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Mallett vis­its Retro­mo­bile in Paris

Well, thatʼs it then. Done. Fin­ished, all over. End of the show. Fin. In the French sense rather than the fishy. Iʼve been to my last-ever clas­sic car show. It hap­pened to be French but that was some­thing in its favour rather than against it. Iʼve al­ways had a soft spot for Retro­mo­bile as you can al­ways bank on some­thing quirky that you donʼt have the chance to see in a Bri­tish show.

This year there was an homage to Jean-pierre Wimille, Grand Prix rac­ing driver, Re­sis­tance fighter and for sev­eral post-war years de­signer/man­u­fac­turer of a series of ad­vanced aero­dy­namic sports coupés. First shown in 1946 the Wimille fea­tured a mid-mounted en­gine in a cen­tre-steered, three­abreast, panoramic-screened aero­dy­namic body that made the yet to be an­nounced Porsche 356 pos­i­tively con­ser­va­tive in com­par­i­son. Trag­i­cally Wimille crashed to his death in prac­tice for the 1949 Buenos Aires Grand Prix and his Wimille car project died soon af­ter.

An­other high­light was a stun­ning dis­play of Abarths, the ʻother ʼ rearengined sports car of the 1950s and ʼ60s, on loan from the pri­vate En­gle­bert Möll col­lec­tion in Switzer­land.

A se­lec­tion of French stream­lined Montl­héry record break­ers was also fas­ci­nat­ing, par­tic­u­larly a cute Citroen ʻYac­coʼ 2CV ʻspeed­ster ʼ. With all of its su­per­struc­ture hacked down to a sin­gle aero­screen, it re­ally did look like a cor­ru­gated ver­sion of a 356 – Iʼm sure it would­nʼt take much more than a week­end to make one, with a po­ten­tial sav­ing over a Porsche of around a quar­ter of a mil­lion pounds! Sounds like a bar­gain to me.

It is now al­most manda­tory to have at least one ʻbarn findʼ at a clas­sic show and sev­eral in the re­cent past have looked sus­pi­ciously ʻthe­atri­calʼ in their presentation: dirt and dust and the odd bit of guano ap­pear­ing to have been ap­plied by a spe­cial ef­fects team. The 911 at Retro­mo­bile, how­ever, did look as if it had been dragged from a barn, a col­lapsed one at that, dis­play­ing plenty of rust and a semi-crushed roof. I still find it odd that the ven­dor had re­sorted to cre­at­ing a dio­rama by dis­tribut­ing a few straw bales around and stuff­ing some loose stuff into the body­work – itʼs so yes­ter­day.

Else­where,100,000 Eu­ros would have se­cured a bare metal 356 rolling shell dis­play­ing Franken­stein mon­ster-like welds.

Just when I thought that it was im­pos­si­ble to find an­other an­gle on the Steve Mcqueen theme, along comes a col­lec­tion of pho­tos that add a lit­tle ex­tra colour to the leg­end – al­beit in black and white. The French vin­tage photo spe­cial­ists Speed­bird have pur­chased a set of nega­tives that show the ʻKing of Coolʼ rac­ing his black Speed­ster. Strik­ingly pre­sented as large con­tact sheet-style blowups in­cor­po­rat­ing the sprocket holes and frame


num­bers, they have an ap­peal­ing graphic im­pact that en­hances the im­ages, which, if they had not been Mcqueen, would be in­ter­est­ing but un­re­mark­able.

Just one quib­ble, though. The shot of three Speed­sters rac­ing in line astern is in­scribed, ʻSteve Mcqueen and Ron­nie Buck­num rac­ing 356 Speed­ster Porsches Santa Bar­bara Race­way 1962ʼ. Itʼs a nice im­age. But to the best of my knowl­edge Mcqueen had stopped rac­ing his Speed­ster by 1962 and the ʻ160ʼ num­ber on his car sug­gests that it was one of the star ʼs first races in 1959.

It may be a nit-pick­ing de­tail but if Iʼd just paid sev­eral hun­dred pounds for the shot to adorn my wall it would be an­noy­ing to dis­cover it in­cor­rectly – and in­deli­bly – cap­tioned. Buck­num in­vari­ably raced with num­ber ʻ31ʼ on his Speed­ster, so that might not be him in ei­ther of the other two cars! Iʼm now stand­ing by wait­ing for a tor­rent of cor­rec­tions…

Con­cur­rently with Retro­mo­bile, Bon­hams held its Paris auc­tion in the cen­tre of Paris at the Grand Palais. The Palais is cer­tainly Grand, so grand in fact that the cars felt slightly lost amongst the cast iron trac­ery, and it was so cold that most peo­ple kept their coats on for the view­ing. Al­though rather low on Porsches, the star at­trac­tion was a truly out­stand­ing 1973 Car­rera RS ʻTour­ingʼ, de­liv­ered new, sans side script, to His Royal High­ness, Prince Sadrud­din Aga Kahn who, as was his cus­tom, kept it for only a year be­fore tak­ing de­liv­ery of his next Porsche.

Im­pec­ca­bly re­stored and quite pos­si­bly one of the best RSS in the world, it was es­ti­mated at be­tween £570,000 and £750,000 but sur­pris­ingly bid­ding faded out at £500,000, and it failed to sell. A pretty Meis­sen Blue 1957 Speed­ster made £257,884, while a ʼ56 went for £40,000 more – could be a ʻMc­queenʼ fac­tor at work here as it was black! For soft­ies that pre­fer a more sub­stan­tial roof and wind-up win­dows, a 1964 SC Cabrio fetched £116,300.

Back at Retro­mo­bile, Artcu­rial had two Porsches in their auc­tion that vir­tu­ally spanned 356 pro­duc­tion, one sold the other did­nʼt. The ʻseller ʼ was a late 1951 ʻs­plit-win­dowʼ coupe in orig­i­nal Fis­chsil­ber­grau and fetched a re­mark­able and quite in­ex­pli­ca­ble 894,000 Eu­ros – more than 350,000 Eu­ros over its top es­ti­mate. Clearly there were two en­thu­si­asts in the hall who sim­ply were not pre­pared to let go of this one!

The one that failed to sell was an im­mac­u­late 140bhp 1963 Car­rera 2 GT, one of the rarest and most de­sir­able of all 356s. Its es­ti­mate was per­haps pitched too high, 900,000 to 1.3 mil­lion Eu­ros. Why the ʼ51 hit such a high price is be­yond me. Itʼs the least sat­is­fy­ing of all 356s to drive (Iʼve got one, I know!) while the 140bhp Car­rera 2 is the best. Per­haps therein lies the an­swer – the new owner of the ʼ51 does­nʼt in­tend to drive it.

I was as­ton­ished to dis­cover that this was the 43rd run­ning of Retro­mo­bile. Iʼve not at­tended all 43, far from it, but I have been a reg­u­lar since the first event in the 1970s, and enough is enough. Iʼd al­ready warned Edi­tor Seume that Techno Clas­sica Essen, which is in its 30th year, is a def­i­nite no-go (this, of course, af­ter is­su­ing the same threat for at least a decade) and thus far Iʼve stuck to my word.

Iʼve reached the point where I feel as if Iʼve now seen at least one ex­am­ple of every make of car on the planet and each clas­sic show feels as if the ʻtoysʼ have sim­ply be­ing ar­ranged in slightly dif­fer­ent or­der – with an ever-larger price tag at­tached. Sa­ti­ated, Iʼm leav­ing the shows for you young­sters to en­joy. CP

Far left bot­tom: Mallett couldn’t help fall­ing in love with this rather amus­ing Citroën 2CV ‘speed­ster’ record-breaker

Left: Le Grand Palais made for an im­pres­sive set­ting for the busy Bon­hams auc­tion!

Far left top: 1946 Wimille is mid-en­gined and has three­abreast seat­ing with a cen­tral driv­ing po­si­tion. Its ad­vanced de­sign al­most makes the 356 seem con­ser­va­tive…

Many would de­scribe Delwyn Mallett as a se­rial car col­lec­tor – one with eclec­tic tastes at that. His Porsche trea­sures in­clude a pair of 356 Speed­sters, a Le Mansin­spired Pre-a coupé and a 1973 Car­rera RS. Some of them even work…

Far left: Yours for a cool 100,000 Eu­ros, this baremet­alled 356 dis­played some older re­pairs that promised plenty more work to come

Far left: Un­sold at £500,000 (es­ti­mate £570,000–750,000) the ex-aga Kahn Car­rera RS looked fault­less. Is the RS mar­ket start­ing to plateau?

Far left: Some ex­hibitors in­sisted on push­ing the lim­its of the ‘barn find Porsche’ sce­nario. Isn’t that all rather yes­ter­day, though?

Left: Pho­to­graphic dealer dis­played sev­eral pre­vi­ously un­seen Steve Mcqueen prints, in­clud­ing many of the star rac­ing his Speed­ster

Left: Also un­sold was this Car­rera 2 GT, ar­guably the ul­ti­mate in­car­na­tion of the 356. Was it pitched too high at 1.3 mil­lion Eu­ros?

Left: The ‘Mcqueen ef­fect’ prob­a­bly helped the UKreg­is­tered black Speed­ster achieve a far higher price than a very pretty Meis­sen Blue ex­am­ple at Bon­hams

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