Report: 2018 Rétromobile Paris show dazzles again

What makes Rétromobile so different from other indoor shows? It's the sheer quality on every stand, whether it's tanks or supercars. Here's what we found...

Report: 2018 Rétromobile Paris show dazzles again

It’s just another indoor show really, in just another European city. But the city is Paris, and the flair it has lent to Rétromobile over the years is still there.

This is why it’s packed with Brits, Germans and even Americans over its five-day duration, though this year not always as packed as it should have been, because snow on the first day, the Wednesday, halved the expected attendance as Paris came to a slithering stop.

Inside the Paris Expo venue, though, there was the usual mix of imaginative manufacturer displays, top-end dealers, car clubs, restorers, automobilia sellers and the just plain bonkers – where else would you see a collection of WW2 Renault tanks and an armoured supply tractor missed in among some of the greatest race cars and coachbuilts ever produced?

The themed displays at Rétromobile are always special, and guaranteed to serve up something you’ve never seen before. This year, 24 of the 48-strong collection of Abarths from renowned enthusiast Englebert Möll, to celebrate 110 years since Carlo Abarth’s birth, was one of many highlights.

On the Saturday a proper Abarth party was planned for the Englebert Möll stand, to be attended by former employees and drivers, including Hans Hermann. Meanwhile, the unexpected star exhibit of the display was a 6-litre V12 DOHC engine built for a stillborn 1967 Abarth Le Mans entry.

At the other end of the same hall, a tribute to Jean-Pierre Wimille, French racing driver and constructor with an eccentric but often-ingenious eye for design and innovation. The six cars in the display (below) demonstrated this perfectly.

Downstairs in the main hall, there are more manufacturers, with bigger displays, every year, though our favourite was one of the smaller ones, admittedly a sub-division of the huge Renault Classic stand – the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Alpine at Le Mans.

Citroën (with its ex-Georges Pompidou SM and ex-Charles de Gaulle DS), Peugeot, Porsche Classic, Jaguar Land Rover Classic, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Heritage, Lamborghini Polo Storico, Bugatti, Bentley, Honda and Aston Martin Works all joined the party, with the French manufacturers leading the fight for the largest stands, but Jaguar Classic’s D-type continuation drawing the biggest crowds.

And then the surprise stands, such as watch manufacture Richard Mille’s display, not of watches but of historic competition McLarens, to mark the partnership between the two companies. How about the 1995-Le Mans winning McLaren F1, one of only two 1966 M2Bs, 1968 M7A, 1970 M8D and 1974 M23.

Another company that often works in partnership with Richard Mille, event organiser Peter Auto – home of Le Mans Classic, Chantilly Arts et Elegance, Spa Classic and many more, gave their stand an Art Deco cinema façade, complete with popcorn sellers. Only in Paris…

Of the dealer stands, Lukas Hüni as ever stood out with a collection of 1960s Ferraris, including the Rodriguez brothers 250 GT SWB SEFAC (above), Fiskens and JD Classics as ever dominated the central aisle with displays that included Fiskens’ Jaguar E-type Lightweight ’49 FXN’ and unique BRM P25 (below), and JD’s early (chassis number 15) ex-Bruce McLaren E-type, just restored, as well as the wonderfully patinated ex-Hailwood Honda RC174 racing motorcycle – six cylinders but just 300cc.

This barely scratches the surface of the gems at Rétromobile. Just about every dealer stand featured something truly special, such as Paris-based Ascott’s collection of Group C cars, and ADP Automobiles’s wonderful Ferrari BB 512 race car, Movendi’s 1960 Triumph TRS Le Mans car, Methusalem’s lovely Peugeot 404 Ferrari service wagon’ and William I’Anson’s Lotus 16 (below) – the car in which Graham Hill took his first ever single-seater win.

The artists’ area was as eclectic as ever, though it had moved this year, pushed back by the higher number of dealers into a corner that was seeing far fewer visits.

At the auctions, Artcurial’s display within the Paris Expo halls was varied to say the least, and didn’t suffer too badly from its last-minute loss of the ex-Bardinon Ferrari 275P (due to Bardinon family tax disputes). We loved the scaled-down Gulf transporter and Porsche 917 Le Mans movie camera car replica.

A couple of miles away at the Grand Palais, Bonhams revealed its Goodwood Festival of Speed sale star, the ex-Jim Clark Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato, and RM Sotheby’s in Place Vauban achieved over €3m for a 2017 Bugatti Chiron.

Another fine year for Rétromobile.