A treasure trove of classic cars found languishing in a barn for 50 years has sold for £20 million.
The star attraction in the collection of rusting cars was a “lost” vintage Ferrari California Spyder, which sold for £11.8m on its own.
The 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider (EPA)
The 59 cars were gathering dust and hidden under piles of newspapers in garages and outbuildings when they were discovered late last year by the grandchildren of the late owner.
The “once-in-a-lifetime” find on a farm in France was compared to a major archaeological discovery, on a par with Tutankhamun’s tomb.
They were sold by auctioneers Artcurial Motorcars on Friday at the Retromobile Show in Paris.
The 1961 Ferrari 250GT SWB California Spyder with covered headlights is one of only 37 examples of the model made and while every other one has been documented by historians, this one was considered lost.
It was once owned by French actors Gerard Blain and Alain Delon, who was photographed in it with Jane Fonda and Shirley MacLaine.
It had been hidden beneath piles of newspapers in a makeshift shelter.
Matthieu Lamoure and Pierre Novikoff with the 1961 barn find Ferrari 250 (SWNS)
It was bought by a telephone bidder for a hammer price of £10.5m. With fees added on, the total price was £11.8m.
A 1956 Maserati A6G Gran Sports with coachwork by Frua, one of just three in the world, sold for £1.4m and a Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport SWB went for over £1.2m
Most of the cars were collected from the 1950s to the 1970s by Roger Baillon, an entrepreneur who had a dream of restoring vintage automobiles and displaying them in a museum.
The antique cars parked in makeshift shelters at the Gaillard property in the western French town of Echire (AFP/Getty)
But his dream failed when his transport business suffered financial setbacks in the 1970s.
He sold 50 of the cars, but the rest of his collection sat dormant in makeshift corrugated iron shelters and outbuildings at his sprawling property in the west of France.
Baillon died about ten years ago and his son, Jacques, who inherited the collection, died last year.
It then passed down to Baillon’s grandchildren, who had no idea of the extent of the collection until they called in car specialists Matthieu Lamoure and Pierre Novikoff of auctioneers Artcurial Motorcars.
Some of the cars were well-preserved while others were in a rusty and decrepit state. All the cars in the collection sold, with the lowest – a 1987 Lancia Thema – going for just £5,000.
The Ferrari 250 pictured during the filming of “Les Felins” starring Jane Fonda (right) and Alain Delon (left)
Mr Lamoure said: “These sorts of finds do not happen often. I think you go into this profession for discoveries like this; it really is a treasure trove. No doubt a once-in-a-lifetime discovery.
“I have to say that when we discovered the extent of the collection we found ourselves overcome with emotion.
“Probably much like Lord Carrington and Howard Carter, on being the first person for centuries to enter Tutankhamun’s tomb. It really was a case of waking up sleeping beauty.”
Speaking about the auction’s main attraction, he said: “Ferrari is a legendary name in the automobile world. And this car is unique. Only 37 examples of this model were built making it extremely rare.
“Every example has been carefully documented by historians and this one was thought to be lost. We have found it.”
Mr Novikoff said: “I’m not sure I have ever seen so many exceptional cars together in one collection; Bugatti, Hispano-Suiza, Talbot-Lago, Panhard-Levassor, Maserati, Ferrari, Delahaye, Delage. Roger Baillon saved these cars and succeeded in his task – to trace the history of the automobile through the finest examples.
“A collection like this can’t fail to arouse the passions of those who love automobiles, as well as art and history enthusiasts. Never again, anywhere in the world, will such a treasure be unearthed.”