Story and photos by Graham Gauld
It’s the first week of February, and to many that means Retromobile in Paris. This large motoring extravaganza is the meeting place of those who are in the know and looking for customers for their cars, as well as those who are there to drink in a truly diverse collection of cars, memorabilia and artifacts that never fail to produce some surprising items.
I have known the Stanguellini family for over fifty years, but this was the first occasion I have seen one of the 1100cc Fiat-engined berlinettas produced in the early 1950s. They were built as a short run of cars aimed at racing, with beautifully styled coachwork by Nuccio Bertone. As you can see from the photo it was very stylish for 1951 and at the Coppa Inter Europa that year, four of them took part, Manzini’s car finishing 8th in the 1100cc class. The one on show was on the Belgian Marreyt Classics stand with a price tag a shade over $180,000.
When it comes to Cisitalias, you again rarely see them offered for sale but at Retromobile there were actually two of them. What is more, they were both 202SC cabriolets. One was on the Marreyt stand finished in blue/grey and the other one on Dutchman Rudi Pas’s stand in cream.
However when it comes to unique cars, there were two that caught my eye. The first was the Conrero Alfa Spyder. Now, back when I first started going into Europe following races, the name Virgilio Conrero was legend. What this engineer did with Alfa Romeos was the stuff of dreams and he had a steady supply of customers.
In 1953 he was approached about an interesting project. Designer Giovanni Savonuzzi (link) of Ghia had a commission to design the body for a very special car to be called the Supersonic that was to run in the 1953 Mille Miglia. This stunning-looking car with its distinctive fluted body style had a Lancia Aurelia chassis and a 1900cc Alfa Romeo engine specially prepared by Conrero. The car looked wonderful, but early in the race it went off the road, caught fire and was destroyed. Conrero took the car back to his shop and decided to rebuild it as a Conrero spyder. Essentially it retained its Lancia chassis and 1900 Alfa Conrero-tuned engine but now fitted with a new body by Wilhelm Koren, a Norwegian designer who later became a designer with Rolls-Royce and Bentley.
Then on jovial French dealer Christoph Pund’s stand, I came across another interesting one-off. This was also an Alfa Romeo, but this time a Giulietta SV modified by Carlo Abarth with a flamboyant body style by the “Salvador Dali” of car designers, Luigi Colani. Swiss-born Luigi has produced some fantastic shapes on automobile chassis but this car, shown on the stand, did not start out that way.
Back in 1958, Bertone built an interesting berlinetta that was shown on their stand at the Turin show. Designed by Franco Scaglione it had an Abarth-tuned Giulietta Sprint engine and Porsche five-speed gearbox. Apparently three? of these were built and two of them were taken to the Avus ring for testing. They were crashed and then were sold to a German dealer, Schulze, who was a friend of Luigi Colani. Colani built up a car using all the Alfa and Abarth bits and some of the bodywork including the double bubble roof lin, then added his own signature pointed nose and sculpted tail. The car was later part of the Peter Kaus collection. So if you want an Alfa that is unique and certainly different here you have it.
I kept finding Abarths and on Yann Jules’ stand, CarClassic.com, I found another one that I recalled seeing in photographs in Road & Track, way back. This is a little gem of a car. A 750cc spyder with bodywork by Carrozzeria Allemano makes a change from the usual Zagato double-bubble berlinettas.
Some of the detail work is superb including the way the carb stacks stick out through the rear hood. At one time Greg Paris, the Abarth collector, owned this car and in the 1980s it was raced by Glenn Sipe before coming back to Europe.
Two stunning cars were shown by one of Europe’s greatest collectors, Evert Louwman. One was his 1910 Benz run by Prince Henry.
The other was this 1903 Dutch Spyker, which was the first six cylinder race car with a mighty 8.8 liter engine. It was also the first petrol driven racer with four wheel drive and the first with four wheel brakes.