Beautiful Bugattis star in Paris auction

01st February 2022
Bob Murray

Paris in the (almost) springtime, and what better than to fall in love with the classic car of your dreams? Here are six million-pound ways you can drive off into the sunset with your heart’s desire, all set to cross the block at Bonhams’ Les Grandes Marques du Monde à Paris sale which kicks off in the French capital on Thursday (3 February). 


1938 Bugatti Type 57C Special, £1.3-1.6m

Meet the ultimate repmobile. When you are Bugatti and have need of a works car for employees to use you don’t just have any old car as a factory hack. No, you have a Type 57C, and a pretty special one at that. 

This light green and black two-door coupe was a “usine” (factory) car for 21 years from 1938, driven around France by the company’s sales reps who demonstrated the supercar of its day to the rich and famous. It was also regularly driven by the managing director, by factory racing drivers including Jean-Pierre Wimille – and most significantly by Ettore Bugatti. It is said no Bugatti is more closely identified with Le Patron than this Type 57C Special coupé.

The T57 was the first Bugatti built under the direction of Jean Bugatti and it incorporated many new features, such as its dual overhead camshaft eight-cylinder engine with the transmission bolted to the engine crankcase. 

Then there was its stylish coachwork, unusually not the work of Jean Bugatti but of Joseph Walter, a Bugatti draftsman, and with its glass roof, sloping rear deck, teardrop wings and plain sides without running boards it was, and still is, a beauty. With a supercharged 160PS (119kW) it was fast with it. 

A million (or two) should secure it but be warned: in the past, it has been sold with the caveat: "Price alone will not buy the car.... You must qualify also as to your attitude toward it".


1931 Invicta 4½-litre S-type, £920k-1.17m

For many, the 4½-litre S-type Invicta is not just the best looking vintage sports car but the best to drive, too. The reason for both is simple: unlike other cars of its time, it boasts a dramatically lower chassis. Its stance really does come across as very modern for something built 80 years ago, with a centre of gravity that must be a foot lower than a Bentley of the period. The Invicta looks like it will handle well.

The low-slung sportster, here with coachwork by Carbodies, combines its underslung chassis and torque-rich 4½-litre six-cylinder Meadows engine to good effect. The car was acclaimed in period for the relaxed, flexible performance of an American car but with European-standard performance and roadholding. It all made for not just a fast road car but a winner in hillclimbs and rallies.

This example is from two years before Invicta went bust, after around 1000 cars in total were made. Bonhams says this S-type, like other Invictas, is about as indestructible in normal use as a car can be. And, here’s a nice touch, it has a name, in Invicta tradition. This one’s called Sentinel.


1964 Porsche 904 GTS, £1.09-1.25m

This light green 904 was Hollywood superstar Robert Redford’s car. The “Sundance Kid” bought it in 1966 and enjoyed it on the roads of Southern California for most of the following decade.

After Redford’s time with the drop-dead gorgeous little mid-engined machine it went to owners who revived its competition career, living up to the 904’s giant-killing reputation forged in road races like the Targa Florio. You didn’t need a massive engine when you had a five-speed transaxle, independent suspension and disc brakes all round, plus a stiff Lotus Elite-style structure with a lightweight fibreglass body. 

The 904 started out with a flat-four engine but Porsche designed the engine bay to be wide enough for four, six and even the F1-derived flat eight. This car, like most 904s, started out with the four but since the early 1990s has had a 2.0-litre SOHC flat-six from the 911 installed, as Porsche did in period. Power is said to be 175PS (130kW) in race trim. 

This is the second of the 100 cars that had to be made for private customers to homologate the 904 for racing. And it’s the only one owned by Robert Redford...


1996 Bugatti EB110, £920k-1.09m 

In a time after Ettore and Jean Bugatti but before the Volkswagen Group there was a chap called Romano Artioli. The Italian businessman had a dream to resurrect the legendary marque with a modern supercar so he bought the brand and set up shop in Modena. Launched in 1992 to mark 110 years since the birth of Ettore Bugatti, the EB110 was the first new Bugatti since the 1950s – and one that in the 30 years since has only seen its stock rise.

Designed by Lambo Countach creators engineer Paolo Stanzani and stylist Marcello Gandini, the EB110 boasted astonishing numbers for its time: 12 cylinders, 60 valves, four turbochargers, six gears and four-wheel drive. The 561PS (418kW) engine delivered a top speed of 212mph, enough at the time for it to be in with a shout of world’s fastest car. 

This bright Bugatti blue example is one of 95 production EB110 GTs made (there were also another 30 Super Sports), and has been driven just 10,200km. 


1934 Mercedes-Benz 380K Cabriolet A, £1-1.36m

Lovers of imposing German style and impeccable engineering will likely go weak at the knees at the sight of this rarity from the three-pointed star’s between-the-wars back catalogue. 

The 380 was unveiled at the Berlin motor show in 1933 as a state-of-the-art machine for the cognoscenti. The top people’s Merc boasted grand style and advanced features like independent suspension (wishbones and coil springs at the front) and four-wheel hydraulic brakes – all a revelation in a world still dominated by beam axles and cart springs. 

That K in its name is important: then, as now, it stands for Kompressor (supercharger) and its addition sees the 380’s straight-eight 3.8-litre engine develop up to 138PS (103kW). 

Only 157 examples of the supercharged Mercedes-Benz 380K were made between 1933 and 1935, when it ended production, and of those only 16 were the Cabriolet A model – so this is a rare car as well as a formidable one.


1904 Pipe Serie E 15CV, £167K-250K

And now for something completely different…and it comes with a fair chunk of change from your million pounds. It’s a Belgian Pipe, astonishingly bought new by the great-grandfather of the person selling it – that’s one family ownership for 118 years – and said by Bonhams to be “an utterly remarkable, unspoilt and totally intact.”

It might look like an accident between a bathtub and a greenhouse but for its day Pipe was known for some pretty racy machines. Pipe cars used to compete in the Circuit des Ardennes. The four/five-seat rear-entrance tonneau is powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, driving through a four-speed gearbox to the back wheels by chain drive. 

Fast it’s not though, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the plush fittings, roll-up sides and individual leather bucket seats of this extraordinarily authentic slice of motoring from the dawn of automotive time. As Bonhams says, it’s a once-in-a-century opportunity…

  • Bonhams

  • Bugatti

  • EB110

  • Type 57

  • Invicta

  • Porsche

  • 904

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