by Rob Alen

The 2019 Salon Retromobile was the 44th edition. It is a winter classic car extravaganza and is more than what goes on at the Porte de Versailles exposition hall.

Bonhams has been an auction house since 1793. They have been present during Retromobile for the last eight years and are ensconced in the glorious Grand Palais, which opened for the Universal Exposition of 1900.

A glass vaulted ceiling and Art Nouveau architectural details add inescapable drama to the cars. Free public previewing is early Thursday morning. Afterward, you can slip over to the Paris Aston Martin dealer behind the building or have an espresso at the cozy Le Victory, both on rue du Franklin D. Roosevelt. The RM Sotheby's auction partnership has presented in Paris since 2014. Erecting a tent at Place Vauban, named after Napolean's military planner and within eye shot of the Eiffel Tower.

Public preview is the day before the auction, so you can inspect and decide what you would like to take home.

The Musee Rodin is a short walk away.

Auctioning at Retromobile is the French house Artcurial, based in Paris. Their administrative office is a mansion not far from the Grand Palais. Limited space forced cars being jammed together like a Southern California Beach Boulevard used car lot.

After all, we are talking about used cars. Today, old cars have become investment instruments. As one Retro classic car exhibitor made point, they are "last of its kind." And the less of its kind, the more money they may be worth.

This year Bonhams sold three cars of a million dollars and 77% of their lots. Artcurial sold the most expensive car, a 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B for 16,475,000 euros. RM/Sotheby's sell-through rate was 79%. Anecdotally it felt this year was a time to buy, not to sell.

So why is Salon Retromobile important? It remembers another time of romance and myth, skill and adventure, champagne with a beautiful woman; childhood and adolescent dreams. Go to the 45th.

PARIS DOSSIER... Coming to Paris' Salon Retromobile in February, the city is full of...Parisians. As a visitor you can feel like a local. It is also at the tag end of Paris' January sales where stores clear out merchandise.

In better weather, the Musee Montmartre and Musee le vie Romantique have secret secluded garden courtyards and small cafes worth a visit reliving Paris history and myth.

Paris has its share of car model shops:
BAM Boutique Auto Moto carries Spark models, 6 rue des Halles, 75001.

EOL Modelisme has a little bit of everything, 3 rue du Louvre, 75001.
It is down the block from the Louvre and is across the street from the Duluc Detective Agency, depicted in Woody Allen's 2011 "Midnight in Paris" movie.

An obscure shop, Galerie du Jouet Ancien, 8 rue des Grand Augustins 75006. Look for "Minialuxe" over the door. It is almost like a scavenger hunt to find it, but next door is Relais Louis XIII, it has one Michelin star and is open for lunch, weekdays.

For aviation buffs, consider Farman Aviation, 122 rue de Bac, 75007. Big aviation bits-and-pieces. Near the Le Bon Marche. (

Contact Rob Alen at

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