Geneva Classics Show
The brainchild of a group of Swiss collectors, this new event was held in the same Palexpo complex which hosts the Geneva Motor Show, adjacent to the airport which made access easy from most European cities. On the tarmac outside were an evocative selection of a dozen or so historic aircraft which had flown in for the occasion, ranging from a WW2 B25 bomber through a Catalina seaplane (which landed on Lake Geneva for perhaps the last time a few hours earlier), a rare twin propeller Spitfire, a 1950s Vampire jet fighter and a Constellation airliner from the same period. The B25, the sound of which has to be heard to be believed (it's just passed over our offices on its way home), is the only one of its kind flying in Europe and is even available for pleasure trips (you can sit in the nose gunner's plexiglass bubble if you want!).
Left: A rare sight- the 1941 B25 bomber making a low pass over the Geneva skyline
Right: The gorgeous and much admired Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione
Inside the main exhibition hall, which seemed light and airy compared to the Retromobile event upon which it was modeled, seventy or so exhibitors showcased some wonderful automobiles. Highlights included the Pininfarina stand with the whacky 1970 Modulo show car and 1965 Dino prototype on display; Alfa Romeo brought a pre-war 8C 2300 Touring Spyder to accompany their latest 8C Competizione Spyder model (appearing in the showrooms next year as a limited edition coupe for €132,000 plus taxes); Ferrari were plugging their new 'Ferrari Classiche' business division with a modern F.1 car, a 750 Monza and a lovely emerald green 275GTS; Porsche had a long and low Le Mans winning, Martini liveried 936 and a 906; Chopard displayed their boss's Ferrari Monza, a 1950s F.1 of the same marque and some lovely watches, whilst fellow Swiss watchmaker Girard Perregaux used the opportunity to launch a lovely book chronicling the Maranello marque's early years, 'Ferrari by Mailander', illustrated by company owner Gino Macaluso's father-in-law Rodolfo Mailander.
Left: Ex-Schumacher F.1 Ferrari takes pride of place on the factory stand
Right: Chopard's Ferrari 500
On the trade stands, veteran Swiss dealer Lukas Huni had his usual selection of rare machinery including a beautifully patinated 12 cylinder Grand Prix Delage, a genuine Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Zagato Spyder, a much admired Lancia Aurelia B24 Spyder America, a handsome two tone Pinin Farina bodied Ferrari coupe and, for enthusiasts of more modern exotica, a slate grey Ferrari Enzo. Before you ask, though, most of the cars weren't for sale...
Dutch dealer Jack Braam-Ruben showed a two-tone green Bugatti Type 57 Atalante and sold a mid-engined Tatra for a new record price, whilst Hamburg-based Eberhard Thyssen found a buyer for a Mercedes-Benz 540K rebodied in the style of a Special Roadster (for just over a million Euros). Restorer Erich Pichler from nearby Gstaad brought along an immaculate lemon yellow '63 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster and a tangerine '73 Porsche Carrera RS to showcase his firm's skills (the cars aren't for sale, his skills are) next to the bare skin of an alloy Gullwing under restoration and the lattice framework upon which it fits.
Left: Ferrari powered- hydroplane from the days when record breakers were very brave (and seldom old)
Right: Auctioneer Peter Bainbridge gets into his stride during The Sportscar Auction
Left: Auctioneer Peter Bainbridge gets into his stride during The Sportscar Auction
Right: Kidston SA showed a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
Some wonderful boats, mostly wooden, had been found by the show organizers including a cigar shaped replica of the Baby Bootlegger famous in Prohibition-era America, plus a complete set of Italian racing car engined hydroplanes from the 1950s including both Ferrari and Maserati propelled examples. Rivas proved very popular with Ariston, Super Tritone and brand new offerings attracting a great deal of favourable comment.
Left: Rarissima Serenissima
Right: Our stand mimicked a 1950s Le Mans pit (but with better refreshments!
The Bern based firm backed by father and son collectors Erich and Christian Traber, The Sportscar Auction Company chose the Geneva Classics show to return to the auction scene after a 15 year absence. In the late 1980s and early '90s their American influenced sales at the lakeside La Reserve hotel in Geneva were famous for their showmanship and the record prices paid, complete with tuxedo and sneaker shod bid spotters and incomprehensible auctioneer. For their return performance, they chose to link up with RM and in just 3 months assembled a decent selection of cars, many of which came from the Traber family's own collection. The feature Lot was one of these, a steel bodied Ferrari 250GT SWB which had some early racing history (23rd overall at the famous 6 Hours of Auvergne...) but had unfortunately lost its original engine many years ago. Presented in workmanlike condition and with the benefit of an expensive Ferrari supplied new engine block (now that's marketing), this handsome berlinetta was hammered as sold by RM auctioneer Peter Bainbridge at SFR.2million plus premium, in line with expectations and exactly on the money in today's market. Second highest seller was the voluptuous Ghia bodied FIAT 8V 'Supersonica', a striking design more suited to the concours lawn than the Mille Miglia but no less desirable because of it. This rare early 1950s jewel was sold to a North American collector bidding via his agent in the room for a mid-estimate SFR.520,000 plus premium. Elsewhere in the sale, the non-matching numbers Ferrari Lusso failed to find a buyer as did the traditionally liveried BMW 507 roadster, both hindered by bullish estimates despite being models very much in vogue at present.
Overall this was a high quality show which attracted 'the right crowd and no crowding', with many of Europe's foremost collectors seen leisurely wondering between the stands and representatives of the major classic motoring magazines spotted enjoying a weekend abroad too. Hats off to the organizers and we recommend you plan a visit next year: you could even charter a B25 to fly there.