Slicks-and-wings era cars from Re­nault and Abarth star at Rétro­mo­bile, Paris

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents -

Vic­to­ri­ous Le Mans Re­nault-alpine A443s head­line Paris sea­son-opener

Rétro­mo­bile 2018 marked a re­turn to daz­zling form for the Parisian show. Huge an­niver­sary dis­plays from French man­u­fac­tur­ers, themed ar­range­ments on dealer stands, and a vast and un­ex­pected 20-car Abarth pro­to­type col­lec­tion re­stored its sense of spe­cial­ness, mov­ing it away from the dealer-dom­i­nated sales-show model that’s pre­vailed re­cently. Re­nault-alpine A443s ‘It’s been 20 years since these cars were last brought to­gether, and that was a one-off for Le Mans,’ ex­plained Re­nault Clas­sic’s Hughes Portron. He was re­fer­ring to the Alpine A443’s vic­tory in the 1978 Le Mans 24 Hours, the mar­que’s sole win there. ‘Re­nault owns all these cars apart from num­ber three, which usu­ally re­sides in the Sch­lumpf Col­lec­tion in Mul­house, so it’s a chal­lenge to get them to­gether.

‘They suc­ceeded against all the odds,’ said Portron. ‘Cars two, three and four had been rac­ing for two years be­fore they were en­tered at Le Mans, as 2.0-litre A440s with­out tur­bocharg­ers in the Euro­pean Sports 2000 Cham­pi­onship be­fore be­ing given tur­bos to turn them into A443s for Le Mans in 1978. Car num­ber one is dif­fer­ent. It was built as an A443 with a big­ger 3.0-litre en­gine, longer body­work and a more aero­dy­namic wind­screen. It was cre­ated es­pe­cially to win Le Mans – and yet it was the only one of the team that failed to fin­ish.

It led for 18 hours with Jean-pierre Jabouille and Pa­trick De­pailler driv­ing, dur­ing which it set a new av­er­age-speed lap record in ex­cess of 144mph be­fore it broke down, al­low­ing car two of Di­dier Pironi and Jean-pierre Jaus­saud to take vic­tory. Car two, like car one, had the bub­ble cock­pit, with scoops to equalise air pres­sure either side of the screen. It cut fuel con­sump­tion and al­lowed higher speeds on the Hu­naudières Straight.

Cars three and four were known as ‘the F1 car’’ and ‘the rally car’, be­cause they were crewed by Derek Bell & Jean-pierre Jarier and Guy Fre­quelin & Jean Rag­notti re­spec­tively. The ‘rally car’ crew was joined by re­serve driver José Dol­heim and Jabouille af­ter his car broke down, and fin­ished in fourth place four laps be­hind the leader.

‘Car three is ac­tu­ally the spare car from 1978, which was turned into a replica of the Bell/ Jarier car im­me­di­ately af­ter the race and used at mo­tor shows. Al­though none of these cars raced again, they are sub­jected to a regime of con­stant restora­tion by Re­nault, to keep them ready to drive at all times.’ Iso Grifo Can-am This rare Iso, which sought to take on Fer­rari by bring­ing Can-am thun­der to the road, is back in pub­lic af­ter a long restora­tion and an awk­ward le­gal sit­u­a­tion which re­quired gov­ern­ment

in­ter­ven­tion to get it back on the road. ‘This is num­ber six of just 20 Grifo 7.4-litre Can-ams built, and among the last Isos,’ ex­plained Oliver Bu­lant of the most im­pos­ing car on the Hödl­mayr stand. ‘It was fin­ished in 1972 for the Swiss mar­ket but not ac­tu­ally li­censed there – in­stead it went to the US and a col­lec­tor called Car­roll Mann, be­fore fi­nally be­ing ex­ported to Switzer­land where it was owned by a re­tail mag­nate, who stored it un­til the 2000s be­fore the restora­tion be­gan.

‘The Can-am came about be­cause Iso wanted to com­pete se­ri­ously with the Fer­rari Day­tona, and fig­ured in­creas­ing dis­place­ment was the best way to do it short of build­ing its own en­gines. The 1973 oil cri­sis killed the project and Iso it­self – it was to­tally un­fore­seen at the time – but it was a promis­ing car, with 500bhp.

‘The pre­vi­ous owner had lost its Swiss papers – we had to go to the Swiss gov­ern­ment to get copies in or­der to get it out of the coun­try.’ Voisin C11 Bell­e­val­lette This well-used and com­pletely unique Voisin stood out among the shiny restora­tions on Lukas Hüni’s stand, and was mak­ing its first pub­lic ap­pear­ance since 1999. It was built for Joseph Christe, founder of Te­calemit – orig­i­nally a damper man­u­fac­turer, later best known for pi­o­neer­ing me­chan­i­cal fuel in­jec­tion, in 1927. Christe was a friend of Gabriel Voisin, and they de­vised the car to­gether, in­clud­ing front and rear V-screens, an alu­minium bon­net and a mid­dle row of fold­ing oc­ca­sional seats.

Christe used the car from 1927-34, cov­er­ing 26,000 miles, be­fore putting it into stor­age where it re­mained un­til af­ter World War Two. It was re­lo­cated to the Te­calemit work­shops in Paris in the Fifties and Six­ties, where Christe took it for reg­u­lar drives to keep it run­ning be­fore trans­fer­ring it to his coun­try house in 1970. Be­fore 1999, it had re­mained in the same own­er­ship for 72 years. Lan­cia Ap­pia GTZ This un­usual Lan­cia, with pe­riod com­pe­ti­tion his­tory, was up for sale on the stand of Ital­ian dealer Ruote da Sogno hav­ing lain dor­mant in Italy for a decade.

‘This is the rarest of the Za­gato-bod­ied Ap­pias,’ said Ruote da Sogno’s Fabrizio Filippo Ghidelli. ‘It was built by Za­gato for rac­ing in 1957 but only reg­is­tered in 1958. Its first owner was a Tus­can Count, who won the Cor­tona-arezzo race with it, and an­other in Reg­gio-emil­lia in 1959.

‘It’s one of just 26 or 27 built, de­pend­ing on who you ask. It’s the se­cond se­ries of Za­gato-bod­ied Ap­pias, which are the only ones with a dou­ble­bub­ble roof and sim­i­larly sculpted bootlid. The first se­ries had Amer­i­can-style tail­fins, while the third se­ries had a more rounded tail.

‘It had a light cos­metic restora­tion in the mideight­ies, and its for­mer owner used it in his­toric events in Firenza and Siena, but it was last used around ten years ago.’ Ma­tra MS5 This Ma­tra, brought out to cel­e­brate the Pau Grand Prix, is one of the ear­li­est rac­ing cars made by the firm, but its dis­tinc­tive grey colour – rather than the man­u­fac­turer’s sig­na­ture French Rac­ing Blue – tells a dif­fer­ent story. ‘It was sold to John Coombs, best known for his grey rac­ing Jaguars, and driven by Gra­ham Hill,’ says Pau’s Christophe Gomez.

‘Hill had won the For­mula One World Cham­pi­onship for BRM, but in 1965 the Pau race was in the process of chang­ing from For­mula One to For­mula Two. It was still a non-cham­pi­onship F1 event, but the new 1.0-litre F2s formed a sup­port race. Hill won it, while the F1 race was won by Jim Clark. Hill con­tested the F2 fea­ture race in 1966, but re­tired with me­chan­i­cal prob­lems, al­though he wasn’t driv­ing this car.

‘It’s an un­usual car, made us­ing Ma­tra’s aerospace tech­nol­ogy. It uses alu­minium for the body­work, rather than the usual glass­fi­bre.’

Four decades on, the stars of Re­nault’s hard-fought Le Mans win were shown to­gether at Rétro­mo­bile

Un­usual lit­tle Za­gato Lan­cia was a road-race hero in the Fifties – fancy be­ing its next owner?

Bell­e­val­lette-bod­ied open four-door Voisin is unique and orig­i­nal

7.4 litres, 500bhp – Iso’s doomed Can-am

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