Paris collectible car auctions

The Paris round of collector car auctions begins later this week, and in close to a perfect setting, the three tier 1 auctions are just some of Retromobile’s many highlights. The auctions run February 8 (RM-Sothebys), February 9 (Bonhams) and February 10 (Artcurial) and though the auction world record price won’t be under threat this year as it was last, some very important and wonderfully storied automobiles will grace the auction block this week.


1 – Nuvolari’s Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo Tipo B P3

Estimate: €3.8 to €5.0 million (US$4.1 to $5.4 million) | Auction Link

Look closely at this rare 1934 Alfa Romeo and on the bonnet you’ll see the Prancing Horse logo made famous by Ferrari Scuderia. More than a decade before Enzo Ferrari started making cars under his own name, he ran his own race team and became the pseudo Alfa Romeo works team. The car is an Alfa Romeo Tipo B P3, one of just seven built, the first single seater in Grand Prix racing, briefly dominant in it’s time, and the first to appear at auction for a decade.The car is even more significant when you realize it was campaigned by Scuderia Ferrari, and driven by Tazio Nuvolari, the pre-war equivalent of Juan Manuel Fangio and a contender for the best driver of all time. That’s Nuvolari below, with Enzo Ferrari seated on the pit apron. Understanding the celebrity status enjoyed by Nuvolari during the 1930s is difficult today, but in Europe he was a household name spoken with great reverence for his regular extraordinary feats of bravery and win-at-all-costs madness.

Many decades of his own team’s Grand Prix success, Enzo Ferrari still regarded Nuvolari as one of the best ever, proffering the names Tazio Nuvolari and Sterling Moss as the best he had seen. Ferdinand Porsche called Nuvolari “the greatest driver of the past, the present, and the future” and he was once described by leading Grand Prix driver Achille Varzi as “the boldest, most skilful madman of all.” There is no record of when Varzi made that famous quote, but as an off-track friend, sometimes team-mate and eternal on-track rival of Nuvolari, he bore witness to many of the legendary Nuvolari exploits.

F1-for-the-fans tells the story of the 1930 Mille Miglia, where Nuvolari led the race on time but was behind Varzi on the road: “In the dark of night Nuvolari tailed Varzi for tens of kilometres, at speeds up to 150 km/h (93 mph) with his headlights off, thereby being invisible in Varzi’s rear-view mirrors; ultimately switching on his headlights just before overtaking ‘the shocked’ Varzi near the finish at Brescia and scoring the event’s first win at over 100 km/h (62 mph).”

My favourite story about Nuvolari involves his rise through the ranks as a motorcycle racer where he was also a tearaway. In a high speed practice accident for the Monza Grand Prix, Nuvolari broke both legs, and awoke on Saturday night to find himself strapped like a mummy. The next morning, he had the doctor restrap him in the crouched position he required so he could ride a motorcycle, and he was allowed to start the main race from the back of the grid, as the bike needed to be held upright by his pit crew until the race was underway. Sure enough, Nuvolari rode through the field and won the race. What’s amazing is that there are countless stories like this about Nuvolari to choose from. He regularly broke bones, and seemed to bounce right back to his death-defying best immediately.


2 – 1965 Ferrari Dino Berlinetta Prototype by Pininfarina

This is the original prototype vehicle for the mid-engined Dino, later to become the Ferrari Dino, and will be sold 52 years after it first rocked the world in it’s debut at the Paris Motor Show in 1965. Since 1967, the car has been on display in the Musee de l’Automobile at Le Mans, and is now being sold. The full story of the history of this game-changing car is told well in the auction description. It isn’t just the first Dino prototype, but the first mid-engined Ferrari. Could blow through the estimate very easily. Worth watching.