Ooh lala Paris, capital of fashion and good taste. CineCars traveled to the Porte de Versailles for the yearly high mass of the French classic car, the Rétromobile.
The Paris Rétromobile is one of the largest and most prestigious classic car salons in Europe. This is where the fine fleur of the classic automobile trade spreads its splendour, were the biggest auction houses write record after record in their books. This is where we can gaze at the most beautiful creations the most famous of coach builders of the last century have bestowed upon us. And, it should be mentioned, the offer is divers. Expensive, exclusive, but absolutely versatile. The sort of fair where the true enthusiast has a mouthwatering experience.
Roaming the gigantic halls I get overrun by the oppressive feeling that the saying is true after all. The abundance does damage the experience. In the end there is a limit to the number of perfectly shiny Ferrari’s you can take in. The exclusivity of the Mercedes 600 rapidly diminishes, when you get the feeling you’re lost in the parking lot of a congress for presidents of banana republics. Al these perfect forms, magnificent bodies and multi cylindered engines that propel a venue like this to extreme heights, are at the same time the Achilles heel of the contemporary classic car scene.
Thank God we are in France, land of frogs legs and goose liver. Where presidents are cheered for their promiscuity and ‘a little wrong’ is the standard. This is the country where a former aircraft builder can call his new car factory ‘Avions Voisin’, where a brand like Panhard et Levassor can go bananas on enormous sleeve valve engines and drivers positions that are randomly spread over the front seat. Where in the early twenties Bugatti already used overhead cams and three valves per cylinder. It simply means that in between all the glitter and the glamour you can still find these typically French pearls of eccentricity. Jewels of long forgotten automobiles, cars who knew they were special long before the paths were trodden.
Today it’s PSA and Renault that have to uphold the French honour. The first not knowing what classic to allot to which sub-brand, the second celebrating 120 years today, but seemingly still no sure about why. Where did the days of Amilcar, Donnet, Chenard & Walker, Delahaye, Facel Vega, Panhard, Delage and Hotchkiss go? It’s just the tip of the iceberg in this rich heritage. A history lost in the globalization of the car industry, of which, in between all the bling, you can still catch a glimpse every now and then.
It is like being overtake by the feeling of decay when driving through Paris. Not of the city as such, but of the style and the culture. Where a young lady in black satin and tailored red has become her own caricature. Where the concatenation of McDonalds and Burger King makes the lack of the classic French bistrot have you hungering for one of the many kebab places. In this global world of big cash our friend Ratatouille could only shine as employee of the month at one of those American burger joints. Uniformity is standard. To my relief there is still a way to enjoy a Salmson, a Mathis or a Georges Irat. A Salad Gésiers de Canard or a portion of Escargots. I’m glad we still can.
Marc GF Zaan
Photography: Robbert Moree