Beautiful Bugattis: 5 of the World's Most Valuable
Cars built during the first half of the 20th century by the French manufacturer Bugatti are amongst the most beautiful, rare and sought-after in automotive history. With just 7,000 cars built, many of which were utterly unique, these stunning designs can fetch huge sums today. Here are 5 of the most valuable to have crossed the auction block.
1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante
Bugatti built just 17 examples of the Type 57S Atalante, between 1936 and 1938, with every car featuring unique design elements to adding to the model's exclusivity.
This example was owned by Francis Richard Henry Penn Curzon, the 5th Earl Howe, a gentleman racer who won the Le Mans 24 hours race in 1931 and raced a Bugatti Type 54 during the 1932 Grand Prix season. In 1937 he took delivery of this 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante to be used as his personal road car, driving until the late 1940s, when it was sold on to another enthusiast.
Having passed through several further collections, the car then spent more than 50 years hidden away, partially dismantled, in a London garage until being rediscovered by his relatives in 2007. It sold at auction through Bonhams two years later, for a price of $4,408,575.
1931 Bugatti Royale Berline de Voyager
During the early 1930s, automotive designer Jean Bugatti conceived a car that would be produced exclusively for royalty – the Type 41 'La Royale'. It was one of the world's largest, most extravagant and expensive cars ever produced, but with The Great Depression biting hard they found the market for the cars was far from buoyant.
Having planned to produce 25 examples, the company ended up building just six or seven between 1929 and 1931, and just three were initially sold to customers.
This example was the second of those cars built, and was originally owned by Casino and restaurant owner Bill Harrah who built a collection of more than 1,400 classic vehicles during his lifetime. Following his death, the majority of cars from the collection were sold in a series of auctions. The Bugatti Royale Berline de Voyager was acquired by shopping centre magnate Jerry J. Moore, himself the owner of a $100 million car collection, who paid $6.5 million for it during a Kruse International auction in Reno in 1986.
1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante Coupe
This 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante Coupe was originally ordered Robert Eonnet, a French gentleman driver who was banned from racing Bugattis by his father, after he heard news of his son's secret Grand Prix victory on the radio. Having been upgraded to a coupe in the 1950s, the car was later shipped to the US by US Navy doctor Charles S. Hascall, who had it repainted in a Rolls-Royce colour scheme known as 'smoke and sage'.
It was then acquired by Dr. Peter & Susan Williamson, renowned collectors who assembled one of America's finest grouping of vintage Bugattis. Described as "one of the most radically beautiful automobiles ever constructed", the car later sold at Gooding & Company's 2008 Pebble Beach sale for $7,920,000, with proceeds benefiting the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante
Bugatti produced just 17 examples of the Type 57S Atalante, and just two supercharged Type 57SC cars. However, most owners of the 57S were keen to add the extra power, and the majority of cars were returned to the factory in Molsheim for an upgrade.
This example was one of those cars, supercharged at a later date, and it made an appearance at the historic and prestigious inaugural International Bugatti Meeting in 1958. With an unbroken chain of provenance since new, the car also placed first in class at The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2011.
Described as "an undisputed masterpiece of automotive art", this car crossed the auction block in 2013 as part of Gooding & Company's Pebble Beach auction, where it sold for $8,745,000.
1931 Bugatti Royale Kellner Coupe
Here's another of the legendary Bugatti Royales, designed by Jean Bugatti as the world's most exclusive car during the worst economic depression the world had seen. Originally designed for sale to European royalty, just three of the six cars built found buyers – Ettore although Bugatti allegedly refused to sell one to King Zog of Albania due to his poor table manners.
This particular car, the Kellner Coupe, was commissioned by Ettore Bugatti with coachwork by the Kellner Coachbuilding Company. It was exhibited at the 1932 Olympia Motor Show in London, but failed to find a buyer and remained with the Bugatti family until after WWII when it was purchased by the renowned collector Briggs Cunningham.
Having spent years on display at the Cunningham Museum in Costa Mesa, California, the car sold at Christie's in 1987 for $9,666,250 – setting a world record price for any car at auction.
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