Artcurial’s rediscovery of the Baillon Collection was the news of the year, if not the decade, for classic car lovers. For many the star of the collection is the Ferrari 250GT Spider California. This is not just one of the most sought-after cars on the classic car market, but it also had a very famous owner: actor Alain Delon. This fact is confirmed by a picture taken by celebrity photographer Edward Quinn in the 1960s. It shows the French star with Jane Fonda as they were filming on the Côte d’Azur. Wolfgang Frei manages the archive of Edward Quinn, who worked in the south east of France in the 1950s and ’60s. He tells us about Delon’s Ferrari and the significance of historical photos for classic car collectors.
Q: When and how did the experts from Artcurial come to you about Alain Delon’s Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider?
Wolfgang Frei: It was at the end of November. I didn’t know at that stage that it was this particular Ferrari in the auction. Of course it’s one of the most sensational barn finds of recent years.
Q: The photo is perhaps one of the most striking of all in your book Cars & Stars. Edward Quinn seems to have been in the right place at the right time yet again. What do you know about how the picture was taken?
Wolfgang Frei: The photo of Alain Delon and Jane Fonda was taken when the pair met on the set of “Joy House”. Back then it was still possible for a lone photographer to get a picture of a superstar, though you had to be smart and develop a good relationship with the stars. This was before the age of PR agents organizing slots in an assembly line photo shoot. Unfortunately, despite having worked for many years with my uncle Edward Quinn, I don’t know any more about how the photo came about. I never asked him about it. The photo is much in demand from photo collectors who contact our archive.
Q: For a collector, your photos must sometimes be like winning the lottery. Proof of a famous owner doesn’t just bring the history of the car to life, it can also make the car itself much more valuable. The champagne corks must pop quite often at the archive.
Wolfgang Frei: Of course we get requests from a lot of car owners who have seen a picture on our website or in Quinn’s “Stars and Cars” book, which is now sadly out of print. Especially for makes like Rolls Royce, where you know pretty precisely where a specific car is now, or Ferrari. But then you might get the owner of an Austin Healey who is interested in a picture of the car with Brigitte Bardot, though they don’t care if it’s precisely the same car. Requests for specific details are interesting. We were recently contacted by the current owner of the Earl of Suffolk ‘s DB4, who wanted to know about a small radiator mascot that is shown in a picture in the book, but which is missing from his car. We had to enlarge the image of the little racing horse because he wanted to make a replica. He contacted us from San Francisco and sent a copy of the Earl’s original registration documents. So when he got the picture, the corks popped in San Francisco rather than here in Hombrechtikon (Switzerland).
Q: How often do you get queries from auction houses and dealers? Are you getting noticeably more enquiries as a result of the boom in classic cars?
Wolfgang Frei: Actually not so often (yet). In recent years the contact we’ve had from the big auction houses has mainly been about Picasso. Quinn was his friend for more than 20 years and took more than 10,000 photos. A lot of these were “comparatives” – photos that show precisely the ceramic, or whatever it might be, that is being sold at auction. For the buyer this is often another confirmation of the item’s authenticity and provenance. I’m sure that as prices continue to rise, photos like this will also be in demand in the classic cars business. I assume, for example, that the buyer of Delon’s 250 GT will ask us for the picture.
Q: If a collector knows that his car was on the Côte d’Azur in the ’50s or ’60s, when would it be worth them getting in touch with you about doing some research?
Wolfgang Frei: Well people can of course ask any time without obligation. I’m always glad because I’m interested in vintage cars myself and have a lot of fun with my modest little 1949 MG TC. Best of all is if the collector gets hold of the “Stars and Cars” book second hand and looks for his car there. But early next year we plan to put all the pictures from the book on our website at edwardquinn.com.
Alain Delon and Jane Fonda in a Ferrari 250 GT Spider California on the set of “Joy House”, Antibes 1964.
Photo Edward Quinn, © edwardquinn.com
The Earl of Suffolk with his wife and his Aston Martin DB4 1961 in Antibes.
Edward Quinn, © edwardquinn.com