crotchety, grey, cold and brusque - well, certainly in early February.

    The Eurostar was busting with well-dressed British car types in tweed, waxed jackets and brogues heading for the #2015 edition of the famous Salon Retromobile on the outskirts of Paris near Porte de Versailles. Having been ‘off games’ over Christmas, sheltering from the worst of the winter weather, these car types were once again enthusiastic and raring to go. Yes, Retromobile is the kick-start to the season, and everyone is in good cheer and looking forward to getting back into the saddle.


    Now that I’ve figured out the complicated-looking Metro system - it’s actually simple with the help of the website - Paris is all yours for just 61.80 a trip. Be smart and buy a booklet of tickets at the Eurostar terminal.
    This year’s show officially opened on Wednesday 4 February, but all the old hands get there a day or two earlier to bag the choice pieces. With no entrance tickets available that early, it’s a case of blagging your way past the
    security guards on the set-up day. Carrying an empty cardboard box and mumbling about it being needed on your stand is one wheeze. Being a gentleman of the press helps, but this being France the process is not simple: you need to get to the Press Office, inside, to sign on. But the security guard won’t let you in because you don’t have a Press Pass. And, of course, you need to get inside to actually get it... pure Inspector Clouseau.

    For 2015 the show was held in the huge Hall 1, with 450 exhibitors on the floor and 500 cars on show. Retro always has a slightly mad exhibit, and this year was no exception. Towering above a display of three large Bugatti Royales was an enormous Royal Tiger tank in full battle camouflage, the only surviving fully working example. It made the Allied tanks look like tin cans, with its 18cm-thick armour, 88mm canmon and 70-tonne kerb weight. Powered by a 23-litre, 12-cylinder 700bhp #Maybach engine, it was impregnable, but it’d overheat and slurped 500 litres every 100km, so the range was limited - thank goodness.

    British firm Fiskens had a wonderfully impressive stand, with the immaculate and unique Bequet Delage - powered by a V8 aero engine from a French WW1 fighter plane - in pride of place. Nearby, JD Classics’ eye-watering display included a superb #Porsche-356 quad-cam Carrera finished in original burnt orange. No wonder it was soon wearing a SOLD tag on the windscreen.

    With #RM and #Bonhams auctions taking place on the Wednesday and Thursday evenings, and sales records achieved with a bit of work (are there now too many auctions going on?), the star event was the Artcurial sale of the Baillon Collection on Friday. The remains of these vintage and classic cars were moodily exhibited in a separate hall. (See full report)

    The jewel was the #1961 #Ferrari-250GT-SWB-California-Spider , which appeared solid and totally original. Should it be restored? No! I hope the owner gets it mechanically perfect but leaves it scruffy, just as Alain Delon did, judging by the archive photos. This collection was our cover feature in the last-but-one issue, but actually seeing what remains of these wrecks in metal makes me sad. I know ‘barn finds’ are all the rage and there is a romance about rescuing a car that’s almost totally disintegrated. But these cars - some of them once great examples - have been badly neglected and allowed to perish almost totally.

    Baillon must have known that the California Spider was special, because it was kept in dry storage. But the poor old #Talbot-Lago-T26-Grand-Sport is in a terrible state, yet it sold for £1.3 million! It is just a pile of rust, which is a tragedy. However, classic car collectors are an optimistic bunch, and the word, post-Retromobile, is that the #Delage-D6-11 is going into a full restoration with the intention of showing it at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance next year.

    Apart from Retromobile, classics are seldom seen on Parisian streets. The occasional #2CV or #Renault van is a rare survivor, which is odd because they churned out millions of them. No, the French don’t seem to care for their automotive history - and parking is a contact sport! But the latest news is that, starting this July, older cars will be banned from the centre of Paris. Haven’t they heard: it’s diesels that are the problem, not classics.


    Robert grew up with classic cars, and has owned a Lancia Aurelia B20GT, Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Porsche 356C. He currently uses his properly sorted 1955 Jaguar XK140 as his daily driver, and is a founding editor of this magazine.
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  •   Matt Petrie reacted to this post about 4 years ago


    Let’s face it, we all like an underdog, especially here in Britain. I suppose you can apply the idea of an underdog to motor vehicles. Without wanting to anthropomorphise inanimate motor cars, human beings have had a long and illogical relationship with their motors. A car is a strong reflection of its owner’s personality and position in society and there is no brand stronger than a motor vehicle. #Audi , #Bentley , #BMW , #Ferrari , #Mercedes-Benz , #Jaguar , #Porsche , #Rolls-Royce and so on spend a fortune burnishing their brand credentials and it works. Aston Martin was recently the coolest brand in Britain, ahead of #Apple , #Nike and #Rolex .

    People very seldom just purchase a ‘car’. They buy a product that reflects themselves. As the doyen of advertising David Ogilvy said: ‘You have to decide what "image" you want for your brand. Image means personality.
    Products, like people, have personalities.’ Sure, people buy cars based on price, but the mid-market 3-Series has long outsold the perfectly good #Ford-Mondeo - because it has a BMW badge on the front. And why do so many urban dwellers want a 4x4?

    Because a soft-roader is a lot cooler than a sensible saloon.

    Of course, those of us who are ‘into’ classic or historic cars have a real attachment: we actually love our old cars, which is faintly ridiculous, though also great fun and rewarding. Apart from the engineering and performance, classic car types are acutely aware about what their cars say about them. Both an E-type Jaguar and Mini are cool icons of the 1960s but are totally different, only having the fact that they are motor vehicles with four wheels in common, unlike a Morgan three-wheeler. Classic cars offer a wide canvas for tweedy types and Teddy Boys alike.

    But because classic car enthusiasts actually have a bond with their cars, they can see beyond just the brand image in a way drivers of modern cars don’t. Of course, modern cars are built to hammer down endless motorways and sit in traffic, whereas classics are for enjoyment. That’s why many classic car owners will often have an underdog in their garage along with a more recognised classic. As well as his C-type Jaguar and #Rolls-Royce-Silver-Ghost , the late Alan Clark MP also enjoyed A #Citroen-2CV and a #VW-Beetle (the latter admittedly with a #Porsche-356 engine shoehorned into the rear).

    Americans call these ‘trinket’ cars. Fiat 500 Jollys used to be trinkets but, now that owners of superyachts want them as tenders, they are priced like expensive jewels. I’m sure, like me, you have a soft spot for the automotive underdog, a classic that is not about the smart badge on the bonnet. The first time I drove a classic Mini I was shocked at how good it was on a tight road. It made the Porsche 356 I was driving at the time seem a bit numb. And years ago my father had an immaculate #Lancia-Aurelia-B20GT . To be fair it was the last of the line, a heavy sixth-series example. But when I raced him in my boxy, four-door #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia saloon, I’d blow his (two) doors off every time.

    As a member of the #Drive-My team I’m fortunate to get to drive some pretty impressive pieces of kit. And it is interesting to see quite how good some cars are - often the underdogs - and quite how lousy some of the supposed great classics can be. My good friend Ray Jones of Sydney, Australia, invited me to take part in the #Mille-Miglia with him in #1999 . We were to drive his #Chrysler-75 .

    Some in the vintage world look down on these Americans. Halfway through, #Bentley specialist Stanley Mann wandered over. ‘What sort of supercharger do you have fitted to the Chrysler?’ he asked (we’d overtaken his vintage Bentley a number of times). Ray opened the bonnet. Its two huge SUs and banana-branch exhaust header would have given your average VSCC scrute heart failure but there was no blower. Stanley was amazed. And the #Chrysler had excellent, original hydraulic brakes.

    In 2007, deputy editor Mark Dixon and I competed in the #Mille-Migila in a bog-standard #Triumph-TR2 , mustering just about 90bhp. Not powerful, but it handled well. In the mountains this light car was ace because of its overdrive gearbox, which operated on second, third and top. The #Triumph really annoyed a number of drivers of heavy Mercedes-Benz Gullwings with their wide-ratio gearing. Up the steep mountain roads we indulged in some of the most impertinent overtaking ever.

    Yes, it was a proper underdog.


    Robert grew up with classic cars, and has owned a #Lancia-Aurelia-B20GT , Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Porsche 356C. He currently uses his properly sorted #1955 #Jaguar-XK140 as his daily driver, and is a founding editor of this magazine.
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  •   Matt Petrie reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    The story of how some lucky, and you do not have / #Porsche-356 / #Porsche / #2015

    As many as 15 consecutive years in #Portugal was itself abandoned mansion, and nobody was interested in them. The heirs of a dusty manor decided to anything to fuck with him and sold the property. I get for pennies a new home owner wandered through its territory and noticed an old barn, locked on a rusty but strong castle. He hacked and found it (no, he, of course, first rubbed his eyes, pinched myself hand) a warehouse of vintage cars!

    In total there were 180 machines found in perfect condition, the cost of which still can not be assessed.

    Most interestingly, the former owner of the estate just hid all this treasure, and so he died, no one shared his secret.

    Summarize: Why so many cool cars, if you do no one could envy.

    PS I ask all who knew the make and model of the car to sign them. ‏ — at Portugal
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