Bugatti Type 57S Atalante (57502)

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1937 Bugatti Type 57S number 57502 pictured in the garage where it was discovered (undated photograph released by Bonhams)[1]

The Bugatti Type 57S Atalante number 57502 is one of a batch of rare French sports coupes built in 1937 by the Bugatti company, a version of the Bugatti Type 57. Of the 710 Type 57 cars built, only 43 were Type 57S and only 17 of those were produced with the in-house Bugatti Atalante coupe coachwork (not to be confused with the Type 57 Atlantic body).

The car with chassis number 57502 (registration EWS 73, ex-DYK 5, ex-works-1127-W5)[2][3] was rediscovered in 2008 having been stored in a private owner's garage in Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, for 48 years, with few people aware of its location. Described as "one of the last great barn discoveries" by classic car experts, it was sold at auction by Bonhams on 7 February 2009. Set at a reserve price of £3 million, due to its low mileage and original condition, it was speculated that it could become the most expensive car ever sold at auction, at around £6 million.[4] These hopes were dashed, however, as it reached £2,989,495 (US$4,408,575).

The car was bought originally by the 5th Earl Howe in 1937 who owned it for eight years. It passed to three intermediate owners before being bought in 1955 by Harold Carr, from Newcastle upon Tyne.[4] He drove it for a few years, then locked it in his garage in 1960, where it was discovered by his family after his death in 2007.

Specification[edit]

Chassis number 57502 was completed at the Bugatti works on 5 May 1937, wearing the works number plate 1127-W5,[3] and then wore the British number plate DYK 5,[2] later being re-registered as EWS 73, the number which it wore on rediscovery. When discovered, 57502 still possessed its original chassis, engine, drive train and body. It had an odometer reading of 26,284 miles (42,300 km), described as "remarkably low". While mostly original, the car as found in 2008 did contain some modifications from the originals. Dating from bespoke modifications made by Earl Howe, the car possessed unique bumpers, rear-view mirrors on the A-pillars, and a luggage rack. In addition, due to the fitting of a Marshall K200 supercharger while it was owned by Mr J P Tingay, the car was with respect to engine power closer to the retrofitted super-charged types, (although the K200 is not the same supercharger used on the original C or SC models however).

According to James Knight of the Bugatti's future auctioneer Bonhams, the rediscovered Bugatti "is incredibly original and, although she requires restoration, it is "restoration" in the true sense of the word...save for some of the interior, all original parts can be restored or conserved in order to maintain originality".[5]

Ownership history[edit]

The car was ordered new from Bugatti by Francis Curzon (1884–1964), the 5th Earl Howe, a former Naval officer and British politician. He took delivery of it on 9 June 1937 from Sorel of London, the UK agents for Bugatti. Curzon was a keen motor racing enthusiast, racing several times in the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, winning the 1931 race, and the first president of the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC).

The Bugatti was then sold via Continental Cars to a Mr J P Tingay in 1947. A Mr M H Ferguson acquired the Bugatti from Tingay in 1950 and by 1954 it formed part of the collection of Lord Ridley of Northumberland.

In April 1955 Harold Carr paid Jack Barclays £895 for the car ($2,500 US), but drove it for only a few years. Dr Carr then stored the car in a lock up garage after its last tax disc expired in December 1960, where it remained unused and untouched.

Harold Carr[edit]

Harold "Harry" Carr was born in Newcastle in 1917, and died on 14 June 2007, aged 89.[6] Carr gained both medical and engineering degrees, and had worked both as an orthopaedic surgeon and an osteopath, and ran a family wholesalers business in Newcastle, JJ Macy's.[6] He was described as "generous", "eccentric" and a sort of "mad doctor" by his family. The life of Dr Carr was compared with that of eccentric American millionaire Howard Hughes, due to a passion for machinery, aviation and adventuring, and also due to suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which in later life turned him into a recluse.[6] The reasons for Carr storing the car unused for so long was attributed to a hoarding instinct which he had developed and had progressively worsened since the 1950s, due to his OCD.[6] In addition to the Bugatti, the hoarding had led to Carr collecting everything from receipts for pencils to 1,500 German beer steins.[6][7] His hoarding instinct also meant that the documentary history of the car had been preserved.

Rediscovery[edit]

The car had been stored in a garage in Gosforth.[1] In his later life, Carr's OCD had caused him to become a recluse. After his death, while clearing the garage of his uncle's possessions in 2008, the nephew discovered the Bugatti in the lock up garage, along with a "treasure trove" of cars including a classic Aston Martin and a Jaguar E-type. The Aston was sold while the Jaguar was scrapped due to its condition.[8] According to the nephew, notes found in the garage showed that some people had previously inquired about the car, and had even visited Mr Carr in attempts to buy it from him. According to James Knight of the car's future auctioneer Bonhams, had stated on its discovery, "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." Friends who knew Dr. Carr were reported to have stated that Carr would have known the true value of the car, and that he would never answer the door to collectors who called on him in person, and they would resort to writing offers on notes for neighbours to post through his letter box.[9]

Auction[edit]

Being unmarried and having no children, Carr left his possessions to his nieces and nephews. Other family members had been aware that Dr. Carr had possessed the Bugatti and other cars, but the true value of the car had remained unknown to them, coming as a surprise.

The Carr family instructed the auction house Bonhams to sell the car, with the proceeds to be shared between eight relatives who inherited his estate.[10] It was to form the centrepiece of their sale at the Rétromobile car show in Paris, and be sold on 7 February 2009.[11]

Analysts speculated that the car could sell as high as £6 million, which would have made it the most expensive car ever sold at auction. As of 2005 six of the most expensive cars sold for over £3 million, with the most expensive, a 1931 Bugatti Royale Kellner Coupe sold for £4.87 million in 1987, holding the record for the most expensive car sold at auction, adjusted for inflation.[7][12] While the car would attract global buyers, opinions were varied in November 2008 as to whether the classic car auction market had been affected by the 2008 recession affecting the United Kingdom economy.[13]

When it came to auction three months later the Carr Bugatti had a reserve price of £3 million, which it failed to meet, falling just short at £2,989,495 (3,417,500 euros, US$4,408,575).[14]

Since the discovery of 57502 other less desirable Type 57S Atalantes have been said to sell for millions in recent years. An Atalante which did not have its original chassis, but was built by combining an Atalante body on a Type 57C chassis, was sold at auction in 2007 for $852,500, from a top estimate of $400,000.[15]

References[edit]

General references
Inline citations
  1. ^ a b Katz, Associated Press, (image caption) In this undated image released by Bonhams, an extremely rare 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante, is seen in a garage in Gosforth, England, where it was revealed by relatives after the death of the owner
  2. ^ a b "Bugatti Trust Photo Archive Album 19 - Type 57S 118. Type 57S, Chassis # 57502, Reg. DYK 5, Atalante". The Bugatti Trust. 1938. Retrieved 1 January 2009. "Raymond Mays talking to Lord Howe. Donington Park 1938" 
  3. ^ a b "Bugatti Trust Photo Archive Album 19 - Type 57S 104. Type 57S, Chassis # 57502, Reg. 1127-W5, Atalante". The Bugatti Trust. Retrieved 1 January 2009. "T.57S Atalante with works registration number plate. Near the factory gates, Molsheim" 
  4. ^ a b BBC Online News, 1 Jan 2009
  5. ^ James Knight, Bonhams auction page
  6. ^ a b c d e Rob Pattinson (1 January 2009 regionwide edition). "The Wheels of Fortune (front page), Life of an adventurer (section, p5)" (newspaper). Evening Chronicle. p. 1,4,5. 
  7. ^ a b Rob Pattinson (1 January 2009 regionwide edition). "The Wheels of Fortune (front page), History of the well-kept car (section, p5)" (newspaper). Evening Chronicle. p. 1,4,5. Retrieved 1 January 2009. "Dr Carr's hoarding instinct meant the car has remained virtually untouched and unused since the early 1960s. The current record sale for a car at auction stands at £4.7m, for a 1931 Bugatti Royale Kellner Coupe, sold in 1987." 
  8. ^ Katz, Associated Press, He also left behind an Aston Martin, which was sold, and a Jaguar sports car that was scrapped because it was in such poor condition
  9. ^ BBC Look North Evening News 18.30GMT television bulletin
  10. ^ Katz, Associated Press, Knight and a small number of Bugatti enthusiasts knew of Carr's proudest possession, but not the eight relatives who inherited Carr's estate.
  11. ^ "Sale 17043 - Automobiles d'Exception à Retromobile, Paris, 7 Feb 2009 : Lot 142: 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante Coupé". Bonhams. 
  12. ^ "The world's 50 most expensive cars". MSN Cars). 5 August 2009. Retrieved 11 November 2009. 
  13. ^ Will Smale, Business reporter (4 November 2008). "Classic car sector hits bumpier road". BBC News online. Retrieved 1 January 2009. 
  14. ^ "Classic Bugatti makes 3.4m euros". BBC News online. 4 November 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2009. 
  15. ^ Christies, Exceptional Motor Cars, lot 39, "The 1938 Bugatti Type 57C offered here was originally bodied by Gangloff of Colmar with Stelvio cabriolet coachwork...it came into the hands of Ray Murray in the United States who already owned Bugatti Type 57 Atalante 57733...Murray then created this car's current configuration, installing the...Atalante coachwork on the supercharged Type 57C chassis to create the ultimate combination of Bugatti Grand Routier, a supercharged Atalante. Estimate $300000-$400000 Outcome SOLD Hammer Price $852500"

External links[edit]