Retromobiles on the Block

Bidders, start your engines: Christie's Feb. 11 Paris auction features 35 vintage cars, many with distinguished ownership and racing histories

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Classic cars with racing provenance are highly sought after in Europe, both by collectors and by racers seeking vehicles eligible for races like the Tour Auto and the 24-hour Le Mans Classic. At Christie's upcoming annual Paris auction, Retromobile: Automobiles de Collection, collectors will find vehicles that combine vintage flair with one-of-a-kind histories. The Feb. 11 auction will have 35 classics on the block, with opening bids on some cars expected to reach $1.8 million.

Those prices haven't turned off collectors. Interest in vintage cars remains strong, as contemporary designers from Ford (F) to Lamborghini dig into their pasts for styling cues and major product directions. "Some collectors' cars doubled their value within the last two years," notes Jan Luehn, Christie's car specialist.

Indeed, vintage buffs may have a hard time keeping their paddles down. This year's auction covers a design spectrum with styles ranging from the Back to the Future hard angles of 1980s BMWs to the sex-kitten curves of 1950s Jaguars.

Many of the models up for auction also have prestigious race-winning histories, from Le Mans to the American GTO circuit. But it may be as much of interest to potential bidders that these vehicles were owned by the likes of international playboys, princes, kings, and even a former pope.

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