6 classic Bugattis expecting big bucks at the 2020 Amelia auctions
If you’re a fan of the marque that best encapsulated the combination of art and engineering in its automobiles during the 1920s and ’30s, the Amelia Island Concours is a great place to see Bugattis of that era. Perhaps reflecting the scarcity of those cars from Molsheim, however, the auctions held in conjunction with the concours often have but one example on offer—or none.
This year marks a change, however, as six classic Bugattis are crossing the block. (You can even bid on Ettore Bugatti’s personal pasta machine.) Enjoy this plethora of Bugattis heading to Amelia Island for auction—such a fountain of pre-war French delights doesn’t come together often.
Bonhams estimate: $330,000–$360,000
In between the zenith of the Type 55 and the origins of the Type 30 are cars like the 1928 Bugatti Type 44 Cabriolet (#44857), featured at Bonhams. With the Type 44, Bugatti kept to the signature straight-eight configuration but upped the displacement to 3.0 liters and left off the supercharger. Featuring a more reliable engine design using nine plain bearings, the Type 44 was one of the more popular models, with close to 1100 built. However, only 10 percent of those are thought to survive.
Chassis #44857 was also owned by Dean Edmonds, but he acquired this car in 2006 (also at Amelia Island, 20 years after the 55.) Sporting a yellow-with-black-fenders paint combination that also appears on the Type 30 above, these come to auction only once every other year, or so.
RM Sotheby’s estimate: $350,000–$400,000
Next up in this basket of Bugattis is a 1927 Bugatti Type 38A Grand Sport (#38470), one of only 39 examples built. The model features a 2.0-liter straight-eight engine that was rated at 100 hp. Using an engine derived from Bugatti’s all-conquering Type 35 racer, the model took that race-track glamour to the road.
Chassis #38470 was fitted with a replacement engine before the 1960s, and the car now carries a reproduction supercharger—however, a period-correct item is available. Despite the roller-bearing crankshaft, the car is set up for driving events and would likely make for a suitable entry for many tours.
Bonhams estimate: $400,000–$500,000
Fortunately, Bugatti made a range of cars representative of the marque’s best characteristics, and not all of them are millions of dollars. Along with the two previous entries, that includes this 1925 Bugatti Type 30 Sports Tourer (#4725). While the Type 30’s 2.0-liter un-supercharged engine is rated at just 100 hp, the model has the distinction of being the first Bugatti with a straight-eight.
Even though approximately 600 Type 30s were built, chassis #4725 is one of only 50 or so known survivors. The first owner kept the car for 35 years, at which point it received a replacement Type 30 engine. As with the Type 55, owners of Type 30s tend to hang onto them, as the model typically only appears at auction every other year. It might be another year or two before another chance to acquire one arises.
RM Sotheby’s estimate: $800,000–$950,000
The 1939 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio by Gangloff (#57834) features the popular Type 57 configuration but in supercharged ‘C’ form. The engine was rated at 160 hp, an increase of 25 over the standard specification.
Chassis #57834 also boasts hydraulic brakes and telescoping shock absorbers. With known history from new, the car has always been well-maintained and is described as retaining its original interior.
RM Sotheby’s estimate: $1.5M–$2M
The 1938 Bugatti Type 57 Cabriolet by D’Ieteren (#57589) is perhaps Bugatti’s most developed road car of the period. The straight-eight engine was now 3257 cc, but with dual overhead cams, it produced approximately 135 hp in un-supercharged form. While approximately 630 Type 57s were built, less than 20 were built with the two-(sometimes two+one) seat Aravis-style cabriolet.
Chassis 57589 is the only Type 57 built by Belgian coachbuilder D’Ieteren in this style. Doted on by several Bugatti collectors in its life, including painter André Derain, the car has made appearances at many of the top concours around the world. Unlike some of Bugattis models, Type 57s do come to auction with relative regularity—about twice a year. However, few are as desirable as a three-seat Aravis-style cabriolet such as #57589.
Bonhams estimate: $6.5M–$9.5M
Bonhams has one of the rarest and most desirable Bugattis ever constructed at its March 5 auction, a 1932 Bugatti Type 55 Super Sport Roadster (serial #55220). Considering a new Bugatti Chiron with nearly 1500 hp costs $3M, what makes a car that’s 88 years older worth two to three times more? Rarity and style. The 2.3-liter supercharged eight-cylinder produces between 160–180 hp, but Bugatti only made 14 examples with a roadster body designed by Ettore’s son Jean, of which only 11 still have their original body.
Such is the desirability of the Type 55 Super Sport Roadster that Bugatti patron Victor Rothschild took delivery of the car at the age of 22. With a known history since, including an owner inspired to make possibly the most meticulous logbook ever, the car was acquired by its most recent owner, the equally devoted college professor Dean Edmonds, at auction in 1986. The opportunity to acquire such a desirable machine doesn’t come along often or cheaply.