The classic car collection of a transportation entrepreneur was newly discovered in makeshift garages revealed on his west France property. The series of dilapidated iron shelters and disintegrating outbuildings went ignored for 50 years until auto auction specialists based in Paris, France took a closer look at the acreage earlier this year.
The auto collection belonged to Roger Baillon, a transport company executive who loved classic roadsters. In the 1950’s, he was known for building his own and exhibiting it at the Paris Motor Show. As his business success increased, he started collecting pre-war vehicles with the dream of opening a museum. The collection grew to include more contemporary classics that he saved from the scrap yard. Unfortunately, his fortunes took a downturn in the 1970’s and he needed to downsize.
Experts knew of at least 50 cars that sold from Baillon’s collection. When they could not locate the rest of the collection in France or elsewhere, it was assumed that all vehicles sold in undocumented transactions. Not even Baillon’s spouse knew for certain what remained of the throng and with little information on their storage, all was presumed lost.
The discovery these barns and garages in France answered the mystery of this long-dormant classic car collection that seemed content to remain unrevealed. Rare car specialists from Artcurial Motorcars, Mathhieu Lamoure and Pierre Novikoff , followed tips from Baillon’s grandchildren to discover the property. After entering through the one accessible gate, they discovered 60 classics, many of which were in surprisingly good condition.
While there were a few closed garages, most of the shelters were nothing more than sheds with rotting beams and sunken roofs. In some places, the shelters leaned against the cars. One exposed building was taken over by ivy which grew around and inside the cars and moss was a mainstay. Only a few of the outbuildings were covered on all sides meaning some vehicles had been exposed to the elements for several decades and yet, remained intact.
Lamoure described the vehicles as “mysterious mechanical creatures” and noted the collection included Bugatti, Hispano-Suiza, Delahaye, and Delage. The most covetous find, though, was hiding in a garage under a pile of newspapers.
That particular discovery was a rare Ferrari 250GT SWB California Spider. After starring in a 1964 film with Jane Fonda and Shirley MacLaine, it went missing. The mystery caused concern and international intrigue. As one of only 37 models ever made, auto enthusiasts considered its location a high priority.
Thanks to this discovery, the Ferrari is now considered the most important automotive find of the year. With its heightened desirability and fascinating history, it is expected to sell at auction for £10 million.
Artcurial Motorcars plans to start the auction on February 6, 2015 at the Retromobile Salon in Paris, France. It is expected to take several days to sell the newly discovered entire classic car collection and reveal them at the French venue. The cars are in original condition and very fragile, so the biggest challenge now is moving them without destroying them. Specialists are hoping museums and other public collectors acquire them so anyone can enjoy this unique discovery.
By Jocelyn Mackie
Photos Courtesy of Artcurial Motors