A visit to Royal Automobile Paris

DSC_0191Every now and then you stumble upon something utterly brilliant, and the fact that it’s unexpected makes it even more enjoyable.

DSC_0216The other day I was walking through Paris trying to find a patisserie before making an ascent of the Eiffel Tower when I noticed an unassuming building with a sign saying ‘Royal Automobile’.

DSC_0217A classic car dealer in such a prime location? Definitely worth a look. Sorry for the poor photo, but in the left you can see Royal Automobile, and in the top right you can see the tip of the Eiffel Tower. As far as automotive things in Paris go, this is pretty much as prime as it gets. Not even the big brands are this close.

DSC_0211Stepping in the door, I’m greeted by an AC Cobra and a Porsche 356C.

DSC_0212Yes, that is a Bugatti Type 35 and a Jaguar D-Type. Unfortunately the language barrier made getting more information about these cars rather difficult, but I got the impression they are both genuine.

DSC_0213There was memorabilia on every wall and hanging from the roof, with a definite McQueen theme.

DSC_0207In one corner of the showroom was this unassuming spiral staircase. With no apparent signage I wasn’t sure if it was a private area, but the salesman seemed to motion that I could go down, so I took a chance figuring he’ll soon tell me if I’m not allowed.

DSC_0160More automotive art in the stairwell. Alien meets Ferrari? I like it.

DSC_0200The spiral staircase descended into an underground basement filled to the brim with cars of all types and varieties. I assume they were all for sale, but none of them had any prices or information on them.

DSC_0159The basement continued far into the distance.

DSC_0164An XJ220…

DSC_0163… and a C-Type sat underground.

DSC_0168This Testarossa was fitted with rare factory option luggage behind the seats.

DSC_0161And the biggest surprise of all – around a corner was a workshop specialising in all types of classic cars, although predominantly Ferrari.

DSC_0189Another Cobra sat in a corner awaiting work.

DSC_0173This corner was filled with all sorts of interesting Ferrari parts. As was the case upstairs nobody spoke English so it was tricky getting more information, but those are real Borrani wire wheels on the left, and that race seat up the back is from the Ferrari Challenge.

DSC_0175The mechanic didn’t seem that friendly, but I’ve probably only got myself to blame. In very broken French asked what this block could be from – it had Fiat stamped on the side, yet it was a V8 I mused as I struggled to think of a V8 powered Fiat. “That is Ferrari Dino” I was bluntly told. Oh…

DSC_0179What looked like an AC was undergoing reassembly post restoration. I really don’t know how much it costs to have a car restored in an underground lair in the middle of Paris, but it can’t be cheap. Surprisingly though, they seemed happy to let me wander all though the workshop with my camera.

DSC_0180In a dark corner sat a familiar face I’ve only seen before in photographs – an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint Speciale. This is a seriously rare car.

DSC_0183The bodywork looked good, and I think it was undergoing reassembly after a sympathetic restoration. I didn’t look over restored, just in good condition with some subtle patina. The way a car should be restored.

DSC_0170So here’s a travellers tip for you. Always keep off the standard tourist trail and keep your eyes peeled. You never know what you’ll find!

Words and photos by Andrew Coles

DSC_0208DSC_0197DSC_0196This looks Italian, but is actually an MG with Bertone coachwork.

DSC_0194DSC_0192DSC_0190Just a Prost F1 wheel, no biggie.

DSC_0187DSC_0182DSC_0178DSC_0176DSC_0171DSC_0165

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10 Comments

  1. Tom Gilbert July 5, 2013 Reply

    Nirvana, like the magic cave. Great report. You forgot to mention the vintage Honda 50cc in the front window. Also very collectable..

  2. Greg Edwards July 5, 2013 Reply

    What a find!

  3. Alexander Pickering July 6, 2013 Reply

    Those McQueen Le Mans posters are on the expensive side too! Were some of those AC's Ace's not Cobras ? Either way - AWESOME! When I was about 15, Collectable Classics had a SS on display - ropey car, but I think it was $20-25k at the time. I asked Michael Finnis about it a few years ago....he regretted selling it!

    • Andrew Coles July 9, 2013 Reply

      Yep, they're Ace's, arguably even more desirable than a Cobra these days! There's many a vehicle sold years ago that's worth a bit today... I remember reading about a guy who passed up a cheap 250GTO in the 70's because they were just an old, uncompetitive Ferrari that cost a lot to maintain.

  4. Jai Raymond July 6, 2013 Reply

    Ac had a fixed head coupe called an Aceta. Very "Very " rare!! A great find!

    • Andrew Coles July 9, 2013 Reply

      Thanks Jai... I didn't even know they had a fixed head. I would have taken a closer look had I known how rare it was!

  5. Dirk A Davidson July 8, 2013 Reply

    Alexander and Jai are right. These look like the 6 cylinder AC Ace (roadster) and Aceca (coupe).
    Not Cobras, but still quite valuable, and I think even more collectible.

    • Andrew Coles July 9, 2013 Reply

      Ah, of course! They all look so obvious now you mention it!

  6. Cernay October 2, 2013 Reply

    I found recently in this fabulous garage a Porsche 356 SC (sky blue), engine 95 hp, matching numbers, first hand, completely restored in a perfect state. It's difficult to find a such car, the price is high but in compliance with the current market !

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