Name: 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante
Year(s) Produced: 1936-138
Number Built: 17
Class: Grand tourer
Body Type: 2-door coupe
Engine: 3,257 cc DOHC Inline 8
Power: 210hp @ 5500 RPM
0-60mph: 10 seconds
Top Speed: 130.5 mph
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Length/width/height: 181.1 in. /69.3 in. / 54.3 in.
Wheelbase: 117.3 in.
Base Price: (?)
Highest Auctioned Price: US$5.7 million (1987)
Dr. Harold Carr of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK was known throughout the latter part of his life as an eccentric and reclusive hoarder of things. He suffered from a form of obsessive compulsive disorder and hoarded everything in the house he refused to leave. When Dr. Carr, a former army orthopaedic surgeon and keen flier died in June 2007, and with no children to inherit his properties, his close relatives faced the formidable task of sorting things in his home.
As his nephew recalls, he remembers seeing files of documents piled as high as 6 feet, including non-significant pencil receipts bought in the 1950s, 1,500 beer steins, an assortment of medical machinery, and even a World War Two spy drone. ‘Since he died, it has taken me 18 months to get where I am today,’ the nephew said, an engineer from Gosforth, Newcastle who wishes to stay anonymous.
But all the effort as it seems finally paid off when they opened the door of his garage for the first time after more than 50 years. What they found inside their uncle’s unassuming garage was truly remarkable. Inside was an ultra rare, 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante – one of the 17 that was ever made. The momentous vehicle still has almost 100% of its original parts, with an astonishingly low mileage of 26,284 miles in its odometer. It still retains its original chassis, engine, drivetrain and body. Other than the Bugatti Dr. Carr’s nephew also found a classic Aston Martin, and a Jaguar E-Type though the later was in such poor condition that it had to be junked eventually. “We just can’t believe it. Of course we’re delighted with it and we’re going to make sure the money is shared out among the family. It’s a wonderful thing to leave.” The relatives have decided to put it on auction, where Bonhams sold it in Paris the following month.
With an extensive file of correspondence documenting its history, the car’s providence is as impressive as its rarity. The Atalante was ordered new from Bugatti by the 5th Earl Howe and first president of the British Racing Driver’s Club, Francis Curzon. Curzon was hailed as the champion in the 1931 Le Mans 24 hour endurance race. After eight years in his possession, Curzon sold the vehicle and it was since then passed on to several owners before Dr. Carr eventually bought it from Lord Ridley of the Northumberland party in 1955. Back then, the doctor bought the Bugatti for £895 – roughly equivalent to £15,500 today. He drove the car for several years, but in 1960 it was parked in his garage where it remained until his death.
The 1937 Bugatti is highly coveted by collectors as only 17 were ever made and at least four of those are thought to belong to the Musee Nationale de L’Automobile in Mulhouse, France. Others remain in the hands of private collectors.
James Knight, international head of the Bonhams motoring department, commented that Dr Carr’s Bugatti was ‘one of the last great barn discoveries’. He added: ‘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 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.’
Dr. Carr’s Bugatti was eventually sold to an anonymous European collector who placed his final bid of £3,043,293 (US$4,334,866) via a telephone call at Bonhams’ Retromobile car show in Paris, on February 7, 2009. The highest auction record for a similar Bugatti as of to date was paid in 1987, with a price tag of £4.7 million (US$5.7 million). Watch this video to know more about this Bugatti’s providence.