French entrepreneur Roger Baillon was a car enthusiast. Technically, we guess he could be called more a hoarder than a collector. After all, he never sold any of his purchases until he was forced to when his businesses didn't do so well.
His fixation began in 1952 when he came across a unique Talbot-Lago Record T26 with bespoke bodywork by French coachbuilder Jacques Saoutchik, which the latter brought back from Egypt just prior to the revolution that same year. Many sources report that the car had belonged to King Farouk, although in reality, it was owned by Princess Nevine Abbas Halim of the Egyptian Royal Family.
For the next two decades, Baillon would focus his attention on acquiring old cars, displaying a particularly keen eye for Talbots and his beloved Delahayes. His collection would also encompass Porsches, Lancias, Jaguars, Ferraris, and more...
Sadly, Roger Baillon passed away in 2004 and his son, Jacques Baillon, who inherited the collection, was either unaware of all of the cars, or just had no interest in them. When Jacques also passed away 10 years later, Roger's grandchildren would inherit the forgotten car collection. They admitted to having limited knowledge of the cars and restorations and thus reached the decision to sell it all, a move that would see them turn a field full of rusted old cars into bank accounts full of cold, hard cash.
The Roger Baillon Collection was auctioned off by Artcurial Motorcars at Retromobile in Paris on February 6, 2015, and included some of the saddest cars to ever grace the face of this planet.
25 Falling Apart
When things went downhill businesswise for Baillon in the 1970s, the banks forced him to liquidate his collection. Two sales followed, in 1979 and 1985 respectively, but even then, close to 110 cars survived the purge. Ninety of them were hidden and never again seen—thought destroyed or dispersed—until they were rediscovered after his death. The world was confronted with a unique trove that added to the existing stock of some very rare specimens, indeed; but on the other hand, had the cars been sold thirty years ago or so—when the rest of the Baillon treasure was put on the market—they would likely have been in much better shape.
24 From Rust To Gold
Imagine being told you have an inheritance, one that includes assets left at a property owned by your late grandfather. And when you arrive there, you find a collection of cars that have been left exposed to the elements for years. They are more rust than car, by this point. Despite their poor condition, experts will proceed to tell you the 60 classic cars are rare and restorable and should be worth a cool $15 million at auction. When the auction finally happened, some of the cars fetch way more than imagined and those heaps of rust turned into more than $28 million!
The collection had been left alone and forgotten about for years. Some cars from the 1920s and 30s still have their original paint and many of the most interesting cars are from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s—mostly coach-built by French companies. Without a doubt, some of the cars will be restored to concourse condition and over the coming years, they will be turned into prize-winning vehicles. But some might just get to keep their patina and they really won't look any worse for it. It's taken a lifetime for them to look like that and it's nothing to be ashamed of.
22 Return To Nature
Due to the cars being stored in various outbuildings and open structures, they weren't completely free of damage. But some were in much rougher shape than others. Those cars that were deemed unfit for restoration were sold for parts, so at least they would be of good use to someone. Nature had slowly been taking over these old classic vehicles and by the time the collection was discovered, some were completely covered in vines and weeds. Luckily, they were saved just in the nick of time.
21 Works Of Art...With A History
With several of the cars in the collection being truly unique, handcrafted, coach-built specials, calling them art wouldn't even be exaggerating. Certain cars, much like paintings or sculptures, are created by artists. Not only their engineering, but their styling reflects the history of design. Roger Baillon not only saved these cars when he first started collecting them, but he also succeeded in tracing the history of the automobile through some of the finest examples ever created. Every car in this collection was special and even if they were forgotten about for years, one day they will, once again, be on display and admired for their beauty.
20 Hidden Treasure
Selling a classic car is a matter of showing things in their best light. Artcurial really took that concept and ran with it when selling the Baillon Collection. The manner in which they presented what were, in many cases, heavily weathered vehicles is genuinely special. In a darkened hall, the elegant yet derelict cars were exhibited in dramatic fashion using spotlights on and in the vehicles, creating a unique atmosphere that undoubtedly made it harder for potential buyers to gauge their precise condition. But those serious buyers who brought a powerful torch would be able to find the hidden treasures in the collection.
19 An Exceptional Collection
Amazingly, the guys at Artcurial stumbled upon the incredible car collection after receiving a phone call that told them to go visit a property in a small town...and to enter the property via the back entrance. Artcurial's Pierre Novikoff remarked, "We could see different makeshift structures. There were low shelters covered with corrugated iron roofs. From there, we realized that this was something big. We still didn’t know what we were looking at." It would turn out to be, quite literally, the barn find of all barn finds.
18 Home Of The Creepy Crawlies
Imagine having the job of cleaning out the spiderwebs and nests from all kinds of animals that used to call these cars home over the 40 or so years they remained hidden from the public's eye. Barn finds are known to be full of spiders, rodents, birds, and even the occasional snake. But we're not just talking about one car here, there were 60 of them. The poor person who would do the cleaning probably wasn't always looking forward to a new day at work, even if it would be interesting to be around such cool cars.
17 Talbot Saoutchik
A pair of Talbot-Lagos from the Baillon collection did exceptionally well, with a 1949 Saoutchik-bodied T26 Grand Sport SWB selling for $2,296,849 and a 1948 Saoutchik-bodied T26 Record Cabriolet reaching $1,005,378. The 1949 Saoutchik-bodied Grand Sport has been featured at a number of Concours d'Elegance shows but had extension damage on one side before being put into storage. The 1948 convertible had been in Roger Baillon's ownership since 1952, however, and it was sold new to Salah Orabi and Princess Nevine Abbas Halim of Egypt. There were a lot of interesting historical documents sold with the car at the auction.
16 1949 Talbot Lago Fastback Coupe Par Saoutchik
There are barn finds and then there are barn finds. Imagine the reaction when a long-lost Talbot-Lago T26 Record chassis came to light. And what's more, T26 chassis 100239 was not just fitted with a factory body, but with a unique, one-off body featuring the signature rakish fastback coupé design built by Carrosserie Jacques Saoutchik! This incredibly rare and outstanding automobile was one of three such Saoutchik creations of the 60 cars in the Baillon collection. All three are superb examples of the swoopy and extravagant styles designed by Pierre Saoutchik after World War II.
15 Delahaye GFA 148 L & 1951 Talbot Lago T15 Baby Cabriolet Guilloré
On the left, there's a Delahaye 148 L, with the "L" meaning "Léger" or light, which has a shorter wheelbase than that of the standard 148. The limousine body was built in the Guilloré workshops, in Courbevoie. It has a six-cylinder engine derived from the Delahaye 135 that enjoyed great success in the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Monte Carlo Rally. Parked next to the Delahaye we see a Talbot Lago Baby T15, which was built in the Guilloré workshops, and features a 2.7-liter engine with hemispherical combustion chambers. Producing 125 horses, the car would do 150 km/h—almost 100 mph.
14 Hispano-Suiza H6B
What we're looking at here is an old Hispano-Suiza H6B with a custom body. You wouldn't be wrong if you considered Hispano-Suiza the Rolls-Royce of Spain in the early 1900s. But that's not really fair, as Rolls-Royce actually used Hispano-Suiza parts due to the fact that they were so advanced. Baillon was particularly fond of this automobile and had started to re-do the lower sections of the hood. He actually used to work on his cars while wearing a suit and tie; that's how classy a mechanic needs to be in order to work on the Hispano-Suiza.
13 1960 Facel Vega Excellence
This Facel Vega Excellence is another car with an amazing story to tell. It was delivered to its first owner, Helen Kirby de Bagration, in February 1960. She belonged to an aristocratic family who had fled to France during the revolution in Russia. After changing hands a couple of times, it finally arrived with the Baillon family four years later and remained in the collection until it was auctioned off. The car had its original " Tudor Grey " paintwork and the black leather upholstery was remarkably well preserved and simply required a good clean. The odometer read 52,213 km and under the hood, an oil-change notice dating from 1965 indicated an oil change at 48,221 km.
12 Porsche 356 SC & Jaguar S Type
Underneath the layers of dust, there's a completely original European Porsche 356 SC with a 95 horsepower engine. There was an amusing anecdote about the car, revealed in an invoice dated July 26th, 1974, specifying the "removal, impoundment, and safekeeping by order of the Courbevoie police station" of this Porsche and a Lancia Flaminia Zagato. Roger Baillon had to pay the police in order to get the two cars back. Hiding under the covers on the left we can see a 3.4-liter Jaguar S-Type that was regularly used by Madame Baillon. Under its shabby appearance, the car hides an absolutely beautiful tobacco leather interior and provides an excellent base for a high-quality restoration project.
11 Sandford Type S
This rare, three-wheeled Sandford has a rear made from aluminum, while the hood and some other elements were steel—probably reproductions. The dashboard is equipped with a tachometer and a Jaeger clock. Behind the bench, they also found an old tool kit that was probably period correct. The three-wheeler still had its gearbox and a Ruby four-cylinder engine was found on a pallet not far from the car. Inspired by the three-wheeled Morgan, the French Sandfords actually had a better finish. With a limited production run, they distinguished themselves in racing, including the Bol d'Or. From 1951 until the auction, this Sandford only had two owners.
10 Delahaye 235
This Delahaye 235 is definitely a rare example. Under 40 years worth of dust, the car appeared to be complete and sound. Nothing had been touched or vandalized and the engine had all its parts but the biggest surprise was the interior: except for a tear in the passenger door and the bottom of the driver's door, the leather was well preserved and had a beautiful patina, showing off the quality of Henri Chapron. The 235 was the last passenger model produced by Delahaye. This extremely rare sedan is one of the last achievements of this once-great brand.
9 1982 Ferrari 308 GTSi
This Ferrari 308 was purchased in 1989 and was being repaired by Mr. Baillon following a fire, which probably explains the missing headlights and why portions of the paint was gone. The 308 is one of the most iconic sports cars of the 1970s and 1980s, this car even had the "Quattrovalvole" version of the 3-liter V8 engine. It's not the only modern-ish Ferrari that was found in the collection, though, there was also a 1988 Mondial Cabriolet that looked good on the outside but needed a mechanical overhaul, and a rather attractive, grey 1978 400 GT in similar condition.
8 1936 Panhard Et Levassor Dynamic Coupé Junior X76
Roger Baillon never got around to realizing his dream of starting an automotive museum with the cars he saved from the scrapyard between 1950 and 1970 but Artcurial reports that an estimated 15,000 visitors per day came to see the Baillon Collection cars on display in the days leading up to the auction. While most lots were purchased by collectors, the 1936 Panhard et Levassor Dynamic X76 coupe junior, which sold for $75,604, was acquired by a transportation museum, ensuring that the dream of Roger Baillon will live on, if in abbreviated form.
7 1934 Delage D6-11 S Coach
Ivy is really classy when it's growing on a centuries-old estate but we're not big fans of it growing on classic cars though. The design here is truly striking, with a long hood, a low windshield, and a low roof. These exceptional lines made it one of Roger Baillon's favorites. When fully restored, the Delage D6-11 has the potential to be a Concours d'Elegance winner and with only 18 cars being known to have survived to this day, it will surely be more of a contest queen than something that will be seen on the road.
6 1912 Delahaye Type 43
By definition, 'utility' vehicles are used until they're worn out, with few examples surviving the harsh treatment imposed on them by their vocations. The condition of this Delahaye Type 43 makes it stand out from the rest. Roger Baillon started his career in transport with a modest flatbed truck and, perhaps, he enjoyed looking at this early 20th-century utility vehicle? Stored in a barn full of hay, it benefitted from a protective environment. The wooden structure was fairly well preserved and the metal brackets and the boards that make up the flatbed were still present. The black leather interior was in great condition, although covered in years worth of dust.
5 1925 Avions Voisin C7 Saloon Par Gallé & Lorraine-Dietrich 12 CV A4 Torpédo Grummer
A Voisin from a coachbuilder was a rare beast and the one that is fitted on the car from the collection is particularly interesting. Built by Louis Gallé, the car has a soft top and very elegant curves along the flanks. Author of the book "Les automobiles Voisin", Pascal Courteault, helped the auctioneers identify the model accurately. Next to the Voisin, we see a Lorraine-Dietrich 12 CV A4 torpédo Grummer with beautiful tourer bodywork. This car was relatively complete and whoever bought it got to enjoy a nice restoration object.
4 Bugatti Type 57 Ventoux
The documentation available for this Bugatti is just some of the most amazing stuff we've ever come across regarding a car's history. All the expected stuff is in there, such as when and where it was sold, what equipment it came with, all and any upgrades, but from there it takes documentation to a whole new level. All the owners are not only documented, but their entire life stories have also been covered. We get to know their family background, their education, occupations...it's nothing short of incredible. The car itself is also quite unique, being the only known survivor of a former version of the 'Gangloff streamlined saloon' Bugatti.
3 1926 Berliet VI Type VIGB 10HP Taxi Landaulet
This Berliet has a particularly rare and original body that was designed for the taxi business. There aren't many survivors left of these cars as they were low production cars and most of them were run to the ground. The few that did survive have mostly been transformed into utility vehicles. Under the simple canvas roof at the front, there's a basic driver's cab with a folding seat. At the rear, there's a bench and two folding seats, while the compartment is separated from the front by sliding glass. The engine in this car is actually complete: a 10-hp, four-cylinder, side-valve unit.
2 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider
The Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider from the Baillon collection was an incredible find. It had previously belonged to famous French actor Alain Delon, and there are photographs of him in the car along with Jane Fonda and Shirley Maclaine. The Ferrari California ended up setting a new auction record for the model when it sold for a tax and fee-inclusive price of $ 21,980,656. According to the listing; "This highly sought-after automobile is presented today exactly as we found it when we opened the garage door to the property... it was imperative not to touch anything. Every speck of dust is a record of the years it has been stored and kept safe from the elements"
1 1956 Maserati A6G 2000 Gran Sport Berlinetta Frua
The Ferrari wasn’t the only price record realized by the Baillon cars. The second most valuable lot in the collection proved to be the 1956 Maserati A6G 2000 Gran Sport Berlinetta Frua, which set an auction record for the model when it sold for $2,713,683. The Maserati was one of only four ever made, it was owned by the same family for 55 years, and had been parked next to the Ferrari 250 California ever since the latter entered the Baillon Collection in 1971. There were tons of documentation available for the Maserati Frua, and being a never-restored, all original car surely helped push the price up.
Sources: Classic Driver Magazine, Classic and Sportscar, and Autoweek.