Prewar Bugattis are among the world’s most coveted cars, so it is no wonder a recent uncovering of three of them in a Belgian barn has been described as “magical.”
Matthieu Lamoure, a specialist at auction house Artcurial, discovered the cars – a 1937 Bugatti Type 57 Cabriolet, a 1932 Bugatti Type 49 Saloon, and a 1929 Bugatti Type 40 (as well as a 1925 Citroën 5HP Cabriolet) – in 2018 after being contacted by the family of the late Dutch-born artist August Thomassen, who collected the cars during his lifetime.
“Clearly, this is the stuff of dreams and as it’s a Bugatti, it’s even more magical,” Lamoure said in a video about the cars, which he said had been stored away, untouched, in the barn since the late 1950s. In order for his team to get to the vehicles, around 200 sandbags had to be removed from the entrance of the garage.
Thomassen, whose bust of Bugatti founder and designer Ettore Bugatti now resides in the National Automobile Museum in Mulhouse, France, was more interested in the aesthetic beauty of the cars rather than the urge to drive them, the auction house said in a statement. So the vehicles remain in relatively unused condition, aside from some deterioration gained through time.
Come Friday, the cars will go under the hammer in the Retromobile 2019 collector’s car sale in Paris.
According to Artcurial, the midnight blue convertible Type 57 Cabriolet started its life in January 1937, and is estimated to sell for between 400,000 and 600,000 euros ($457,000 - $685,000). It has had three owners, and retains its original engine, gearbox and axle.
The yellow and black 1923 Type 49 Saloon is slated to sell for between 150,000 and 200,000 euros ($171,000-$228,000). It was a 1932 Paris Motor Show demonstration car and has an “impressive state of preservation,” according to the auction house.
The 1929 Bugatti Type 40’s coachwork was removed by Thomassen so that he could “build a small four-seater torpedo body, a Grand Sport model. This remains unfinished to this day,” Artcurial said. In spite of that, the car is estimated to go for 100,000 or 130,000 euros ($114,000-$148,000).
Prewar Bugattis are among the most prestigious cars available, Stephen Gentry, a Bugatti restoration specialist, told CNN.
The company was originally founded by Italian-born Ettore Bugatti in Molsheim, Alsace, in 1909 and had many years of racing success in the 1920s and ’30s. It also built extremely expensive road-going cars for wealthy clients.
“The brand was bought out by several companies and people after the war, and new models were not designed by Bugatti and his son – so the prewar cars are the originals,” Gentry said.
However, Gentry said the barn Bugattis are not as “desirable” as other Bugatti models, pointing to “big saloon cars (and) touring cars, like the Type 57s,” which can sell for up to $40 million. But, he added, it will “be interesting to see how much they go for.”