In Monaco, a royal collection of cars

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Pay attention to how you describe the assembly of cars assembled over several decades by the Grimaldi family in Monaco.

“It’s a private collection, not an automobile museum, ”Prince Rainier III once said of his exhibition of vintage vehicles, which has grown to around 120 under the care of his son, Prince Albert II.

Still, people can buy tickets for 8 euros (around $ 10) to see the cars, as if it were a museum. These cars include some from Formula 1, a 1956 Chrysler Imperial and the sporty-looking 1959 Renault Florida that belonged to Princess Grace, who died in an accident in 1982 when her Rover rolled off the road.

The collection, present on the Terrasses de Fontvielle in central Monaco for 30 years, is chaired by Valérie Closier, who has been its director for 17 months.

“Prince Rainier III was a lover of beautiful cars, and he started to build a nice collection,” Closier said. “He was passionate about it and wanted to exhibit them in a unique place in order to present them to visitors.

Following a three-month closure caused by the pandemic, the collection reopened last Monday, in time for the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend.

The latest addition is the 2019 Ferrari SF90 driven by Monaco-born Charles Leclerc. In his first season with the team that year, Leclerc won races in Belgium and Italy.

“After this season with Ferrari, I signed a new contract, and one of my wishes was to have this car,” said Leclerc. “Ferrari was kind enough to take it. I am very happy, because it is a memory that I will keep forever. It’s a very special car for me.

“He’s in the collection now – because I didn’t have enough space in the living room of my apartment – so he’s in good hands.”

The SF90 is one of the 20 racing cars on display. Closier said: “Motorsport is in Monaco’s DNA.

“The Monte-Carlo Rally was created in 1911 to attract the jet-set to Monaco and its casino,” she said. “It has since grown into a legendary and recognized international event, while the Monaco Grand Prix, which first took place in 1929, is one of the oldest and most prestigious races in the world.

Closier’s love for motorsport makes her ideal for overseeing the collection. Her father was an amateur rally driver, and before long she became his co-driver.

About a year ago, it had organized an exhibition of rally cars driven by Sébastien Loeb, Juha Kankkunen, Ari Vatanen, Didier Auriol, Hannu Mikkola and Michèle Mouton. Loeb and Vatanen cars remain in the collection.

Among the road cars in the collection, the oldest is a De Dion Bouton from 1903 bought in the late 1950s by Prince Rainier III, in which he took part, with Princess Grace, in the 1968 London-Brighton rally. .

A highlight of the collection is a 1956 Chrysler Imperial which was purchased by Prince Rainier III during a visit to the United States. “It was with this car that he greeted Grace Kelly, who was not yet Princess Grace, when she arrived by boat in Monaco,” said Closier.

“It was also used on numerous occasions in official processions, weddings, and notably transported General de Gaulle during his stay in Monaco.

There is also Florida, which was given to Princess Grace, the mother of Prince Albert II, by Renault. The car retained all of its original features and only traveled 5,000 miles.

Over the years, the cars have either been purchased by Prince Rainier III or Prince Albert II, or have been donated or loaned. “Some collectors who own rare or unusual cars lend them to us to show our visitors,” Closier said.

In 2022, the collection will move to Port Hercule, in the middle of the grand prix circuit. “We are in the process of finalizing the project,” she added, “which will see the birth of an exceptional and prestigious place.”

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