Retromobile 2020: showcasing the unexpected

On Sunday 9th February, the 45th edition of Retromobile closed its doors, having brought together 620 exhibitors and more than 1,100 vehicles, spread over 3 halls and 75,000 m² of space.

This year, 122,000 people – enthusiasts, amateurs or people who were just curious – came to feast their eyes on these automotive treasures from France and the rest of the world. They came to gape in wonder at all the original exhibitions carefully prepared by the Show’s teams and exhibitors. They came to meet their favourite designers and pilots at special signings… or unearth spare parts, books, posters and equipment… or even vintage clothing!

And the unexpected common theme for this year’s show was… electric!

Although this form of power currently has centre stage in taking up today’s mobility challenges, it is far from new and it was even preferred to the internal thermal combustion engine before the end of the 19th century! Indeed, a number of manufacturers and exhibitors exhibited various electric hybrid models, telling a story that goes back to the very birth of the automobile. For its eagerly awaited return to Retromobile, Porsche showcased the very first hybrid vehicle at its stand – the «Semper Vivus», a vehicle that was unveiled at the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris. It placed it alongside the Porsche Taycan, which went into production in 2019.

«Semper Vivus» © Porsche
«Semper Vivus» © Porsche

Peugeot also presented a fully electric car – the VLV, only 377 of which were produced in 1941. Production ceased at the end of the war. A rare specimen!
The Fédération Française des Véhicules d’Époque went all out and opted for a stand that was electric through and through, with four electric cars and one electric scooter. And retrofitting was showcased at the Méhari Club Cassis stand: visitors got to see a retrofitted 2 CV and find out exactly how it had been converted.

The real stars of the show were around thirty of so farm tractors, exhibited by twelve manufacturers which currently make cars and heavy goods vehicles (Lamborghini, Porsche, Renault, Fiat, Mercedes-Benz and a number of others). Although these vehicles played a key role in people’s lives, they had been out of the spotlight for a long time, and this was the first time they had been showcased. One of them was Renault’s tracked Type HI, which got to celebrate its 100th birthday at this year’s show. A unique exhibition which also stirred up a number of moving memories of childhoods in the countryside…

Fiat Versatile © Pierre Perusseau
Fiat Versatile © Pierre Perusseau

Czech brand Tatra, a small manufacturer with a great history, piqued visitors’ curiosity with the documented round-the-world trip made by two Czech students in the 1950s and a replica of their vehicle the T87; there was also a Tatra 570, which greatly inspired Ferdinand Porsche in his design of the Beetle.

Tatra exhibition © Pierre Perusseau
Tatra exhibition © Pierre Perusseau

Also celebrated at this year’s show was Italian company Bertone, a major car styling and coachbuilding company for just over a century which was finally declared bankrupt in 2014. Bertone’s contribution to automobile history involved designing legendary cars, such as the Lamborghini Miura and Countach, as well as the Alfa Romeo Coupe Bertones. In partnership with the Automotoclub Storico Italiano (ASI), the show featured ten extraordinary prototypes including the 1969 Autobianchi Runabout, the 1976 Ferrari Rainbow and the 1988 Lamborghini Genesis. An outstanding exhibition made possible thanks to special permission granted by Italy’s Ministry for Cultural Assets and Activities.

Exposition Bertone © Pierre Perusseau
Exposition Bertone © Pierre Perusseau

Manufacturers were also represented, with original events – just like Renault Classic, which held Retromobile’s first participatory exhibition, with ten of the twelve models on show having been chosen by visitors to its website.

Stand Renault Classic © Pierre Perusseau
Stand Renault Classic © Pierre Perusseau

Škoda celebrated its 125th birthday with the 1908 Laurin & Klement BSC, the only surviving model of the twelve originally built. FCA Heritage showcased Alfa Romeo, celebrating 110 years of the make. Four different versions of the Volkswagen Kombi were shown at the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles stand – and proved extremely popular among visitors.

The 45th edition of Retromobile was also an opportunity for PSA to celebrate two jubilees: the Citroën GS’s and the legendary DS SM’s.

Stand Citroën © Pierre Perusseau
Stand Citroën © Pierre Perusseau

Without forgetting Bugatti, of course, which apart from exhibiting the extremely famous Bugatti Veyron and a superb Type 35, unveiled “La Maison Pur Sang”, its certification programme for its more recent models. Meanwhile, the Lamborghini Polo Storico showcased its unforgettable Miura, and Aston Martin Works exhibited a number of classic cars with pasts charged with emotion.

Stand Bugatti © Pierre Perusseau
Stand Bugatti © Pierre Perusseau

MOTUL, another major player in the automobile sector, provided visitors with two unique experiences at this year’s show: a pedal car race for children and an exhibition featuring a 1945 Renault AHS3 – nicknamed the “Vagabond”. The high performance lubricant specialist also showcased cars from the silver screen, with a Ford GT40 that featured in Ford v Ferrari and “Herbie”, the most temperamental Beetle ever to hit the road.

And because classic cars are not just for the rich, 200 cars worth under €25,000 went under the hammer as part of a special exhibition, in partnership with Catawiki. The two best automobile experts from Catawiki – the online auction site for collectible items – were on hand to offer advice.

Finally, Rétromobile 2020 was the starting point for a rather crazy adventure: “Three guys on their tobecs” who, in tribute to Georges Monneret and his sons, decided to see if they could get from Paris to Alpe d’Huez in under 13 hours and 45 minutes on their three motobecane D45s (the challenge was to travel from Paris to Alpe d’Huez – a distance of 670 km – in less time than it took the train or the coach in 1948). A challenge successfully met by Igor Biétry, Jean-Claude Amilhat and Thierry Dubois, who left at 10 PM on 5 February and arrived at 4:50 PM on 8 February!

Les «3 Mecs en Tobec», bien arrivés à l’Alpe d’Huez, le 8 février à 16h50
Les «3 Mecs en Tobec», bien arrivés à l’Alpe d’Huez, le 8 février à 16h50