One Hundred Classic Cars Found in a Farm Garage in France
Posted on February 15, 2015
There is an Indiana Jones in all of us, dreaming of solving mysteries and discovering treasures. For most of us, this will never be more than a fantasy, but if you work at an auction house, you actually get to come across some true riches. Forget about paintings, an incredible story of neglected classic cars in France has made the headlines worldwide.
Found in a makeshift shelter made of corrugated iron, those cars were collected between the 1950s and the 1970s by wealthy French industrialist Roger Baillon who had a passion for pre-war cars and wanted to preserve a piece of automobile history.
Over a period of about 15 years, he collected about 200 cars, notable for their rarity. His ambition was to restore them and display them in a museum, but his business fell on hard times and he gradually had to sell half of his collection, while the rest was left to rust in an outbuilding on his farm.
As Mr Baillon and his son passed away, his grandchildren found themselves the heirs of what they thought a collection of decrepit vehicles. However, when auctioneers from Artcurial Motorcars came to estimate its value, it was with great excitement that, buried under old magazines, there laid a treasure trove worth, literally, a fortune, as the collection was initially valued at NZ$25 million!
Sixty cars were deemed to be in good enough a state to be sold as cars, while the rest would be put for sale as spare parts. It was auctioned by Artcurial Motorcars at the Rétromobile Salon in Paris on February 6, 2015, and the 60 vehicles achieved an astonishing NZ$38 million. Not bad for a bunch of decrepit cars!
It is a historical collection made rare by the fact that it embodies the history of the French car and that it comprises makes long forgotten. The Barré Torpédo sold, for example, was made in the 1920s in a small village in Western France, and is remarkable for the fact that it is only one of five cars of this model ever made.
Berliet cars were represented by two fine examples of the make, the Coupé Chauffeur, a successful car in the late 1920s, and the VIGB Taxi Landaulet launched in 1906, which could reach the impressive speed of 40mph! Founded in 1899, the company was one of the pioneers in automobile technology, experimenting with engines, but it disappeared as an independent car manufacturer when it was bought by Citroën in 1968, then by Renault in 1974.
The collection also includes a Delage D6 and a Delage D8, which was considered the pinnacle of this manufacturer’s creativity and which was produced between 1929 and 1940. Despite its launch coinciding with the Great Depression, this car, destined for high-end customers, became one of the most successful Delage products and a symbol of luxurious cars in France.
Other well-known classic cars makes were found in the garage, such as Ferraris, a Maserati, a Jaguar and a Porsche.
The 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California SWB was one of 60 ever made. It is one of the most sought-after and valuable classic cars, and discovering one of them sent the world of automobile collectors into frenzy. Those cars usually come with an impressive lineage, and this one doesn’t disappoint: owned by Alain Delon, a French movie star from the 1960s-1970s, it was photographed with himself and his co-stars in the 1964 movie Les Félins (Joy House), Shirley MacLaine and Jane Fonda. This car was sold for an eye-watering NZ$25 million, a world record for this model.
A Ferrari 400 was also present. Launched in 1976, it was a technological wonder at the time as it could go from 0 to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds.
The 1956 Maserati A6G Berlinetta Grand Sport by Frua was one of only three of its type ever made, and it also set a world record for this model, being sold for NZ$3 million.
For those of you who like a car with a pedigree, the Talbot-Lago T26 Cabriolet is for you, as it was owned by the last monarch of Egypt, King Farouk, well-known for his wealth and extravagant lifestyle.
All 60 cars were sold to private collectors around the world. Although Baillon never fulfilled his dream of restoring them, it seems that his dream to preserve them for future generations will, in a roundabout way, be achieved.