Rétromobile, France’s premier old car event, opened for the 37th time on Wednesday. Occupying three pavilions at the Paris Expo center at the Porte de Versailles, the show continues through Sunday.
It is a year of anniversaries: 50 years of the Ferrari GTO and MGB, 40 for the Honda Civic and Renault R5 (a/k/a Le Car). Among manufacturers, Porsche is making its Rétromobile debut, while Skoda enlarges its presence. Citroën is showcasing the automobile as art, BMW its underappreciated racing heritage and Mercedes-Benz evincing a stark, white presence. Peugeot, meanwhile celebrates the long run of the 200 series, which dates from 1929. It is nice to see the elderly Citroën bus, discovered in the rough and under restoration a few years ago, nearing completion.
Rétromobile is not all automaker displays, however. There are clubs, some of them, like Le Club 205, on factory stands and others, like Amicale Spridget, standing alone. I was caught off guard by Renault Alliance Club Passion. Who new the French could be passionate about a car Americans generally ignored.
Many of the major classic car dealers are on hand, and French auction house Artcurial was on deck with a Friday sale. Making a European debut is a selection of cars from the Mullin Automotive Museum in California.
There are always specialty displays at Retromobile, and among this year’s selection are friends of amphibians and “Constructeurs sans Patente” (manufacturers without license), a showcase of one-off creations like Le Renaudat. Outside Pavilion 3 is the huge 30-ton, nine-cylinder Duvant engine, which makes frequent demonstrations.
Rétromobile also hosts many parts vendors, model car purveyors, booksellers, painters and sculptors, although we wondered if any Bugattis were harmed in the making of this audacious desk. Some carnival favorites never die, like the spark intensifer man beloved of country fairs and carnivals.
Our friend Joris from PreWarCar.com is sharing space with the British magazine The Automobile. On their stand is perhaps the most unusual exhibit of all, the never-finished Gerin automobile of 1923-26. Discovered in Ireland by Reg Winstone, it shows very early hints of streamlining and technologies that are thought to have arisen later. We’ll tell more about that another time.