Salon Retromobile 2024: An Extraordinary Smorgasbord of The Finest

Images: Ameya Vikram Mishra, Shuqi Xiao & Gautam Sen

On Friday evening when the rush starts for the hoi polloi to swarm the three halls of the Parc de Expositions, near Porte de Versailles, guess who we came across casually strolling around alone, unaccompanied, taking in all the fascinating bolides on display at this year’s Salon Retromobile? The CEO of Stellantis, Carlos Tavares!

So, when one asked what are you doing here—a silly question indeed—Tavares answered: “Why are you surprised? You know I love historic vehicles and there are some amazing cars here.”

Which kind of sums up what Retromobile is all about: from Carlos Tavares to a young Albanian mother-of-two Rejna Kulla and her family, from Pebble Beach’s Sandra Button to Iranian motorcycling enthusiast and FIVA Emissaire Maryam Talaee, from the famous Adolfo Orsi to a bunch of Indian enthusiasts such as Harit Trivedi, Aniruddh Kasliwal and Neville Wadia, as well as our intrepid contributor Ameya Vikram Mishra (whose article follows), Retromobile is the place to be as the historic vehicle season unfolds. I will let first timer Ameya take over from here.

- Gautam Sen

The Salon Retromobile held in Paris last week left me with some core memories. This was my first Retromobile and feeling ‘overwhelmed’ would be an appropriate description of my first reaction. However, I went from feeling overwhelmed to ecstatic in no time, thanks to the wonderfully curated exhibition, which had something to offer to every kind of enthusiast.

It would be safe to say that the French dominated the Retromobile aesthetics this year, ranging from a barrage of truly exotic Delahayes and Delages to Bugattis with some serious racing heritage.

At the Lukas Huni stand, the sight of one of the three surviving Bugatti Type 57 S Atlantics in the world (ex-Holzschuch Chassis No. 57473) left me awestruck. Calling it the most beautiful automotive sculpture would be an understatement. The seductive Figoni-bodied Bugatti had my undivided attention for upwards of half an hour. This is significant because the Atlantic was in the esteemed company of the Prince Bira Maserati 250F and the Bugatti Type 59, which won the 1934 Belgian Grand Prix in the hands of Rene Dreyfus, among others.

The Lukas Huni collection also displayed an Aston Martin DB3S/9 in beautiful British racing green, which finished second at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1956, driven by the great Stirling Moss and Peter Collins.

The Aston Martin driven by Stirling Moss & Peter Collins

The Le Mans influence at this year’s Retromobile did not end there. The Richard Mille stand displayed the Ferrari 499P, which brought back glory to Maranello by winning the historic race last year. Ferrari’s enviable racing legacy was also represented at Retromobile by the likes of the 365P, which won the 1965 Targa Florio and 1000 km Nurburgring, and the 412P, which raced at Le Mans in 1967.

The latest Le Mans winning Ferrari in its full glory

The Ferrari 250 GTO is the ultimate aspirational machine for many, including myself. Three remarkable examples starred at the Retromobile. Even the current Ferrari superstar Charles Leclerc, who made a surprise appearance, could not resist its charm, as he looked wholly mesmerized by a 1963 example in red at the Girardo & Co stand. Unfortunately, I could not capture this special moment due to the chaos that followed Leclerc’s presence at the show.

Another remarkable car at the show was the one-off 1954 Jaguar XK 120 bodied by Pininfarina exclusively for Max Hoffman, the famous American car importer. An epitome of British engineering combined with Italian design; this is the only Jaguar XK 120 with a Pininfarina body ever.

This Pininfarina Jag is a real unicorn

A personal highlight of the Retromobile week was meeting the legendary Jacky Ickx, who was there to launch Chopard’s latest offering, the Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph. Despite being surrounded by a frenzy of fans and media, Jacky’s warmth and calmness were a pleasant surprise. He was kind enough to take a picture with yours truly amidst the chaos, and I returned the favor by offering him some recommendations for his upcoming trip to Udaipur for the Oberoi Concours d’Elegance.

To celebrate the centenary of Autodrome Linas-Montlhery, which was inaugurated in October 1924 to compete with the likes of Brooklands in the UK and Monza in Italy, some of the most impressive race cars from the era, including a Salmson 8-cylinder Type C10, which won the French Grand Prix in its category in 1934 at Montlhery and a 1928 Maserati Type 26 which holds the lap record for the French Grand Prix in 1931, were on display.

Celebrating 100 years of Autodrome Montlhery
The Maserati with Montlhery heritage

Before I conclude, I must point out that the above is merely a glimpse of what the event had to offer. The kind of show the Salon Retromobile puts on is extraordinary, to say the least. Despite spending numerous hours over the course of six days, I would be naive to think that I experienced every aspect of it. But then the good bit is that there is always next year. Eagerly looking forward.

Postscript: With over 130,000 showgoers to this edition of Retromobile, it has perhaps been the biggest ever, and credit to that must go to the new Director of the show, Romain Grabowski, who has taken over the mantle of leading the best historic vehicle salon in the world from the able shoulders of François Melcion, Retromobile’s long time director of yore.

Ameya Vikram Mishra

Ameya is currently an LLM candidate at the Sciences Po Law School. Apart from law, he is passionate about vintage & classic cars and is a member of the Heritage Motoring Club of India.


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