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Road-trip to Retromobile: supercar convoy marks 30 years of Honda NSX

Road-trip to Retromobile

Thirty years ago, the Honda NS-X concept (note the hyphen) made its debut at the Chicago Auto Show. To mark the occasion, we joined a road-trip to Retromobile – France’s finest classic car show – in three generations of the hottest Honda. Our route took us past the historic Reims-Gueux circuit, then into the melee of rush-hour Paris. Join us for a celebration of the NSX – plus all the highlights from Retromobile.

Pop-up perfection

Road-trip to Retromobile

Representing the original NSX are two examples from Honda UK’s heritage fleet. The red car dates from 1989 and was the second NSX imported into the UK. Its 253hp 3.0-litre V6 drives the rear wheels via a four-speed automatic ’box. The gold car, meanwhile, is a manual version from 2005: the final year of NSX production. The pop-head headlights have been sacrificed to US safety regs, but it gains an extra 200cc of engine capacity – upping the output to 294hp.

As seen on Instagram

Road-trip to Retromobile

Heading south on the A26 to Reims, our three-supercar convoy became a rolling social media event. Each time we stopped for more 98 RON refreshment (a frequent occurrence, admittedly), people took photos and asked about the cars. Unsurprisingly, it was the new NSX that arrived in Reims first. With a combined output of 581hp from its V6 engine and electric motor, some might say it has an unfair advantage…

Code red

Road-trip to Retromobile

The original New Sports eXperimental gave the Ferrari 348 a bloody nose when it reached showrooms in 1990. Contemporary reviews praised its superb chassis balance, which was honed by Ayrton Senna (racing for McLaren Honda at the time). Unlike most of its rivals, the NSX was incredibly user-friendly; it proved that supercars don’t need to be badly built or difficult to drive. That auto transmission is probably a step too far, though.

Gold leader

Road-trip to Retromobile

As enjoyable as the red car is, this last-of-the-line version – with that all-important six-speed manual gearbox – is in another league. It’s 3.2-litre engine feels absolutely ferocious beyond 6,000rpm, when the VTEC kicks in with a howl so hard-edged it could crack concrete. Everything about the NSX, from its slow-slung driving position to its perfectly-spaced pedals, seems set up for driving enjoyment. It’s utterly analogue, and all the better for that.

Tangled up in blue

Road-trip to Retromobile

The latest NSX is an altogether different beast: a high-powered hybrid with nigh-on hypercar performance (0-62mph in 2.9sec). Its character is very much defined by which mode you select: comfortable and GT-like in Quiet, aggressive and adrenalised in Sport Plus and Track. Like the original, it’s as straightforward to drive as a Civic or Jazz, yet it still inspires reverence on the right road.

NSX appeal

Road-trip to Retromobile

After two days of driving, we’re torn between the uncomplicated charms of the original and the eye-popping pace of the current car. Even after 30 years, the NSX still feels like an agitator against the establishment – a connoisseur’s supercar, rather than the default Ferrari or Porsche. Here’s to another three decades.

Keep scrolling for a virtual tour of Retromobile in Paris, including the most exciting cars.

Citroen DS 23

Road-trip to Retromobile

Paris is a rather fitting location for the Citroen DS, given that the ‘Goddess’ was unveiled at the city’s motor show in 1955. Sixty-four years later, this DS 23 is on hand to celebrate 100 years of Citroen, with the French manufacturer putting on a stunning display of production cars, concepts and racers. The 2.3-litre DS 23 arrived in 1973 and was arguably the best of the breed. Two years later, DS production ended, with 1,445,746 DS and ID versions sold.

Citroen GS Camargue

Road-trip to Retromobile

Citroen’s display of concept cars is as wonderfully eccentric as you’d hope. The stunning Citroen Camargue of 1972 was based on the recently launched GS and featured a body penned by Marcello Gandini. In a parallel universe, the Camargue could have previewed a smaller and less expensive alternative to the SM, but it wasn’t to be.

Citroen ZX Rallye Raid

Road-trip to Retromobile

Back in the 1990s, few challengers could rival Citroen in the field of cross-country racing. The first Rallye Raid concepts made their rallying debut at the Baja Aragon in 1990, with Citroen securing a one-two finish. A year later, the ZX Rallye Raid driven by Ari Vatanen and Bruno Berglund won the Paris-Tripoli-Dakar rally. In seven seasons, the Citroen ZX amassed five world titles from 1991 to 1997. What a legend.

Renault Fuego Turbo

Road-trip to Retromobile

Not be outdone by Citroen’s centenary celebrations, Renault is marking the 40th anniversary of its first F1 victory – the first by a turbocharged engine. The legendary RS 10 of 1979 is joined by ten production cars to show how the turbocharger made the transition from track to road. This a 1983 Renault Fuego Turbo, which was powered by a tuned version of the 1.6-litre turbocharged engine in the Renault 18. A set of BBS alloy wheels, ‘TURBO’ decals, headlight wipers and yellow fog lights are just a few of the delightfully period details.

Renault 5 Turbo

Road-trip to Retromobile

Aside from the name, the Renault 5 Turbo had very little in common with the common or garden R5 parked in the supermarket car park. This homologation hero represented Renault at its bonkers best, but a host of unique parts made the mid-engined Group 4 rally car rather expensive to build. Renault solved this problem by launching the less specialised – and therefore less expensive to buy – Renault 5 Turbo 2.

Renault 21 Turbo

Road-trip to Retromobile

“The 21 Turbo is the best sporting saloon Renault has ever built,” proclaimed Autocar in 1988. High praise for Renault’s answer to the Sierra RS Cosworth which could sprint to 60mph in under eight seconds before hitting a top speed of 137mph. The 21 Turbo Quadra added four-wheel-drive to the mix, which meant you had a fighting chance of handling the explosive power. Sadly, too few of these cars remain on the road.

Lamborghini Miura SV

Road-trip to Retromobile

“Better than new” is an overused and often inaccurate description used by car dealers, but in the case of this Lamborghini Miura SV, it’s perfectly apt. This example is owned by motorsport supremo Jean Todt, who has just taken delivery of the car following a 13-month restoration at the hands of Lamborghini’s Polo Storico division. Although we’re delighted to be driving home from the show in an NSX, we wouldn’t mind heading back in this Miura – via the Alps, naturally.

Lamborghini 400 GT

Road-trip to Retromobile

Before the Miura, there was this: the Lamborghini 400 GT. It was essentially a 350 GT with an enlarged engine, with a body designed by Carrozzeria Touring. A Canadian collector has left this 1966 400 GT in the safe hands of Polo Storico, so you can be sure that the restoration will be first-rate. Who knows, the finished article might be on show at Retromobile 2020…

Bugatti EB110 Super Sport

Road-trip to Retromobile

The Bugatti EB110 made its production debut here in Paris back in 1991, with the name chosen in honour of Ettore Bugatti’s 110th birthday. A year later, Bugatti unveiled the lighter and more powerful EB110 SS (Super Sport), but just 30 were ever produced. A 1994 EB110 Super Sport (not pictured) is part of the RM Sotheby’s Retromobile sale – it has a price guide of €1.3m to €1.8m (£1.1m to £1.6m).

BMW Z1

Road-trip to Retromobile

The first BMW Z1 rolled off the production line 30 years ago in 1989. It featured a pair of trick sliding doors, a 170hp straight-six engine from the BMW 325i and a sophisticated ‘Z-axle’. Just 8,093 were built before production ended in 1991. We’d have to wait four years before its replacement, the American-built BMW Z3, made its debut in the James Bond film Goldeneye.

Jaguar XJ220

Road-trip to Retromobile

It’s easy to get lost in tales of an economic recession, unhappy customers and the ‘wrong’ engine when discussing the Jaguar XJ220, but three decades on from when the big cat was unveiled in Birmingham, the supercar has lost none of its impact. We’ll never come to terms with how large this thing looks in the metal.

Jaguar XE SV Project 8

Road-trip to Retromobile

Nurburgring car stickers are nothing new, but the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 is truly fit to wear the badge. In 2017, Jag’s skunkworks super-saloon completed a lap of the ‘Green Hell’ in 7min 21.23sec – fully 11 seconds faster than the previous four-door saloon record holder. On last week’s episode of The Grand Tour, Jeremy Clarkson seemed to be having a lot of fun driving a Project 8 on the Eboladrome.

Ferrari F40

Road-trip to Retromobile

Designed and built to commemorate Ferrari’s 40th anniversary, the F40 remains of the most famous and lusted over supercars on the planet. We could have spent many hours gawping at this and many of the other cars on display at Retromobile, but the clock was ticking… we had a date with a Japanese supercar.

Returning home in a Honda

Road-trip to Retromobile

With the copy filed and the photos uploaded to the web, all that’s left is for us to head back to the UK in a Honda NSX, without the detour via Reims.

More pictures:

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The Citroen stand at Retromobile 2019 looks fantastique

Citroen at Retromobile 2019

Citroen’s stand at Retromobile 2019 was always going to be special, but as this 90-second video demonstrates, it promises to be the star attraction in Paris. 

From the Type A 10 HP of 1919, through to the C5 Aircross SUV of today, Citroen has assembled a group of 30 cars representing 100 years of innovation, creativity and eccentricity.

The vehicles are divided across three themes: production cars, concept cars and racing cars. You’ll need more than 90 seconds to take in the splendour of these magnificent machines.

There are famous vehicles, such as the Traction Avant, 2CV and DS 21 Pallas – three of the most significant cars of the 20th century. You’ll also find a Type H Van that’s not selling hot drinks or overpriced sandwiches – a rarity that’s not often seen in the wild.

Motorsport fans are catered for thanks to the likes of the Xsara Kit Car and ZX Rally-Raid, while concepts include the Camargue and GTbyCitroen. The 3D virtual tour also shows Ronnie Pickering’s choice of wheels, although the Picasso isn’t listed as one of the cars on show in Paris.

Alongside Citroen’s centenary stand, Retromobile will also celebrate 60 years of the Mini, 45 years of the PRV engine, and the 1950 BRM Type 15.

Doors open 6 February

The doors open on 6 February, but don’t worry if you can’t make it to Paris – our man Tim Pitt will be on hand to take photos of the best exhibits.

In the meantime, enjoy this tantalising glimpse at the Citroen stand.

Perfect Porsche collection up for sale

Perfect Porsche collection up for sale

Perfect Porsche collection up for salePorsche collectors, take note. RM Sotheby’s Paris sale on 8 February includes an incredible collection of Swiss Porsches – from a classic 356 Speedster to a special edition 991 Carrera S. The auction is part of Retromobile show week, one of the highlights of the classic car calendar. A 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder was Sotheby’s star lot last year, selling for €2.7million.

1986 Porsche 930 Turbo FlachbauPerfect Porsche collection up for sale

Estimate: £85,000 – £110,000

Let’s kick off our 2016 round-up with this fabulous 930 Turbo – one of just 948 Flachbau (flat-nose) cars made. We love the period purple paint and red leather interior, although the walnut dashboard jars a little.

The Flachbau’s signature pop-up headlights were apparently inspired by Porsche’s Type 935 racer. A 300hp 3.3-litre flat-six behind the rear axle keeps lucky drivers firmly on their toes.

1955 Porsche 356 Pre-A 1600 SpeedsterPerfect Porsche collection up for sale

Estimate: £255,000 – £340,000

Ironically, the Speedster was conceived as a cheaper entry-point into Porsche’s 356 line-up – yet these back-to-basics roadsters are the most valuable 356s today. The car’s looks take most of the credit: it’s lean, low-slung and simply stunning.

This particular 356 has the larger 1.6-litre ‘Super’ engine, which produces a heady 75hp. The Speedster was a big hit in the US – and proved its worth in hillclimbs and circuit racing, too.

1988 Porsche 959 SportPerfect Porsche collection up for sale

Estimate: £1,250,000 – £1,700,000

From one icon to another: the 959 was launched in 1986 and was Porsche’s first hypercar. It was vastly more advanced than the rival Ferrari F40, with adaptive four-wheel drive and ‘zero-lift’ aerodynamics.

Out of 284 Porsche 959s, just 29 were built to Sport spec – as here. The 959 S had a leather-wrapped rollcage and four-point racing harnesses instead of seatbelts. It was fitted with more conventional coilover suspension and stripped of air conditioning and a stereo.

1970 Porsche 914/6Perfect Porsche collection up for sale

Estimate: £34,000 – £51,000

Prefer something without a six-figure price tag? How about this Porsche 914/6? This mid-engined, six-cylinder roadster was nearly expensive as a 911 when new and is a rare sight today.

The 914 was jointly developed with Volkswagen. It was the entry-level car in Porsche’s 1970 range, but still boasted independent front and rear suspension, and disc brakes all-round. This car has the iconic Fuchs alloy wheels, too.

2014 Porsche 911 Carrera S Martini Racing EditionPerfect Porsche collection up for sale

Estimate: £127,000 – £153,000

Yes, it’s basically just a new 991 Carrera S with some stickers. But when said stickers are the celebrated Martini Racing livery, and this is one of just 80 such examples made, Porsche collectors are bound to sit up and take notice.

This 911 has just 90 miles on the clock and is described by RM Sotheby’s as ‘in virtually as-new condition throughout’. Standard kit on all Martini Racing Editions includes an Aerokit Cup bodykit, the Sport Chrono package, PCM navigation, a Bose stereo and electric seats.

1993 Porsche 928 GTSPerfect Porsche collection up for sale

Estimate: £43,000 – £60,000

Back in 1978, Porsche hoped its new 928 would replace the ageing 911. Four decades later, the 911 is still with us and this large, front-engined GT is a footnote in automotive history. This 928 GTS won’t be for everyone, but it’s one of the most affordable Porsches in the auction.

The GTS was last-hurrah for the 928, with a 350hp V8 and beefed-up brakes. This car has a five-speed automatic gearbox – well-suited to the 928’s laid-back demeanour – plus white leather trim and lightweight ‘Cup’ alloy wheels.

1976 Porsche 912 EPerfect Porsche collection up for sale

Estimate: £17,000 – £26,000

Think this 911 seems cheap? That’s because it’s a 912 – a budget, four-cylinder Porsche built from 1965 to 1969. The 912 easily outsold its bigger brother, but was soon replaced by the VW-Porsche 914.

Most 912s had 1.6-litre engines, which makes this 2.0-litre 912 E especially desirable. The 90hp E was only produced for one year and boasted a top speed of 115mph. Not quite 911 performance, then – but it certainly looks the part.

2000 Porsche 911 GT3 ClubsportPerfect Porsche collection up for sale

Estimate: £85,000 – £111,000

Now we’re talking. The first time Porsche used its now-iconic GT3 nameplate was on the ‘996’ 911, built from 1998 to 2005. The GT3 blurred the boundaries between road and race car, with a high-revving, naturally-aspirated engine and few creature comforts.

This 5,000-mile GT3 has the optional Clubsport pack, which includes a rollcage, hard-shell bucket seats and a single-mass flywheel. And, unlike the current 991 GT3, it has a manual gearbox. A rapier-sharp track-day weapon.

1981 Porsche 924 Carrera GTPerfect Porsche collection up for sale

Estimate: £60,000 – £77,000

Like the GT3, the 924 Carrera GT was born out of Porsche’s desire to go racing. A wide-body development of the 924 Turbo, its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine developed 210hp – or up to 380hp in race trim.

This silver Carrera GT has covered just under 50,000 miles and has been restored to its original specification. It’s one of just 406 cars built to meet Group 4 homologation rules.

1994 Porsche 911 Turbo S 3.6Perfect Porsche collection up for sale

Estimate: £553,000 – £639,000

We finish with one of the coolest-looking 911s ever: the brutish 964 Turbo. This car is highly collectible, being one of just 93 3.6-litre cars built to Turbo S spec – and only 17 without the ‘Flachbau’ flat nose. No wonder it’s second only to 959 in terms of predicted value.

The full-fat Turbo S has a ZF locking differential and has 385 wild horses at its rear wheels. RM Sotheby’s reports this car ‘once belonged to a professional baseball player’. It has covered just 14,000 miles in the past 23 years.