Barn find of barn finds? Expert weighs in on 60-car discovery in France

‘Certainly for 2014, this is the barn find of the year. We’ll have to see how it shakes out if it’s the barn find of the decade, or even the barn find of all barn finds.”

There’s an occasional Ferrari or Maserati that pops up, but this is like a Paris auto show that was simply forgotten.”

— Tom Cotter

Those words from Tom Cotter, who wrote not just the book on barn-found cars but several books on the subject, starting with The Cobra in the Barn and his latest, 50 Shades of Rust: Barn Finds You Wish You’d Discovered.

Cotter was responding to news that a 60-year-old collection of amazing classic cars — including a Ferrari 250 GT short-wheelbase California Spider, Bugatti 57 Ventoux, Maserati A6G 2000 Gran Sport Frua, Hispano-Suiza H6B Millon-Guiet cabriolet and three Saoutchik-bodied Talbot Lago T26s — had been discovered in open sheds in western France, and they will be offered for sale in February at the annual Artcurial Motorcars auction that takes place as part of the Retromobile showcase in Paris.

Matthieu Lemoure (left) and Pierre Novikoff with their discovery

The cache of some 60 vehicles, known as the Baillon collection, was discovered by Matthieu Lamoure, Artcurial’s managing director, and Artcurial car specialist Pierre Novikoff.

Lamoure said their experience was the automotive equivalent of Lord Carrington and Howard Carter when they first entered the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamen in Egypt in 1922.

“You go into this profession for discoveries like this,” Lamoure was quoted in an Artcurial news release announcing the discovery and upcoming sale.

“I don’t think the collectors’ car world has seen anything like this since the Schlumpf Collection,” said Novikoff, referring to the Schlumpf brother’s stash of Bugattis that they secreted away in an old textile factory.

“What is so special here is the number of cars, the range and the quality and pedigree of the models,” Novikoff added. “Unlike the Schlumpf collection that was known about and documented, our’s is completely new. It’s a discovery.”

Many Balloon cars were stored in open-sided sheds

“To have this many significant cars in one group!” Cotter said. “There’s an occasional Ferrari or Maserati that pops up, but this is like a Paris auto show that was simply forgotten.

“(As a barn-find hunter) this is what you dream about,” he added. “This is my kind of fantasy.”

Yet it is not a fantasy. The cars were collected in the 1950s and ’60s by Roger Baillon, a truck manufacturer and transport-company owner who in 1947 had built and exhibited his own sports car, the Oiseau bleu (Blue Bird).

Baillon’s plan was to create a car museum with the cars he collected.

You go into this profession for discoveries like this.”

— Matthieu Lamoure

“He wanted to celebrate the art of automotive engineering and bought a property to turn into an automobile museum,” Lamoure said. “Having a transport business, it was straightforward for him to have his treasure delivered to the property he had bought in 1953 for this purpose. He even acquired a little train which he planned to use to make a tour of the museum, that would pass by all the cars.”

Novikoff added, “When the vehicles arrived, he put them away without much fuss, one next to the other.”

Within the walled garden of his property, Baillon built a series of open-sided, corrugated metal-roofed sheds for the cars. But his plans for a museum ended when his businesses went into decline in the 1970s. Baillon sold off many of the cars he had collected. Most people figured that what he sold was all he had.

But he kept 60 of his most extraordinary cars on his property. Their presence was known only by some of Baillon’s heirs until Lamoure followed up on a rumor he had heard.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many exceptional cars together in one collection — Bugatti, Hispano-Suiza, Talbot-Lago, Panhard-Levassor, Maserati, Ferrari, Delahaye, Delage…,” Novikoff said. “Roger Baillon saved these cars and succeeded in his task: to trace the history of the automobile through the finest examples.”

Lamoure said the Ferrari California Spider is one of only 37 produced. “Every example has been carefully documented by historians and this one was thought to be lost. We have found it!

“And we really did ‘find’ it: It was buried, in a garage, under a pile of papers (old copies of la Vie de l’Auto) and various covers. Not what you would expect for a car worth $12 million to $15 million.

“Its neighbor was another gem,” he added, “a Maserati A6G Gran Sport Frua,” one of only three such vehicles built.

“All the cars are significant for their heritage, and we hope that some of them will join big collections in and outside France. Perhaps even museums,” Novikoff said.

“They will be displayed (at the auction) and sold as they are. Just as we found them. Possibly one or two spider’s webs may be lost in transit, and some of the dust blown away, but that’s all.”

(In addition to providing information and photographs for this article, Artcurial has posted a video about the barn-found collection.)

 

15 thoughts on “Barn find of barn finds? Expert weighs in on 60-car discovery in France”

  1. An amazing collection, found and soon to be enjoyed by many others. Most of us will never be able to afford any of these pieces of art, much less the cost of restoring them to their previous glory, but at least we’ll be able to see and admire them briefly, before they’re sold.
    And hopefully, in the future, their new caretakers will expose them to a whole new world of people, who will also be able to enjoy the design of artists, who worked in metal and created some amazing objects.

  2. I am building the museum and can and want to show to the public these cars ! I think it is important that the collections stay’s together and partly can and will be restored. If there is interest let me know. I am wellwilling to fullfil such dedication to get this collection show to the public.

    Rene van der Wal Netherlands Classics-world

  3. Hello to all i think i know where they are having been there in 1987 i have many pictures and if not the place i know where more cars from same era i live near lyon france former detroit michigan resident and car lover

  4. ok getting a better look of the pictures it is indeed the place i visited and can be verifiyed by the licence plate ending 79 wich is in the….( les deux sévres ) on the facelle vega is the name of the blue colored car under a shed a long with ….(a c4 boulangére ) will be solde at versailles for an amount arround 16 million euro’s for the collection of 60 cars ….but it will have to wait in this following febuary

  5. barn finds are great, hard to locate, but when you do, you know that you have struck the find 0f a collectors dream, I have only one question, why does a person have to wait till
    it is to late to restore them? case in point, I located a !955 chevy nomad, all complete and original. five years ago i would have jumped for joy.Now at the end, i locate my dream care. i’m not well enough to do this car justice. do not get me wrong, it took me all of 15 mins to make A DEAL & LOAD THIS FIND on my trailer and head for home, before the seller could change his mind. for sale in So Cal ,
    best offer at kadnom@verizon.net bob

  6. SO WHO DOES THE MONEY GO TO AFTER THE SALE ? DID THE MEN WHO FOUND THEM BUY THEM ? IS THE ORIGINAL OWNER STILL ALIVE ?
    CAN SOMEONE SHED A LITTLE MORE INFO ON THIS BARN FIND !

  7. I would like to know this too. I hope very much the family is getting paid fairly for all these cars. I think taking advantage of people when finding “barn finds” seems to be a point of pride to many. I would like to know. I hope it is being sold on commission.

  8. To gary w , and dan turpening,,, this is the info i find here in france the guy was a in the trucking and hawling business, excuse my english has it is rusting and not using it much here….the name is roger baillon registered death arround febuary or march of 2000, it is said that it is one of the perfect shape of well kept secret of the bigest and rare collection known in the world for the car models found….30’s to 70’s eras…it will go for auction .it is after the death of the son of the cars owner that some other collectors had an eye on the car collection all cars have been transported to paris and will be estimated and will go up for sale in febuary and it is the remaining kins ??…..( I think it is the word ) that will receive the funds that it will draft…

  9. Awesome find to say the least! How I would love to find just one to bring back to life before my life ends. I’m still searching. Well done guys!

  10. Poppy K I know what you mean. I have worked and paid to have a 1949 4D Mercury restored, looking like a two door, with chopped roof 3.5″ that has the suicide doors electrical windows, hydraulic trunk, AC, Power disk brakes, fuel injected 350 with a 700 transmission. I spent a little over $100,000 through the years of which I have all of the tickets and invoices. It drives great with a great sound system and I would take half what I have in it! Let someone else enjoy it for 15 years!

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