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Retromobile 2015: The Baillon Collection

Jim Yu February 10, 2015 Hooniverse Goes To... 16 Comments

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No doubt by now, you have seen news clippings or blog posts about the Baillon Collection, one of the greatest barn finds in automotive history. Well, auction house ArtCurial, which was responsible for passing the collection along to the masses, presented the cars in an adjacent exhibition hall at Retromobile. Make the jump to see what I saw, and how I felt.

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First, let us get the obvious out of the way. This was the star of the collection, a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder that sold for an unprecedented $18.5 million. It was particularly coveted because its headlights were covered. Ookay.

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We’ve all read about barn finds before. Whether due to age, illness, or loss of fortune, an eccentric tycoon and car aficionado loses control of his car collection. And when I say “loses control”, I mean hordes of cars end up being left out in the elements, exposed for decades.

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That is exactly what happened here. A French transport magnate sought to create the greatest collection of pre-war cars for a museum he was going to build. He ran into money trouble and was forced to sell half of his collection. He thought he would earn enough later in life to still make his dream come true. He couldn’t. He left the heaping mess to his son. His son did nothing and died a decade later. Now, the son’s kids are parting with the collection.

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The mood of the exhibition was somber. The lighting gave it a haunted house vibe. Seeing these important and lust-worthy cars in such wretched shape was disgusting. What Baillon did bordered on criminal. But then, you start feeling sorry for the guy, almost like those poor saps featured on the TV show Hoarders.

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I mean, the guy clearly loved cars. The cars he bought, and the half of the collection that he kept, really told you what this guy was all about. It was not necessarily the best according to a panel of respected judges, but what Baillon thought was the best.

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Of the “modern” Ferraris, he chose a 308 GTS, a 400 2+2, and a Mondial cabriolet. How kooky was that?

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And what really blew me away was this Ferrari-powered Lancia Thema 8.32, worth around 2,500 Euros. Baillon was baller!

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So what’s your take on mega-barn finds and the people who accumulated these collections (and allowed them to rust into oblivion)?

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Images source: Copyright 2015 Hooniverse/Jim Yu

  • dukeisduke

    He may have been crazy, but his grandkids made out like bandits. The Hemmings Daily blog had a piece on it today as well: http://blog.hemmings.com/index.php/2015/02/10/fro

    Lots of crazy stuff in the collection, like the 1936 Panhard Dynamic X76 coupe. He was also a fan of Talbot-Lagos, which brought in some serious money.

  • Facel Vega!

    I'm cool with Barn finds and "as is" condition high-buck cars, but not even wiping the dust off of them seems to oversell it a bit.

    • Manic_King

      They sold 3 Facel vegas that day, 2 were 4-doors. Price difference was (only?) $45k between barn find and the one with hi-quality fresh restoration. I posted link to results below.

    • FЯeeMan

      How else are we going to know that these are authentic! barn finds and not just some rubbish someone had sitting in the corner of a garage that were left to get a bit dusty?

  • nanoop

    The third generation of nanoop will be stuck with a number of over-aged seal kits I never used. I got one set for the ps pump, the injectors, valve box, clutch slave cylinder, brake pistons, and brake master cylinder… None younger than a year. I kinda get the problem of Mr. Baillon, jjust on a different level…

  • <img src="http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7560/15716476087_8f5d6a84f9.jpg&quot; width="450">

    Upon reflection, it's probably just as well that I don't have kids.

    • You seem to find that barn on a near-daily basis.

    • 2cver

      Hmmm. I have a Custer Specialty car and no kids also. What does that say about us?

      • You've got a Custer? Which model?

    • B72

      You got a barn? Congrats!

      I haven't been here in a while, but I was used to the driveway shots.

      • Thanks! I now own a house with the detached garage shown above. The driveway shots were at the place I've been renting for the last several years.

        • Sjalabais

          Your cars make it look like a barn, yes. Congrats with the house!

        • B72

          Detached garage? The scale of the vehicles makes it look like a hangar!

  • Sjalabais

    "S* happens", even with good intentions. Makes for great images now, even though they hurt a bit too look at. How did all this stuff smell? Can't imagine that most cars will be safed, but there seems to be an endless supply of money in the high end collectors market right now.

    Concerning the Ferrari, it's not a car anymore. Nobody will drive it as intended. It might be too expensive/valuable for regular public display even. So all it is is a collector's item and an investment. Just about as exciting as a Ming vase.

  • Manic_King

    Results are here btw, cars 1-59 were from that collection: http://www.artcurial.com/en/asp/searchresults.asp
    I watched auction on internet from lot 100- and wondered how wildly off some estimations were.

  • HTWHLS

    Meh. I'm over the whole "barn find" collection thing. That bust of Chevys in Nebraska last year started turning me off. Most of those were junk- parts cars. "Hey, it only has 9.2 miles on it and the shipping plastic is still on the seats!" Yeah, but it spend the last 30 years out in a field. It's junk..they're junk.

    I feel bad for the guy as he had a dream..and he hung on to it. But surely as he and his dream were dying, he had to see the cars were going to hell. Sell a bunch more and lease a warehouse. Spend a summer cleaning and prepping them for storage.

    This collection was only interesting in the auction prep so you could imagine just how much misery the cars suffered. Now…call the scrapper and let's stop waxing poetic about a bunch of some old guy's trash heap.