Every now and again the Holy Grail of motoring happens; a dusty garage door is creaked open like the tomb of Tutankhamun, letting sunlight in to reveal a horde of low mileage, automotive gems covered in dust and straw.

It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it is a wonderful thing and this February the amazing contents of a French barn – discovered last year – were auctioned off.

Up to 60 automobiles, ranging from a Ferrari SWB California Spider to a 1956 Maserati A6G 2000, went under the hammer at the Retromobile Exhibition in Paris.

The Baillon Collection had been sitting in a barn in western France for around 50 years and fetched a staggering total of £28.5 million altogether.

It’s fair to say that the California Spider has attracted the most attention – and no surprise that it has either. The 1961 classic was once under the ownership of the acclaimed French actor, Alain Delon, who may be best know in the UK for starring in the infamous The Girl on a Motorcycle with Marianne Faithfull in 1968. To add to the romance of this particular barn find, the Spider had also been photographed with both Delon and Jane Fonda on several occasions.

Curiously, classic car enthusiasts had long been wondering what had happened to Delon’s Ferrari. The trail had gone cold with some confusion over the chassis number, whether he owned or simply borrowed the car as well some misunderstandings in translation.

The French actor’s head once again rose above the classic car parapets a couple of years ago, when the same auction company that dealt with this barn find – Artcurial – sold Delon’s Ferrari Testarossa for 171,500 euros – more than double the Artcurial original estimate. So it was with great interest and excitement when this fantastic California Spider did actually turn out to be ‘that car’ – Holy Grail indeed.

This famous photo of Delon and Jane Fonda seated in the 250GT California Spider was taken on the set of Les Felins, which probably dates it to around 1963-4.

The Baillon Collection gets its moniker from French entrepreneur Roger Baillon, who amassed a fine collection of cars from the fifties right through to the seventies. As his business started to flounder, Baillon was sadly forced to sell many of his precious cars and amazingly the Baillon Collection ended up gathering dust in the outbuildings of a French farm until its rediscovery last year.

The California Spider may have attracted the most attention, but it was by no means the only impressive find in the collection; the 1956 Maserati Gran Sport Berlinetta was one of only three models built, while a Talbot-Lago T26 Cabriolet was once owned by car-loving King Farouk of Egypt.

The Maserati eventually sold for £2.2 million while the Talbot-Lago sold for £1.9 million.
One can only wonder when – or if ever – the next barn find will happen. Let’s just be thankful that, every once in a while, they still do.

Images – abcnews.go.com, blog.caranddriver.com, mycarquest.com

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