There is no doubt, that Rétromobile is the grand arena of the serious players, where major classic car collectors often outshine factory museums with rarities and exquisite pieces.
Prime collectors and brokers such as Lukas Hüni, Fiskens, or Axel Schuette showcase well-decorated stages packed with rarities of immense value (like last year’s exhibition of a selection of 60’s Ferraris).
It is more than just a trade show of second-hand cars: these stages sometimes outshine prime national and factory museums. Hüni Lancia stage showed the incredible outreach of a single Collector/broker, who organizes exhibitions every year, to honour a brands, instead of merely showcasing the cars that are for sale. Nevertheless, Rétromobile is also a trade show, and the vehicles on private stages entailed a fleet value that none of the factory shows could match. Upon my first attempt at establishing a top 5, I realized, it would be unfair to rank these stages, as each of them followed a different concept according to the interest, preference and design of the organizing company. So this is a list of the most memorable stages:
Lancia was honoured by an impressive stage showcasing the greatest 25 cars from all epochs.
This year, Lancia fans are more than spoiled by the classic car dhows of the first quarter. Following the special thematic “La grandezza della Lancia” at Interclassics Maastricht, swiss broker Lucas Hüni dedicated his Rétromobile stage to the once highly innovative Italian brand, following their jaw-dropping Ferrari exhibition last year.
To my understanding, the cars on stage did not belong to the Lukas Hüni stock fleet, but were lent for the event. I would really like to have friends like that… : )
Thus the stage is no courtesy of the FCA group, which focused on the 70 years of Abarth exhibition this year (with one 037, to be fair). I think it is safe to say, that the Hüni stage was one of the most impressive stages of Rétromobile 2019, (in a close competition, surrounded by the Chapron exhibition and the McLaren stage).
Besides the fact that each of the cars was in spotless condition, the exhibition allowed a great insight into the history of the Italian brand, with its most emblematic models.
Among the 25 cars presented, we find almost all periods, from pre-war Lambda and Astura to the 037 and Delta Integrale Rally of the 80s. Many of them I witnessed in Maastricht, so I recommend to click over to see the model history and importance of these cars.
The front line is dominated by the seven Stratos road cars, each sporting a different body color along with a race car in Al Itala Livery. It’s a rare occasion to admire so many Lancia Stratos together.
One small addition, those who had a chance to browse through Hall 2, could admire the spectacular Stratos HF concept showcased on the Lancia France club stand.
The Fiskens stage at Rétromobile: when a collector’s stage beat the factory presence
For years, the London based collector of fine historic automobiles is responsible for the largest and most impressive stage at least among those built by collectors. But even among the factory stages, Fiskens would probably finish at the Podium.
The diversity of machinery ranged from all epochs and continents. The British racing green 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato is one of just 19 DB4 GT Zagato built, and one of the few in Left Hand Drive. Built to a bespoke specification for Dr Elio Zagato and raced by him as well. The blue 1960 Aston Martin DB4GT ‘Lightweight’ – 0124/R was driven by Sterling Moss.
The blue 1966 FERRARI 275 GTB/6C with an aluminum long-nose body is quite a spectacle, like the 1958 Ferrari 250 California Spyder with Long Wheel Base.
Other notable pieces included 1969 BMW 3.0 CSL ‘Batmobile’ and Formula 1 car from the 70s.
The last production Bugatti EB 110 between two F40s: the usual business at the Austrian Hödlmayr Classic Car Centre
This Austrian classic car centre usually brings its blue Bugatti EB110 (the last one ever produced) the most classic car shows (I recall at least three encounters already), but the rest of the stage is just as impressive, starting with the green alpine landscape discretely projected behind the cars.
The carefully selected bouquet of cars ensure a balanced participation of all epochs and origins, from a pre war Bugatti to the ProCar BMW M1, and of course a lovely set of Ferraris from the 60’s to the F40.
Girardo & Co: upping the game big time at Rétromobile
Girardo & Co was a familiar face from the past few years, attending both Rétromobile and Techno Classica shows, but this year, they bunked in right next to Fiskens (who consistently brings the best stages to Paris year after year), but Girardo was up for the challenge and delivered one of the finest stages of the show.
The lineup of the Porsche 935, an XJ220 and a silver Maserati MC12 Corsa to the left is quite impressive.
The Olio Fiat-liveried Lancia 037 Group B facing off with (yet another) CLK GTR is quite a sight as well. The stage also featured a Bugatti race car and a special E Type (lightweight), as well as a couple of other Italian classics (like an Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 prototype).
It’s quite a spectacle to take a walk on the stage (and mind you it’s is allowed), but if any critics I can bring up, specifically due to the constant influx of visitors, it was quite a challenge to photograph…
Miura galore at Kidston: when a private stage surpasses the factory show
Simon Kidston’s classic car centre from Britain made its Rétromobile debut with a bang. In fact, the stage outperformed the Polo Storico factory Division’s own stage by far.
The purple-carpeted stand featured seven (well, 6 and a half) carefully selected Lamborghini Miuras and a 350GT. This latter car is the second-oldest 350GT in existence, with a 2+1 seating configuration).
The rest of the Miuras include an original Miura Roadster (that is a one-off, even if the nail polish blue metallic), and the Miura SVJ taking the podium, formerly owned by the Shah of Iran.
When I rectified to 6 and a half Miuras above, I was being serious: Kidston showcased a naked tech demo version that was used in the 1966 Geneva car show to demonstrate the technical finesse of the Miura.
Pagani Zonda ancestors of three decades on a single stage
These photos are basically about time traveling. One of the first stages I spotted at Rétromobile brought together an unrivalled collection of legends that represent the same spirit that you can find today in the cars of Pagani (for the sake of fairness, that is one league of cars that I never managed to drive, feel free to contradict if you have that experience).
The stage of the Cultivated Collector (arriving straight from Connecticut) showcased three road legal cars that were conceived without compromise to build the ultimate super-sportscar: a Jaguar XJR-15 a Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR AMG and a Schuppan 962cr.
I have seen a few XJR 15s already in my life (of the 53 ever built) at shows, but I will never forget the first time, I saw that beast next to a green XJ220 supercar, that seemed quite tame next to the blue beast. XJR-15 was loosely based on the Le Mans winning XJR-9 racing car, sharing many components like the V12 engine (and did not add much, as the driver have to use an intercom to speak with the passenger). It was assembled by Tom Walkinshaw Racing, and contributed to a hype that the V6 powered XJ220 could not live up to.
The concept behind the CLK GTR was the other way around, it was marketed merely because Mercedes had to, in order to meet the FIA GT1 homologation standards to enter the FIA GT Championship series in 1997. Along with the Bugatti EB110, it was the other popular exotic of the show featured on a number of stages.
Nevertheless, the car that really stole the show was a Schuppan 962CR, one of six ever built. The Schuppan 962CR was a sports car produced between 1992-1994 by Australian racecar driver Vern Schuppan, who won 1983 24 Hours of Le Mans victory and the 1983 All Japan Sports Prototype Championship title.
The 962CR is based on the Porsche 962 race car that dominated Le Mans (recall the nobody’s perfect ad?). Hence it retains the mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout, and is powered by a water-cooled 3.3-litre Type-935 Flat-6 featuring twin KKK turbochargers producing 600 hp (with a kerb weight slightly over 1000kgs). The power goes to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual transmission, and for this spartan car, the owners had to pay over 1.5 million US dollars at that time, with virtually no depreciation.
The ultimate carspotting bonanza: the best of private collectors’ stages
In the past weeks, I uploaded dozens of posts about various stages erected by factory Museums and restoration centres, but also by private collectors who exhibited fleets with a street value in the range of millions. Some of these stages exceeded even factory shows in terms of size and design, and the five best shows I presented in dedicated posts.
This time, I won’t start enumerating the photos, or the cars on them. Each of them features at least one jaw-dropping vehicle that could star in any museum (like the PS I Love You exhibition that closed its curtain a few weeks ago).
So please find below a gallery with a few dozen of my favourite photos, that was not yet presented in the earlier posts. I am now folding the cards : )