Home » Here Are The Wildest Cars Being Auctioned At France’s Amazing Retromobile Car Show

Here Are The Wildest Cars Being Auctioned At France’s Amazing Retromobile Car Show

Maserati Fire Engine Topshot
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While the Retromobile car show in France largely flies under the radar of North American enthusiasts, it’s said to be one of the craziest car shows on the planet. Imagine Monterey Car Week but a billion times weirder, and you’re on the right track. Unsurprisingly, it also has an auction, and even among properly exotic machinery, some vehicles up for grabs stand out for incredibly obvious reasons.

The 2024 auction is coming up, starting Feb. 2, and the lot list is full of vehicles you genuinely won’t find anywhere else, from a Maserati fire engine to a homebuilt single-seater with a twin-supercharged radial two-stroke engine. We’re talking oddities of the highest caliber, many of which have price tags to match.

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Thankfully, you won’t have to wade through the full catalog, because I’ve picked out some of the more unique vehicles up for grabs. However, it’s still worth perusing the entire lot list, because it’s full of some genuinely brilliant cars, tractors, and motorcycles.

1967 Maserati Quattroporte Fire Truck

Maserati Fire Engine

Estimated price: €150,000 to €250,000

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Fire engines and speed typically don’t go together. However, that didn’t stop a few dedicated Italians from making what might just be the best fire truck of all time. This is a 1967 Maserati Quattroporte, manual gearbox and all, that Carrozzeria Grazia turned into a fully functional fire response vehicle. Best of all, this isn’t just some publicity stunt, it’s an actual emergency vehicle used on Italian motor circuits, reportedly for Grands Prix. According to the auction listing, it was on duty through the end of the 1970s, and that’s undeniably rad.

According to the Retromobile auction listing, if it weren’t for one enthusiast, this car might no longer exist. In 1987, it was reportedly saved from the scrapheap, then changed hands a few times before an extensive and expensive-sounding six-year full restoration was carried out after 2011. Sure, an estimated hammer price of between €150,000 and €200,000 euros isn’t cheap, but where are you finding another one of these?

1958 Lamborghini Tractor With Freaking Tracks

Lamborghini Tractor Retromobile

Estimated price: €40,000 to €60,000

Just when you thought the LM002 was the most badass, Rambo-esque Lamborghini ever made, out of the woodwork comes a tracked machine from 1958. While not strictly a car as such, this three-wheeled, two-tracked, steering wheel-less Lamborghini tractor makes a Urus look like a Toyota RAV4 for a fraction of the current Lambo SUV’s price. Rodeo Drive ain’t ready for something like this.

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Believe it or not, this is reportedly a prototype, one of ten made. According to the auction listing, the front tire is removable, and the rear axles are said to turn the tracks. Presumably, this steers like any tracked vehicle, but that doesn’t make it any less insane. If you want front-of-house parking, get this Lamborghini, because it’s practically guaranteed to befuddle valets.

2017 Maserati Touring Sciadipersia

Maserati Touring Sciadipersia

Estimated price: €330,000 to €400,000

For the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, coachbuilding company Touring decided to do something wild and re-body a Maserati GranTurismo with inspiration from the Shah of Iran’s Maserati 5000 GTs. The result was this blue 454-horsepower coupe that looks like nothing anyone’s ever seen before. I’m not going to say it’s good design, but it is incredibly striking, a rolling monument to questionable taste. Whoever buys this is one interesting person, as this sort of money buys many cars, but few that will make some people salivate and others do the technicolor yawn.

1987 Fiat 126 Giannini GP 650

Retromobile 126

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Estimated price: €15,000 to €25,000

Finally, something reasonably priced. Hot hatches are great when they’re small, and it’s hard to get much smaller than this. The Fiat 126 is a beloved Italian people’s car, and this particular version takes things up a notch. Like Abarth, Giannini tuned Fiats, and this one was heavily massaged, with improvements including a power bump from 23 to 30 horsepower, wider arches, turbine-style wheels, and a particularly dashing set of stripes. The resulting Giannini GP 650 looks fantastic, and promises to be a little ball of fun wherever it goes. Alright, maybe not so much fun on American freeways, but you get the idea. Over the course of its life, it’s actually been upgraded further, and is now claimed to produce 35 horsepower. That’s a 52 percent increase over stock!

1964 René Bonnet Djet III Coach Multitubulaire

Retromobile Djet

Estimated price: €80,000 to €100,000

While the Alpine A110 is a widely-known and beloved French sports car thanks to media like Gran Turismo 4, the René Bonnet Djet flies under the radar, an unusual featherweight that extracted a lot from a little. Sure, this Djet III only made 80 horsepower, but it weighed very little thanks to a tubular spaceframe encased in plastic, resulting in a claimed top speed of 108 mph.

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This particular Djet III reportedly has an interesting past. The Retromobile auction description claims that in 1982, it was bought by someone who sold Djets when they were new. The goal? Motorsports. Sadly, the car had an off in 1986 and sat dormant for decades, before a restoration birthed it from the ashes. You know that old car near you that’s seemingly left for dead despite the owner claiming they’ll fix it up someday? There’s a slim, but non-zero chance they aren’t bluffing.

1939 Guidobaldi ‘Guidomobile’ monoplace

Guidomobile

Estimated price: €260,000 to €360,000

Normally, cars meant for racing aren’t massively weird. For most of modern history, they’ve been built to rulebooks, often with more restrictions on performance-enhancing features than standard road cars. However, go back to a time when the world had bigger problems, say 1939, and things get strange. I’ll let the Retromobile auction listing for this thing make the introduction.

To power this machine, Francois Guidobaldi built an 8-cylinder star-shaped 1,357 cc two-stroke engine, with dual ignition, powered by a carburettor designed by him associated with two Roots-type compressors which he claimed it could produce 180 hp at 6,500 rpm.

I’m sorry, what? That is an absolutely bonkers powertrain that just ticks all the weird car boxes. Dual-supercharged? Radial eight-cylinder mounted horizontally? Two-stroke? Tiny displacement? How long did this thing take to make? As it turns out, work started in 1939, with builder Guidobaldi even building his own engine foundry, but it took decades to develop, to the point that Guidobaldi reportedly didn’t live to finish his magnificent machine. The Guidomobile is glorious lunacy and craftsmanship to the highest order. Yes, it’s going to be expensive, but it makes anything else you can buy for the money seem incredibly dull.

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Of course, the Retromobile auction includes more typical high-end fare like Bugattis and Ferraris, but it won’t ever let you forget that it’s one of the weirdest and best classic car auctions on the planet. Oh, and even if you aren’t looking to buy, I hear the Retromobile show is a spectacle on its own. Someday, we’ll get to Paris and check it out in person. Someday.

[Ed Note: Just to reiterate how absurdly enormous this auction is, here are some screenshots of a few more vehicles hitting the block:

Screen Shot 2024 01 23 At 12.44.19 Pm Screen Shot 2024 01 23 At 12.46.42 Pm Screen Shot 2024 01 23 At 12.47.23 Pm

Check out the full humongous list here. -DT]

(Photo credits: Artcurial)

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67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
1 month ago

I’ll have the Rolls Royce Woody and the Fiat 126 please.

World24
World24
1 month ago

Besides that poor Gran Turismo, the other ones are odd, quirky, and genuinely interesting.
I’m loving the Maserati fire truck too though!

Jj
Jj
1 month ago

I was under the impression that radial engines always had to have an odd number of cylinders.

Xpumpx
Xpumpx
1 month ago

The “1964 René Bonnet Djet III Coach Mutiltubulaire” looks like somebody stepped on its butt.

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
1 month ago

Yeesh! I just ran some quick numbers and, taking two or maybe two and a half days off, I can get to Paris for about $100 if I’m willing to accept some risk and do the whole trip for about $500. And boy is it tempting.

Vee
Vee
1 month ago

The Guidobaldi is a prime example of the insane engineering of grand touring grand prix cars of the 1930s. For all of the ones that we do know, thanks to how record keeping was done before the FIA came along in the 1940s, there are still about half of all examples missing. The French and Germans were in direct and sometimes volatile competition (take the Delage D6 V12 and Mercedes-Benz W125 which both were supercharged giants with a penchant for exploding violently) throughout the entire decade for the European Championship and everyone else was creating freakish monstrosities to try and keep up. Many of these one-offs were only ever written down as their engine or chassis manufacturer, leaving no model number or custom designation. Even worse is that the known storage locations and building garages of some of the French and Italian cars were specifically targeted by the Germans for bombing runs. World War II stunted twenty years of engineering progress thanks to these unique cars being dismantled for recycling or just outright destroyed.

OCS-BN
OCS-BN
1 month ago

The oddball engine aside, the Guidobaldi actually has a tilting body.

https://oldmachinepress.com/2021/04/20/guidobaldi-1939-tilting-body-prototype-racer/

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago
Reply to  OCS-BN

Neat!

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
1 month ago

Twin supercharged vertical crank 8 cylinder radial two stroke?

Yep, that’s weird. And utterly glorious. Thank you.

I’ve sent it to all my powertrain friends telling them to try harder.

I’m going to start work on designing an 8 rotor twin crank hot V Wankel when I get home.
If I make the rotors small enough I think I can keep the power down to 400bhp.

Jj
Jj
1 month ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

I think there is already a marine engine in a similar configuration.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
1 month ago
Reply to  Jj

When we sit around talking bollocks about weird engines at work we find that pretty much all the weirdest stuff was already tried in aero engines during WW2.

Even down to using radiator heat to generate thrust.

Jj
Jj
1 month ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

Here’s the one I was thinking of. 12 Rotors. Every reference I find keeps talkign about this being built in someone’s garage, but they were definitely trying to sell it. I saw it on display at a boat show.

https://altdriver.com/gearhead/this-12-rotor-wankel-engine-will-blow-you-away/

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
1 month ago
Reply to  Jj

All I get from that link is:
“We appreciate your interest in our content. Unfortunately at this time, we are unable to allow international traffic or online transactions.”

That’s the first message I’ve seen like that on the internet since the internet was invented. What an odd way to limit access.

Jj
Jj
1 month ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

I notice quite a few sites won’t work through a VPN. I have to turn it off to check autotrader.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
1 month ago
Reply to  Jj

I’m in the UK. I really wish I could turn off being in the UK.

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
1 month ago

> improvements including a power bump from 23 to 30 horsepower

BLISTERING SPEEDS

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
1 month ago

Perhaps the strangest thing about the Guidomobile is that the radial engine has an even number of cylinders. Virtually all aircraft radials have an odd number.

OCS-BN
OCS-BN
1 month ago
Reply to  OrigamiSensei

It’s a two-stoke engine, which means that each cylinder fires on every revolution. Any number of cylinders can provide even firing. Not so on a four-stroke radial. Since a four-stroke fires every second revolution, it is necessary to have an uneven number of cylinders (per row, if we’re including multiple row radials) in order to achieve even firing. Even firing means, that the angle of rotation between each firing event is even. Odd firing engines tend to be running harsh and can get you into all kinds of issues with torsional vibration.

Oh, and regarding the Roots blowers: Those are not there to boost power. They are simply a necessity for scavenging. In a radial two-stroke, the pistons can’t provide crankcase scavenging.

BTW, my favorite radial-powered race car is the Monaco Trossi:
https://oldmachinepress.com/2012/09/01/1935-monaco-trossi/

Last edited 1 month ago by OCS-BN
Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
1 month ago
Reply to  OCS-BN

I imagine an 8 cylinder 2-stroke sounding like a suburban neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon.

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
1 month ago
Reply to  Balloondoggle

Go look up some video of a Detroit Diesel 8V72 running and you can find out for yourself! 🙂

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
1 month ago
Reply to  OCS-BN

Thanks for the information – I did not know about the two-stroke part and that makes sense.

Brent Walker
Brent Walker
1 month ago

Holy shit that Fiat 126…i bet that is one of the funnest cars to drive in the world. I ache for it.

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 month ago

I must get to Retromobile.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 month ago

A Maserati capable of putting out its own engine fire.

What WILL they think of next?

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

And still not reliable enough to make it to the site of the fire

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
1 month ago
Reply to  Harvey Park

This is not getting enough love. I definitely laughed.

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
1 month ago

What sort of auction doesn’t even have ONE Chevelle SS454? Did Carroll Shelby even sign any of these cars? And I want to see the Marti report on that Guidomahoozits. Get off my lawn!

Last edited 1 month ago by DialMforMiata
Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago

That is not a Fire truck.
I know what a early Jewish Space Laser looks like when I see one, even if I am from Georgia.

your friend MTG.

Last edited 1 month ago by Col Lingus
Bruce Larson
Bruce Larson
1 month ago

I was lucky enough to have a work trip line up with Retromobile once. As noted, it has the craziest stuff. I’ve lost my photos from the trip, but I’ll never forget this guy:

https://cdn.carbuzz.com/gallery-images/original/61000/600/61671.jpg

I also saw three Miuras, three Stratos, and a whole display of Alpine racing cars. Highly recommended.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bruce Larson
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
1 month ago
Reply to  Bruce Larson

Is that the car that ‘poops’ weird creamy shit as it’s party trick?

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
1 month ago

For the scatologists among us: https://youtu.be/t8EKPGXoDqI

Last edited 1 month ago by Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Harvey Park
Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  Bruce Larson

That swan car is incredible. What’s the story?

Thxcolm
Thxcolm
1 month ago

Or we could have the fire truck James May drove in Top Gear.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
1 month ago

There’s a lovely Ferrari 250 GTE in black with a red interior, if anyone is stuck for something to buy me.

WaxhawFive
WaxhawFive
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Solid choice.

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Good choice, but I will go anti-black, and go for the white DS cabriolet.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
1 month ago

I saw that but couldn’t live with the white. Wrong choice for that car.

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Personally I would want it in green, like the Pee Wee Herman movie version. But with only 1700 ever made, I’d take any color I could get.

Live2ski
Live2ski
1 month ago

1958 Lamborghini Tractor With Freaking Tracks? AWWWWWESOME!!!!

AssMatt
AssMatt
1 month ago

The Maserati says it houses a “water reserve.” Water is heavy! I bet that’ll dampen its responsiveness.

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  AssMatt

> dampen

Heh

If a car is on a lift half the time, can you even tell it’s lost responsiveness?

Rapgomi
Rapgomi
1 month ago

The Maserati Touring Sciàdipersia is beautiful! And the slightly retro interior is great. I’ll admit it has some odd touches, but nothing that should make anyone call it “a rolling monument to questionable taste”.

All René Bonnets are sadly underappreciated.

That Guidobaldi Monoplace is absolutely astonishing! The car and its backstory sound worthy of a whole article in and of itself.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rapgomi
Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
1 month ago

That Maserati fire engine would make perfect alpha and omega pair with one of the Morris Minor fire engines built for BMC’s factories.
I also really like the Fiat 126 as the Italian version of a hot Kei car

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