A tribute to French industrial designer Philip Charbonneaux, and the dramatic demonstrations of two early titans were talking point of Retromobile, the premier French classic car show on 4-8 February.
From Teleavia TV set to mid-engined concept cars for French race ace Jean-Pierre Wimille, the unsung French designer rivaled contemporary Raymond Loewy for his wide range of work. Dwarfing all was Charbonneux’s spectacular mobile studio ‘Le Super Car’ built by Carrosserie Antem in 1955 on a Panhard chassis for Pathé Marconi to follow the Tour de France.
But it was British enthusiasts Duncan Pittaway and Mark Walker that made the headlines of Paris papers with their Edwardian racers. Each day the monster 28-litre Fiat S74 and the Land Speed Record Darracq were fired up much to the delight of French visitors. After recent development the towering Fiat now runs better than ever as Pittaway demonstrated with fast runs around the show building to great applause.
Other special displays included a fascinating set of ‘Rhomboid’ concept cars headed by the bizarre 1947 Alamagny. Inspired by the pre-war designs of Gabriel Voison, this ‘pushmi-pullyu’ four-seater prototype had a claimed 53mph top speed and a 14ft turning circle. Other rhomboids included the 1968 Automodule designed by Jean Pierre Ponthieu which looked like it driven straight off the set of Sleeper.
As always the top European dealer displays competed with dazzling sets of exotics and ever more impressive stands to tempt millionaire collectors. London specialist Fiskens focused on motor sport with a just two road cars. The stars of the 14 car stand designed by C&SC contributor Julian Balme were both racing Ferraris with Derek Bell history, the fabulous 1968 Tasman/F2 Dino, and the ex-Escuderia Montjuich 1971 512M that ‘Dinger’ gunned to 192mph to claim a British world speed record.
Other talking points included the most original Jaguar D-type in the World, chassis XKD 524 which was advertised on e-bay in 2003 with just 6230 miles. “It’s definitely not for sale,” said Swiss specialist Lukas Huni who presented the short nose D-type together with an XKSS.
The event expanded to a second hall to house the huge Artcurial auction with more displays including the poster theme of ‘Speed Queens.’ Historic racer Julia de Baldanza brought highlights of her impressive collection from the UK including the unique Bugatti Type 40C that Ettore build for his wife Lydia, and the McLaren M3A in which Patsy Burt became the first women to win the RAC National Sprint Championship.
This year’s art village was larger than ever, and included a special exhibition of photographs by legend Jacques Henri Lartigue. Art highlights included a new blues themed series by British painter Stanley Rose and his tribute to Keith Richards with the Bentley ‘Blue Lena’ which sold soon after the show opened.
The Michel Vaillant comic art of Jean Graton has a passionate following in France that runs to 74 motor racing adventures. The publication of a new biography by his son Philip was marked by a special display of artwork by the 92-year old legend at the show.