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

Finding Automotive Treasure – Interview

Finding Automotive Treasure – Interview Page Four

Did you go from one discovery to another when you started to make an inventory?

ML: 60 cars, legendary marques, in “barnfind” condition. It was already unbelievable! We had already spotted a few gems during our first tour of the machines, and making an inventory made us start to comprehend the extent of the collection. One mythical coachbuilder after another. I must tell you about three Talbots designed by Saoutchik : despite their condition, it was impossible not to fall in love with the lines of the Talbot Lago T26 Record Coupe by Saoutchik. It is like a work of art by Brancusi. When we contacted the marque historian to tell him we had found this car, he couldn’t believe it! Once he had recovered from the shock, he bombarded us with questions.

PN: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many exceptional cars together in one collection — Bugatti, Hispano-Suiza, Talbot- Lago, Panhard-Levassor, Maserati, Ferrari, Delahaye, Delage…Roger Baillon saved these cars and succeeded in his task — to trace the history of the automobile through the finest examples! When I look at the imposing Hispano Suiza H6B cabriolet Million-Guiet, a car built in France, I am impressed by the attention to detail and its proportions. These men were genuine artists.

You speak of them like genuine works of art.

PN: But that’s what they are! It is no coincidence that Artcurial has a collectors’ car department. Certain cars, much like paintings or sculptures, are works of art, created by artists ! Not only the engineering, but their styling reflects the history of design.

ML: I think you can feel the same emotion whether you are looking at the cubist forms of Pablo Picasso, the geometric but gentle shapes of Constantin Brancusi, a bookcase by the designer Ron Arad or the perfect styling of a Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider.

Hispano Suiza H6B Cabriolet Millon-Guiet
Hispano Suiza H6B Cabriolet Millon-Guiet
Panhard-Levassor Dynamic coupe X76, Collection Baillon
Panhard-Levassor Dynamic coupe X76, Collection Baillon
Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupe Saoutchik
Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupe Saoutchik
Talbot Lago T26 Cabriolet Saoutchik, ex-Roi Farouk
Talbot Lago T26 Cabriolet Saoutchik, ex-Roi Farouk

Is the Ferrari THE discovery?

ML: Ferrari is a legendary name in the automobile world. And this car is unique. Only 37 examples of this model were built making it extremely rare. Every example has been carefully documented by historians and this one was thought to be lost. We have found it!

PN: And we really did ‘find’ it — it was buried, in a garage, under a pile of papers (old copies of la Vie de l’Auto) and various covers. Not what you would expect for a car worth between €9.5 – €12 million. Its neighbour was another gem, a Maserati A6G Gran Sport Frua.

Ferrari 250 GT California SWB and Maserati A6G 2000 Berlinetta Grand Sport Frua
Ferrari 250 GT California SWB and Maserati A6G 2000 Berlinetta Grand Sport Frua

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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”.