It’s rare in this saturated world of supercars on every corner that something makes you stop, look and listen. Retromobile 2020 made that happen more times than we can count. There truly was something for everyone, covering all price points. The diversity of the show truly is something to behold. There is no ego attached to anything, it’s merely a wonderful cross-section of classics from all walks of life being celebrated together. This is how it should be, the Ford man running shoulder with the Ferrari man. The hot hatch mixing up with the super saloons. The world of classic cars is diverse, exciting and full of gems, as this show so ably demonstrates.
Walking around, there was a great deal of automotive brilliance on display. However, we’ve rounded out the five cars that really stood out for us.
‘Squadra-Mobile’ Ferrari 250 GTE
There’s nothing wrong with a cheeky joke from time to time, especially if said joke pays off. In the 1960s, Rome’s dedicated anti-organised crime unit, Squadra Mobile, was doing exceptionally well, bringing down many a crook. It was good work, and as such, it impressed the Italian President of the time. He praised this crime-preventing unit and also offered them a token of appreciation.
The answer from Squadra Mobile, somewhat jokingly, was “a Ferrari“. The President laughed.
Squadra Mobile didn’t get a Ferrari. It got two. The Ferraris chosen were 250GTE models, though sadly one was almost immediately destroyed during Squadra Mobile’s testing. This one survived though, and now exists as a reminder that when the president asks you a question, the sky is the limit.
BMW M1 – Procar
The BMW M1 is a masterclass in vehicle design, but then when you task Giorgio Giugiaro with coming up with a seductive, elegant design, he’s not going to let you down. In road trim, the BMW M1 was, as the name would suggest, genesis for the M series of cars. But that wasn’t all.
In Procar guise, the M1 grew a mighty rear wing, flared arches, deep split-rim alloy wheels along with a brace of vents and spoilers. It was and still is a serious bit a kit.
The Procar series is something unimaginable now. In 1979 and 1980, each F1 event would also play host to Procar. The five fastest drivers from qualifying would each be strapped into an M1, after which they would battle it out against other racers, privateers and up and coming drivers. To give you some idea of scale, Niki Lauder won the first Procar series!
‘Barn Find’ BMW 503 Coupe
There is a curiosity, some might say morbid, that forms part of the human condition. When we see the forgotten, the abandoned, the destroyed or the derelict, we suddenly become interested. The how and why behind an item’s fall from grace is often far more interesting and exciting than observing an immaculate example of said item.
This is why the term ‘barn find’ is one that has become commonplace in the classic car world. We all dream of finding that untouched relic, sitting on flat tyres and wearing a coat of rust and dust. And that dream is why this admittedly sorry-looking BMW 503 coupe caught our eye.
Crashed in ’76, the owner hid the car away. There may have been plans to one day fix the beautiful Bayerische motor, but they never materialised. As such, the car sat dormant for decades. One of only 413 cars made, it was – even in this condition – one of the more exclusive cars at the show.
Hot Hatch Hero – 205 GTi
For many, the Peugeot 205GTi is the finest hot hatch to ever see a twisty B Road. Launched in 1984 with an advertising campaign featuring fire, ice and dynamite, as well as a parachute (we’re not kidding) it was the small French car that promised excitement. But more than that, it threatened to knock the Golf GTi off the top spot.
It quickly became a firm favourite with owners, especially the pre-cat 1.9 version with 126hp. The 1.9 was an improvement on motoring perfection for many. Light, agile, a chassis to die for and handsome looks, it was the full package.
This Laser Green example was mid-restoration, but even so, it was still stopping people in their tracks. Even with most of the trim and missing along with the bumpers, the little pocket rocket looked ace. And it’s great to see one on the receiving end of such fastidious attention to detail.
There are few classic race cars as evocative and as awe inspiring as the mighty Broadspeed Jaguar. Built in 1975 to compete in Group 2 class of the European Touring Car Championship, the Jaguar V12 JXC was stripped of its usual refinements in favour of buckets seats, roll cage, a ludicrous rear spoiler and, the icing on the cake, massive, muscular arches.
Sadly though, despite the huge amount of work that had gone into developing the car, it simply wasn’t competitive despite some expert driving from Andy Rouse and Derek Bell. In 1977, forced by the car’s poor success as well as changes to the company, British Leyland pulled the Jag from the tracks.
It was a crying shame, but at least it spawned this incredible machine. And not only would it enjoy a legacy of being one of the world’s most handsome racers, it would also go on to find a home on TV as John Steed’s car in The New Avengers.