Hagerty’s Bucket List: Rétromobile Paris

by John Mayhead
23 February 2018 2 min read
Hagerty’s Bucket List: Rétromobile Paris

Paris in the depths of winter: with snow on the ground, love in the air and thousands of amazing classic cars, what could be better than a trip to the Rétromobile extravagaza?

Actually, very little. Rétromobile is not just a show, but an event that takes over many parts of the French capital for a week or so every February. The main exhibition is held in the Porte de Versailles, a huge expo centre that makes the NEC look like a suburban shopping arcade. Inside, there’s the usual mix of stalls, car club stands, and static car and bike displays, but there’s very little in the way of the seen-it-once-seen-it-all repetition you can often find at shows closer to home.

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Part of the reason for this is the French sense of style. Stands selling the most wonderful motoring ephemera abound – everything from vintage petrol pumps to the most ornate silver bonnet ornaments. Then there’s the typical French attitude to alcohol: next to last year’s Hagerty stand was one selling Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It sold out. You can even buy a beer or bottle of wine with your steak sandwich from the cafeteria. The cars on display seem to be better than at other shows, too. There’s always a superb collection, including some wonderful displays from the manufacturers, especially if you love French cars.

However, the main reason I like Rétromobile is for the auctions which are spread all over the city and require a series of quick dashes in taxis to catch all the excitement. And excitement there is, in spades. At a standard British sale you have an auctioneer at the front, maybe one person helping him or her in the crowd, and a lot of polite bidding. At a typical French auction like Artcurial there are about five people, all taking bids, all shouting in different languages. The car for sale chugs up onto the rostrum, then sits belching fumes while the auction takes place. Nobody seemingly has an idea of what is going on until the gavel comes down, at which point everyone cheers and it’s quickly on to the next lot.  I’ve even seen a fist fight at one French auction; you don’t get that sort of spectator sport at Goodwood.

So, if you have a few free days in February next year, book a trip to Paris. It’s one car event your partner may enjoy too.

We judge the Hagerty Bucket List on three criteria: Size, Excitement and Diversity, all ranked out of five. Here are the scores for Rétromobile:

SIZE: XXXX Rétromobile is a big show, covering a number of locations across Paris.

EXCITEMENT: XXX Mostly static, but then there’s the auctions. Plus, you get to explore Paris!

DIVERSITY: XXXX Great stalls, wonderful cars, even the manufacturers enter into the spirit.

With a total of 11/15 we say Rétromobile deserves a place on the Hagerty Bucket List.

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  • wirral says:

    There are too many cars under the classic banner,A true classic is a car that was a trend setter,ie the mini/even the ford model T,it has to be a machine with unheard of innovation for its time.These days a well preserved production car 0f the 50s/60s/and 70s is considered a classic just because its old.I have a Austin Somerset,its old but not a classic.

  • Essex says:

    I absolutely love Retromobile, I first went in 1988. It can get busy, but the cars and stands are always fantastic. I actually bought a car, now Hagerty insured, from an Artcurial auction, so getting onto their stand to see the upcoming lots is extra special.

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