You’d think the days are gone when someone stumbles across a secret car collection hidden from public view, but that is exactly what happened in 2014, when over 100 rare European cars in various conditions were discovered in France. Dubbed by many as the barn find of the century, the discovery included a Ferrari 250 GT California SWB, one of only 55 built. The model usually fetches over $10 million at classic car auctions, so it should be no surprise that the unrestored barn-find went for the equivalent of no less than $18.5 million (as of 2/10/2015).

Built in 1961, the car in question was apparently owned at some point by French actor Alain Delon, and has been part of the collection of industrialist Roger Baillon since the late 1960s, alongside other rarities from Bugatti, Pahnard et Levassor, Delahaye, Delage, Hispano Suiza, Maserati and Porsche.

On Friday 6 February 2015, 59 cars found in the secret collection were auctioned off during an event called Salon Retromobile, with the auction lasting eleven hours and bringing in almost 1,600 bidders on site and another thousand or so online. The 250 GT California was by far the most coveted model, with the car fetching way much than originally expected, despite being in the condition it was.

Click past the jump to read more about this awesome barn find.

Why it matters

Found inside a brick garage, under a stack of old magazines and alongside a one-of-three Maserati A6G Gran Sport by Frua, the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California SWB (short wheelbase) was considered lost by classic car historians, just like most of the other rare cars of the Baillon collection. The French shipping magnate had apparently amassed over 200 rare pre- and post-war European cars during the 1950s and 1960s, with the dream of one day displaying them in a museum.

Unfortunately, his dream collapsed after his business suffered financial setbacks in the 1970s, and Baillon was forced to sell about 50 of them, while the rest remained hidden from the public on one of his French properties. With both Roger Baillon and his son, Jacques, having passed away, no one actually knew of the collection’s existence until the fall of 2014, when his grandchildren stumbled on it by chance. About 100 rare or ultra-rare cars were found on the premises, 59 of them being in good enough condition to auction. The remaining cars will apparently be sold for parts.

Ferrari 250 California

1958 - 1960 Ferrari 250 California High Resolution Exterior
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Press Release

On Friday 6 February 2015, the collectors’ car department at Artcurial once again caused a stir amongst international collectors who came in huge numbers to the Salon Retromobile. The sale realised 46 165 983 € / 34 260 292 £ / 52 236 667 $, following a marathon two-part auction lasting over 11 hours. The indefatigable Maître Hervé Poulain brought the hammer down on 89% of the lots. Starting at 14.00, over 3,500 people crammed into the saleroom to take part in this historic auction that began with the 59 automobiles in the extraordinary Baillon Collection. Almost 1600 people registered to bid in the sale, with another 1000 connected to the Artcurial Live Bid platform to bid online.

Matthieu Lamoure, Managing Director of Artcurial Motorcars declared: "These exceptional results spring from work that has taken six months. News of the Baillon Collection has travelled around the world. International buyers came together in one room to pay homage to Roger Baillon. This triumph demonstrates the universal passsion for the automobile. This is a significant collection that has enjoyed a significant success."

« The triumph of the Baillon Collection sale is just reward for the experience of a 40-year career. All eyes have been on Paris and Artcurial, the leading French auction house, that has had the privilege of offering this group of cars. We have been amazed by the response around the world to the announcement of the discovery of the Baillon Collection. These beautiful vehicles have become works of art in their own right. They now go to join private collections and museums around the world, to have another life. » added Hervé Poulain, co-chairman of the Artcurial Group.

Once again, Artcurial Motorcars confirmed its position as leader for Collectors’ Car sales in Continental Europe. Enthusiasts from around the world made their way to Paris, with close to 30 nationalities represented, to celebrate the history of the automobile, in the largest ever collectors’ car sale held in France. During the course of the sale, the auction house set 10 world record auction prices:

Without a doubt the most exciting moment of the afternoon was the appearance of the uncontested star of the sale, the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider, arriving on the stand as the room plunged into darkness. The saleroom held its breath as the bids rose, before bursting into applause as Maître Hervé Poulain’s hammer fell at 16.3M € / 12.1M£ / 18,5M$ including premium. This is the highest bid in Artcurial’s history.

Pierre Novikoff, specialist in the Artcurial Motorcars department said: "This will go down in history as an extraordinary sale! The Baillon discovery has been an incredible adventure. In addition to the passion it has aroused in enthusiasts, it is the unique story of one man’s dream, carried on by an entire family. The successful sale of the 59 cars in the Baillon Collection reflects the international response by collectors who have been touched by these phantom-like automobiles."

The collection of Roger Baillon, the inspired industrialist from the west of France who saved a great number of cars from being scrapped between 1950 and 1970, realised 25,15 M€ / 18,7 M£ / 28,5 M$. The 59 « barnfind » lots were all sold, achieving 2,4,6 and sometimes 10 times their estimates, including two world record prices. The public exhibition, staged as a tribute to the museum Roger Baillon had dreamed of, attracted close to 15,000 visitors a day, many of whom had made a special trip from outside France to see these « Sleeping Beauties ». The auction included a pre-emption by the Musée de l’automobile de Compiègne, lot 33, a c.1936 Panhard-Levassor Dynamic X76 coupé junior. This acquisition confirmed the cultural importance of these automobiles.

The sale of the Baillon Collection has been made possible thanks to the long time relationship between Artcurial and the Banque Privée du CIC Ouest.

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