GALLERY: Our Favorite Weird And Wonderful Vehicles From Rétromobile 2020
Photography by Will Broadhead
Attending car shows always provides an internal conflict: It isn’t that I’m anti-exhibition, I just prefer to see the machines that I love in motion instead of hemmed in place by tons of people and their phones. Nothing quite raises the hackles like the noise and smell of high-octane engines, propelling my wheel-shod idols around the asphalt, the same equipment spread out across the often garishly colored carpet just doesn’t have the same effect. After all, you would choose the Serengeti over the local zoo, wouldn’t you?
Having said all of that, the good shows still provide inspiration and generate great interest for good reason, and serve a purpose in that you are often able to get a bit more intimate with your dream machines than you might be able to from behind the fence at Le Mans, or the more exclusive concours events. This week, I was fortunate enough to visit just such a “good show” when I visited Rétromobile for the first time, and where better to feel some romantic feelings towards metal and rubber than Paris?
Rétro… is a show that I’d long looked at as a possible antidote to the stream of now familiar exhibits that seem to pop up at the British expositions time and again, and as I made my way to Porte de Versailles early in the morning, I had an open mind and open heart to the automotive treats lying in wait inside. I wasn’t disappointed, in fact I would go so far as to say I was somewhat overwhelmed by just how much there was to chew through.
If you like racing cars, and let me assure you, you do if you’re reading this site, there is a gamut of thoroughbred beauties to clap eyes upon at Rétromobile. Whether it is historic Grand Prix cars that do it for you, vintage racers of a time long gone (but not surpassed), or modern GTs and endurance machines, you will no doubt find something within the convention center walls that produces an audible intake of breath if not a cessation altogether.
Jean Alesi’s Ferrari 412 T2 on the Girardo & Co. stand was a particular highlight for me, being very much of my generation, never mind the attached provenance of being the first car from the stable of the prancing horse that a certain Michael Schumacher drove. Indeed, Gerardo’s stand was a real show highlight, as you would expect, with a phalanx of mighty machines bearing the famous badge of Maranello.
It wasn’t just the motorsport offerings that revved me, but the variety of exhibits displayed. From DS Automobiles E-Tense concept machine, to 19th-century pioneers, and everything in between. It says something about the curation of an event, when the lustful Lamborghini Miura is so commonplace that you almost become blasé about seeing them. At shows like this, there is a smattering of everything and hence a constant potential for distraction as you walk the halls. Supercars? Check. F1 machines? Check. Muscle cars? Check. Early-’90s pocket-rockets and French micromachines? Check and check! There was even a tremendous tractor exhibit that stole my attention for far longer than it ought to have, but you can’t tell me the orange Porsche coffee bean special isn’t a captivating shape (if a bit Oscar Meyer-ish). Plus the old behemoths have a bit of a mean stance. Perhaps it’s just me that thinks so, but either way, the inclusion of these things proves the point that Rétromobile isn’t just full of the staple classics like Miuras and 300SLs.
There are of course all of the trade stands to get through as well, selling models and automobilia that have become such an overwhelming part of English shows over the years. Here it was a more international expression of our hobby in the parts and trinkets for sale, with exhibitors and visitors from the world over discussing prices of things beyond the realm of Lucas electrics and MG parts. That said, the only really American exhibit at the event was the eclectic collection of vehicles presented by collector Stuart Parr, who gathered up what were surely the most unique vehicles of the show. At the very least, this was the only booth with a Prinoth snowcat from the 1970s.
Sadly, and I don’t say that lightly, my exit from the show was premature, with other commitments meaning that my Eurostar back to London was calling. I would very much like to have had more time to absorb the exhibits and indulged in some additional hours of walking around without my camera in hand. I would also have loved to experienced the madness of the Rétromobile auctions, which must be something to behold. Thankfully though, there is always next year, and if you were unable to fit Paris into your schedule this time around, I would recommend making some space next year if you can.