It reads like a fairytale: a car collector dies, leaving the contents of his garage to his family.
It proves to contain a stunning original 1937 Bugatti Type 57S, first owned by an aristocrat and motor racing great, with two-seat Atalante coupé coachwork and an incredible provenance.
However, for someone the story will be a dream come true, as this very car is set to be sold by auctioneers Bonhams at the Retromobile classic car sale in Paris in February.
The car has a reserve price of â‚¬3 million, due to its low mileage and original condition, and is predicted by some experts to become the most expensive car ever sold, not least because it is extremely uncommon for a car of this type to come up for auction at all.
The T75S, chassis no. 57502, was completed at the Bugatti works on 5 May, 1937 and was ordered new by the British Racing Driver’s Club first President Earl Howe. According to Bonhams, Howe had developed a close friendship with Ettore and his son Jean, having raced their Grand Prix motor cars.
He took delivery of the car on June 9 1937 and kept it for more than eight years. He added a personal touch by fitting his own bumpers, rear-view mirrors on the A-pillars and a luggage rack, which it still retains.
He would have used it to travel to Brooklands and other race meetings – until the second world war when it would have seen relatively little use, due to the fact that its owner was serving with the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve.
In 1947 the T57S was sold via Continental Cars to a Mr J P Tingay. He fitted a Marshall K200 supercharger, as finding an original Bugatti blower proved close to impossible so soon after the war.
Mr M H Ferguson acquired the Bugatti from Tingay in 1950 and by 1954 it formed part of Lord Ridley’s collection. Dr Harold Carr then acquired it in 1955 from Lord Ridley.
Dr Carr drove the car for the first few years but in the early 1960s it was parked in his garage where it remained for nearly 50 years until his death in 2007.
The T57S is being sold on behalf of his family and will be offered with an extensive file of correspondence documenting its history.
James Knight, International Head of Bonhams’ motoring department said: “I have known of this Bugatti for a number of years and, like a select group of others, hadn’t dared divulge its whereabouts to anyone.
“It is absolutely one of the last great barn discoveries, and we at Bonhams are honoured to have been selected to handle its sale.
“The Atalante is incredibly original and, although she requires restoration, it is ‘restoration’ in the true sense of the word. From my perspective, save for some of the interior, all original parts can be restored or conserved in order to maintain originality.
“It offers a truly rewarding project to the new owner – who will join a select list of distinguished owners — to play such an integral part in bringing this wonderful motor car back to life. It has all the finest attributes any connoisseur collector could ever seek in one of the ultimate road-going sports cars from the golden era of the 1930s.”
The Retromobile auction is also currently set to include ‘Black Bess’ – a 1913 5-litre Bugatti Type 18 sports two-seater formerly owned by French aviation pioneer Roland Garros, and valued at â‚¬1.3-1.6 million, a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB valued at â‚¬1.6-1.8 million, and a 1955 Lancia Aurelia B24 Spyder valued at â‚¬325,000-385,000.
For more information on the sale, which takes place in Paris on February 7, click through to Bonhams’ site here.
For more information on the car, visit its Wikipedia entry here.