Miss out on one of the pre-war Bugattis that were sold in 2020? No need to panic, Bonhams has unearthed another one and it’s coming up for sale in February.
In the multi-million pound auction stakes, the past 12 months has seen a real Bugatti-fest with the French classics taking the top five spots for most valuable cars – together about £30m worth. Now after the Type 59, 57, 35 and brace of Type 55s comes the latest Bug to cross the block: a 1937 Type 57S.
Any 57S is rare and valuable: a 57S with Atalante coupe bodywork set the record for the model last year, selling in London for £7.85m, a million above its auction estimate. The car in the Bonhams sale is not an Atalante but an open grand tourer with custom-built four-seater sports body fashioned by the coachbuilders Corsica of London.
If the car is not familiar – and as the undoubted supercars of their day most 57s today are very well known from museums and collections – that’s because it has been off the road in a workshop since 1969.
The car was bought new by a shipping magnate in London who specified the special body. It is fitted atop what is believed to be one of only three lightweight chassis produced in 1936 for the grand prix-winning 57G Tank streamlined sports-racing cars, further enhancing this example’s credentials as the grand prix car for the road of its day.
The 57S was a true race car for the road. The S in its name signifies a lowered body while the 3,257cc twin-cam straight-eight engine came straight out of the GP racers. No surprise then the 57S was the fastest car of its day and favoured personal transport of top-tier racing drivers. After the shipping magnate this car was owned by Rodney Clarke, who founded the post-war Connaught grand prix team.
Engineer and Bugatti aficionado Bill Turnbull bought it in 1969 and in a workshop at his home in Staffordshire stripped it down to its components parts and began a restoration that would become his life’s work. At the time of his death the work was almost complete, the car now lacking only what Bonhams says is some final reassembly.
The auction house, which is selling the car at its new Legends of the Road sale in London on 19th February, adds that the car is exceptionally original and has been mechanically restored to exacting standards. One of only 42 Type 57Ss made, it is the first time it will be offered in a public auction. It is being sold at no reserve with a guide estimate of £5-7m.
“This could well be the last ‘hidden’ pre-war Bugatti of note,” Bonhams’ Sholto Gilbertson tells us. “It is an extraordinary example of one of the most valuable and desirable prewar motor cars – a true legend of the road.”