MMR Blog

Sandy On Assignment: Sleeping Beauties in Paris

Posted on February 26, 2015 Comments (1)

Sandy Cotterman
Motorsports Enthusiast

Baillon Collection, Ferrari

On a pedestal, fully clothed, unlike its naked siblings, the Ferrari was stunning.

Fiercely determined to make my way to Paris to see first-hand the Baillon barn finds, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to witness. Surprised by my reaction, I was overtaken with emotion. All senses were on high alert, as I walked among the sleeping beauties.

Baillon Collection overview

The images capture the overall mood of the showing.

1949 Talbot Lago T26, Baillon Collection

Two stars! The 1949 Talbot Lago T26 par Saoutchik with its crushed back end coming in at a final $1,928,706 juxtaposed against the prized Ferrari.

Overwhelmed themselves at their discovery last fall, Artcurial Motorcars worked with Matthieu Lamoure and Pierre Novikoff, to create an artistic display conveying their initial emotions. Sleeping in total darkness, yellow lighting cast shadows on aging exteriors, while interior features were highlighted with ghostly white lighting. I visited Exhibition Hall Number 2 Thursday morning, where the Baillon Collection was housed during Retromobile, the first week in February at the Paris Porte de Versailles.

Talbot Lago T26, interior, Baillon Collection

It was just as fascinating to look inside as it was to gaze at the exteriors, as witnessed by an inside peek at the prized Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport SWB.

I was mesmerized. The atmosphere was somber — classical music setting the mood. The public was allowed inside at intervals and in small enough numbers so everyone had an opportunity to view the cars with a few potential bidders allowed inside the stanchions.

1927 Amilcar CGSS Biplace Sport, Baillon Collection

Listed at an estimate of €3-5,000, this rather rough 1927 Amilcar CGSS biplace sport, with its authentic and likely original chassis, sold for an inclusive price of €54,832 or $62,136.

I returned Friday to witness the auction and take a final peek at the sleeping beauties. Adjacent to the ‘viewing’ area where the cars were exhibited was another hall for auction seating. I had an excellent vantage point in the press box to watch… the standoff begin!

1934 Delage D6-11 S Coach, Baillon Collection

Fresh on Thursday, by Friday the ivy was looking a bit withered on this 1934 Delage D6-11 S coach.

1963 Porsche 356 SC Coupe, Baillon Collection

A completely original model, the 1963 Porsche 356 SC coupe had been impounded by the police and rescued by Roger Baillon for 290 francs. It sold for a final $101,308.

Reactions to the state of affairs of the Collection were mixed from the onset of the discovery. During Wednesday evening’s cocktail party, graciously hosted by Sports Car Marketing, there were questions among fellow Americans attending Retromobile as to how such neglect could have persisted and opinions on how the new caretakers of these unrestored vehicles should handle their treasures. To answer some of the questions for myself, I delved into what triggered the automotive history I was now witnessing.

1936 Dynamic X76 Coupe Junior

Having seen many Panhard Levassors in the Schlumpf Collection two years ago, this 1936 Dynamic X76 Coupé Junior from the Baillon find, caught my eye. It sold for a final €56,024 ($63,486) with an original estimate between €25-35,000.

Historical write-ups portray Roger Baillon as having both a passion and talent for all things mechanical. He tried his hand at automobiles, building a special body for a Talbot T120, which he showed at the Paris Motor Show in 1947. His mechanical interests also expanded into aeronautics, working for Air France and the French Air Force. An entrepreneur at heart, he used his ingenuity to rebound after World War II, taking cheap or abandoned lorries — some army surplus vehicles — and refurbishing them, eventually expanding into an impressive transport business with the French chemical company, Melle-Bezons, as the major contract anchoring the company.

1952 Delahaye 235 Coach Chapron, Baillon Collection

As noted in the Artcurial catalogue, this 1952 Delahaye 235 coach Chapron is a rare Chapron ‘grand luxe’ version represented by bulging fenders. Only eight were made out of a total 41 sedans made by Chapron on the Delahaye 235 base.

Doing the math, Roger was around 38 years old when his passion for collecting vintage cars clicked in, during the early ‘50s. He had the ideal business to spot and transport vehicles — some even abandoned. His son Jacques inherited this passion for vintage cars and as the story goes both bought vintage cars, whatever their condition, sometimes buying from fellow car collectors. Buying was what they did, apparently rarely selling, as their intent was to follow the lead of other French collectors and restore all their beauties, and then open a museum. By the late 1960s the Baillons had assembled approximately 200 cars within about ten years which they parked under cover on the family estate in France.

160 Facel Excellence, Baillon Collection

One of the Baillon family drivers acquired in 1964, the 1960 Facel Excellence, retains its original Tudor Grey paintwork. It sold for a final $157,741.

What happened next intrigued me. Economic downturns can sneak up gradually, or in the case of Roger Baillon, apparently rather abruptly when he lost his major contract with Melle-Bezons. Cash-flow problems gave way to insolvency. In January 1978, the firm closed its doors. It was only two years earlier, as noted by Artcurial, that the ‘Schlumpf Affair’ took place. In that scenario, the government secured the Schlumpf Collection as assets, eventually protecting the fate of those beauties. In the case of the Baillon beauties, I couldn’t help but think that early on, only 98 vehicles escaped the fate I witnessed. In June 1979 sixty vehicles, most in their original condition, were sold at auction. Six years later in October 1985 a second auction was held with 38 vehicles escaping. After that, as Artcurial put it, the receiver called it a day, and the remaining 95 cars were left untouched on the grounds of the estate. Having walked the halls of the Cité de l’Automobile for hours, I was equally moved at the sight of the Schlumpf Collection, but for very different reasons.

1948 Delahaye 135 M Cabriolet, Baillon Collection

One of three known survivors, the 1948 Delahaye 135 M cabriolet Faget-Varnet rested proudly, a reflection of its days on display at the 1948 Paris Motor Show. Its rarity and beauty was appreciated as witnessed in a final sale price of $486,279.

So what happened next? Nothing. What’s logged in on Artcurial’s account is that mum was the word within the family regarding the remaining cars. A few trusted mechanics and workmen were allowed on the estate, but plans for the cars and the museum were abandoned.

As stated in the auction catalogue, it appeared as though Jacques made a purchase here and there, but for the most part, there was no more buying ... or selling, until the splash at Retromobile.

1956 Maserati A6G Gran Sport Berlinetta, Baillon Collection

Suspended in time and space. The other show stopper, the 1956 Maserati A6G 2000 Gran Sport Berlinetta Frua came in double its estimate at $2,278,729.

In my humble opinion, I found the estimates published in the Artcurial auction catalog, all without reserves, to be very low. So when bidding escalated and final figures with premiums and taxes was reported, I wasn’t surprised. What did surprise me was the ‘warm-up’ to the auction.

The first part of the day’s auction was dedicated to automobilia. At the conclusion, there was to be an hour break, with the audience vacating the area, moving back into the room with the Collection. No one moved! Meanwhile, the crowds were gathering and being held back at the auction area entrances. Auction staff repeated announcements ... “there will be no auction, unless everyone leaves”.

By that time, I was afraid to budge. I worked my way back to the press area, staked out my spot and waited like everyone else. Bidder passes were being checked among those seated in the auction area. Crowds were huddling together. All of a sudden, with a roar, the floodgates opened and a reported crowd of 3500 poured in. Instantaneously, the mood changed from hostility to excitement. The lights dimmed ... it was show time!

Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport, Baillon Collection

The most photogenic from all angles. I couldn’t get enough of the Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport.

Bidding was fast-paced, with figures escalating beyond estimates on all of the cars. With 59 lots, the auctioneers moved quickly, speaking in English with bids flashing on the big screen in seven currencies. Unlike most American auctions, where the cars roll across the block, these cars remained in their resting places, while images before and after discovery were projected on the large screens.

1961 Ferrari GT SWB California Spider auction results, Baillon Collection

In a flash, it was all over. The final take home price paid for the 1961 Ferrari GT SWB California Spider was $18,457,562.

I have been asked, which cars were my favorites? Each one was unique in ways difficult for me to express. For some reason, I didn’t want to show favoritism. They seemed so exposed, yet courageous. For me, it was like looking at a large family… all with a special bond. They were pieces of art. I didn’t want to think of what they once looked like ... or their fates. I personally looked at them for what they were right there ... sleeping beauties.

Fellow motorsports enthusiast and writer, Ralf Berthiez and I collaborated on the photos, each capturing the same images simultaneously, through separate lenses. It was nice to realize someone else was as moved as I at this experience.

So, what is next? Obviously, my vision of this family was broken apart. I will be curious to watch as their new individual identities emerge. Will any stay together? Having been a part of this experience, I know I will be forever touched and will be moved as each reappears.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on December 11, 2014 Comments (0)

Racing Alternatives

Toyota Endurance

Fed up with F1 blather? Maybe it’s time to take a closer look at another series in 2015. The World Endurance Championship (WEC) the purview of Audi in recent years and before them Porsche, was won in 2014 by Toyota. While everyone was keen on watching the two German giants fight it out, the Japanese giant won. They won at Silverstone, Spa, Fuji, Shanghai and finished second at Le Mans behind the winning Audi. Not bad for the guys nobody looked at after Porsche announced they would compete. Audi was second and Porsche was a close third. Next year Nissan join the fray in LMP1. Former F1 drivers Anthony (Ant) Davidson and Sebastian Beuemi, were the winning drivers for Toyota.

GT Cup for Manufacturers

In the GT Cup for Manufacturers portion of the series, Ferrari won the series over Aston and Porsche. In WEC, the cars and drivers are good and the racing is fierce and close. What more could a fan want? TV coverage for more than just Le Mans and possibly COTA for America PLEASE!!! I know we have the Tudor Sports car series, but why should that preclude having coverage of WEC?

Market Shifts

Gooding & Company AuctionFor the past year the dealers we have contacted have complained bitterly about the difficulty they have finding cars to sell. Nevertheless, 2014 will go down as a very good year for people who are selling classic and vintage cars. Unbelievable! has been attached to the selling price on so many auction cars that it has become the new norm. The key word here is “auctions”. No one dealer or person can make a market. But, auctions by introducing the element of entertainment to the sale of vintage cars have virtually become 21st century’s dealers and by the power of their numbers and their marketing presence, they are definitely influencing market pricing.

Barrett Jackson Auction Company

In the final analysis, dealers and auctions have the same goal, satisfying buyers and sellers. Generally both are looking for a fair price or, hopefully, better. The difficulty for sellers is choosing the market channel that best suits their needs. High prices achieved for spectacular cars and the glitz of huge crowds and TV coverage might appear to give auctions an advantage. They have become a spectator sport. But auctions also have a downside for sellers. Not everyone is selling a rare Ferrari. If your car is a second level or lower car, chances are that it won’t be seen on TV. And likely it won’t be presented in prime time. When the majority of people remaining in the room are car dealers looking for a steal, the seller may be thinking that a respected dealer with a good rolodex has something better to offer. Then again many dealers also use auctions to move their slower moving inventory. So it is an interesting game and as we have mentioned before on these pages, it is not one for the inexperienced. If you are considering buying or selling at an auction, you might also consider using one of the seven auction advisers listed in our MMR Goods & Services Directory.

Bell Chapal HelmetIn the 1950s and ‘60s many famous drivers raced wearing an open faced helmet with a visor and face shield. Bell Helmets and Chapal have teamed up to offer vintage racers a redo. The Helmet below is being offered by Hugh Ruthven of The Finish Line. For those of you in the Chicago area, during December only, you can view The Finish Line products at the corner of Cook and Lake Streets in Barrington IL. Or give them a call at 847-382-3020.

Cars of the 1960s

Jaguar XKE, droptop

The sixties were arguably the golden age of sports and GT cars. Ferrari, Jaguar, Mercedes, Aston, Corvette all delivered models whose desirability may never be matched. When the new Jaguar XKE was introduced in 1961 the motorsports world swooned. I remember them being offered in Canada at around $6K. Ads featuring the coupe in profile became the model for simplicity, beauty, grace, perfection. Someone quoted Enzo Ferrari as saying that the XKE was the most beautiful car ever made. Even if he thought it, it is unlikely he said it. At some point a friend scored a well used press car from Jaguar Canada and we drove it from Montreal to the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport in Ontario.

Driving it there and back that weekend was about 800 mostly highway miles. It was a cold rainy weekend and by its end the gorgeous green coupe was no longer the object of my affections. The seats were stylish but quite uncomfortable. The wipers didn’t work particularly well but worse of all, the car leaked horribly. If memory serves it was at the top of the windshield. First gear didn’t have a syncro and the lights didn’t seem to work that well at night in the rain. The engine leaked oil.

Jaguar XKE in profile

Jaguar eventually addressed the comfort problems by changing the seats and dropping the floor pan to provide a more comfortable angle of access to the pedals. The newer 4.2 engines were also better. For years the pricing for XKEs languished but no more. That original flat floor design tops the chart in XKE pricing. The desirability of the early XKEs appears to be based on the fact that it is exactly that, an early model. Either way, early XKEs are tough to pin down on price but we have seen them recently offered at well north of $200K. Subsequent models equipped with the 4.2 L engine and a full syncromesh transmission are generally more affordable. Go figure.

This week’s Michael Furman image is of a 1938 Talbot-Lago T-150C SS from his book Curves of Steel.

1938 Talbot-Lago T-150C SS, by Michael Furman

Our Classifieds this week feature Maserati.

Speaking of buying, we encourage readers to support our advertisers. In the coming weeks we will be sharing advertising and buying suggestions from many of our MMR Community supporters.

Have a great weekend.

Peter Bourassa


Exciting Times

Posted on October 15, 2014 Comments (2)

Alain de Cadenet

By Alain de Cadenet


The Bubble has not burst. Far from it; in fact, every report I see enhances the onwards and upwards market trend. For years, the auction houses have led the exhilarating charge to produce fresh values that range from the expected to the outrageous. The only bargains now seem to be cheaper cars needing work that buyers can do themselves; thereby making serious saving.

Mercedes

When Bonhams sold the exquisitely engineered 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196, it provided a boost for important GP machines ranging from pre-WW2 Alfa-Romeos, Talbot-Lagos, and Maseratis to 1960s and 70s F1 kit. Record prices appear to pervade confidence to similar genres of cars and that must surely be mirroring the commodity market? Either way, the auction houses have ramped up their businesses as demand increases and specialist publications have become invaluable to buyers in determining how prices have panned out as well as offering opinions, suggestions, and an insight into just how much knowledge is needed to bid assuredly.

Goodwood Festival of Speed

Such is the influence of auction prices that the biggest groans come from dealers who have difficulty obtaining stock. Owners are reluctant to dispose of something just in case it goes up dramatically in price. Who can blame them? Personally, on the premise that he wouldn’t risk his own capital on a dicey machine, I have always thought that a vehicle that was actually owned by a reputable dealer was a better bet than something that was merely on sale or return. Good logic? Depends on the dealer.

About 45 years ago I was chatting with an acquaintance who’d worked out that the sum total of really special, worthwhile vintage, veteran, and classic cars was only something around 3,000. That’s counting just the best of everything and what went into the mix is pure conjecture. Just think about that, though perhaps there aren’t that many totally delicious cars to be had. Remove cars held in trusts, museums, and the like and, even though there is more machinery to be considered from 1969, there will never be enough good stuff to go around.

Ferrari F1 Goodwood

With cheap money abounding, surely you should buy whatever you can get your hands on because this hobby/sport/market is not going to go away in the foreseeable future. By doing so you not only satisfy your cravings, but also provide ample fodder to set up a regime to help keep yourself sane in today’s ever changing world.

After all, old vehicles keep you busy. Research, study, and investigation all lead to what the quintessence of this celebration of artifacts is all about. They stop you playing Sudoku and Candy Crush and teach you about chassis manufacture, castings, machining, brakes, gearboxes, camshafts, bodywork, wheels, tyres, race history, vin numbers, registration numbers, and whatever else it takes to be an expert in your field.

Goodwood Festival of Speed

What’s on offer is wonderful therapy. It is the way knowledge is gained and one of the reasons why demand is so high. Next time you go anywhere the cognoscenti are gathering (Goodwood, for example), just ask them how much fun they are having and you’ll know why prices are on the up.

You’ll notice I have talked only about prices. A price is someone else’s idea of what something is worth and value is a different thing altogether. It is derived from your own feel for the item based on experience, knowledge, and discipline. Your dad’s old car will be more valuable to you than anyone else. So will the car that you always wanted but couldn't afford. Likewise, if you don’t want to wait for years for your favorite to be restored, the ready-to-go 100 pointer may be more valuable to you.

Either way, whatever is going on out there is fueling exciting times in every way in the old vehicle world. That’s why there is no need to worry.