• France's news in English

Trove of forgotten cars to go under hammer

AFP · 18 Dec 2014, 09:14

Published: 18 Dec 2014 09:14 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Under a pile of dusty old car magazines, one of only 37 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spiders ever made valued at up to €12 million ($14 million) is among some 60 classic gems discovered by the elite Artcurial auction house.

The once-in-a-lifetime discovery, announced earlier this month, was likened by Artcurial managing director Matthieu Lamoure to stumbling upon the car world's equivalent of the tomb of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun.

Lamoure and senior specialist Pierre Novikoff got a tip-off about the timeworn fleet while criss-crossing the country earlier this year hunting for rare pieces.

On the farm -- Artcurial is keeping the exact location secret -- they found a hodge-podge of makeshift structures, describing shock after shock as they realized the treasures they contained.

"This was somewhere between a metallic graveyard and a museum," said Novikoff, describing valuable cars invaded by ivy, and in some cases corrugated iron resting directly on the cars.

"We were overcome with emotion. Probably much like Lord Carrington and Howard Carter, on being the first for centuries to enter Tutankhamun's tomb," said Lamoure.

They may be rusted and weather-beaten, but the legendary names such as Bugatti, Hispano-Suiza, Talbot-Lago, Panhard-Levassor, Maserati, Ferrari, Delahaye and Delage are described by Artcurial as "works of art."

The rare California Spider -- a car which features 13 times on the list of the 100 most expensive cars ever sold -- was bought new by French actor Gerard Blain and later sold to fellow actor Alain Delon.

Delon was photographed with American actresses Jane Fonda and Shirley MacLaine in the car, which historians thought to be lost forever.

Also uncovered is an extravagant Talbot Lago T26 Cabriolet that belonged to Egypt's last monarch King Farouk, an immensely rich ruler known for grotesque extravagance, and avid collector who along with fast cars amassed one of the world's most famous coin collections.

"This is surely the last time that such a discovery will be made, anywhere in the world. What is so special here is the number of cars, the range and the quality and pedigree of the models," said Novikoff.

'Sleeping beauties'

But how does such a jackpot of mythical automobiles end up on a rural French farm, left to rust for half a century?

While classic cars are now snapped up and extremely valuable, this was not the case a few decades ago when inventor and automobile enthusiast Roger Baillon became one of the first collectors.

He had a transport business in the west of France where he in 1947 designed and built his own car known as the Bluebird, all while raking in a fortune in the post WWII boom in the sector.

He bought the property in 1953 to turn into an automobile museum, snapping up classic cars -- some saved from the scrapyard -- and according to Lamoure, even bought a little train which he planned to use to give tours of his museum.

"When the vehicles arrived he put them away without much fuss, one next to the other. He restored some and left others as they were," said Novikoff.

Story continues below…

Much of the collection was built up between 1955 and 1965.    

But when the 70s swung in, Baillon's business went into decline, and he held a large sale of his car collection at the end of the decade and to car historians, that was the end of that.

But it turned out he had clung on to many of the collection's jewels.

Now, the lost "sleeping beauties" will again change hands, in an auction on February 6th, 2015, where they are expected to fetch up to €16 million.

They will be displayed and sold as they are, and Lamoure said he hopes some will be left as such as works of art, although some buyers may choose to restore them.

"This is a very rare opportunity presenting works of art unknown to the market! For the Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport coupe Saoutchik, caved in at the rear, I think it should be left in this condition. It is a sculpture."

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France migrant crisis
Migrant crisis won't end with Calais 'Jungle' closure
All Photos: AFP

The Jungle camp may be being cleared but this won't be the end of the migrant crisis in France.

How Paris is rapidly becoming Europe's 'City of Innovation'
Photo: AFP

If you want to start a company then Paris is the place to do it, it seems.

'Jungle' clearance: Migrants begin to leave Calais camp
All photos: AFP

The "Jungle" clearance is underway.

France’s 'Jungle' children arrive in UK
Authorities will start to clear the ‘Jungle’ migrant camp on Monday. Photo: Denis Charlet / AFP file picture

The first group of children from the French "Jungle" migrant camp with no connection to Britain have arrived in the country, the Home Office said Sunday, ahead of the camp's planned demolition.

French FM calls for end to Aleppo 'massacre'
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says the international community cannot ‘come to a negotiation under the bombs’. Photo: Dominick Reuter / AFP file picture

France's foreign minister urged the international community to "do everything" to end the "massacre" in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Sunday after fighting resumed following a 72-hour truce declared by Damascus ally Russia.

Parisians cheer on protesting French police
French police officers on Saturday demonstrated for the fifth night in a row to protest mounting attacks on officers. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

Angry French police have taken to the streets for five nights in a row -- and Parisians have started to cheer them on, reviving scenes last seen following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015.

Scarlett Johansson turns popcorn girl in Paris
US actress Scarlett Johansson greets customers at the Yummy Pop gourmet popcorn shop in the Marais district of Paris. Photo: Benjamin Cremel / AFP

Hollywood superstar Scarlett Johansson swapped the red carpet for a turn behind the counter at her new popcorn shop in Paris on Saturday.

US couple donates huge art collection to Paris
Marlene (centre) and Spencer (right) are donating their collection ‘for the benefit of art lovers’. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

A Texan couple who discovered their love for art during a trip to Paris in the 1970s are to donate the multi-million dollar collection they have amassed since to the French capital.

France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
jobs available