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Epoqu’Auto in Lyon, 2013

by pete on January 7, 2014

Story and Photos by Thomas Bromehead

Next month everyone will be headed to Paris for Retromobile, France’s largest classic car show. But last November 8-10, 50,000 people attended France’s second largest event, Epoqu’ Auto. No newcomer, the event celebrated its 35th anniversary and now boasts more exhibitors than even the fabled Retro.

Ah yes, Lyon, not Paris. Lyon is a city steeped in history. France’s second largest city traces its roots all the way back to the Roman Empire in 43 BC, when it was it was founded with the Latin name of Lugdunum. Lyon became very rich in the middle ages as it grew into a commercial hub between nearby Italy and Switzerland. The manufacture of silk by the workers called “Canuts” in the hilly borough of “la Croix-Rousse” also brought huge wealth to the city. In the last century, Lyon gradually became France’s chemical industry mecca.

Stunning lighting effects in Lyon are feature on December 8th of each year.

Lesser-known was Lyon’s very active automotive industry with manufacturers such as Berliet, Roland-Pillain and La Buire achieving noteworthy success. Lyon is also famous for the December 8th lights show, where a huge part of the city is lit up in a fantastic sound and light show. Its charm also stems from the Saône and Rhône rivers meeting here on the Rhône’s way to the Mediterranean.

Porsche 959 built for the Dakar Rally was on exhibit.

This year’s event was themed around the 911s 50th anniversary with a superb stand courtesy of Porsche France and the Porsche Museum of Stuttgart. Notable was the presence of the ex-Dick Barbour (1978 Le Mans, 1979 24 hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring) Porsche 935 as well as the 1986 ex-Paris-Dakar winning 959 (at the hands of Frenchman René Metge).

Fifty years of French Coachbuilders were also a theme of this year's show. Here is a Delahaye 135 by Saoutchik.

Fifty years of French Coachbuilders, 1920-1970

One of the other main themes was French coachwork. The Fédération Française des Voitures d’Epoque (FFVE) is currently working with the UNESCO for French coachwork to be recognized as part of the world heritage. Among the 26 coach-built wonders on display on the nearly 8000 sq. ft stand were numerous Delahayes, Delages and Hotchkisses and other wonders from Binder, Gangloff, Labourdette, Kellner, Dubos or Letourneur et Marchand. This stand was a favorite among the crowd and the FFVE had the good idea of inviting Hubert Haberbush, who is a master-restorer in Strasbourg and regularly helps out at the Cité de l’Automobile Schlumpf in Mulhouse.

Rear side view of the Saoutchik Delahaye.

Delahaye 135 M by Figoni and Falaschi.

Rear of the 135 shows more of the restrained and elegant lines of the Figoni et Falaschi.

1951 Delahaye 135 MS bodied by Figoni and Falaschi. This was the last F&F bodied 135 and hints in more ways than on to the new 235. This car was on display on famed restorer Yann Carat’s stand.

The last Figoni et Falaschi 135 also deserves a second look. Kinda Buick but very nice.

A Delahaye 135 Bearn cabriolet by Guilloré undergoing restoration not surprisingly drew everyone's attention.

1937 Delage D6 70 by Letourneur et Marchand.

Hispano-Suiza H6C bodied by Vanvooren. The owners drove 600 kilometres overnight from Southwestern France and made it to Lyon without any issues. Correct that, they ran out of gas on the parking lot!


Peugeot 184 Sleeveless engine landaulet by Labourdette. The same engineers who engineered the Knight-licensed, Panhard-built sleeveless engines had been hired by Peugeot, who built thirty of these 184s.

One of 7 Chapron-built “Mylord SM Cabriolet” made it just under the era wire.

Osenat Auction

Epoqu’Auto also played host to French auction house Osenat’s second sale at the show. It was held on Sunday and featured a remarkable collection of automobilia, as assembled over the years by Lucien Loreille, a collector from Lyon. A great looking and very rare Ford Comète Monte Carlo (bodied by Facel, 4l Ford v8) sold for 55, 000€ excluding buyer’s premium and found a new home in New England. These cars were on par with the Talbot-Lagos T26 GSL or Delahaye 235s in the 50’s.


The 1934 Fernandez & Darrin Rolls-Royce 20/25, chassis GRC26, sold for 190,000€ hammer price, slightly under the 200,000€ lower estimate. (Osenat photo).


French oddities included a Panhard Dynamic Limousine from 1939, part of a batch of 40 such cars ordered by the French Army for its higher officials. This car featured the “Sans-Soupapes”, Knight-licence sleeve-valve engine of 3.8 liters displacement and was restored from the ground-up by an enthusiast from Lyon.

The automobilia totted up over 60,000€ hammer price, with such rarities as O.M., Chiribiri, Itala, Bizzarrini, Maserati, pre-war Alfa or Ferrari documentation. A superb collection of every issue of La Vie de l’Automobile from 1906 to 1955 sold for 3500€. An ultra-rare 1947 Ferrari catalogue presenting the 159S, sold as a “166 Inter” reached 4600€ (hammer price).

Trucks of the Sahara

A huge area was devoted to the Saharian expeditions of the 1920’s and 1930’s that French manufacturers embarked on to prove their trucks’ ruggedness and reliability. The foundation Berliet was instrumental in putting this stand together, and it was a favorite among the crowd, thanks to the very high standard of all vehicles on display.


This Delahaye 104 truck was one of three supplied by the manufacturer to the Prince de Sixte- Bourbon Parme for his trip from Alger to Lake Chad and back from January 26th to April 26th 1929.


This ‘sports-roadster’ from French make Cottin-Desgouttes was amusingly dubbed the ‘sans-secousses’ (bump proof) because of its four wheel independent suspension. This particular example featured a 2.6 liter inline 6 with 18 valves and was entered in the 1930 Sahara run by the manufacturer for the 100th anniversary of French-governed Algeria.

Another desert veteran, the Latil PB2 from 1932.

Vendor’s odd’s ends

Most of the exhibitors we spoke to keep coming here as Lyon’s privileged location gives them a great opportunity to meet with foreign customers and southern French ones. The majority of them said they sold at least one car at the show. Below, a fraction of the interesting cars on sale at Epoqu’Auto.


Slightly awkward in green livery, this Alfa 1900 with Abarth intake, exhaust manifolds and silencer was on Christophe Grohe’s stand.


Also on Christophe Grohe’s stand was a Lancia Lambda.


Castels Automobiles had a sleek and highly-original looking Voisin C14 which they sold on the way to the show for around 100,000€.


Castels also had a skiff bodied Rochet-Schneider, another famous make from Lyon.

Retrolegends of the Netherlands also had some very interesting machinery on their stand, among which was a super-rare 1913 Metz Model 22 with pressure-drive, listed at 28 500€. Exactly how this works I don’t know…!

About the author:
Thomas Bromehead was raised on the US West Coast but moved to France and obtained a Master’s of Automotive Marketing from the ISCAM in Le Mans. He is now working for Osenat Auctions as a classic car consultant and marketing specialist. He is restoring an Alfa Romeo 75.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

J.Phillip Bandy January 7, 2014 at 12:45 pm


Fantastic..”Epoq” Have not been there, but this year is my 29th year for Retromobile, the Delahaye’s remind of my days in Paris (21years old) driving my l949 Type 175 Figoni Delahaye through the streets of Paris (After a few cognac’s) with French girls smoking “Gitanes” sitting beside “moi’ and/or the only one in world Franay bodied Talbot Lago GS (l951 and now in Austria)…ah oui, now all I have is an ole 2CV (2) and a “Semi epave (Half wreck)” Salmson…but, but a nice 2300s Salmson soon coming from France…At least I have “experience” the Delahaye/Talbot….even if one is sitting in Peter Mullin’s museum and/or Clive Cluser’s museum….they have never had the emotional experience of having a piston blow with racing a Delahaye 235 on the “La Autoroute de l’Oest” coming out of St Cloud from Paris……ah oui, a moveable feast, that someone said……….

And oh yes…my Panhard 24Bt……Vive la Panhard


Bromehead January 7, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Mister Bandy,
You are among a select few to have lived this golden age of motoring history.
Sortir de la Porte de Saint Cloud up the hill from Issy on your way to blowing a piston, ça devait être quelque chose!
La Panhard 24, quelle drôle de boîte de vitesse!

Chris Martin January 7, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Interesting story and great photos of some lesser seen classics, thanks.
The Saoutchik and Figoni Delahayes and the like I never tire of seeing.
The Panhard Dynamic too was always a favourite, but I had never seen a Limousine before.
The Rochet Schneider I would like to see more photos of as I am on the trail of a mid-twenties restoration case.
As for the Metz, the so called ‘pressure-drive’ refers to it’s gearless friction driven transmission. It was a simple design where the circumferential edge of the driven (output) wheel can be moved across the face of the flywheel which was covered in a friction lining. Thus, the further out from the center, the faster the output speed. Very simple, very efficient in the day. We have a Metz in our local museum, but I have recently also examined a 1908 Schacht ‘High-Wheeler’ which had a similar arrangement.
Anyway, Lyon is now added to my list of ‘must see’ events.

Ken Nelson January 7, 2014 at 10:11 pm

Interesting that the Metz pressure drive finally gravitated to the Snapper lawnmowers with the variable speed drive consisting of the same mechanism – a shaft with one disc on it pressing on another disc at right angles to it, and the variation in speed ratio of one shaft to the other being the distance from the center of the output disc of the input disc. Input disc on center of driven one, and there is no relative movement. As the input moves outward and spins, it goes from a high ratio to a lower one at the perimeter of the output disc – like a variable pulley drive.
Reminds me of the Buick Dynaflow I took drivers ed. in -

Thomas Bromehead January 8, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Hi gentleman,
Great, this is what makes VT such an amazing place for enthusiasts, comments like these are generally the norm here and much help to a 26 year old like myself!
@Chris Martin: Where are you from then Chris? For more information on the Rochet which was bodied by a Lyon coachworker called Billetier & Cartier, check out the restorations on the dealer/restoration workshop’s website: http://www.tolier-formeur.fr/projetrestauration.php
And yes, make sure you come to Lyon, it’s really worth the visit!
@Ken Nelson: the Buick Dynaflow had a similar system, is that what’s inferred?

Chris Martin January 9, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Thomas, I am in Australia, 100kms south of Sydney on the NSW coast.
The Rochet-Schneider is a local restoration case that is worth saving.
If it ever happens, the saga will be on VT. I have not got around to checking who built the body, but it was most likely an Australian maker, Properts, Steenbhom, Martin & King and the like – possibly even Holden. There were hundreds working in the twenties as tariffs made it expensive to import complete cars. Bodying imported chassis created employment in all major cities.
As for the Dynaflow, this was an automatic transmission with a torque converter introduced by Buick for the 1948 model year and has nothing in common with the early friction-drive system used by Metz and others, except for it’s smooth apparently shiftless operation.

peter marshall January 10, 2014 at 6:43 am

I have been trying to contact J (Jim) Phillip Bandy for about 10 years. The address etc. that I had no longer works. Is there any chance of you forwarding my e-mail to him (or to receive his e-mail?)
merci beaucoup.


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