Some 3,500 people crowded Friday into the room at the Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles where Artcurial Motorcars was staging its annual sale as part of Salon Retromobile, the huge classic car celebration held each winter in Paris. What attracted so many people, including 1,600 registered bidders, was not just an outstanding assortment of collector vehicles but the offering of some 60 barn-found cars from the Baillon Collection.
The result was a succession of world-record auction prices being paid, all of which added up to more than $52.2 million in overall sales for the event.
These beautiful vehicles have become works of art in their own right. They now go to join private collections and museums around the world, to have another life.”
— Herve Poulain
“These exceptional results spring from work that has taken six months,” Matthieu Lamoure, managing director of Artcurial Motorcars said in a news release after the last hammer had fallen. “News of the Baillon Collection has travelled around the world. International buyers came together in one room to pay homage to Roger Baillon.
“This triumph demonstrates the universal passion for the automobile. This is a significant collection that has enjoyed a significant success.”
“The triumph of the Baillon Collection sale is just reward for the experience of a 40-year career,” added Herve Poulain, co-chairman of the Artcurial Group, which was founded in 2002 and already has become a major seller of fine art, jewelry and collectible watches and other items.
Baillon collected his cars in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, in part to save them from being scrapped.
“All eyes have been on Paris and Artcurial, the leading French auction house, that has had the privilege of offering this group of cars,” Poulain added. “We have been amazed by the response around the world to the announcement of the discovery of the Baillon Collection.
“These beautiful vehicles have become works of art in their own right. They now go to join private collections and museums around the world, to have another life.”
It was just a few months ago that Artcurial announced that Lamoure and Artcurial car specialist Pierre Novikoff had discovered the Baillon cars, an amazing array of outstanding vehicles which Baillon had saved from destruction but for decades had been deteriorating, stored in open-sided sheds behind the garden walls of the Baillon estate in western France. Lamoure compared the experience to the discovery of the cars to that of the archeologists who founded King Tut’s tomb in Egypt in the 1920s.
The Baillon cars — there were 59 offered and purchased Friday — sold for a total of $28.5 million, including a world-record price of $18.5 million paid for the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT short-wheelbase California Spider that Lamoure and Novikoff found all but buried beneath old car magazines in an enclosed garage. (Prices reported include buyer’s premium.)
Though most were in horrible condition after being exposed to weather for so many years, many sold for double, triple, in some cases 10 times their pre-auction estimates.
The cars were on display for several days before the auction, with an average of nearly 15,000 people per day coming to see them. Artcurial said many of those people said they had traveled to France just for the opportunity to see the cars together before they were purchased and taken home by their new owners.
One car, a 1936 Panhard-Levassor Dynamic X76 junior coupe was sold before the auction to the Musee de l’Automobile de Compiegne, a fact Artcurial said underscored the cultural importance of the barn find.
Between the nearly 60 Baillon cars and the other nearly 120 vehicles in the catalog, the sale consumed 11 hours.
Artcurial said the auction total of $52,236,667 was the most ever generated at a classic car auction in Europe. Overall, 89 percent of all vehicles crossing the block were hammered sold, and 85 percent of those sold went to buyers from outside France.
In addition to the California Spider, Artcurial said world auction-record prices were paid Friday for a 1956 Maserati A6G Frua ($2.2 million), 1968 Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada ($1.4 million), 2011 Ferrari 599 GTO ($499,000), 1986 Ferrari Testarossa ($223,000), 1969 Lamborghini 400 GT Islero S ($337,000), 1965 Maserati Mistral 3.7L ($204,000), 1965 Mercedes-Benz 300 SE cabriolet ($135,000), 1958 Porsche 356 A Speedster ($337,000) and 1973 DeTomaso Pantera GTS ($151,000).
Artcurial’s next classic car auction is scheduled for July in Monaco.
Top-10 sales, Artcurial Retromobile auction, Paris
- 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider* (Lot 59), $18.5 million
- 1956 Maserati A6G 2000 Gran Sport Frua* (Lot 58), $2.2 million
- 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Berlinetta (Lot 117), $2.2 million
- 1949 Talbot-Lago 26 Grand Sport by Saoutchik* (Lot 46), $1.9 million
- 1938 Mercedes-Benz 380 K cabriolet A (Lot 193), $1.6 million
- 1968 Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada (Lot 147), $1.4 million
- 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL roadster (Lot 149), $1 million
- 1962 Maserati 3500 GT Spider Vignale (Lot 202), $971,015
- 1961 Maserati 3500 GT Spider Vignale (Lot 144), $944,052
- 1948 Talbot-Lago T26 Record cabriolet by Soutchik* (Lot 43), $843,000
* from the Baillon Collection
Artcurial announced that the 1956 Maserati A6G Frua and the 1948 Talbot-Lago Saoutchik were purchased by American collectors.