I’m sure classic car auctioneers get called out to decrepit barns fairly frequently, on the promise they will see something truly spectacular.
Most of the time, what they find will be a rusting Renault or a mouldy MG. Nothing that interesting or, indeed, valuable. But (very) occasionally, they get called out to see something that shakes up the entire collector car world.
Matthieu Lemoure and Pierre Novikoff of French auction house Artcurial went to investigate a collection at a farm somewhere in the Western France and made possibly the last discovery of its type anywhere in the world.
They unearthed a collection of sixty cars, assembled during the Sixties by enthusiast Roger Baillon. His aim was to build a museum showcasing the best pre-war automobiles. Sadly, his dream came unstuck when his business hit trouble. He sold off fifty cars and the remainder were left at nature’s mercy.
The cache includes cars from some of the greatest European marques: Bugatti, Hispano-Suiza, Talbot-Lago, Panhard-Levassor, Maserati, Ferrari, Delahaye, Delage and many others. M. Baillon didn’t just collect great cars; he chose ones with bodies made by some of the most revered coachbuilders, among them Chapron and Saoutchik.
But the two most exciting discoveries, in surprisingly good condition considering their half-century hibernation, are one of three 1956 Maserati A6G Gran Sport coupes bodied by Frua; and a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider, thought to be the last of the breed that was unaccounted for. Indeed, Baillon’s own family didn’t realise they still had it until a couple of months ago. It was originally bought by actor Gerard Blain, who sold it on to Alain Delon, who was photographed in it with Jane Fonda and Shirley MacLaine.
Artcurial will offer all sixty cars from the Baillon Collection for auction during its annual sale at Retromobile in Paris, on 6 February.
M. Lemoure, MD of Artcurial Motorcars, said: “Not since the revelation of the Schlumpf Collection has such a group of emblematic automobiles been disclosed and what is more, in such original condition.”
He likened the experience of finding the cars to that of Lord Carrington opening Tutankamun’s tomb. He added: “Artcurial will put on show the magic of these sixty mysterious mechanical creatures, like a giant work of art: the unrealised dream of its owner brought back to life.”
Incidentally, the Ferrari has an estimate of EUR9.5m to EUR12.5m. Get checking those barns!