A Brief History of Bugatti
It’s no surprise that Bugatti is one of the most expensive car brands on the planet, with their latest Veyron models coming in at a hefty $1.5 million. Bugatti has always built their brand around being the most prestigious, but most importantly the fastest cars on the market. The Veyron manages an impressive top speed of 252 mph, making it the fastest production car in the world by a distance.
Attention to detail, craftsmanship and elegance appears to be in the company’s DNA, but founder Ettore Bugatti always had a passion for speed and many of the old classics were used precisely for that; in high profile racing events.
Founded in 1909, Bugatti soon became a world renowned aspirational luxury car brand, however it wasn’t until the 1930’s that the golden years for the brand really set in. All five of the most expensive Bugattis to sell at auction came from this innovative era. Initially, Ettore Bugatti designed and approved his fleet of cars; however, his son Jean proved to be extremely talented in the automotive design field, and some of his eccentric designs (which his Father thought would be too outlandish and attempted to discourage) proved to become timeless classics, with a few of them featuring in the prestigious top five list.
A car that Gooding & Co. describes as ‘one of the most radically beautiful automobiles ever constructed’ seems fitting when you look at the sleek design and elegance; then bear in mind that this car was designed and manufactured 80 years ago, and you really start to appreciate its beauty. The model is arguably the most original type 57SC on the planet, and notably, Ettore Bugatti’s son Jean came up with the design that featured many new innovations such as the split front axle instead of the original solid front axle, which Ettore thought was too outlandish and attempted to get his son to abandon the idea. The car went on to be a timeless masterpiece and the price reflects this, selling at Gooding & Co.’s Pebble Beach auction in 2008 for $7,920,000.
This Bugatti has been kept in immaculate condition, considering it is 81 years old (at the time of writing). It has never been restored and retains its original chassis, body, engine and gearbox making the type 57S highly original. The rarity of this model is also unquestionable, being one of just 42 type 57S chassis produced and on of four built by Vanvooren, of which only three remain extant. The 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Cabriolet sold at RM Sotheby’s legendary Amelia Island auction for $7,700,000.
This car is almost reminiscent of the Batmobile, with its sleek low design, and jet black paintwork, it is easy to see why this would be a classic collectors dream car. The car, again was designed by Bugatti founder Ettore’s son Jean. It comes in extremely authentic condition, and given that this is one of only 17 Atlante’s ever made and the fact that it retains its original chassis, engine and coachwork; this makes this car even more rare and desirable. The Atlante is a highly-decorated car, awarded first in class and the French Cup at Pebble Beach, with its illustrious life documented by famous Bugatti historian Julius Kruta. The Bugatti sold at Gooding & Co. Pebble Beach Auction 2013 for $8,745,000.
The Sports Tourer needs no introduction, being one of the most iconic Bugattis, with the shape and design at the forefront, particularly to a car collector of what makes a great classic Bugatti. The design of the car was a major innovation for Bugatti at the time, with the rear axle passing through the rear frame, rather than riding under it in previous models, hence giving the car a lower look. Described by Bonhams as the ‘ultimate pre-war supercar’, fashion icon Ralph Lauren obviously shares the same notion about the car, as he has two of them in his garage. The car has a ‘virtually unbroken chain’ of owners since it left the production garage and is in remarkable authentic condition. The 57SC sold at Bonhams’ Amelia Island Auction in 2016 for a cool $9,735,000.
Described by Gooding & Co. as ‘arguably the finest Type 55 Jean Bugatti roadster around’, the highly-coveted super car is famously a road-going version of the type 51 Grand Prix racing car. Although the car was built for road and not the track, the Bugatti entered in the famous Mille Miglia race in Italy on its first year of production under Jean Bugatti. However, the car, for whatever reason did not finish. Since then the Bugatti has passed through many different hands, both in mainland Europe and the U.S. with exacting restoration completed on the type 55 in 2013 by Marque Authority Laurent Rondoni. The car eventually sold for a staggering $10,400,000 and would be the main talking point of the Gooding & Co. Pebble Beach Auction 2016.