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    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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    One of my favourite characters from architectural history is Adolf Loos, a superlatively odd Viennese. Perhaps his greatest legacy is the city’s American Bar, a perfect jewel of a drinking hole: uncompromisingly modern, but also dark, intimate and charming. And a roaring success. Loos was a great aphorist as well as a great designer and one of his best aphorisms was ‘ornament is crime’.


    Quite correctly, I think, Loos believed that tattoos are a reliable indicator of depraved, criminal tendencies in the wearer. All of civilization’s progress, he said, could be measured by the rejection of decoration. Curlicue? Chuck it out! As an idiosyncratic independent, Loos belonged to no movement, he was a school of one, but his ideas flooded into mainstream Modernism.

    So when Jeremy Clarkson describes the #Audi-TT as 'Bauhaus’, a nod must be given to Loos. Jeremy paddles in a shallower end of creativity’s gene pool than Adolf, but acknowledgement of the Audi’s architectural clarity shows how far Loos’ ideas have penetrated the brackish waters of pop commentary. They have made half a million TTs, so it is not a classic in any definition that includes a concept of rarity, but nonetheless the TT is a design masterclass: one of the least tattooed vehicles you can find.

    It’s worth wondering why. Soon after its #1997 introduction, at dinner with J Mays (who has a very good claim to being the car’s author, although things are rarely quite so simple), J snatched my notebook and did some evocative scribbles that showed how the TT’s surfaces and profiles were derived from the pre-war #Auto-Union-Type-C . A few years later, Walter de Silva did something similar in explaining the evolution of the modern Audi face. That distinctive gaping mouth is also sourced in a historical memory of Dr Porsche’s Silver Arrow, which Nuvolari and Rosemeyer hassled around Europe’s circuits. Never mind that the TT was a Golf in drag, it was marvellous evidence of that German concept of Nachleben-. the after-life of things. Even the TT name refers to Audi’s parent #NSU and its successes in the Isle of Man bike races.

    Besides history, the TT drew inspiration from design theories inspired by Adolf Loos. The bold surfaces, confident radii and absolute refusal of frivolous detail were astonishing. But there were professional designer’s tricks too: cars almost always look good when front and rear overhangs are minimised (witness: #Citroen-DS , Mini) and the TT has overhangs so exiguous they scarcely justify use of the term. And those radii are as close to formal Bauhaus geometry of cubes, spheres and cones as manufacturing technology would allow.

    Difficult now to remember-especially as the car has, in Britain, become almost a spiritual successor to Everyman’s #MGB , such is its popularity - how thrillingly bold the original TT was. I once slowly drove a then-new #1999 cabrio past Charles Saatchi, a well- satisfied car enthusiast, and he almost fell off the kerb. I showed the interior designer Nicky Haslam the cockpit and he purred and tutted with approval. Couldn’t get him out. It was just like Harley Earl’s description of what a car’s cabin should be: a place making you think you are on vacation for a while. So sweet a thought captures the absolute essence of what designers aim to achieve.

    The original TT was one of the least compromised designs ever. It could be dismissed as designery indulgence, had it not been so successful. I asked J Mays about the #2006 successor. He said he admired it more, but loved it less. And now there is a third generation. With a lot of what the Germans call Forschung, a word that combines the notions of research and development, the new car manages that fantastic trick of appearing to be explicitly evolved from the original while being, at the same time, completely different in everything but spirit and quality of execution.
    Ornament is crime? Less is more? Form follows function? I adore these classic design tropes, but none can quite explain the intense attraction of the TT. Besides my admiration for its gloriously spare handsomeness, the latest car has extraordinary dynamic agility and a direct contact with the mystical idea of ‘driving pleasure’, rather lost ordinarily in my part of the Congestion Charge Zone. It is simply a delight to look at and to use, a marvel of practical aesthetics. And one of the very last: in 30 years time, hedonism will have been criminalised by tattooed busybodies and cars like the #Audi TT will have disappeared. #1995 #Audi-TT-Concept
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    When I was actively racing, the offseason was something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you had more time to spend with the family and were able to catch up with friends. On the other, you might be out of a drive and anxiously trying to find a new one. And even when you had a confirmed seat with a team, it was difficult to switch off the competitive part of your brain: you just wanted to get your bum in a car and start testing.


    That said, during the first decade or so of my racing career, there was no off-season. While I was at #Ferrari , for example, I competed in the Tasman series alongside great mate Chris Amon. Racing Down Under was infinitely more pleasurable than spending another winter in the UK kicking my heels.

    These days, of course, I am a retired racing driver. Strictly speaking, I should say that I am not ‘retired’ in the dictionary sense of the word as I still compete in histories as and when the mood takes me, but the point is that I am not chasing drives. So what do I do with my time? I’m busier than ever! At the end of last year, for example, I visited Number 10 Downing Street and - please don’t judge me on this - I also found myself at a concert in Miami watching Miley Cyrus take her clothes off. I’m pretty sure she also sang a little, too, but I was distracted. The point is, life this past winter has rarely been dull.

    One of the highlights of last year was getting to race Adam Lindermann’s Ecurie Ecosse #Jaguar-D-type at the Goodwood Revival Meeting. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and Adam and I are hoping to team up again in 2015 and do some events. While we were in West Sussex, Adam and Lord March got on famously and, in a roundabout way, this led to one of those ‘pinch me’ moments back in January.

    Adam owns an art gallery in New York, just off Fifth Avenue, and is among the most plugged-in people imaginable. This became abundantly clear when he organised a special display of His Lordship’s photography. What a lot of people don’t know is that, long before he turned historic motor sport on its head with the Goodwood events, Charles was a photographer. A damned good one. The exhibition of his woodland studies was well received, and I was delighted to attend alongside my wife Misti.

    And it turned into one of the most surreal nights of my life. The gallery was bursting with the beautiful people, with even the likes of Al Pacino dropping by. At dinner, Misti was introduced to the lady sitting next to her and was rather blown away to learn she was the granddaughter of Pablo Picasso. Me? I was placed next to Princess Eugenie, who was very sweet and surprisingly clued up on motor sport. Then we went out for drinks, and who should stop by? Oh yeah, that would be Naomi Campbell. Misti began trembling when she saw her, as did I, but I’m guessing for different reasons.

    Fast-forward a week and I was in Berkeley, California giving a speech at a United States Ski & Snowboard Association fundraiser. Once again I found myself wondering how and why I was there, but I ended up having a great time. The subject was speed, and in all sports you have to build up to a certain level: at Le Mans, for example, you don’t just start doing 246mph, as I did back in the #Porsche-917 days, straight off the bat. You feel your way in, and with confidence comes speed.

    You also have to learn how to compartmentalise your mind and find focus. There is commonality between all sports in these regards, so having a racing driver as a guest speaker wasn’t as odd as it might have seemed, I guess.

    Once again, I was surrounded by fascinating people, not least the event’s organiser, Steve Reed, who just happens to own a fabulous array of racing cars including a #Maserati-300S and an ex-Lauda Ferrari. The point is, both of these amazing evenings occurred through friendships forged via motor sport. I am forever grateful for what my career brought me in terms of success trackside, but also the life it gave me away from the circuits. And it remains a gift that keeps on giving, even though I am (technically) retired.

    But, just in case this reads like one long name-dropping love-in, I should point out that winter was bookended by a dose of flu and time spent batting away norovirus. Sometimes, life has a habit of bringing you down to earth with a bump.


    Derek took up racing in 1964 in a Lotus 7, won two World Sportscar Championship titles in 1985 and 1986, the 24 Hours of Daytona three times in 1986, 1987 and 1989, and Le Mans five times in 1975, 1981, 1982, 1986 and 1987. He was speaking with Richard Heseltine. #Derek-Bell
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    I have always been fascinated by automotive history or stories that have been lost in my lifetime. For instance, did you know there’s a Firebird with a Ferrari engine in it? Bill Mitchell was the heir to #General-Motors design legend Harley Earl, and himself designer of such icons as the Stingray and Camaro. Pontiac was kind of GM’s performance division, with cars such as the GTO and the Firebird, and Bill wanted to impress upon his engineers some of the overhead-cam engines being developed in Europe at that time. So what he did was call his friend, Enzo Ferrari, and ask him to ship over a motor. And Ferrari did! #Pontiac-Firebird

    Bill put it in a concept car called the Pegasus, based on a #1970 Firebird. It had sort of a #Testa-Rossa -looking front end - based on a rendering by Gerry Palmer - which was going to be the new Camaro. But when Bill saw the renderings he incorporated it into the Pegasus.

    That wasn’t the end of the story, though. Bill complained about the lack of performance with the automatic transmission fitted in the Pegasus, so he got back on the phone to Ferrari, who agreed to send him something else.
    That ‘something else’ turned out to be a competition motor out of a Daytona. It was sent to Luigi Chinetti, who was running #NART in Connecticut, and he put the competition motor into the Pegasus, got rid of the auto 'box and replaced it with a five-speed manual.

    The part I find fascinating is that Bill could call up Ferrari and say, ‘Hey listen, send me a motor; I want to put it in a Pontiac.’ And it’s no problem. Obviously it was a different time - GM was a huge multi-national corporation and Ferrari was pretty much a small outfit, even as late as 1970. Can you imagine that happening today? There was a lot more camaraderie back then.

    He took a lot of heat from GM for building a Pontiac powered by a Ferrari, and was forbidden from showing the vehicle at any event that was put on by GM. But Bill felt that with his Pegasus, #Pontiac was given the impetus to develop its engines. Bill loved this thing, so he worked out an agreement with GM to lease the vehicle for a dollar. The agreement stated that when Bill died the Pegasus would be returned to GM in the condition in which it had left.

    I think he fancied himself as a bit of a racer, and while running the Pegasus around Road America he crashed into a bridge. But the bridge he crashed into was the Bill Mitchell Bridge, named in his honour. He’s probably the only guy to design a car and race it and crash it into a bridge named after him. The crash was hushed up and the car was loaded onto a truck and taken back to Detroit. Luckily Bill was not hurt, and he never mentioned it. He held up his end of the bargain by having the car restored back to the way he got it before he died in #1988 .


    I am one of the few people who have driven the car. In essence it is just like a Ferrari; it had four-wheel disc brakes. Ferraris of the period still had live axles and leaf springs, as did the Firebird. And with the five-speed transmission and the Ferrari gauges, it really was a lot like driving a Ferrari. All the power was at the top end, and it had a fantastic sound. I put quite a few miles on it.

    I think the #Pegasus showed the Pontiac and GM engineers what a real sporty engine was like. The Ferrari was about three litres and American engines were around seven litres-it got them thinking about what a little engine can do. Don’t forget, in 1970 if you were a car enthusiast you knew what a Ferrari was, but if you weren’t really a car person, it was some exotic thing. The fact that the GM engineers spelled it wrong on the crate tells it all - when the engine was sent to GM, someone wrote on it 'FARARI ENGINE, ITALIA’.

    I saw the original crate that the engine arrived in. I opened it - it hadn’t been opened for about 35 years - and in there was the original engine. It was the one that was taken out and replaced with the Daytona version, and it was just thrown in there, with pulleys and motor mounts and what have you. What is that engine worth today? Hundreds of thousands of dollars, probably.

    So why did #Ferrari send the engine to #GM ? We always think of Enzo as being a bit of a recluse yet, don’t forget, in the 1950s he gave Henry Ford a Ferrari. And Henry Ford gave him a #1955 #T-Bird . #Enzo-Ferrari actually came to Detroit and walked through the Corvette studio. I never knew that. So Enzo was actively courting suitors and meeting car designers, giving people engines and transmissions.

    ‘Try that in your car and see how you like it...' Bill Mitchell did, and he liked it a lot. Sadly, GM was not so enthused.

    Car #1971 #Pontiac-Firebird-Pegasus-Concept


    Comedian and talk show legend Jay Leno is one of the most famous entertainers in the USA. He is also a true petrolhead, with a massive collection of cars and bikes (see www. jaylenosgarage. com). Jay was speaking with Jeremy Hart.
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