1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Mille Miglia

This was the first of four Alfa Romeos designed by coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring to compete in the 1938 Mille Miglia. Powered by a twin-cam, supercharged straight-eight engine, it was capable of almost 120 mph, with a rear-mounted 4-speed transaxle and hydraulic brakes. Driven by Carlo Pintacuda and Paride Mambelli (who won in 1937), this car finished 2nd in 1938, behind a similar Alfa driven by Clemente Biondetti with mecahnic Aldo Stefani. Biondetti would win three straight Mille Miglias after WWII. (June 8, 2011)

You're an internationally known fashion designer and you have one of the best classic sports car collections in the world, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. You're thinking of putting on a show … where would you go?

It's a short list, but since fashion is a key factor, how about Paris? Better yet, how about the Louvre? This summer, that's what Ralph Lauren is doing. He sent 17 of his classic sports cars to an equally elegant setting. "The Art of the Automobile: Masterpieces from the Ralph Lauren Collection" is on display through Aug. 28 at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs (ralphlaurencarcollection.co.uk).

With a Bugatti Atlantic coupe to greet visitors at the entrance, attendees climb a massive marble staircase to three rooms where the other cars are displayed below vintage films of them racing when they were new.

Visitors can also hear the sound of each car being driven at Lime Rock racetrack in Connecticut. "Like chamber music," said Rapetti.

The rare sports cars range from Alfa Romeo to Porsche and they date from 1929-96.

Ralph Lauren's cars were restored by 25 craftsmen at Paul Russell & Co. in Essex, Mass. Longtime sales manager Alex Finigan brings a unique perspective to the collection, as he's driven almost all of Lauren's cars and the iconic Count Trossi Mercedes-Benz has been parked outside his showroom office for 10 years.

Finigan estimates the value of the 17 cars in the Ralph Lauren exhibit at "around $200 million, though the Bugatti Atlantic is the wild card. If it ever comes up for sale, it could bring $30 million-$50 million," he said.

Here's a rundown on the magnificent cars and observations from Finigan in italics.

1929 Bentley Le Mans 4½-liter 'Blower'

This was the car W.O. Bentley never wanted to build. He always said "there's no replacement for displacement" and had the 6-cylinder Speed Six ready to go in 1928. But Sir Henry "Tim" Birkin, one of the Bentley Boys racers, convinced the company to build 55 supercharged 4½ -liter cars. They were never successful on the track, but today blowers can bring from $1.5 million to $4.5 million at auction. This is Birkin's own car, which ran at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1930, '32 and '33.

"It's staggering. Like looking at a freight train. It's hard to imagine driving it flat out," Finigan said. "Birkin's son and grandson were at the opening. The family hasn't owned the car for years but they loved seeing the car that grandfather raced."

1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK 'Count Trossi'

After a stormy start, when this SSK was sent to Japan in 1928 and — unsold — sent back, it was bought by racecar driver Count Carlo Trossi. As legend has it, Trossi sketched this body on a cocktail napkin, and English coachbuilder Willy White built it. With a thundering, 7-liter supercharged 6-cylinder engine and outside pipes, it defines a generation.

"This car's got this roar, this exhaust note that's second to none. It must have seemed like a spaceship in Milan in 1930, where there were still donkey carts. One seat, no luggage, one purpose."

1931 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza

One of the top must-have pre-war Alfa Romeo racers, this 2.3-liter, supercharged 8-cylinder dominated European tracks in the early 1930s. Fenders and headlights were added for road races. This factory-entered racer was driven by Jean Pierre Wimille at Pau Grand Prix and Monaco in 1933 and by Giovanni Battaglia in the Targa Florio in 1934.

"This is a fantastic car with just the right amount of patina. In its time, there was nothing faster or more advanced — it was the equivalent of a McLaren F1."

1933 Bugatti Type 59 Grand Prix

Touted as the most beautiful race car of its time, only eight Type 59s were built. It was powered by a 3.3-liter, 250-horsepower, twin-cam straight-eight engine and rode on complicated Bugatti-developed spoked wheels. This car raced in the Belgian and Spanish Grand Prix in 1933, at Monaco and Monthlery in 1934, and was driven by Achille Varzi, Tazio Nuvolari and Robert Benoist.