Of the many stories my dad told me about his chases for collectible cars in the 70s and 80s of the last century, one stands out because I was never allowed to talk about it until now.
In the July 2016 issue of the magazine The Automobile (Volume 34, number 5) author Rutger Booy reveals the story of the ‘Secret SS1’, breaking decades of silence and telling the intriguing tale of an SS Jaguar that has been hidden in The Netherlands since the late 1950s.
This car will be one of the preservation treasures shown at the Concours Paleis Het Loo next weekend in Apeldoorn, so if you want to see this unique car in real, then come to Apeldoorn. Or buy yourself a copy of The Automobile.
It was in 1974, while renovating an old town house, that my dad, then still a student, invited a tiler for a beer after having completed his work. Getting to talk about cars, the man told him that he knew of a Jaguar SS100 somewhere… Continue reading
It was 1987 when I came across the fabulous Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Pininfarina roadster seen in these photos. I had been given a lead that the car, which apparently belonged to a notary in Geraardsbergen in Belgium, was languishing in a garage and for sale at around 600,000 BF (just over 15,000 Euros!). However, when I finally got to see the car I was disappointed with its condition and I also didn’t quite like Pininfarina’s double headlamp design. So, I left the car where it was and forgot about it. Until many years later, when prices for the 6C 2500 SS with attractive coachwork soared. In 2011 I placed an enquiry on postwarclassic to see if anyone knew what had happened to the car subsequent to my visit in 1987. Strangely there was only one response, from a gentleman who said… Continue reading
This is not to say genuine discoveries cannot be made, we know of many many cars that disappeared, and periodically they reappear, for example Wayne Carini’s Stutz discovery. But look at what he did with the car, replaced a few key components, took it to Pebble Beach and kept it. (It should be noted that even that Stutz was known to people, but the owner had held off selling) Those of us who live in rural areas see many old neglected barns with potential treasures inside, but the car magazines and auction companies are not talking about this.
Going back to the Baillon Ferrari, or indeed any of the cars from that collection, those that can be restored should be. The Ferrari has many incorrect later modifications, the engine and chassis should be completely restored mechanically, replacing old fuel lines and wiring etc. At Retromobile this year a restoration shop proudly displayed a Baillon Talbot they are rebuilding. This will show us… Continue reading
More and more we see cars being presented in scruffy, patinated condition. Whether because they were dragged out of cold storage that way or ‘restored’ that way. Regardless of the authenticity of the condition, these cars are being made ever more popular and more valuable, largely as a result of the auction companies selling them and the automotive press looking for the next big find.
This push for what I call authentic decay is reaching extreme levels. Case in point, the new owner of the Baillon/Delon Ferrari does not allow it to be driven more than 35 mph to keep the dust from flying off. Dust that accumulated in a Paris garage, not on the estate. The dent in the boot lid is from someone storing magazines, not from an incident during a… Continue reading
Other gear came in from Bart Loyens, the Amsterdam stockist, including a correct steering wheel and the lovely Marchal headlamps. “New” brake drums came variously from a friend in Massachusetts and another in Colorado. The latter wouldn’t release his pair until I had arranged for another set for his car to be shipped from England. All this took a bit of doing, but it was fun, also.
The main problem now was that the Bugatti never seemed to get finished, so I finally persuaded Russ Sceli to take it on as one of his projects for 1971. In the fifties, Russ had operated one of the first foreign car dealer-ships in Hartford, and had restored several Bugattis of his own before retiring to the quiet of his hilltop retreat in Canton, Connecticut. Here, he would take on one car at a time in his meticulous garage–! was glad to have the T-40 in his care. Russ took everything apart, and… Continue reading
While the Jean Comte crew were working away on the body proper, I busied myself trying to learn what a correct T-40 Bugatti really looked like, what sort of instruments were needed, and a million other essential details. Letters went out to various information sources in England and America, and bit by bit some information came back. A brand new Rene Thomas steering wheel turned up in a local Chinese general store; the Jean Comte machine shop was making up carefully copied parts from unsalvageable originals; and when I heard there was a group of vintage enthusiasts in Singapore, I hied myself down there for a look. It was great fun, and I met some wonderful people who were enormously helpful. I even found two Bugattis in my prowling, but they were the property of a terribly keen Chinese race driver and, at that time, were not for sale This man’s house was crammed from floor to ceiling with the most amazing collection of parts I had ever seen, and before leaving… Continue reading
Although the French word “carcasse” can be used to describe an automobile frame, “chassis” is far more common and one can only suspect that “carcasse” meant what it said –namely, a carcass. After 1950, the T-40 passed through several more hands before ending up with Cao van Tung who apparently had some notion of using its engine in a small ferryboat somewhere in the delta. Fortunately, this project never got beyond the stage of naval (sic) contemplation, and the Bugatti came to its penultimate resting place on a side street in the aforementioned city of Bien Hoa.
David brought the car to a garage in Saigon which is where I first saw it. Picture, if you will, in a dank corner of a fairly run-down establishment, this veritable carcass of a Bugatti. The unmistakeable radiator was flanked by the empty sockets of what once had been the headlights. The cycle fenders were dented, sagging, and badly rusted. The body shell was so porous in places that a finger could be put through by poking… Continue reading
Stopping my Bugatti in a public place these days frequently brings forth the awful probe, “what’s it worth?” I never know quite how to reply, and usually try to duck the question. It’s not because I’m particularly shy; rather, I am ever appalled by what the traders and general inflation have done to vintage car values. You see, it gives me no real pleasure to know that my car is supposed to be too valuable to use on public roads, run in competitive events, or be parked in front of the IGA–all of which I very much like to do. I prefer to remember that I got the Bugatti for $150, and this is the story of how that came to pass.
In 1956 I was assigned to the American Embassy in Saigon, which, during my tour of duty there, was a pleasant and peaceful city. Soon after my arrival, I met David Mize. David had preceded me by about a year, during which he had managed to find not one but two Bugattis… Continue reading
We have all been waiting for the legendary sale of the Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti, or as my mom called it, that “little red car” of the auction. The Retro week was quite busy with three major auctions, but for sure Artcurial stole the show in a typically passionate French way. A large collection went under the hammer, and 80% sold for a total of €56 million, a European record, of which the 335 is claimed to be the world record for a motor car at auction. The 335 sold for €28 million, but with premium added, it actually yielded €32.1 million! A price unaffordable except for the few. Four automobiles were sold over a million, so enough ‘bargains’ still.
The big and black room downstairs was incredible and very very busy! The auctioneers knew how to fill the space with their voices/songs, and even if they made a mistake, I still like them. The 335 was one big spectacle. The lights were switched off and then… A movie started showing in full song the excitement of the 335. It took a while to… Continue reading
About 40 years ago, when still a student, I frequented the Saturday lunch of a group of jolly Bugatti enthusiasts. One of them told me how, in the early sixties, he had acquired his Bugatti T44 in France and that the owner had two. So, who knows, perhaps the other one might still be there, I thought.
The name of the village was not fully known, but with the World Atlas of Time Magazine, I figured out where this Bugatti might possibly be hiding.
The next summer, this was 1977, on a holiday trip, I stopped in the supposed village at around two in the afternoon, when everybody had dozed off to sleep. A small garage business in the main street was still open, and I walked in to ask if the good man knew if there was perhaps a Bugatti in the village? “Yes”, he said!
Dear me, could this really be true? “Drive down the main street a bit further and turn into a narrow dead end street on your left, and you will see… Continue reading
Since we were now in the barn find corner, I spotted another ‘dans son jus’. This was again a very special experience, because I saw two different worlds… On the left we see a Porsche 356 AT2 in excellent condition, while on the right we see the true ‘dans son jus’ 356. This is something that impressed me, and what you don’t see very often. Most special cars in this show I saw double or even triple, and I was not stoned! I saw a discrete ‘dans son jus’ E-Type between the other well restored E-Types on the stand of E-Type Center Europe. The ‘dans son jus’ look is something I really appreciate, and I hope we all will continue preserving rather than restoring everything to the finest detail. Although some cars can handle that perfectly restored look very good… like for instance our Delahaye 135M Chapron convertible super star.
Just around the corner, I saw an unfinished Mercedes 190 SL, a super sexy car that caught my attention. In the same corner, I saw a 1958 Porsche 356 A Cabrio, which told my to mint (mint green…) my own business. Well, sometimes you also meet cars with a grumpy attitude… I wonder if you must first complete a study to become a Porsche expert, because… Continue reading
As promised, here is a report about Interclassics Maastricht. It was my first time visiting this “Premiere Classic Car Show of the Benelux”, and I did not expect all that much, since Retromobile really is the holy exhibition for my dad and me. Earlier on I wrote you a report of Interclassics Brussels, which is a nice exhibition, but it needs to mature, which is not unusual for such a young show… So there I was with my lovely dad, the most popular day, Friday. In the parking it seemed that there was quite a crowd accompanying us. While entering the arena, a DB5 and a DB4 welcomed us with a tempting wink. I was already in trance ; )
Divided in three spacious halls, there was a wide range of stands and cars. Obviously you see that post-war sports cars are high in demand, especially the famous classic Porches 911, of course. Classic sports cars continue to gain compared with for instance prewar cars, because the mid-aged generation is now able to purchase their dream poster car that was once hanging above their beds when they were a kid. Not many of them may have had a poster of a 1947 Alfa 6… Continue reading
Oh my God, we have been discovered. Where is my wife? It took me minutes to recover, but it seemed ages… She was already talking to the apparently unfriendly guard with his dogs, explaining that we were not thieves and that we were advised to go into the yard by the nextdoor neighbour.
The yard attendant did not seem to be impressed at all by my wife’s story, but as he could clearly see my only tool was a camera, he let us escape. Phew…. That was an unpleasant experience.
Next year I decided to make my way back to Phill Passey’s yard to see what could be salvaged from the saloons. As usual on these sort of excursions, we took the trailer down as well.
On arriving at the yard we had no trouble finding the owner this time. We enquired about the MG SVW (SA, VA and WA models – Ed.) cars that we had seen in his yard in the past, but it seemed he couldn’t remember having any. “Ah”, he said, “You mean those large bangers?” And then: “we have had a fire, you see… Continue reading
I have always had a soft spot for rusty old saloons. Over the years I have collected several neglected MG VA saloons, put them back on the road and I was usually able to find a new owner who shared my feelings and wanted to care for it.
It is through this weakness that I came accross MG saloon with chassisnumber VA 0251, languishing in a barn in Suffolk. From then on I noticed a certain atmosphere around these, untill then unwanted, MG saloons. In a funny way I felt when there was an interesting history associated with the car.
It was the basis for my interest in the history of MG VA’s. Through VA 0251 I was pulled into the mysterious world of the past and from then on I sometimes started to see a kind of aureole around old VA saloons.
We went into a very small dusty and cold room filled with a delicious smell of old gas and oil. This so called ‘workshop’ was packed with work-benches, tools, shelves filled with books and wooden boxes all over the floor. While admiring this delightful mess, I noticed a wonderful Bugatti front axle on a work-bench, just like a hunting trophy. “Nice, isn’t it, I’ve just finished polishing it. I’ll show you my treasure, here is a crankshaft, here is another one, some clutch parts should be somewhere here and oh, did you see the engine block behind those shelves?” And so on… The man enumerated all these precious parts as if they were fruits and vegetables. The Bugatti man had been collecting… Continue reading
“An impressive story this is exiting till the end! As an Atalante myself, I love to read about one of my look-alike sisters ; )”
One day my father was called to make an appraisal for furniture and other pieces of art and as usual, I joined him. We arrived at a wonderful but faded Louis XVI style castle from the late 18th Century. As we entered the yard we were told that the client hadn’t arrived yet, which gave my father and me time to admire the wonderful small castle and two very nice period stone barns. The barns were closed by very heavy wooden doors. I did just what you expected me to do, I opened one of the doors to see what was hidden inside. As I looked into the dark barn, I saw a dusty and dirty car frame hanging on the wall. This frame looked familiar to me and I decided to inspect it more closely. My initial thought was that it looked very much like a Bugatti frame… Continue reading
I must make a confession while it is still 2015. I found something hidden in a church, a church find! Who doesn’t dream about finding a sleeping beauty hidden under dust and behind broken windows. I know you are a barn find junk too, so I need your help. Who can tell me which car this is? I looked for hours at the photo, but I can’t discover what it is.
But let me first tell you a nice and exciting story which will give you so much adrenalin, like I felt that moment. I was doing a prep drive with a friend just before the 100 Miles of Amsterdam when the friend told me about a place he knew with a mass of barn finds… Continue reading
Three months after I was born, I probably missed out on my only chance ever to buy a barnfind Bugatti. At least Sotheby’s thought so, when they took this beautiful T57 Atalante to auction in 1987. The auction catalogue literally said: ‘This must surely be one of the last Bugatti barn discoveries’. Boy, were they wrong! And every time a new Bugatti… Continue reading
“I like to present you again a very fine story from one of our CHB readers. After yesterday’s D8 Fernandez et Darrin (only details shown) we will now take a look at a true barn find D8. Is it the same D8 as yesterday’s…? Sadly not. There was no photograph attached to this story, but I found a stunning D8-120 roadster Devillars, a one-off, that might come close to the D8 of today’s story. If you know the car of the story below then please let me know in the comments”. – RAV
When I was a high school boy, in the mid to late 50s, we lived in a town called Stanningly near Leeds in West Yorkshire. In this town, there was a local auto wrecking yard and they had a… Continue reading
CHB stands corrected – the Mercedes 540K in yesterday’s article is a 1936 Special Coupé by Sindelfingen and not an Autobahn Kurier… Of the original Autobahn Kuriers only 6 were built, 4 on a 500K chassis and 2 on a 540K chassis. The car in the Arturo Keller collection, chassis 408336, ex prof. Barraquer, is believed to be the only remaining of those 6, although …? (read on). That doesn’t make yesterday’s article less fascinating and in this part 2 we continue this amazing story, still calling ‘our’ car an Autobahn Kurier for the sake of the great story!
My uncle and father definitely fell for the charms of the Autobahn Kurier, without knowing that it was one! They were impressed like they had never been before by any other car. They both began to convince their father to buy the car. Saying that my grandfather was interested, is an understatement! He simply was shaken by this apparition. He asked if the cars could be started… The Colonel told them that they… Continue reading
Get ready for a fine barn finding story from a great CHB reader! It is just awesome to see stories from my precious readers. Thank you so much Simon for this intriguing story! : ) If you also have such a great story, don’t hesitate to share it with CHB.
When I was a young boy (that was a long time ago), I was always waiting for the weekends, because on Sunday we used to go for lunch at my Grandparents’ home. After the meal my beloved grandfather, a great car enthusiast, always liked to tell us some fairytale-like car stories. I remember those moments very well. My father, my uncle and I suddenly got sparkling eyes when it came to listen to grandpa’s marvelous stories. Such as the story of his 16 valve Bugatti Brescia, that he owned for just one week, the Rolls Silver Ghost converted into a towing car, but the most appreciated and sought after tale was for sure the story of the Autobahn Kurier near the lake… Continue reading