Classic motoring enthusiasts from around the world will converge on Paris from February 6-10 for the annual Salon Rétromobile old car extravaganza at Paris Expo, Porte de Versailles.
In addition to spending their money in three vast pavilions crammed with dealers selling cars, automobilia, motoring art and ephemera, collectors will also be able to bid at two off-site auctions being staged by RM Sotheby’s (on February 6) and Bonhams (on February 7), and at Artcurial’s official Rétromobile collectors’ sale inside the Salon on February 8.
More than 350 cars will be offered between the three houses, ranging from a 1908 Mercedes-Simplex “recreation” to a 2018, €2.36-€2.75m Bugatti Chiron. But it’s a separate Artcurial sale of two-wheeled machines that promises to be one of the most interesting events of this year’s Rétromobile.
Artcurial already has a reputation for unearthing valuable, single-owner hoards that no one previously knew existed, notably the 2014 discovery in France of the 59-car Baillon collection that subsequently sold for £20m. And now specialist Pierre Novikoff has turned up a remarkable treasure trove of almost 100 Italian-built MV Agusta motorcycles that have been stored for decades in a disused factory near Monaco.
Thought to be one of the biggest private collections of the marque in existence, it spans everything from humble scooters and small-capacity road bikes to exotic multi-cylinder racers, all of which were amassed by a single family of enthusiasts over a period of more than half a century. Models date back to soon after the founding of MV Agusta in 1945, shortly after which the vendor’s uncle established an MV garage in northern Italy and raced the machines in high-profile events, including the Motogiro d'Italia (motorcycling’s equivalent of the Mille Miglia) and the Milano-Taranto. The owner began buying bikes long before the rarest reached the six-figure sums they command today, steadily acquiring at least one example of almost every production MV Agusta ever built, as well as several unique models, a handful of factory prototypes and even MV Agusta mini-bikes designed for children.
Among the highlights of the €3m collection is a 750S road bike that originally belonged to the 1970s Formula One driver Arturo Merzario, who competed in 85 Grand Prix and achieved second at Le Mans in 1973 alongside Brazilian co-driver Carlos Pace, while another machine tipped to attract considerable interest is one of the ultra-rare prototype 750s that was used to develop a fuel injection system for the model.
The majority of bikes have benefited from “no expense spared” restorations at the hands of experienced MV Agusta engineers, with authentication certificates from the MV museum. Estimates range from just €3,000 for models such as CSL scooters and 175CS singles to as much as €150,000 for the four-cylinder, ex-Merzario 750S. And, to truly complete the collection, the factory has consigned the very last MV Agusta F4 built. The only lot not being offered without reserve, it is expected to realise €75,000 to €125,000.