February 2024, Paris, France
Every year, more and more car manufacturers come to Rétromobile, exhibiting their heritage but also their latest models such as the 100% electric MG Cyberster, Porsche Panamera hybrid, Renault Rafale, Skoda Superb, VW Golf 8 or ID.Buzz, to try to play on the historical fibre. Renault had one of the most beautiful stands at the show, featuring a replica of the Caudron-Renault Rafale aircraft from the 1930s. Used for speed records, the Rafale gave this theme to the Renault stand all in blue, with a replica of the spectacular (5.40m, 2 tons, 9L 6-cylinder engine…) Renault 40CV held several endurance records in 1926, the 1934 Nervasport, which covered more than 8000km in 8 hours (average 167km/) or the 1956 turbine Etoile Filante which exceeded 300 km/h over 1km and 5km on the Bonneville salt lake (Utah, United States).
At Porsche, the 50th anniversary of “in-house” turbo technology is in the spotlight, with a 930 Turbo (1974) and a racing version, a 935/77 “flat nose” in Martini colours. It was also an anniversary for Mercedes, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 300 SL, with a “Hobel” coupé (plane in German), lighter and shorter, prepared for the race but which in the end did not race and was used to develop the production version, and 3 roadsters. There is no current model, but Mercedes is promoting its “Heritage” department, which buys, restores and resell old Mercedes cars, such as the roadsters on display.
Skoda had taken out of its museum 3 large Superb sedans from 1935, 1936 and 1948, the name being reused for a model in the current range, as well as a small 1100 OHC sports coupe from 1959. More rarely, a majestic Skoda-Hispano-Suiza from 1928 built in a few examples, the 1st for the Czechoslovak President of the time. Citroën, like Peugeot, was represented by the association L’aventure Peugeot-Citroën-DS and the many clubs. In spotlight, the Traction, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary, and the CX, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Added to it were 2 top-of-the-range models from the chevrons brand, the SM and a DS in its most accomplished execution, a DS 23 Pallas Electronic Injection. In addition, L’aventure Peugeot-Citroën-DS and its museums had loaned several models for the Sébastien Loeb, Dakar Rally and Linas-Montlhery exhibitions.
Volkswagen exhibited the 8 generations of Golf, including the latest restyled version which made its first public appearance, for the 50th anniversary of the model launched in 1974 and which would mark the history of the brand and more broadly of the automobile. Curiously, and sadly for my taste, Volkswagen presented some pretty basic models, all grey. As a result, this meeting lacked flavor, while we would have liked to see GTI, G60, VR6, R32 or convertibles and a little color and pep! Ligier, which today builds (in addition to licence-free cars) racing cars for different categories, was reminiscent of its 1970s with the V6-powered JS2 (the one used in the Citroen SM and Maserati Merak), and its GT derivative that raced in the World Endurance Championship.
Exhibition 100 years of MG
The British MG firm that has passed under the Chinese flag is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2024, the occasion of a major retrospective in partnership with the British Motor Museum and the MG France club. From the Old Number One, the very first MG built by Cecil Kimber to the electric roadster Cyberster marketed at the end of the year, the 100 years were well covered. The exhibition presented an overview of British MG production, with the speed record cars, the racing models of the 1930s, the J and K roadsters of the 1930s and then the MGA and MGB of the 1950s/60s, not to mention racing cars, both pre-war and more recent, such as the Metro 6R4 Group B rally (1985) or the MG-Lola of the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2001.
An MGB GT cut in 2, used at a show during the presentation of the model, allowed to see the entire internal structure, chassis and engine. The MG France club also had its stand and presented a beautiful Type PA from 1936, while the magazine Youngtimers had also gathered a small line-up of MG “youngtimers”, including 2 TF and RV8 roadsters.
Exhibition 100 years of the Linas-Montlhery racing track
The centenary of the Linas-Montlhery autodrome, located south of Paris, was the occasion for a beautiful exhibition that covered the different types of sporting events that took place here until the 2000s. Since then, the circuit has hosted events such as club meetings or runs, but no more competition. Its speed ring made it the preferred location for speed records, very popular especially in the 1930s and 1950s, a period when speed was not yet a major flaw.
Several cars that distinguished themselves in the exercise are present, such as a 1922 Leyland-Thomas, a 1923 Bugatti 32 “Tank”, a 1935 Hotchkiss AM80 or more recently the 1965 Peugeot 404 Diesel coupe. Bugatti 35 or Maserati Type 26 competed in Grand Prix races on the circuit, while Venturi or Alpine A440s competed in endurance events.
Dakar Rally Exhibition
The Dakar Rally represents a different type of competition with the car and motorcycle raid rallies, the walkway area being the place of an exhibition on this rally. While there were some emblematic cars from the Dakar, such as the 1986 Porsche 959 or the 1989 Peugeot 405 Grand Raid, the exhibition gave pride of place to some exotic machines with which the Dakar is familiar. For example, the 1926 Renault KZ, which took part in the 1979 Dakar in memory of its 1927 African journey, or the 1989 Mitsubishi PX3, an all-terrain evocation of the Mitsubishi from the 1930s built on a Pajero base.
But we could also discover some of these machines made by artisan drivers, such as the Renault 4 of the Marreau brothers (winners in 1982 on a Renault 20 Turbo 4×4) with 4-wheel drive, the 6-wheel “Jules” prototype of Thierry de Montcorgé (1984), or even stranger with the Citroën DS 23 (1980 and 1981), shortened, transformed into a kind of pick-up and even carrying a crew of 3 people in 1981.
Sebastien Loeb Exhibition
Nine-time World Rally Champion, Sebastien Loeb turns 50 in February 2024. The FFSA French Automobile Sport Federation) therefore organised an exhibition, with the complicity of the Citroën Conservatory, retracing the major stages of his career. The first Citroën Saxo Super 1600 was presented, the Citroën Xsara WRC of the 1st World Champion, the Citroën C4 WRC of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 titles, and finally the Ford Puma Rally 1 of the last victory in Monte Carlo in 2022.
As every year, several museums brought some jewels from their collections to Rétromobile. The 24 Hours of Le Mans Museum featured 2 very different cars. The 1925 Chenard & Walcker Tank, so called because of its peculiar shape that testifies to the beginnings of aerodynamic research, is generally considered to be the first prototype entered in the event. The Porsche 919 Hybrid, winner of the 2016 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has a hybrid propulsion system and a very sophisticated aero system. The British Motor Museum had loaned several MGs for the brand’s centenary exhibition, and only had one car on its stand, a Mini. But a famous Mini, the 1963 Cooper S, winner of the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally!
The stand of the National Automobile Museum in Mulhouse was exhibiting a 1910 Lorraine-Dietrich Type VHH, the archetype of the prestige car before the 1st World War. With its original chassis, bodywork, upholstery, soft top and mechanics, it is in a remarkable state of preservation. The MAUTO (Turin, Italy) honored 2 Italian sporting glories of 1907, with the FIAT 130 HP which won the GP of the ACF (Automobile Club de France) and the Itala 35/45HP winner of the Pekin-Paris race that same year 1907, 2 very beautiful cars representative of the racing machines of the early 20th century.
The title may seem strange in an article devoted to a motor show, but the links between the automotive and watch industries have always been close: timekeeping, similarity of certain techniques, sponsorship, cooperation between brands… Several watch brands had their booths at the show and exhibited watches and cars.
Richard Mille, famous watchmaker, Ferrari sponsor and great collector, takes advantage of each Rétromobile to present some iconic Ferraris to the public. This year, the star, not very old, is none other than Ferrari 499P, winner of the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. As Toyota and Porsche had already done, Ferrari have left the car in its actual condition at the finish of the race, with dirt, rubber and impacts marks! The theme of the stand was therefore on the Ferraris that had competed in endurance events, both in GT with a Group 4 Daytona, a 550 Prodrive or a 512BB LM, and in the sport-prototype category (the current WEC), from the 250 LM of 1964 to the 312PB of 1971, via a 365P (1965) and a 412P (1967). the “P” designating prototypes in the Ferrari nomenclature.
Another famous watchmaker and major sponsor, especially of vintage races, Chopard exhibited a Bugatti Type 35, the absolute icon of racing cars of the 1920s and 30s, a Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder from 1955, and a Mercedes 300SL Gullwing in a curious glittery purple colour.
Auto clubs are an essential component of Rétromobile, allowing members to get together, enthusiasts to join, and it’s always an opportunity to exhibit some emblematic models of their favorite brand. Prestige brands that have disappeared rub shoulders with more popular cars and brands that are still present. Here are a few examples among several dozen clubs present, not having the space to mention them all. The Bugatti club presented a 1925 Type 35, found in very poor condition at the end of a barn, and restored respecting its age and racing car patina.
Delage’s 15 S8 and Delahaye’s 1936 135S were also racing cars, while Facel Vega offered a 1955 FV1 convertible, one of the first cars built by the brand. Lancia, which we hope will be reborn worthy of its history, was represented (among others) by a prestigious and sporty Flaminia coupé and 2 Fulvia Sport Zagato coupés, one of which was a rally car. For Alfa Romeo, the sporty Giulia 2000 GTV accompanied the iconic Montreal. On the Jaguar side, 2 models represented 2 eras of the brand, with an XK 120 (1952), at the origin of a glorious line of sporty roadsters, and an elegant XJ 6 coupe from 1976.
For the first time, Retromobile reserved a large dedicated area of 2,000 m² dedicated to motorcycles. In the heart of the area, a beautiful exhibition on the French Monneret family, 3 generations of which have frequented the racing circuits, offered to see almost a century of evolution of racing motorcycles.
Around, as for the cars, many manufacturers (BMW, Harley-Davidson, Ducati, Indian, Triumph, Yamaha…) had made the trip, exhibiting old and current motorcycles. Motorcycles were also on display at the Dakar exhibition, as well as at the Artcurial auction area.
The photos on this page belong to Automobile Museums, no right of reproduction without the express permission of the museum.