If you plan to read just one article about Rétromobile, this might be your best bet.
Rétromobile Paris is one of the most prestigious classic car events, it is essentially the Paris Motor Show with classic cars. The show have recourse to the same venue, the Paris Expo, at about 2/3 of the exhibitor surface area of the Paris Motor Show. As the stages are smaller and more condensed, the visitor’s pace will be slower and thus it takes about as much time to walk it, as the French international car show. Factory shows, museum masterpieces and record hunters give numerous occasions to drop the anchor (and/or jaw). I spent the past two weeks publishing over a dozen posts on Rétromobile, and now that I am finalizing the last drops, it is time to take stock of the event with a best of show list.
As for most events that I put on my A list, it takes about a full day to complete, with a few eventual reruns on the favourite spots or where the crowd prevented decent photos. A full day hardly warrant additional programmes, even if two other grand auctions were organized that weekend. In fact, the automotive press already designated Paris as the Auction capital of the world. Yet I had to remain focused: the full day only allowed a thorough walk in all corners of the show (including the Auction stage of Artcurial). Hence my top list includes Factory headquarters’ stages, public museums and private collectors. While the German Techno Classica’ top list is dominated by factory heritage centres, at Rétromobile, the performance of the three categories is quite balanced, and all three made it to my list below.
10. 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, second car was a Type 55 sports car from the Schlumpf collection, and to connect the glorious past to the records of today, Bugatti showcased an engine of the Chiron.
9. The behemoths of Rétromobile
One of the most mind-blowing parts of Rétrombile is the participation of gigantic historic vehicles. The first one is a real giant, the largest vehicle ever presented at Rétromobile. Even by today’s standards, the Berliet T100 is an extremely impressive beast: 5 metres high and wide, 15 metres long with a weight of 50 tonnes.
The Saumur Tank Museum has one of the largest collections of First World War armoured vehicles in the world and returns to the Show every year. This year, they showcased two iconic German and American tank models: a Panzer IV and an M4 Sherman tank.
8. The Fiskens stage at Rétromobile: when a collector’s stage beats 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 deserves a place in this list. If you browse through the report on the Collectors’ stages, I am sure you will agree…
7. Aston Martin’s best stage yet: Bond’s DB5 at your (not so secret) service
The noble British car manufacturer showcased finest examples of the heritage preservation work carried out by its Newport Pagnell plant. British brands ensured a solid presence, from Mini to Bentley, but my favourite was Aston Martin this time.
6. Henri Chapron is a long gone legend, and a precursor to AMG and co
In Hall 1, visitors can also find a large area with dozens of unique DS models redesigned by the legendary coachbuilder and DS specialist Henri Chapron, who worked with French luxury brands, like Talbot, Delage, and Delahaye.
Following the regulated collapse of the French luxury car industry in the 50s, he built over 1300 cars for Citroën distributed via the factory dealerships worldwide.
His work was also appreciated by the presidents of France, as it was well illustrated by PSA’s 2018 special exhibition showcasing presidential parade limos of 50 years.
5. BMW is back to Rétromobile
This year, the German manufacturer joined the event by sharing a number of exciting chapters from its history.
Some of its finest models from its Munich vault are showcased in Hall 1 at a stand with different sections for different vehicle types: roadsters, luxury cars and sports cars are all on show.
4. McLaren’s glory days shine through at Rétromobile
One of the absolute highlights of last year’s Rétromobile was a stage brought together by Swiss watchmaker Richard Mille to honor its racing partner, McLaren. The show took the visitors on a journey through the finest hours and defining moments of the iconic British racing team and automaker McLaren.
This year, the organisers built on that tradition, but they focussed more on the racing successes of the team than the story of the founder. Basically, there was only one car piloted by Bruce McLaren, the 1969 M7C Cosworth (it is the yellow “biplane” in the middle of the stage).
The rest of the cars were delivering championship titles, apart from the black car, that stemmed from the recent and not so fortunate adventure with Honda.
The stage showcased all epochs, livery and both record highs and some lows. Although I can not imagine how McLaren could take this further, I hope we get to see something equally impressive from Richard Mille next year.
3. Lukas Hüni proves again that 2019 is the year of Lancia
This year, Lancia fans are more than spoiled by the Classic Car Shows of the first quarter (can anybody tell what why there are so many Lancia exhibitions in 2019?).
Following the special thematic La Grandezza della Lancia at Interclassics Maastricht, the swiss Lucas Hüni dedicated his stage at Rétromobile 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, but were lent for the event. I really wish I had 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.
2. Chasing world records at Artcurial’s auction stage
You think insurance is overrated? I haven’t watched my steps since prom night’s dance. When wandering among million-euro vehicles, one wrong move and my family fortune are gone, including that of my grand-grandchildren.
One of the highlights of Rétromobile (more info on the show in the intro-post) is the auction of high-end luxury cars at the stage of the Artcurial Auction House.
The flagship car of the auction was a noble Alfa from the pre-war era. The 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta was estimated at 16 – 22 Million euros, even if sold at the lower part of that threshold. At 16,7 Million euros sales price, you start to question your friends jokes about the depreciation of Alfas. : )
The Hammer fell at 16,7 Million euros (!!!!)
Some of the featured cars were on individual podiums, where you know the car is exceptional, even among the Auction lots. There was also a decent line-up of modern cars, but it takes more than rarity and value to get a podium.
There are many automotive memorabilia among the auction lots. Apparently, the Lambo and the Porsche tractor is an obligatory accessory to any major collection these days.. : ) In addition, there are all kinds of rarities, like an F1 car built from Lego (I saw it at the Renault stage in Paris this autumn), or a Formula-E showcar.
I was also impressed by the hundreds of racing helmets, the most valuable ones (all used by world champions) were presented in glass cages before the shelves.
1. Iconic models, racing legends and concept cars for the 100th birthday of Citroën at Rétromobile
This year, Rétromobile celebrated the 100th anniversary of an Icon of Citroën. For its centenary, Citroën built a brand new stage, next to the PSA booth to showcase 30 iconic models divided according to 3 hubs. The first batch includes 10 iconic production cars from the past 100 years.
On the left flank, 10 concept cars illustrate 100 years of visionary spirit: C10, Camargue, Karin, Activa 1, Xanae, Osmose, C-Métisse, GTbyCitroën, Tubik, CXPERIENCE.
On the right side, 10 racing vehicles commemorate 100 years of unrivalled sporting achievements.
Nevertheless, Citroen was in the focal point of many private stages this year, adding considerably to the highlights of the official stage.