Monday, February 07, 2011


The sign at the door should read 'Under New Management', as Retromobile, the largest vintage automobile show in France, has distinctly changed its tone from the 2010 edition.  Gone is the instructive historic motorcycle display, last year organized by esteemed author Bernard Salvat; replaced by... nothing.  Well, new Skoda and Nissan booths, and I'm sure the bottom line with paying automotive clients is much kinder to the expense of hosting such a large show at the Parc des Expositions in Paris.
1954 Maserati 250F
The cars are still fantastic, and if that's your bag, you're probably reading other websites!  The diffusion of the motorcycles into only two motorcycle-based booths (Tendance Roadster and Motos Antiquas HD), plus a sprinkling of bikes within the car displays, meant that motorcycles, contrary to prevailing trends at major shows and auctions around the world, were completely de-emphasized, almost to the point of disappearance.
BMW booth; an R90S contrasts sharply with R7 and 255Kompressor at the Paris Photo Expo!
Part of the shakeup at Retro included giving Bonhams auction house the boot, but they jiu-jitsu'd that kick straight into the Grand Palais, and laughed their way to a 10Million Euro sale, at a venue no one grew tired of.  Artcurial, who have supplanted Bonhams at Retro, produced a fine sale of exotic cars, boats, three-wheelers, and motorcycles, although squeezing around the cars and trying to get a decent angle to photograph the motorcycles grew a bit frustrating.  Not their fault, that's part of taking a corner spot at a such a large show, but it highlighted the sheer luxury of nearly unlimited space at the Grand Palais.  And one wonders, 'why isn't Retro at the Palais?', but when I asked this question directly to Patrick Hornstein (whose agency Zone Rouge helps broker space for exhibitors at Retro), he explained that Retro is too large for the Palais, and the restrictions for this historic grande dame (such as keeping cars 8 meters away from the steel supports) are impractical for the variety of vendors housed at the Parc.
Lineup of dirt bikes at Artcurial
Artcurial sourced some interesting machines for their sale, mostly from the 1970s, including dirt bikes and privateer racers from Kawasaki and Yamaha.  A solitary Vincent, a Grey Flash set up for sidecar racing (! - surely the province of its bigger brothers?), made an excellent champagne caddy for evening receptions, and made an interesting contrast with a Darmont 3-wheeler with what looks very much like a big JAP engine clone.  French Racing Blue, as one might expect, was a popular color inside Retro.
1937 Darmont STR trike, with 1100cc v-twin engine
Contrasts at the Artcurial booth abounded, with a grand 1930 Rolls Royce Cabriolet sitting before a very secondhand mahogany-bodied 1959 Riva Tritone Motor Launch.  Note the engine compartment of the Rolls, and compare it to period rival Bugatti's 5-liter engine (here).
1930 Rolls Royce 40/50hp Phantom II Continental Cabriolet
Mighty 8-liter Rolls engine
Steve McQueen, thirty years gone, made a star turn at seemingly a quarter of the booths, his image gracing everything from Triumph Metisse dirt bikes to a eye-watering display of Gulf-sponsored racing cars, to a branded cologne using his name and image, 'for men of distinction'...although the man himself is known to have eschewed scents.  If one can square that contradiction, the perfume is a sophisticated blend of nature-based spice notes.
McQueen and Gulf, back together again, and again.
The 'nose' behind the new Steve McQueen cologne, Thierry Lemahieu
Stellar car dealer Fiskens (formerly Gregor Fiskens - 'brand' streamlining at work), who always have a dream garage in their advertising, employed wall-size photos by Nick Clements of Men's File magazine as a backdrop, and Nick's distinctive retro style (featuring Spirit of Britain's Simon Delaney, plus son Jamie and daughter Holly!) added a very nice touch to the booth.  In truth, Fiskens was one of very few exhibitors using backdrops to create an atmosphere other than 'trade show', and it made for a breath of fresh air - the photos were fantastic.
1965 Ferrari 275 GTB at the Fisken stand, Nick Clements photos behind
Ferreting out the motorcycles from among the car booths wasn't easy, and getting clear sightlines was frustrating when the booths were roped off, to protect the paintwork on million-euro cars.  It was nice in one sense to place the motorcycles in context of the auto manufacturers which often made them, but if there was no connection to a carmaker, the bikes were S.O.L., so important European manufacturers such as Gillet, Koehler-Escoffier, Monet-Goyon, etc, were invisible as no owner's club could afford the square-meter fee at Retro, and no unified/curated display space for motorcycles offered.  More's the pity!  Let's hope next year the organizers see fit to return a proper motorcycle display to this important event.
Artcurial's Pierre Novikoff with Grey Flash champagne caddy
Hand-beaten alloy body racer 'au jus'
Angels and Devils beset you; one says 'buy it', the other 'you can't afford it', but which is speaking?
Mighty Anzani 2000cc v-twin engine for the cycle pacer - chain-drive casting is for the magneto
Designed by Léon Vauthier for bringing racing cyclist up to speed; 120kp/h in 1925!
'Barn find' baby Bugatti at Artcurial
The Riva Tritone motor launch, needing a little TLC
Fantastic 1938 Peugeot Darl'mat Roadster in French Racing Blue
Delage racer...
...with a very impressive pushrod engine.
At the Tendance Roadster booth; their super-rare 4-valve Royal Enfield
With proof it has four overhead valves! 
Not likely; an artist's impression of a Citroen passing a Norton...
More mechanical eye candy...
Rallye de Monte Carlo booth; no snow outside, but a little to keep this Facel Vega's tires cool.
At Artcurial; 1976 Yamaha TZ 350 two-stroke privateer racer.
A replica of the world's first car, Nicolas-Josef Cunjo's steam trike from 1770!  The original sits in the Musée des Arts et Metiers a few km away.  It also had the first traffic accident, knocking down a wall at 2.25mph...hey, nobody knew how to drive back then!
Geo Ham is everywhere too!  Nice to see an original painting come up for sale.
1948 Vincent Grey Flash engine.
The Gulf cars display; chromatic extravagance.
The sort of thing you want to see at Retro; a mid-1930s Jonghi ohv sports roadster.
The Jonghi engine, with beautiful quality castings.
1938 Alvis 4.3L Vanden Plas roadster, Nick Clements backdrop
Meccano model of a Panhard Dyna Z...
...which fascinated the young ones.  Large motor shows like this make a huge impression on young minds - we need better motorcycle displays!
In the artist's corral; passing the time...
This is Paris after all, the city of luxury and elegance.
Pedal cars in abundance in the autojumble.
The gents from Yesterday's in Holland had hoped for a booth...
The Motos Antiquas HD booth; BMW R51 with Victoria
The Victoria ohv v-twin engine; early models used BMW sidevalve engines.  Note racing AMAC carb; I could use that!
Tendance Roadster booth with BSA B33 and Metisse/Triumph 'Steve McQueen' model
1934 Peugeot P515 record-breaker; 24 hours at 118.14km/h
Roadster Peugeot P135RL of 1936
F1 Maserati and Talbot-Lagos..


Anonymous said...

The Citroen passing the Norton is an SM, it has a Maserati engine so i think it has more than a fair chance !
Excellent article.

Grandpa Jimbo said...

So glad to see you haven't lost your sense of humor with the "Not likely; an artists impression of a Citroen passing a Norton"!

Jim A.

Anonymous said...

Two thumbs up to Pierre Rageys and Bernard Salvat. They will be missed. Nick Clements' work is always beautiful. Perhaps, if there's enough space at the Grand Palais, these gents could partner with Bonhams and create their own competing/complimenting attraction?

Rudge said...

Great photos and report, thanks.

occhiolungo said...

more good stuff! thanks for the pics and words. On that OHV Victoria, I bet they had some trouble with ice forming on that long intake manifold, especially in cold Bavarian days! Sunny and 77F today in Frisco. ;)


Anonymous said...

Nice shots!


YJH said...

YES, now comes the time for the ultimate Vintage Connoisseur Show at Grand Palais curated by PdO and BS under the orchestration of PR_the equivalent of Biennale des Antiquaires of ultimate machines

Milo said...

Anzani's are all the rage...!!
check this out...

ps my word verification for this comment is 'noncycle'. pssst what do they know?

Poppa Wheelie said...

Steve McQueen Parfum D'Homme ! Thats a laugh. He washed his bikes more than he did himself. This new fragrance should be Eau de Bee Oh with a splash of Bean Oil.

Anonymous said...

You're 100% right but imagine the number of guys wanting to be SMcQ and the number of their wives wishing they could be. Haha

Harley said...

I have a royal enfeild the same as the one in the pic with the overhead valves can anyone tell me the year of it