Imagine opening the door to a seemingly abandoned or empty warehouse and instead of finding broken windows, piles of dust, spider webs and whatnot, you stumble upon a collection of cars. And not just any cars, but some of the most sought-after brands and models you can imagine! Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo, BMW, Jaguar, Delahaye and many others. Next to these ‘usual suspects’ you also come across stuff like a Villard Type 27, a Monica 560 and an Imperia TA-8. And instead of a handful of cars, you find more than 230 vehicles! It’s the proverbial stuff of vintage car enthusiasts’ dreams! But you wouldn’t be dreaming, this story is completely authentic and is now known the world over as the discovery of the Palmen Collection.
About a week ago, news broke in the Netherlands that a unique collection had been uncovered in Dordrecht, a city not far from Rotterdam. Not exactly the epicentre of classic cars, but ever since the world has taken notice of this spectacular find. Stashed away in an old disused church and two dusty but dry warehouses was a selection of cars from the very best manufacturers from around the globe, collected by one man over a period of roughly 40 years. But who was this man, and how did he end up collecting all this beautiful machinery virtually unnoticed? That remains somewhat of a mystery.
Mr Palmen & the origin of his collection
There is not much information known (or at least communicated) about Mr Ad Palmen other than the fact that he was very private and hardly showed his collection to anyone. He owned several businesses in the Dordrecht area, including a car dealership (which makes sense). Mr Palmen had no wife or kids, no heirs or anything and lived quite a reclusive life. Even neighbours to the church and warehouses didn’t suspect anything about what was hiding inside. We don’t know what he did exactly, how he sourced the cars and why he bought each specific model, etc. He must have been very fortunate because if you break down buying over 230 vehicles during a 40-year period that’s an average of about 6 vehicles per year, or one every two to three months! And sure, buying a Lancia Aurelia B20 four decades years ago was probably a bit easier and less expensive than it is now, but still! One new car added to the collection every other month is just staggering and requires some serious funds!
Budget aside, it takes true dedication to collect this many cars and virtually fly under the radar for so long. It all started with the aforementioned Lancia Aurelia B20, and just going through the list shows a deep love for cars from all corners of the world. Mr Palmen collected cars from the most prestigious brands, alongside more unknown or even obscure ones, stowed away in a church and warehouses ever since the day they came in. He rarely sold anything and kept all the cars in working condition as best he could, turning over the engines regularly to prevent them from seizing up. The cars seem to be in quite an ok state overall, judging by the images, despite dust covering all of them. It is truly one of the best-kept secret car collections in Europe, if not the world!
Sadly, Mr Palmen has to part with his collection due to his age and various private circumstances but he has found great partners in Gallery Aaldering and Classic Car Auctions who will be handling the auction of all the vehicles. It’s very unlikely we will ever come across such a collection again, but at least we get to learn about these cars and admire them now the word is out.
An endless list of highlights
It’s impossible for us to cover all 230+ vehicles in detail, but there are some truly spectacular cars to be found when you browse the entire list. And on the other hand, to pick just two or three would do an injustice to the rest, and the collection in its entirety. The collection is also so vast, and so widespread in terms of manufacturers, styles, build years and everything there’s something for everyone. From nimble little roadsters like a Lancia Fulvia Zagato Sport 1.3 to a grand touring sports car like the Jaguar E-Type or a big, flashy Lincoln Continental Coupe MK2.
If I were to personally select some of the most intriguing cars in the entire collection though, it would come down to the Ferrari 365 GT 2+2, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale, the Chevrolet Corvette C1 283, the Citroën SM, the Jaguar E-Type… and I could go on and on. There are multiple Facel Vega’s for instance, some classic American muscle cars, and several Zagato-bodied sports cars. All very special cars, and it’s impossible to narrow the collection down to just two or three, really.
So what car is that extra bit special compared to the others? Well, considering the fact I am not the biggest expert on classic cars when it comes to value, rarity, or provenance, I couldn’t tell you. I know a fair bit about a lot of cars but expert knowledge is found with people like Nico and Nick Aaldering. Standout models are considered to be the Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider America, the Alfa Romeo 2600SZ and the Mercedes-Benz 300S Roadster. To give an indication of what some of these cars are worth, Bonhams auctioned a similar unrestored Mercedes-Benz 300S Roadster last year for close to half a million USD. Cars like the Talbot Lago Record T26, of which Mr Palmen owned three (one Coupe and two Berline’s) or the Delahaye 135M Convertible could else fetch a surprisingly high hammer-price.
Gallery aaldering & Classic Car Auctions
Curating this amazing collection of vehicles is Gallery Aaldering, a classic car specialist dealer located in Brummen, the Netherlands. Gallery Aaldering is run by Nico Aaldering and his son Nick, and is an authority on the topic, at least in the Netherlands. This family-owned company has been in business since 1975 and is fueled by a deep-rooted passion for anything with four wheels and an engine. At any given moment you can find a selection of cars at The Gallery from brands like Ferrari, Jaguar, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and others. Spending time there is a must for any car guy, as it’s open to the public and you’re welcomed with open arms. The entire place is very accessible, so you can get up close and personal with some of the finest cars imaginable.
Classic Car Auctions is the second party involved with the Palmen Collection. Handling such a large amount of special cars is far from easy and even a specialist like Gallery Aaldering needs help with that. Hence, the joint partnership with Classic Car Auctions! This company is based in the Netherlands as well and specialises in organizing monthly auctions with classic cars and youngtimers (you wouldn’t have guessed it!). Classic Car Auctions is hosting viewing days on the 27th, 28th and 29th of May so anyone who’s interested to see the collection, perhaps picking out what to bid on in person, is welcome to visit! The auction itself is running from May 19th until June 7th.
Editorial note: The images in this article are provided by and used with permission of Classic Car Auctions.