When news broke onto the inter webs of an amazing “barn find” somewhere in west France, I have to admit I initially ignored the headlines. Like myself, I’m sure many classic car enthusiasts have grown slightly tired of the phrase “barn find” being used to describe literally every car discovery. Even a wreck of a Ford Fiesta pulled from a 1970s garage lockup seems to qualify as a “barn find” these days. Of course there is nothing we can do to stop sellers from jumping on the band wagon and throwing about catch phrases in an attempt to catch the eye of a would be buyer. This is why the Baillon Collection being auctioned by Artcurial on Friday 6th February is actually quite refreshing. It is an actual genuine “barn find”, a find that deserves the acclaim it has received. It is the discovery that every classic car enthusiast dreams of. It is also refreshing to see for once, the term “barn find” being used in the correct context. Because once the hammer falls on the final car of the Baillon Collection this Friday, it will conclude the amazing story that truly is the greatest barn find of the century.
One of the things that struck me the most having watched the wonderfully made video announcing the find, was the sense of sadness attached to the rusting hulks. Seeing all the cars stored the way they were, slowly decaying in sheds open to the elements, I couldn’t help shake this feeling of sadness. Roger Baillon, who built the collection, dreamed of building a car museum on the grounds of his chateau. Unfortunately that dream never became a reality after the collapse of his business empire. You can almost sense Baillon’s frustration of nearly achieving his goal but then seeing it slip away. It is almost tragic.
As car enthusiasts we all have a list of what we would buy, if we had the means to do so. Some of us would be happy with one or two cars, others crave many more. I fall into the latter category. I think deep down in all of us, there is a car hoarder just waiting to be let out, waiting to be indulged. Knowing my own car collecting dreams, I can easily see how Roger Baillon got carried away and built up his once 200 strong collection. He clearly loved his cars and his taste was exceptional. But as the collection grew, it must have been impossible to devote any attention to them. Hence their decrepit condition.
Despite the sadness that emanates from the images of the decaying hoard, the Baillon Collection, the greatest barn find of the century does have a happy ending. With Artcurial putting some of the best examples on show at the Paris Retromobile prior to the sale on Friday, Roger Baillon’s dream has indeed finally come through. The cars he saved and loved have been gathered together in one place, a work of art for the whole world to see. His collection, his masterpieces, now saved have finally gotten the attention they deserve. And what a collection it is. We’ll never see the likes of this again.