Retro proves theres nothing new

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Today’s manufacturers are working furiously on ‘new’ technologies – but we’ve been here before, as Rétromobile’s main theme proved

The Paris Exposition Centre at Porte de Versailles opened its doors once again to the Rétromobile show in February. Famed for its diverse display of rare and interesting motor vehicles, many rarely seen outside France, and combined with the stylish Parisian backdrop, this year’s exhibition, the 34th, easily lived up to expectations.

With over 300 exhibitors, the show offered one of the most eclectic car exhibitions of motoring history, supported by displays from Citroën, BMW, Mercedes and Peugeot. Under the theme that ‘new’ energy sources are as old as the automobile, there were electric cars from Sinclair C5 back to 1901 Columbia, hybrids, a compressed air tram, a gas-driven bus and
even a steam motorcycle, as well as a working replica of Jenatzy’s 1899 electric record-breaker ‘Jamais Contente’.

French manufacturer Citroën celebrated its 90th anniversary with a large display of themed stands, featuring the unlikely SM rally car. Mercedes displayed a W165 ‘voiturette’ Grand Prix car alongside a modern McLaren-Mercedes F1 machine, and BMW showed the sublime 328 roadster alongside the equally stunning modern Z8.

A number of international dealers offered a mouth-watering selection of cars, ranging from the sleek 1964 CD Panhard Le Mans car of Autodrome Paris to the very special blown Bentley Fiskens was showing, built by Birkin to LM spec. Other high points included the handsome D24, Lancia’s 1950s sports-racer, on Lukas Huni’s stand, while Hall & Hall brought a works Mercedes Gullwing complete with functioning air brake.

Bonhams Europe hosted an auction on the opening weekend (see p113), the highlight of its sale being the ex-Earl Howe Bugatti 57S and a wonderful collection of rare and unusual Citroëns; our favourite was the elegant DS23 Cabriolet by Chapron.

French auction house Artcurial held its sale at the Palais de Congrès on the Sunday, highlight of which was the historic Matra MS650, the first one built.

For those after a smaller purchase, the exhibition offered a large choice of scale models and related automobilia with anything from a vintage 6000rpm Jaeger revolution counter to tail lights for your Ferrari 330GT. Whether it was a flying hat and goggles for those Sunday morning blasts or a set of wheels for your Mini Cooper, the trade stalls had something for everyone.

It’s worth booking for next year’s edition if you missed it this time. From Bugatti to Simca or Bizzarrini to Hispano-Suiza, Rétromobile has it all. You won’t be disappointed – but go the first weekend to pick up something special.

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