I didn’t plan to head to Retromobile; the train prices were dizzy and I tried to convince myself that I was only going to miss Retromobile, RM Auctions and Bonhams… But I desperately needed some holidays, therefore the day before these events, I booked a hotel in Paris and bought my train tickets. No regrets: it was probably the best journey of my life, and I would like to thank Mickaël for harassing me to go to Paris. Text : Luca W. © Images : Luca W. ©

Retromobile is an event dedicated to collection, prestigious and mythical cars. It is set in Paris, Porte de Versailles, where the Paris Motorshow is also set.

5 AM, the irritating noise of the alarm resonated. This night wasn’t my favourite, but my body obeyed to the sound and I miraculously stood up. After the usual breakfast and shower I picked up my luggage and went to the railway station, where the famous TGV was about to leave. I usually hate to travel, but this time, it was different. This typical humid and cold February morning woke me up once again and I was finally ready to get out of my sleep. Three hours later, Paris, one of the most beautiful cities of the world was revealing itself. Its monuments, population, parks, fashion weeks and shops make it the most touristic area of Europe and I can totally understand these tourists. I really didn’t have enough time to admire French history: I had to reach the hotel as quickly as possible, leave my luggage and go to Retromobile.

After this incredible run, I got out of the subway, went up to the main entrance, where a huge crowd was waiting to buy the entrance tickets. I wasn’t press accredited, so I had to wait in the line. As you know, French people talk a lot and quite loudly, so I was able to listen to their conversation. Some conversations were about their sexual performances and others about cars. I was really surprised; Retromobile is not like the other events: almost everybody who attends is a petrolhead. It doesn’t matter, which car brand they are most in love with, as they all have a common passion and that is fantastic. You can hear and see on their faces that they are astonished by simply talking about it. Just like kids amazed by a random thing.

“That’s going to be a good day.”

After only 10 minutes of waiting, I finally got in… And as usual, my mates were late, so I went for a walk in the halls.
Some car brands were represented in the show and I obviously went to Porsche. They had a very small stand but with a beautiful plateau : a stunning white Porsche 911 Targa S, a brand new grey 991 GT3 and two Le Mans legends: two Le Mans winner, the Porsche 917 K n°22 victorious in 1971 and the other, a 1998 911 GT1 n°26.

Porsche 917K #22

But there was an even bigger and sexier lady. If I had to go home with one car, it would have been this one: the Porsche 550 Spyder, which was celebrating its 60th anniversary. This car was the only one of the four made to finish the 24h of Le Mans in 1954. It was the winner of its category and finished at the 12th place. In the same year it won the 24h of Silverstone and finished second at the Carrera Panamericana race.

Mercedes was also present at Retromobile with five racing cars, which all took part in the brand racing history. The Mercedes Grand Prix with its 4.5 liter, specially made for the Grand Prix of Lyon in France, at dawn of WWI, that was declared few days later. Sadly for the Peugeots and other French car makers, the Mercedes Grand Prix won the race. The French were quite unhappy and the car was hated by the public – as the race was just after WWI -. At this time, the pilot wasn’t the only person in the car: there was also the mechanic, who, in case of an issue, could directly fix it.

Mercedes Grand Prix

In the 30s, Mercedes was unbeatable with the Silver Arrows. They almost won every race, and opponent teams believed their success was due to the rise of Nazism, which subsidized Mercedes´ R&D. But the engineers of the star wanted to show they could make a winning car without the financial help of the Nazis. So they created the W196 to come back to Formula 1 and hired two racing legends: Stirling Moss and Juan-Manuel Fangio. The W196 is one of my favourite cars; it has the power to make me cry. Don’t wonder why, I don’t even know the answer. Nevertheless, the W196 is a golden piece of technology: it has the first mechanical direct injection, inspired from jet fighters. This piece of technology won the Formula 1 seasons of 1954 and 1955.

Then the drama happened, being the most serious accident in racing history : Le Mans 1955, where 84 people lost their lives. It caused the retirement of Mercedes from racetracks for 30 years. Mercedes return was almost a coincidence for several reasons; the brand came back with an engine for the Sauber C8, which wasn’t efficient enough to win the 24 hours of Le Mans. But in 1989, with the Sauber C9, Mercedes finally won the race with a double, against Jaguar and Porsche.

Sauber C9
Sauber C9

However Mercedes was bored by endurance racing, which is why the Board decided to come back to Formula 1. They supplied Sauber with engines but it became a complete mess. In 1994, McLaren, unhappy with Peugeot, was looking for a new power plant supplier. It was an opportunity for Mercedes which spent a lot of money to make the best engine they could. Mika Hakkinen then won two world championships with the Mercedes power plants. The car displayed in Paris is a McLaren-Mercedes MP4-15 of 2000, which won the France Grand Prix with David Coulthard.

McLaren-Mercedes MP4-15
McLaren-Mercedes MP4-15

In addition to these mythical cars, there was the C-Class DTM, which won one race in Dijon.
Mercedes, with only five cars, presented almost all its racing history and I passed one hour to admire these cars. Well, my eyes were blocked for 45 minutes on the W196, but no matter. I’m not a huge fan of Mercedes but it’s the only car maker which innovates: new technologies, incredible racing engineering, close to perfection engines, comfort and also design. It is one of the oldest car makers and probably going to be the last.

“The favourite : the Jean Rédélé Alpine collection”

Alpine is mostly famous for its rally history. Without Jean Rédélé – the founder of the brand – it wouldn’t have been so well known. Jean Rédélé, who was the youngest Renault dealership in France, started to take part in rallies with modified 4CVs. Following the years, it was a great success and decided to name his cars “Alpine”, name found after his success in the Alps races. As a sub-branch of Renault since 1973, the winning-machines have set many records in the automobile history.

The classics were of course there: a 1965 A110 1300, which won the Tour de Corse, the Critérium des Cévennes and obviously the VHC France Championship in 1995 with its –sadly- gone owner, Jean Rédélé.

Alpine A110
Alpine A110

The M63, known as the first Alpine to took part in the 24h of Le Mans race is equipped with the 1962 Gordini 4 cylinders engine. There was also the M64, the second Alpine who raced in the 24h of Le Mans.

Alpine M64
Alpine M64

Finally, my mates arrived.

I wasn’t mad at them because Porsche and Mercedes just kept me busy for a long time and I really enjoyed it. We cooled down by taking a beer, which had the same effect as coffee: excitement invaded us.

We decided – I decided – to show them Porsche’s stand, where four ladies wanted to be admired. Then we went to Mercedes, where they probably stayed for a longer period of time compared to me.
A long, very long time later, we visited the immense merchant hall. This is possibly the best place ever at Retromobile: we wanted to buy pretty much everything. From the miniatures to fuel pumps, we were amazed by the quantity and variety of the products. Artisans didn’t hide: radiant engine-based table, paintings, books… That is what we call at Automobili Eleganza living the automotive way.

“The event isn’t all about cars : it deals with passion, passion and passion.”

Retromobile is the not like the International Motorshows, such as Frankfurt, Paris or Geneva. When you get in the building, it’s like the gates of paradise, where Saint-Pierre asks your ticket and tells you “Your passion mates are inside, waiting for you.”. Or  something like a bed : once you’re in it, you never want to get out.

Edit 11.08.2014 : Carpe dentum. Seize the teeth. – Mrs Doubtfire. RIP.

Mrs Doubtfire imitator
Mrs Doubtfire imitator