Retromobile 2020

Lovers of all types of classic cars have come from all over Europe and elsewhere to Retromobile, since the Paris classic car show's inception in 1976. Retromobile attracts over 100,000 visitors over five days in early February and offers all kinds of attractions for classic car fans. And of the 300-plus display stands in the million square feet of exhibition space at the 2020 Retromobile, several were devoted exclusively to Alfa Romeo, and many others featured Alfas or Alfa-related material.

The most obvious Alfa-related booth was the FCA Heritage stand, a combined display for Alfa Romeo Classiche, Fiat Classiche, Lancia Classiche, and Abarth & Co. Classiche. The display was staffed by the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese and offered information on the museum. In addition, three Alfas were displayed: a 1910 A.L.F.A 24 HP, a 6C 1500, and a brand new Giulia TI. A plaque indicated that the 24 HP was the "first A.L.F.A." and that it was there to mark Alfa's 110th anniversary. This car has a 42-horsepower, 4-litre four-cylinder engine and a top speed of 100 kilometers an hour.

These performance figures pale next to those of the one other new car, the one non-Alfa, displayed at this stand: a not-for-sale-in-the-U.S., 70th-anniversary Abarth 695, a 180hp version of the Fiat 500 Abarth with a price tag of 32,000 euros (US $35,000). Other Abarth items were also on display, such as a parts kit for converting a classic Fiat 500 into an Abarth equivalent.

Among the many display stands offering classic cars for sale, the most interesting one for Alfa fans belonged to Lukas Hüni, the high-end classic car agent from Zurich. In recent years, Hüni's Retromobile displays have focused on a single marque; last year it was Lancia, the year before Ferrari (mostly). In 2017 it was Bugatti and Bentley. This year Hüni chose to show Alfas, both pre- and post-war cars, and the selection was breathtaking. There were Giulia and Giulietta spiders and sprints and various Zagato-bodied models (SZ and TZ) among the more "ordinary" post-war cars. The race cars displayed included a type 33, a 1935 Bimotore that the Scuderia Ferrari hoped—in an apparent moment of partial insanity—could challenge the performance of the ascendant German Auto Union and Mercedes Grand Prix cars, and the 8C 2300 that won the 1932 24 Hours of Le Mans (which was for display only). (Another type 33, a 1969 model, was visible at the RM Sotheby's stand at Retromobile advertising the auction house's upcoming 9 May 2020 sale in Monaco.)

Even without the Hüni stand, the drool factor was high at the many other agents' stands that displayed Alfas. Even the section of Retromobile reserved for cars for sale for under 25,000 euros included Alfas. Here there were two 1970s 1600 cc Junior Spiders, a model never sold in the U.S. It has the kamm-tail body and attractive chrome bumpers with rubber inlays of the early 1970s U.S. market spiders, but the 1600 cc engine and partly metal dashboard and no large central console of Duetto-bodied spiders. The less-than-perfect fit of their new tops and the absence of weld seams in the rocker panels, though, may have been signs that both cars were rush restoration jobs.

Another dealer in the same area, offering "young timers" (1990s and early 21st-century classics), showed an Alfa 916 GTV. This is the coupe version of the wedge-shaped front-wheel drive Spider model that appeared in 1995 (but not in the U.S.). The car on sale had the top-of-the-line four-cam V-6 engine option, so the engine bay closely resembled the engine compartment of a 164Q.

For visitors interested not just in entire cars, there were booths for Alfa parts suppliers and Alfa restoration specialists. Britain's Jim Stokes Workshops displayed the partially rebuilt tipo 160 2.5 litre flat twelve engine that Alfa began to develop in 1952 for the 159 Alfetta F1 car. Celebrated auto journalist Alain de Cadenet in the Friday 21 February 2020 MMR Newsletter raved about seeing this engine at Retromobile, and he was right to do so. Stokes showed the engine in pieces, giving the gearhead a peek at the inner workings of this unique engine (one of only two made).

If one-off Alfa engines in pieces don't appeal, other engines were on display: a pre-war design 6C supercharged engine, an 8C supercharged engine of the same period, and in a bare chassis a straight-six engine with an impressive triple-Weber carburetor setup.

Yet another Alfa engine was on display at the stand of Alfa Classic Motors, an Alfa specialist located near Lille, in northern France, who rebuilds engines, gear boxes, rear ends, and steering boxes. This stand showed a classic 105 Alfa engine, with dual Weber carbs, and with part of the bell housing and part of the gear box casing cut away—yet another interesting sight for Alfisti interested in the inner workings of our aluminum engineering marvels.

Alfa Classic Motors shared its display space with a French Riviera Alfa parts specialist, Retro Rosso. And nearby was another Alfa parts and restoration specialist, Ma Petite Italienne (my little Italian), a central France company recently profiled in Autoretro, one of the country's top classic car magazines. Ma Petite Italienne's stand, in addition to having a display of parts, some in their orange Ricambi Originali boxes, showed three coupés Bertone (variants of the 105 Giulia GT), one a clapped-out red 1968 1750 GTV (not quite as badly dilapidated as the junker pictured in the Autoretro article), one a stripped but recently repainted and solid body shell, and the third a complete and finished restoration—junker to concours condition in three "easy" steps!

France has two Alfa Romeo owners clubs. One of them, Alfa Classic Club, had a booth in the section of the exhibition halls devoted to car clubs. This booth displayed a lovely 1900 coupe with wire wheels, providing a timelessly elegant attraction to actual and potential Alfa fans. (Club Alfa Romeo de France, the other French Alfa owners club, which claims on its web page that the only condition for membership is to have "the Alfa virus," unfortunately did not have a stand at Retromobile.)

With its high-end classic car dealers, parts and services suppliers, car club stands, and the section of cars for sale under 25,000 euros, Retromobile is France's major event for the classic car enthusiast. As a result, like other well-known annual car events, it also attracts the auction houses. In fact, Artcurial has long had a special relationship with Retromobile (at one time the same person was director of both). A considerable portion of one of the Retromobile exhibition halls was devoted to the preview of the cars that Artcurial would be auctioning. And Sotheby's timed its own preview and auction for the same week, but in a different part of the city. AROC's Alfa auction expert, Bob Abhalter, will certainly be reporting in the Alfa Owner on the Alfas offered at these two auctions, but there's nothing like being able to attend the previews and view the cars up close. The Artcurial preview featured Alfas of very different generations: a 2009 8C Spider, a 1970 GTA 1300 Junior, and a pair of 1938 6C 2300B Cabriolets with Worblaufen bodies. Sotheby's offered a 1930 6C 1750 Gran Sport Spider and a dark red 1953 1900C Sprint Coupé. Between these auction houses' offerings and the Alfas on display at Retromobile, there was more than enough to satisfy the drool factor of just about every Alfista.Tiny Quadrifoglio

[AONErs Peter Walker and Meg Anderson are currently on European assignment for the first half of 2020 (poor souls). If the situation warrants, perhaps they'll send us more Alfacentric reports during their stay. — Ed.]

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Retromobile 2020