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 February 19, 2015 Comments (0)

A Truncated Newsletter

Snow, shovels, ice dams, leaking light sockets, pails, and more snow to come ... you get the drift. After a huge storm in NYC, Johnny Carson once reported that Mayor Lindsay has discovered the solution to winter storms ... spring. Amen!

Peugeot grill, by Keith Carlson

Regular reader Keith Carlson shares his impression of this year’s Retromobile. Images of the Baillon Collection have a haunting quality which, all things considered, seems rather fitting.

Baillon Collection, by Keith Carlson

Michael Furman

Michael Furman

The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia will be presenting a series of lectures on Automotive Photography. The opening lecture by Michael Furman is Saturday at 11:00 a.m. If you don’t already have plans, please consider attending. This week's image is Michael's photograph of a 1956 FB Mondial 250 Bialbero GP.

1956 FB Mondial 250 Bialbero GP, by Michael Furman

Resource Directory

Our featured supplier from the MMR Goods & Services Directory #2 is Exclusive Escapes, for all the right reasons. If your current environs present little opportunity for change in the near future, consider giving Exclusive Escapes a call and discussing options. The conversation alone could be uplifting.

Featured Classifieds

The Party, a film with Morgans and Peter Sellers

Early Morgans had three wheels and a 2 Cylinder air cooled motorcycle engine hanging off the front. In the award winning movie, The Party, Peter Sellers, playing the part of an accident-prone Indian actor in Hollywood, drives such a car throughout. This model was followed by a series of Morgan 4+4s which acquired a four cylinder engine and four wheels and came in different configurations and engine supplier packages. At one point, they were stretched out and sideways and fitted with a Rover V8. The “Plus 8” was our favorite Morgan, though all were interesting cars.

Have a great weekend and kindly forward this newsletter to everyone you know.

Peter Bourassa

Sandy on Assignment:
Retromobile in Paris

Posted on February 20, 2013 Comments (1)

Where Everyone speaks “Auto”

by Sandy Cotterman

On the smorgasbord of motorsports adventures, Retromobile in Paris is definitely on the list. Paris in February—well, that’s a tough sell, but for me it was ideal. I was on my way to Nairobi to visit my daughter, who, like her mother, is all about the adventure. A layover in Paris, why not! Little did I know this adventure would follow me to the heart of Kenya.

If you want to do Retromobile, I’ve worked out the logistics. Most red eyes from the States get you to Paris in time to catch a full day of planes, trains, and automobiles. My suggestion is to start with opening day, Wednesday, when you can virtually walk right in. Keith Carlson, from our Jaguar Association of New England, joined me on Thursday, thinking day two would be light. Not so.There were thousands in line, making Keith’s online ticket purchase worthwhile. It’s very inexpensive to walk through the doors of Retromobile, 14 euros.  Once inside, the coat and baggage check is another bargain at 2-3 euros. With a two-day Metro pass for 17 euros, I could come and go as I pleased on the line to Mairie d’Issy, getting off at the Porte de Versailles and following the crowds to the Par des Expositions, Retromobile. Hop back on in reverse, with a transfer at Concord, and you’re one stop to the Champs Elysees Clemenceau and the Grand Palais for the Bonham preview and auction. Of course, the bargains stop here. You’re in Paris!

I had no clue what to expect from Retromobile. Celebrating “38 years of passion and dreams”, I would say it’s a giant international luxury motorsports flea market. Armed with a huge schematic floor planfoldout, the Guide de Visite, you’re pretty much on your own to map out a plan of attack. The booths and displays are eclectic. The atmosphere is frenetic. I’ve never seen so many men get so excited over boxes of car parts, miniature model vintage cars, and rusted advertising sign … and this is only the shopping section, located in Pavillion 2.2! Thinking of going to the Goodwood Revival? This is the place to get outfitted with tweed blazers, knickers, goggles, gloves, and hats! My antennae were up for anything Bugatti, and sure enough, I spied a book on the marque, one of the few in English.

Who would have guessed men love to shop?

Something for everyone

The people are just as outrageous as the cars.

The press release said there were 400 exhibitors, including 100 multi-marque car clubs and associations, both very popular in Europe, and over 500 cars on display. Pavilion 3, where most are located, is transformed into a gentleman’s playground.  If you’re a rallyist, or a wannabe, like me, this is the place to scope out exotic adventures with price tags to match! Looking for that rare classic car to add to your private collection or museum? Companies to help are on hand. Once you’ve found the perfect find, there is a plethora of European restorers to turn your barn find into a Concours winner.

If you want it there is a company to find it

If only I had the car to restore

The creme de la creme for Artcurial…this 1936 Talbot-Lago T150 topped sales coming in just under 2M dollars.

With only two days to see it all, I was especially grateful to SCM for hosting a wonderful first day gathering within Retromobile at the Café Jambon a la Broche for its magazine subscribers. It gave me a chance to stop, relax, and chat with fellow English speaking enthusiasts, many from the States.

I wouldn’t say I was overwhelmed; I was just intrigued by Retromobile.  There were enough displays of the unusual to hold my interest, since old car parts and memorabilia really aren’t my thing. In fact, the Artcurial Motorcars and Bonhams auction catalogues were my prized souvenirs.

Speaking of unusual, have you ever heard of a Helica? Designed a century ago by Marcel Leyat, only 23 of the half-plane, half-car hybrids were built, and I’m betting those remaining were at Retromobile!

Five Helicas on display

There were special tributes this year, one being the 50th anniversary of the 911 Porsche, my dream car, so I thought it was rather fitting that I was in attendance. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first crossing of the Mediterranean by air, tributes to Roland Garros were prominent. On exhibit was the type H-plane, “Morane”, along with the famed 5-liter “Roland Garros” Bugatti. I was familiar with the Roland Garros tennis stadium, but didn’t realize Garros had nothing to do with tennis, but rather was a pilot and motorcar enthusiast.


The FFVA supports vintage car clubs and museums throughout France.

The car to drive in the 1908 French Grand Prix - a Benz.

One in the pair - the Prince Heinrich race car.

One of the Prince Heinrich racing cars was the highlight. Apparently two were discovered a few years ago, tucked away in storerooms of the Mercedes-Benz Museum and the Louwman Museum, all intact except for the bodywork. The idea of restoring them emerged, and the two museums collaborated on the project. Although most of the Benz archives were destroyed during WWII, photos, drawings, and original plans were found that identified the two cars!  On June 10, 1910, no fewer than 10 Benz cars took part in a 1900-kilometer race across Germany and part of France, named after sportsman Prince Heinrich, the brother of Kaiser Wilhelm II. In view of road conditions at the time, I thought it was pretty impressive that they drove at top speeds of 130kph over that distance.

France’s love affair with the Citroen was evident over this Paris weekend, with special honor to the Citroen DS, which made its debut at the Salon de Paris in 1955, receiving a hefty 80,000 orders to fill. Already at 17 varied models on display, Artcurial Motorsports brought an additional 11 Citroens and Bonhams added another three. It looked like aliens beamed down for Citroen mania.

Everyone is working a deal during Retromobile.

The 1931 Bugatti Type 54 is very famous and very pricey, commanding a 2M euro Bonhams hammer price and 12 page catalogue spread.

Speaking of Bonhams and Artcuria auctions, previewing both and stepping back in time for the Bonhams auction held at the Grand Palais on Thursday evening was the highlight of my layover in Paris. The moment the hammer went down on the actual aircraft made available to Universal Pictures for the filming of Out of Africa, the 1929 metal-framed De Havilland Gipsy Moth, I had no idea I would be living its memories almost 24 hours later. Sipping coffee on the veranda of the Karen von Blixen Coffee Garden just outside Nairobi the next day, I heard a plane overhead. I looked up and saw a small plane flying … probably on its way to safari over the Ngnog Hills. It was magical!

Filmed in Out of Africa, the Gipsy Moth sparked my next adventure to Kenya.

Bonhams at the Grand Palais