In late 2014, approximately one hundred original, rare and sought-after cars were discovered on a property in Western France. The fascinating collection had been inherited by Jacques Baillon in 1996 following his father’s death. When Jacques passed away in 2013, the estate then passed on to his children.
Roger Baillon’s grandchildren, who had spent their childhood sworn to secrecy about the hidden treasures at their grandfather’s property, admitted they didn’t know too much about the cars collected 50 – 60 years ago.
Amongst these cars was a very special Bugatti that is believed to be the last known survivor that housed the former version of the Gangloff streamlined sedan body.
In 2014, a year after Jacques Baillon’s death, the family approached Pierre Novikoff and Matthieu Lemoure from the Paris auction house ‘Artcurial’ and appointed the company to auction the multitude of cars stored at the Chateaux.
The haunting images below captured the surreal environment and the extensive deterioration of Roger Baillon’s much-loved collection at Château Gaillard in Échiré. It was a barn find in the truest sense.
After assessing the collection, only fifty-nine of the estimated hundred classic cars were deemed to be salvageable and in a restorable condition. The remaining cars, we understand, could not be moved and were to be sold off later for parts.
Artcurial Motorcars created a promotional 5-minute video of the incredible scenes that met Pierre Novikoff and Matthieu Lemoure as they arrived at Roger Baillon’s property. With 2.7 million views, it is a must-see and can be viewed at the following link:
The selection of saleable classic vehicles was collated, advertised for sale and presented to the world as “The Roger Baillon Collection”.
For several months, the car world was abuzz with the news of the remarkable discovery. Artcurial began promoting the upcoming auction with individual images and estimates for each of the 59 lots. The cars were left exactly as they were found, covered in years of dust, dirt and cobwebs.
The 1937 Bugatti Type 57 that Jean Lanez had bought new in Saint-Savine shortly before WW2, was photographed and advertised as Lot No. 40 with an estimate of 120,000 – 160,000 euros.
1937 Bugatti Type 57, No 57579/417
Photographs – Artcurial
The much-anticipated auction would take place at Retromobile, Porte de Versailles, Paris on 6th February 2015 with a total of 176 vehicles and 155 lots of automobilia up for sale.
Auto Addicts Magazine promoted the upcoming auction with the following description of the ‘Baillon Collection’ segment of the sale:
“To pay tribute to this exceptional group of cars, and to celebrate the passion that inspired the collector for over 40 years, Artcurial Motorcars is planning to exhibit the cars in a museum-style setting at the sale.“
The exhibition was set up and attracted a staggering 15,000 visitors a day. More than 18,000 km away, in Hamilton, New Zealand, Tom Andrews became aware of the Bugatti’s existence. He contacted a friend in England and asked if he would travel to Paris to inspect the car and bid on Tom’s behalf.
After researching the Bugatti and assessing the condition of the car, Tom committed to bid at the auction with the hope of purchasing the Type 57 Ventoux.
The day arrived and the Type 57 was photographed on display at the Artcurial Motorcars auction.
When the hammer was finally brought down on Lot No 40 by auctioneer, Hervé Poulain, the car that had spent its entire life in France was about to call New Zealand home.
During the sale that day, Artcurial Motorcars set ten world-record auction prices. Two of these records were from the Roger Baillon collection.
A rare 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider that was discovered under a pile of magazines at Château Gaillard sold for USD 18.5 million / EUR 16.3 million (February 2015 currency conversion). It was the highest price ever paid for a 250 GT of any kind at that time.
And a 1956 Maserati A6G 2000 Gran Sport Berlinetta Frua sold for USD 2.25 million / EUR 2 million.
It was extraordinary that both world record-fetching cars from Roger Baillon’s collection were discovered side by side at the property.
Every single one of the 59 lots from Roger Baillon’s collection sold that day. There were 1600 registered bidders and 3500 people in the saleroom, with a further 1000+ people registered on the Artcurial Live Bid platform. At the completion of the auction, the Baillon collection had fetched a total of USD 28.5 million.
In the weeks following the Artcurial sale, Tom began making plans to ship the Bugatti back to NZ and eagerly awaited its arrival. It set sail in April 2015 and arrived in Auckland the following month.
The following photos were the first taken on New Zealand soil.
A Special Welcome
To celebrate the arrival of the Bugatti at the Classics Museum, Tom planned a dedicated night to introduce this very special car to a group of friends and car enthusiasts.
Aptly named the “Night At The Museum”, the event was held at Classics Museum on 25th June 2015.
Tom Andrews kicked off the evening with a warm welcome to everyone present and an overview of the history of the Bugatti Type 57.
Tom Andrews speaking at the Bugatti unveiling event on 25th June 2015
At the conclusion of his speech, the moment arrived to unveil the latest addition to Tom’s collection at the Classics Museum. With the cover removed, guests were finally able to see the Type 57 Ventoux prior to the restoration commencing.
Over the next year, the Bugatti was systematically stripped down. But unbeknown to Tom, life was about to throw him a curve ball that would ultimately hinder the progression of the restoration.
In August 2016, during a trip to Europe to source parts for the Bugatti, Tom suffered a serious cardiac event. But fate played a double-edged sword that day.
Of all the places around the world that Tom could have suffered a heart attack, it was ironically in France, the birthplace of the Type 57 Ventoux. But fortunately for Tom, it happened just minutes from a state-of-the-art cardiology centre in Saint-Martin-d’Hères, Grenoble. Thanks to an amazing medical team at the Belledonne Clinic, Tom recovered sufficiently to travel back to New Zealand a short time later.
The restoration of the Bugatti was put on hold for an extended length of time as Tom continued to recover. In 2018, the restoration work finally began – Jean Lanez’s beloved Bugatti was about to be brought back to life after decades of neglect.
References / Sources:
YouTube – Artcurial @artcurial