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Having lain dormant for the past 40 years until three months ago, the Baillon collection, as it has been dubbed, will be offered for sale by Artcurial Motorcars in the first part of the traditional sale at Retromobile Salon, on February 6 next year in Paris, with a guide price of €12m-15m.

Bugatti, Hispano-Suiza, Talbot-Lago, Panhard-Levassor, Maserati, Ferrari, Delahaye, Delage... the list of legendary marques found under makeshift corrugated iron shelters covers much of the history of motoring, from the early days of the motor car through to the 1970s. There is even a Cabriolet once owned by King Farouk.

The star find, though, emerged from beneath piles of newspapers: a 1961 Ferrari 250GT SWB California Spider with covered headlights. It had been bought new by the actor Gérard Blain, then sold to fellow actor Alain Delon, who was photographed several times at the wheel, including in 1964 with Jane Fonda during the filming of Les Félins and on the Côte d'Azur with Shirley MacLaine. One of 37 examples, its whereabouts had been unknown until now.

"Emblematic Automobiles"

The collection was assembled from the 1950s by Roger Baillon, an entrepreneur who ran a transport company. During the 1970s, before he could carry out the necessary restoration work, his dream was shattered when his business suffered a setback and he was forced to sell 50 cars. The rest of the collection was effectively mothballed from then on.

Matthieu Lamoure, managing director at Artcurial Motorcars, said: "Not since the revelation of the Schlumpf Collection in Mulhouse [Eastern France], of which Maître Hervé Poulain was the expert, has such a group of emblematic automobiles been disclosed and, what is more, in such original condition."

Simon Hope, founder and managing director of British-based car specialists H&H Classics, told ATG that the find was "an auctioneer's dream and a sale that everyone would like to conduct. It will fuel the passion of the top collectors the world over as it is just a perfect story with a great cast of outstanding cars".