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2020 Retromobile In Photos

Classics from Japan, Germany, and Italy—especially Italy—shine at the 45th Paris Retromobile.

Wouter MelissenWriter, Photographer

Held for the 45th time this year, the annual Retromobile is the leading classic car fair in the world. Spread over three halls of the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, the event attracts exhibitors and vendors from around the globe. Among the special features of this year's show were displays for Bertone show cars and Tatras, while Swiss dealer Lukas Hüni dedicated his massive stand to Alfa Romeo's 110th anniversary. We strapped on our walking shoes to explore the 2020 Retromobile to capture all the stars, which we've gathered in this list of eleven highlights.

Nissan R390 GT1

Very lenient regulations prompted a very brief run of purpose-built yet road-legal GT1 racers during the late 1990s. Among them was the Nissan R390, which was produced by TWR and featured an engine derived from a Group C car. While a road-legal example was produced, no R390 was ever sold to a private collector—that is until very recently, when one of the competition cars left the Nissan Museum. It made its first public appearance here, on the stand of the Ascott Collection.

Ferrari 412 T2

Many successful partnerships start quite inconspicuously. That was also the case when Michael Schumacher joined Ferrari at the end of the 1995 season. He kicked off what would eventually turn out to be an all-conquering run at the legendary Italian marque. This 412 T2 was raced by Jean Alesi, and was used by Schumacher only in testing. Interestingly, this is the only V-12 Grand Prix Ferrari driven by Schumacher during his career.  

Porsche 935/81 'Moby Dick'

The equivalent of the late 1990s GT1 class during the late 1970s and early 1980s was Group 5. This class resulted in some wild silhouette racers, none more extreme than Porsche's 935/78 'Moby  Dick', which reached a staggering 227 mph at Le Mans. This car is one of two built by Joest Racing ahead of the 1981 season using Porsche's drawings. Amazingly, somewhere inside this 760-hp machine lies a Porsche 911 Turbo shell, all but hidden. The only bits of the donor car that are visible are the roof and the doors. Raced extensively in its period, this car has just been restored by French specialists Equipe Europe, before being displayed at Retromobile.

Alfa Romeo 8C 2300

One of the all-time great cars, and the personal favorite of your author, it is an absolute treat to see one of the just 188 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300s in the flesh, let alone the half dozen that formed part of Lukas Hüni's Alfa Romeo celebration. Designed by the legendary Vittorio Jano, the eight-cylinder machine is a mechanical work of art to look at, and was also hugely successful in racing during the first half of the 1930s. The versatile machine was dominant in the Mille Miglia, scored Grand Prix victories, and also won Le Mans four years in a row. The 8C 2300 could also just as easily be used on the road, and many were fitted with superb custom coach work.

McLaren F1

Built in the same spirit as the 8C 2300 and designed by Gordon Murray, the McLaren F1 is still considered by many as the ultimate supercar. Powered by a high-reviving BMW V-12, it was intended as a relatively practical road car. Nevertheless, it managed to also win Le Mans outright in 1995 with limited modifications. Swiss watch manufacturer and great enthusiast Richard Mille really brought his A-game by bringing together four F1s at Retromobile this year. Among them was the actual Le Mans winner and a road car that has recently been restored by McLaren Special Operations.

Tatra

As mentioned earlier, one of the featured marques this year was Tatra from the Czech Republic. The company is best known for its rear-engine luxury cars that were built well into the 1990s. Many great examples of these quirky machines were on display, but we were particularly taken by the slightly earlier Tatra 11 on show. Built between 1923 and 1927, Tatra built these cars using a single-tube chassis that connected the engine with the rear axle. The front suspension mounted directly on the flat four, making the engine a fully stressed member of the chassis.  

Bertone

One of the longest surviving of the Italian carrozzeria was Bertone (the brand lives on as a design firm). Among the many legendary cars produced by Bertone were the Lamborghini Miura and the Lancia Stratos. Bertone also built many one-off show cars, some of which were brought out for Retromobile this year. Despite the often very wild designs, all but one of the cars on display are fully functioning. This included the 1988 Genesis MPV, which is based on Lamborghini underpinnings and features a V-12 engine mounted under the dashboard.

Pegaso Z102B Saoutchik

There have been few companies in history that produced cars as elegant as Pegaso's or coachwork as refined as that of Saoutchik. When they collaborated, the results were often spectacular, and this example shown by Hamann Classic Cars is clearly no exception. Finished in a truly striking color combination, this is one of five built in this configuration and was actually shown at the Paris Motor Show in 1954. Underneath the wild bodywork sits a fabulous twin-cam V-8 engine that is crammed so tightly in the chassis that it needs to be pulled out even for simple maintenance such as a valve adjustment.

Ferrari 330 P4

With just three built, the Ferrari 330 P4 of 1967 is rare, but what really sets it apart are the achingly beautiful lines of the Drogo built bodywork. Following its contemporary racing career, the car had a somewhat colorful history, as it was owned for many years by American collector Walter Medlin. Medlin often forgot to pay his taxes, so his precious 330 P4 was under threat of confiscation by the IRS several times over the years.

Bugatti EB 110 SS

The Bugatti marque was revived for the first time during the 1990s when the quad-turbo EB 110 was built in very small numbers in Italy. The top-of-the-line model was the SS, of which two were converted for racing by French publisher Michel Hommell. One of these was raced at Le Mans and ran as high as sixth before a blown turbocharger ended its bid early. Now, nearly 26 years later, the two competition Bugattis were lined up nose to tail on a single display. A third EB 110 SS was also on display on Bugatti's own stand. It was shown together with a Bugatti Type 35 and matching Veyron that are part of the same collection.

Passion of a Lifetime

California-based auctioneer Gooding & Co. were at Retromobile for the first time, showing vehicles as a preview for its April 1st 'Passion of a Lifetime' sale. Offered from a single Belgian collection, the 16-lot auction includes some truly staggering machines. On display here were three cars, including an original Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato and an equally well preserved Bugatti Type 59 sports car that was once owned by King Leopold of Belgium.