$14 million for classic car found under a pile of French magazines?

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

PARIS — Early next year, bidders are expected to shell out millions for cars that stood around in Roger Baillon’s yard for decades.

The French truck manufacturing mogul had big dreams for them. He wanted to found a museum and build a miniature railroad loop for visitors to ride around and view them, a Paris auction house said.

But the plans evaporated when his business went bust in the 1970s. He sold off nearly half of his collection, but 60 of his classic European luxury and sports cars — many built in the first half of the 20th century — remained and collected rust, dust and weeds for about 50 years.

Until car experts from auction house Artcurial recently came upon them.

$14.9 million

Now, buyers will probably write checks for hundreds of thousands for just one the sagging exquisite carriages. Artcurial will put them under the hammer in February and expects the crown jewel in the collection, a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider, to fetch 9.5 million to 12 million euros ($11 million to $14.9 million).

The convertible was one of only 37 of its kind made, and it is in comparatively great condition, as it slumbered behind the doors of a snug garage, Artcurial said.

It was piled high with copies of a vintage magazine, la Vie de l’Auto — The Life of a Car — when Artcurial’s car expert Pierre Novikoff found it.

The Ferrari’s roommate in the garage was a 1956 Maserati A6G Gran Sport Frua that auctioneers think will go for 800,000 to 1.2 million euros.


Most of the rest of the other sleeping beauties lay comatose under roofs of corrugated steel held up by posts; with no walls to protect them, they were exposed to the elements.

Novikoff heard about the car yard over the phone and went to check it out.

At first glance, the cars looked like the rest of the junk in the yard — old washing machines, metal scrap, barrels. But gems gradually sparkled through.

“Nature had taken a hold over the years. Ivy had invaded a car and entirely covered its wheel, while weeds had taken root in a passenger compartment as easily as in a greenhouse,” Novikoff said. “In places, the sheets of corrugated iron were resting directly on the cars.”


Most of the cars will require a deep kiss of restoration to reawaken the former glory of their exclusive brands, some of which are no longer manufactured.

Bugattis, Maseratis, Ferraris, Delahayes, Delages, Hispano-Suizas, Talbot-Lagos and Panhard-Levassors stood motionless in the estate that Baillon bought to store them.

The largest contingency of the collected cars hit the streets between 1955 and 1965, Artcurial said in a statement.

Some have stories to go along with them.

The 1961 Ferrari was once owned by French silver screen demigod Alain Delon, Artcurial said, and he was photographed sitting in it next to Jane Fonda in 1964, and with Shirley MacLaine.

Legend also slumbers in the peach-colored rust covering a pre-World War II Talbot-Lago, a French classic brand that died out some 50 years ago.

Artcurial says this one was driven by former Egyptian King Farouk.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.