Like many Gordini barquette sports-racers, chassis number 018 is a former single-seater, one of the five Type 11 chassis built in 1946 and 1947. On July 18, 1947, at the Reims ACF Grand Prix, 04GC was driven by the future quintuple Formula One World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio. For the beginning of the 1952 season, Gordini 04GC, fitted with a Type-18 twin-cam engine, was leased to Prince Bira. It was totally disassembled in Gordini’s premises in Paris. All the Type-15S-specific parts were welded onto the chassis, and a new purpose-built barquette (spider) body fitted. This chassis was then renumbered as 18, received the Type 18 engine (number 21) and was registered as 4098-BH-75 on June 12, 1952, ready to start a new life. There are only two Gordini “Sports” left in France in private collections. Gordini 18S is the only 4-cylinder barquette available for sale; the other is the property of the Schlumpf Collection/Cité de l’Automobile in Mulhouse.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1952 Gordini Type 15S

This car, Lot 26, sold for $785,220 (€690,000 €1=$1.12), including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Chantilly, France, sale on June 30, 2019.

As Karl Abarth became Carlo Abarth when he moved to Italy and found fame as a tuner and constructor, so did Emilia-Romagna-born Amedeo Gordini become Amédée Gordini when he moved to France and found equal renown in the world of competition and tuned road cars.

Le Sorcier — the Sorcerer — had his “magic” way with the cars of Simca, the French associate of Fiat, in the same way Siata and Abarth would for Fiat in Italy.

Gordini was so successful that he became frustrated with Simca’s lack of support and enthusiasm for his work. As a tuner par excellence and a constructor in his own right, he would later make his biggest mark due to his long and successful association with Renault.

Although the “boldface names” part of this car’s competition history came in its early configuration as a single-seater, after being converted to its current “barquette” two-seat body in 1952, it did have a number of moments in the sun at Reims, in the Dundrod Tourist Trophy and Le Mans — not to mention the New York Auto Show on the stand of Luigi Chinetti, where it remained unsold and returned to Europe. There it resumed its racing career, which finally ended in 1963 with an Irish hillclimb.

Well documented

As presented at the auction, our subject Gordini appeared not to have been used in road events since the early 2000s. Images of the engine compartment showed evidence of storage and deferred maintenance.

The question for cars of this sort can revolve around a complicated history — in this case, completely known but involving changes of engines and bodies. For me as an historian, it’s not a bother at all, but rather an interesting and attractive attribute.

Race cars were meant to be used, and to encounter one with such a story — documented from its birth until today — makes it, for me, an object of great desire.

Then all that remains is to find out who exactly might be interested in a car such as this and why. There must have been a reason it was the catalog cover car — of course, its French Blue paint helped, but doesn’t explain it all.

Eligible for all the best events

It has been noted in many places by many people that the prime driver in the collector-car market today is experiential ownership. Simply put, what can I do with my car, where will it take me and whom will I meet there? A car such as this Gordini answers those questions clearly and powerfully. It can be used in any of the leading vintage races, tours and rallies around the world.

This car is not in what many would consider international concours d’elegance cosmetic condition. It has been prepared, maintained and properly used as a driving-event car. However, it could easily be prepared for concours if the owner desired.

Largely absent among the attributes of value it possesses is that of beauty. Functional and delightfully quirky in the way only small French and Italian race cars can be, its design is brave in its combination of elements.

But looks are of little importance when you have the opportunity to connect with history in this way. The natural habitats of this Gordini are the paddock, circuit or the tree-lined country roads or hillclimbs it lived in nearly 70 years ago. The catalog noted that the car has a guaranteed entry for the 2020 Tour Auto and Le Mans Classic, which in today’s market can add a considerable margin over another car not so blessed.

Back on the road soon

The car was sold to a European private collector and is doubtless going to be seen in vivid action soon. The price paid was not inconsequential for a car in this condition, but rarity, historical richness and great usability more than justify the number.

Using a car connected with names such as Jean-Pierre Wimille, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jean Behra, B. Bira and Luigi Chinetti is sure to have a value to a true enthusiast. Appropriately bought. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)

Donald Osborne is a world-renowned collector-car appraiser and consultant. His “Assess and Caress” segments appear on “Jay Leno’s Garage.” He has written for SCM for 23 years.

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