Changing of the guard on the charts of chrome jewels

In the first Corona year, the virus turned the work of most of the large classic car auction houses such as Bonhams, Gooding & Company or Sotheby’s on their head. In order to count double-digit million amounts for fine sheet metal, not even all the fingers of one hand were required. Has the money nobility suddenly discovered the virtue of thrift?

Or is it because most of the auctions without an audience were mostly online? RM Sotheby’s sold 4,188 vehicles and automotive devotional objects in 27 auctions, but 21 of these events took place virtually.

Only once, namely on October 28, 2020, was the RM Sotheby’s auctioneer able to collect 14.84 million dollars (then 12.7 million euros) with a final hammer blow – but for three cars at once, a trio from Alfa Romeo BAT ( Berlina Aerodinamica Tecnica) offered concept cars. “Breathtaking aerodynamics studies by Bertone designer Franco Scaglione based on the Alfa Romeo 1900”, enthused the trade journal “Auto, Motor & Sport”. In second place in RM Sotheby’s success statistics was a 2001 Ferrari 550 GT1 Prodrive for a comparatively modest $ 4.29 million (EUR 3.61 million).

This time, for the usual suspects from Maranello (Ferrari), Indianapolis (Duesenberg) or Stuttgart (Mercedes-Benz), a place among the five most expensive chrome jewels in 2020 was nil. This time, the five shooting stars at the top all came from Molsheim in Alsace, France, and wore the Bugatti emblem on the hood. Despite the pandemic, historic Bugattis broke records at auction houses. Never before has a manufacturer occupied the top five places among the most expensive automobiles auctioned.

A Bugatti Type 59 Sports from 1934 changed hands at Gooding & Company in London in September for 12.68 million US dollars (10.83 million euros). This makes it one of the most expensive Bugattis to ever go under the hammer at a public auction. The Type 59 Sports was created as a racing car for the Bugatti Grand Prix works team and won the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa. The racing car later took third place at the Monaco Grand Prix.

After the successful racing season, Bugatti converted the Type 59 into a sports car. In 1937 King Leopold of Belgium bought the car. The vehicle is still in its unrestored original condition today. It is powered by an eight-cylinder in-line engine with a displacement of 3.3 liters and a compressor. The output was around 250 hp, other engine variants came up to 380 hp in the Type 59, which was built until 1936.

A Bugatti Type 57 S Atalante landed in second place in the charts. The buyer paid 10.44 million euros for the rare and desirable classic from 1937 at the Gooding & Company auction in London. It’s a special model: British racing driver and Bugatti enthusiast Earl Howe bought it in 1937. It is one of only 17 vehicles that Jean Bugatti equipped with his Atalante body. A turbocharged 3.3 liter eight-cylinder, which in the Type 57 S has an output of up to 175 hp, serves as the drive.

Third on the podium went to a 1932 Bugatti Type 55 Super Sport Roadster, which fetched $ 7.1 million (EUR 6.46 million) at the Bonhams Amelia Island auction in March 2020. Bugatti produced a total of only 38 chassis of this type by 1935. Eleven of the 14 roadster bodies built by Jean Bugatti still exist today. Victor Rothschild, who later became the third Baron Rothschild, bought the car as a new car and kept it in his collection for many decades. In 1985 the Boston professor Dean S. Edmonds Jr. bought this Bugatti for 440,000 British pounds (approx. 402,600 euros). At the time, it was the most expensive automobile ever sold in Great Britain. In Edmond’s possession, the Bugatti was restored and won first place in its class at Pebble Beach in 1993.

At an auction in London at Gooding & Company, a hammer price of 5.23 million dollars (4.45 million euros) fell on a Bugatti Type 35 C Grand Prix from 1928, which banausers would call a rust bower. This vehicle was originally designed for the Targa Florio in 1928. The first private owner, Jannine Jennky, a French racing driver, achieved overall victory in the first Coupe de Bourgogne in Dijon. After 1932, the vehicle, which is now over 90 years old, only passed through four hands. It is in unrestored original condition. Bugatti produced the 35 C until 1930, powered by an eight-cylinder in-line engine with a displacement of two liters. With the help of a Roots compressor, the engine develops 125 hp, which made a top speed of over 200 km / h possible over 90 years ago.

A Bugatti enthusiast paid 5.07 million dollars (4.6 million euros) for a Type 55 from 1931 in Paris last February. This made the vehicle the most expensive car that was sold at one of the Rétromobile 2020 auctions. Louis Chiron and Count Guy Bouriat-Quintart as co-drivers drove this works racing car at the 1932 Le Mans 24 Hours. The later owner had a unique Figoni body built around the chassis. With this body, the Type 55 remained in family ownership for over 60 years. Its turbocharged 2.3-liter eight-cylinder has an output of around 160 hp.

Bugatti hopes that the streak of luck will continue, because the next classic car is already in the starting blocks. On February 19, a Bugatti Type 57 from 1937 is to be auctioned at Bonhams in London. The auctioneer hopes to raise up to eight million euros. (ampnet / hrr)

Janelle B. Smith

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