The factory stages from France, Italy and Japan to bring variety at Rétromobile
What makes the few A-lister events my favourites, is the presence of factory collections. In Paris, the French manufacturers bring out the best of their treasure chests, and make full use of their home advantage. But as last weeks post illustrated well, the British deliver quite a show at Rétromobile.
This year however, two of the most important players, Mercedes and Porsche abstained from the event. The Mercedes Museum usually fills most of a larger Hall in Essen, and while they withdrew last year already, Porsche kickstarted the 70th anniversary stages in Paris.
HONDA celebrated 20 years of the S2000 in Paris
In the past years, Honda prepared a small but ardent stage at Rétromobile. Last year, the Honda Motor Company celebrated 70 years of its history, with a presence that was rather worthy to a fan club. The stage of this year was even more compact, but loaded with three iconic cars that showed much more serious efforts.
This year, the Japanese manufacturer was celebrating the 20th birthday of the Honda S2000, that is in my view the last Honda with the virtues many still attribute to the Japanese brand. The revvy and joyful roadster was first unveiled in 1998 to celebrate Honda’s 50th birthday before being commercially launched the next year.
The S2000 is being exhibited alongside an NSX GT3 EVO 2019, the latest update to the NSX GT3. The GT3 is a thoroughbred race car that resembles Honda’s flagship supercar, but retains a racing architecture to successfully compete in endurance racing.
The stage also featured a Honda CB 750 motorcycle, this model made headline recently with record breaking auction results (surpassing the £160.000 barrier at a UK auction).
FCA heritage celebrated the 70th birthday of Abarth
FCA Heritage is the group’s division dedicated to preserve the heritage of FCA’s Italian makes. In practice this mainly implies restauration and parts, and the presence at classic car shows. Following the headline inauguration at last year’s Rétromobile, they are back at this year’s show with another impressive set of cars.
The main thematic is the 70 years anniversary of the Abarth Brand, and FCA Heritage was celebrating the history of collaborations between Abarth and other Italian manufacturers which are today part of the same group.
FCA Heritage exhibited a wide selection of models, one for each make, illustrating decades of collaborations. The 1000 Monoposto Record Class G took centre stage, surrounded by merchandising products. On 20 October 1965, Fiat Abarth 1000 Monoposto set two world records in Class G, for acceleration over the quarter-mile and 500-metre distances at the Autodromo di Monza.
The Fiat 500 Elaborazione Abarth Record, was another record breaker, actually even seven records. In February 1958 six drivers took turns behind the wheel of the Fiat Abarth 500 N on the Monza circuit to prove the capabilities and reliability of the car.
The Alfa Romeo 750 Competizione (1955) was a collaboration between Alfa Romeo and Abarth. While Abarth built the chassis, the Alfa Romeo engineers focused on engine design, the chassis was delivered by Boano.
The elegant Lancia Rally 037 was initially an Abarth project (hence the 037 designation), that led to a dozen victories in WRC (Group B), and I personally consider them the car of the best looking rallye-cars ever made.
Finally, the Fiat 124 Sport Spider Abarth is a reminder that Abarth is still back in the game, big time.
Lamborghini’s Polo Storico historical division outshone by private collectors
The fact that Lamborghini is featured more often on the collectors stages than local brand Renault, should not come as a surprise at Rétromobile (to Renault’s credit, Alpines and Renault 5 Turbos constitute the backbone of their presence here). Lamborghini it created its Polo Storico department in 2015, specialised in restoring its classic models. Polo Storico was present in major classic car shows I attended, but in addition to promoting the manufacturer’s heritage and restoring the brand’s classic models (everything from the 350 GT to the Diabolo) it also sells spare parts and offers a certification and authentication service.
At this year’s Rétromobile, Polo Storico stick to its usual script by showcasing a project car (in this case a 1966 400 GT) that is in the process of being restored and a newly-restored car (a Miura S). The Lamborghini 400 GT was first unveiled at the 1966 Geneva Auto Show, and 400 specimen were built between 1966 and 1968. The vehicle on show this year is currently undergoing restoration (you can tell : ) ).
The Lamborghini Miura SV was in production between 1966 and 1973, the vehicle on show belongs to none other than Jean Todt, (a “former French rally co-driver” who then got some other car related jobs, you might have heard of). Interestingly, the small but stylish stage proved to be the most difficult one to photograph among the factory stages, with its bright white background. Curiously, the best Lamborghini stage was presented by a private collector, who presented half a dozen Miuras, including the naked show car that was used at car shows in the 60’s.
Local hero Renault reminds us that the Turbo era did not start with downsizing
At Rétromobile 2019, Renault commemorated its first turbo era with an exhibition dedicated to the first F1 victory and the product line streamlining the turbo technology. 1 July 1979 Jean-Pierre Jabouille brought the first Formula One victory for Renault at the French grand prix. René Arnoux added another podium finish.
40 years later, Renault is celebrating the anniversary of this victory, exhibiting the 1979 Formula One RS10, together with a selection of series production vehicles. They illustrate how Renault incorporated the technologies that it had acquired from motor racing into its ranges of production vehicles.
11 Renault models with turbo engines are on display: behind the iconic yellow Formula One RS10 race car, there was a red 5 turbo, 18 turbo, 5 Alpine turbo, Fuego turbo, 9 and 11 turbo, 5 GT Turbo, 21 2.0 turbo, Safrane Biturbo and Mégane R.S. Altogether, every category and epoch is represented, but I left with a slight dissatisfaction. Renault opens its stage to public every time, which makes photoshoots quite difficult, and after a while I gave up on that.
My enthusiasm was also lowered by the set of cars exposed. I mean, Renault Fuego and 21 Turbo? These are simply not the cars I would fight to catch with the camera, when you have a 50tons Berliet next door.
Bugatti celebrated its 110th birthday at home turf
Participation at a prestigious French classic car show sounds like a must for the French luxury car manufacturer Bugatti. Ettore Bugatti established his legendary company in 1909, marking the 110 years anniversary this year, as the main theme of the Bugatti stage at Rétromobile 2019.
To celebrate its birthday, Bugatti showcased two exceptional models at its stand. The first one is a Bugatti EB110 lent by a private collector, a model that was truly worthy to the spirit of one of the greatest car constructors of all time (at that time the 110 stood for the birthday of Ettore Bugatti, but it is also fitting this year).
In fact, others may have remembered the anniversary too, as I photographed two other EB110’s, including the blue one that was claimed to be the last one of the production.
The second car showcased by Bugatti was a Type 55 sports car from the Schlumpf collection. For those who never been to Cité de l’Automobile museum in Mulhouse, it is probably the greatest car collection in the world, and certainly the greatest and best collection of Bugattis from all eras.
In the chambers and halls of Mulhouse I saw three specimen of the glorious Type 41 Royale, the 6,5 metre long mastodon propelled by a 12 litre V8, but all epochs were represented.
The Type 55 is a fine example of Ettore’s son, Jean Bugatti’s ingenuity. The Type 55 was conceived as a road legal version of the 1931 Type 51, the successor of the Type 35, to the day the most successful race car in the brand’s history. With its top speed of 180 km/h, it became a successful high-end gran turismo. Its design with a bi-colour paint aimed to reflect the car’s elegance, strength and speed. Bugatti produced 38 units of the Type 55 with roadster and coupe coachworks.
To connect the glorious past to the records of today, Bugatti showcased an engine of the Chiron as well.