A car once used by Egypt’s King Farouk, the man loosely responsible for the birth of the photographic term ‘paparazzi’ and the film La Dolce Vita, has sold at auction in France for $NZ2.2 million.
The 1949 Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport SWB was one of many exotic cars found in a barn late last year in western France that formed the Baillon collection, once the prize of a French transport magnate Roger Baillon.
The sale of 59 cars realised almost $NZ40m. Among them were a 1961 Ferrari 250GT SWB California Spider (top) that was discovered under bundles of old magazines, and alongside it a 1956 Maserati A6G 2000. The Ferrari sold for almost $NZ25m, the Maserati for $NZ3m. The Ferrari once belonged to French actor Alain Delon. The previous sales record for a 1961 Ferrari 250GT SWB California Spider was $NZ15m.
It was the debauched Farouk who was pictured with two women leaving a café in Rome in 1958 and getting into a scuffle with the photographer, an Italian freelancer.
In the process the enraged ex-king overturned a café table and a blurry photo of the brawl taken by another street photographer became a sensation in European society circles.
Thereafter, magazine and newspaper editors – bored with the staged photos of royalty and celebrities at the time – paid good money for those showing the high and mighty losing their cool in front of the camera. The paparazzi had arrived.
In Rome at the time of Farouk’s outburst was Italian film producer Federico Fellini. Fellini was planning a film that would focus on Rome’s new status as a decadent haunt of high society. He hired the photographer who had infuriated Farouk to work on the project. The same photographer became the model for the one in Fellini’s 1960 film La Dolce Vita.
Farouk’s favourite and personal vehicle was a red 1947 Bentley Mark VI. He liked it so much he dictated that, other than the military jeeps which made up the rest of his entourage, no other cars in Egypt were to be painted red.
He was hugely extravagant and an avid collector of almost anything that tickled his fancy, including women. His coin collection was the world’s most valuable and included a 1933 Double Eagle, a $US20 gold coin which sold at auction in New York in 1996 for more than $US7 million.
Farouk was born in 1920, crowned king in 1936, and exiled to Italy in 1952, after the Egyptian revolution. He was the subject of great ridicule after he fled, abandoning possessions including hundreds of cars and a huge collection of pornography.
A year later the revolutionary government abolished the monarchy and declared Egypt a republic. In 1965, Farouk collapsed and died after eating a characteristically large meal in a restaurant in Rome. He had just turned 45.
• French nagnate Baillon had begun collecting the cars in the mid-1950s. But two decades later, financial problems forced him to shed 50 of them. The remaining fleet had been stashed in little pockets around his estate since then. Baillon died a decade ago and his son, Jacques Baillon, who had inherited the cars, didn’t realise their value. He died last year, and his children decided to cash in on their grandfather’s decomposing legacy.