Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider
Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider

Finding Automotive Treasure – Interview

It was in the West of France that the team from Artcurial’s collector car department made an extraordinary discovery. Forgotten for almost fifty years, the team at Artcurial found some 60 automobiles originally curated with devotion in order to create a private museum that would pay tribute to this great human invention. This unique collection will be offered for sale at the Artcurial Retromobile 2015 auction, scheduled for 6th February in Paris.

Matthieu Lamoure and Pierre Novikoff from Artcurial Motorcars share with Sports Car Digest about what it was like to find this incredible collection.

This has been like finding real treasure. Is it something that happens often to you?

Matthieu Lamoure, Managing Director of Artcurial Motorcars: This sort of thing doesn’t happen often enough! I think, above all, you go into this profession for discoveries like this. Yes, this really is a treasure. No doubt a once-in-a-lifetime discovery. In our jargon, we speak about “barn finds” as cars that are intact, that have remained untouched for years, and are found again. I have to say that when we arrived here, we found ourselves overcome with emotion. Probably much like Lord Carrington and Howard Carter, on being the first person for centuries to enter Tutankhamun’s tomb. It really was a case of waking up sleeping beauty.

Pierre Novikoff, Senior Specialist at Artcurial Motorcars: We are treasure hunters! I don’t think that the collectors’ car world has seen anything like this since the Schlumpf Collection, when Maitre Herve Poulain was the expert. This is surely the last time that such a discovery will be made, anywhere in the world. What is so special here is the number of cars (60), the range (from the early days of the motor car to the 1970s) and the quality and pedigree of the models. Unlike the Schlumpf collection that was known about and documented, ours is completely new. It’s a discovery!

Matthieu Lamoure and Pierre Novikoff in front of their discovery
Matthieu Lamoure and Pierre Novikoff in front of their discovery

This is becoming a speciality.

ML: I must say that at Artcurial Motorcars, we are committed to finding cars that have rarely or never been seen on the market before. This is our signature style, and is requires an incredible amount of work. We spend the year crossing Europe and travelling around the world. It is no coincidence that collectors come to our sales from across the globe year after year. This year, we realised close to 50 M€ / 66 M$ in sales, which is up 67% on 2013.

PN: The prices and the records are a welcome reward for our hard work. But to arrive in a small village in the West of France, and discover this treasure, is unheard of. We share the same passion as the collectors. They know our commitment and they stay with us. We share the same language. And it is this bond that enables us to coordinate auction sales like this one. I like to think it is our trademark!

How exactly did this start?

PN: It is quite a story. When we are preparing for a sale, we criss-cross France and travel around the world searching for rare pieces. A key part of our profession is being able to build relationships and to listen when we are told about something. On that particular day, I had a feeling that something was going to happen. On the phone, I gathered from the information I was given, that this could turn out to be something important. Without realising the scale. I spoke to Matthieu immediately and we arranged to go there, to find out what it was.

Discovery of Collection Baillon
Discovery of Collection Baillon
Discovery of Collection Baillon
Discovery of Collection Baillon
Abri 1 with Facel Vega Excellence and Talbot Lago T26 Cabriolet Saoutchik ex-Roi Farouk
Abri 1 with Facel Vega Excellence and Talbot Lago T26 Cabriolet Saoutchik, ex-Roi Farouk

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Show Comments (17)

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  1. I don’t understand how these cars could have gone undiscovered for such a long time. They weren’t left in a locked, boarded up garage, everything was wide open for anyone to see.

  2. Matt,
    I think Matthieu and Pierre hinted at the reason when they mentioned that the Collection Baillon had been dispersed at auction decades ago to satisfy creditors. No one had any reason to think there might be others, so no one looked.
    Furthermore they were located on family property well away from prying eyes. In France you don’t go poking around behind someone’s chateau on a lark.
    Finally, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the dispersal of this collection coincides with the expiration of a statute of limitations on the debts that led to the public dispersal years ago and puts the proceeds out of reach of any creditors.
    In any event it is pretty wonderful, even if many of the cars are in sad, neglected condition. I hope I can make it to Retromobile to see it.

    1. Couldn’t the Chateau owners afford a thousand dollars worth of plywood and nails to enclose the bloody garages. Terrible shame that these cars were left to rot like they did.

  3. The first sale alluded to took place near Niort on june 23 and 24, 1979, with 58 cars sold at no reserve.

    There is a full report in “Le Fanatique de l’Automobile” N° 130 dated July 1979. There were no really great cars then, apart from another 5 Talbots, and the report finishes with “The second sale, of which the date is not yet known, will surely be even more interesting”.

    So this should be the second sale then …. 35 years after the first one!

  4. I visited this collection in September 1981 when I was touring France following attendance at the Vincenzo Lancia Centenary Rally in Torino.The cars were accessible and in much the same condition as shown now, although there were indeed fewer cars and some of the exotic Delahaye were not visual. I will try to find the photos I took at that time.

  5. There have been people trying to buy the Ferrari in the past but with no result.
    The owners probably told the auctioneers that the could do an auction if they remove all the cars from the property and not just one. Not a real forgotten treassure in my mind but still some nice cars.

  6. I think it’s a manipulation of the public opinion to present this story as a barn find. Whoever the owner is, cannot be stupid enough not to estimate the value of these cars or at least try to find out all these years.

    This leaves us with “expiration of a statute of limitations on the debts” as the only plausable reason for them suddenly being discovered -again-.

  7. I am truly amazed that this collection exists and aghast at the people that have kept its secrets. My only hope is that the automotive historians will find worthy patrons to bring most of these pieces of art and craftsmanship back to there glory so that future generations of of our hobby can enjoy these pieces of an era automotive art.

  8. “We need to take as much care as if we were moving the Mona Lisa.”

    Oh please.

    “For the Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupe Saoutchik, caved in at the rear, I think it should be left in this condition. It is a sculpture.”

    Yes. A ruined sculpture. “Should be left in this condition.” ? Why. Because it is so bad off that it’s not worth restoring?

    I don’t care that the “snarky comments” come from “anonymous”.