Forgotten French cars honoured at Le Mans Classic auction

by Jon Burgess
7 June 2022 2 min read
Forgotten French cars honoured at Le Mans Classic auction
Photos: Christian Martin via Artcurial

A fascinating collection of long-stored pre- and post-war French classics – comprising the largest single collection of Hotchkiss-Grégoires ever to come to auction – is to be sold by Artcurial during next month’s Le Mans Classic (2 July).

The 26-car cache of unrestored rarities, assembled in the Seventies and Eighties in two French locations, was the lifelong dream of engineer and car enthusiast Pierre Héron, who became infatuated with the Delahaye, Hotchkiss-Grégoire and Talbot-Lago marques after a visiting the 1948 Paris Salon as a child.

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Héron had ambitions for his collection, one of which was to collect every variant of Talbot Lago T26 – and he succeeded. He collected his cars with gusto, buying his first in 1965.

Possibly peaking interest, 18 of the cars are to be sold at no reserve, but two of the scarcest – his Figoni et Falaschi-bodied Delahaye 135 Cabriolet and Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport Longue – are both estimated at between 150,000-200,000 Euros (£128,000-£170,700). The Delahaye was shown at the Paris Salon in 1948, and today an example in good condition is worth around $244,000 (or £194,600).

The Grand Prix-engined Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport Longue, built in 1954, is one of 22 survivors. Jay Leno had a similar car, built a year earlier, completely restored after sitting in a garage for 60 years. Another 1954 GSL managed $385,000 (£307,000) at the RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale in 2016.

Grégoire, a garage owner and industrialist, was an outspoken licensee and advocate of front-wheel drive. Working with ailing Parisian maker, Hotchkiss (whose car-making enterprise had been left out of the midcentury Pons Plan which rationalised the French car industry) Hotchkiss-Grégoire built between 247 and 270 saloons from 1950 to 1954.

Carrosserie Henri Chapron rebodied a tiny number of H-Gs in period – and Héron acquired two one-off variants on this theme, as well as a Hotchkiss Coach Côte d’Azur factory prototype from 1937 with special bodywork and independent front suspension.

The condition of the H-Gs, of which there are six, vary considerably, ranging from complete to partially stripped. The latter, an “HG8” variant, has a 1500-2500 Euro (£1300–£2200) estimate.

It’s not the only car in the cache to bear Grégoire’s influence, either – a one-off Tracta-Grégoire Coupé Sport bodied by Chapron is also for sale. Thought to have been used by playwright Françoise Sagan, the car featured a supercharged H-G flat four; it’s expected to fetch between 60,000-80,000 Euros (£51,200–£68,300).

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