One for the road

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This rare Bugatti should be driven, not stored away

We recently received an e-mail about a barn find near Sintra in Portugal. Apparently this has been circulating for a while, but the story went as follows… A New Yorker decided to leave the stresses of the city and buy some property in Portugal. He soon found what he was looking for in the shape of a small house in the country that was being sold, to pay for taxes, after an elderly couple had passed away without leaving an heir.

On the property there was a barn. Quite bizarrely no-one had thought to open the doors as they were welded shut and, with what can only be described as a typical Mediterranean laid-back attitude, the barn and its contents were included in the sale without further question. 

The contents? 180 cars that had been undisturbed for 15 years. Obviously, this all rang alarm bells. The rather dubious e-mail was the first we had heard of the find, and also, could anyone be so brain-dead as not to fully check the property before it was sold? Especially if jolly Mr Taxman was on the warpath? It turns out that the pictures whizzing around the Internet had been taken by Manuel Menezes Morais, a photographer who was commissioned by a car dealer to photograph the collection he had amassed over the years. It appears that he bought any cars he fancied, drove them home and then parked them up.

This is where so many people differ. Some buy an immaculate car and, after their wife has told them it can’t be mounted on the sitting room wall, put it in the garage and occasionally sit in it. Others buy a car solely on how much driving they can get out of it. Where is this going? Well, the 1932 Bugatti Type 55 that Bonhams is selling on May 10 is, for a car with such an illustrious history, very driveable – but does this mean the next owner won’t lock it up in a garage? With an estimate of £1.5-2 million, this particular example is one of fewer than 20 to be fitted with the Jean Bugatti-designed roadster coachwork and raced at Le Mans in 1935. French amateur racing driver Charles Brunet, who was also the original owner of chassis No 55208, was running fifth on lap 75, but in trying to avoid a collision with a car that had crashed, spun and retired from the race.  

The Type 55 was a member of the Bill Serri Collection before becoming part of the ‘Mas du Clos’ Collection in 2003, and has since been completely mechanically restored. It would be great to see this car on the road – it’s certainly more aesthetically pleasing than your average modern hatchback. But, then again, it is a little more expensive as well. 

The auction this car stars in is due to be held during the Monaco Historique weekend, when Coys and Bonhams go head to head with sales in Monte Carlo. If you’ve read the piece on RM Auctions on page 97, you’ll know how important this date is for the two British auction houses. RM has come to Europe and is ready to ruffle a few feathers. 

These stalwarts of the British auction scene have two stunning groups of cars lined up for their ‘Les Grandes Marques a Monaco’, and will no doubt produce some record-breaking results.  

The Coys auction includes an ex-Swiss GT Championship car – a 1959 Abarth 750 Bialbero (£47-71,000), a 1958 works Austin Healey that took part in the 1962 and ’65 Monte Carlo rallies (£140-160,000) and two unique Ferrari shooting brakes.

The Record Monza Abarth won the Swiss GT Championship in 1961, has an extensive racing history, is in good condition and ready for historical events. The Healey is the same car that Coys put up for auction in its True Greats sale earlier this year, and again has a full competition history. Don Grimshaw raced it in the Monte Carlo Rally in ’62 and ’65, and then went on to compete in the East African Safari Rally, the Spa-Sofia-Liège Rally and the Rally Geneva in ’65. The car is on the button and ready to compete.

The Ferrari shooting brakes include a Chinetti Ferrari Daytona from 1972 and the last Vignale-bodied Ferrari 330 GT which was built by the Italian marque for the 1968 Turin Motor Show and is, of course, the only one of its kind. 

The scene is set for Coys and Bonhams in the Principalité de Monaco on May 10. In the meantime, here’s hoping we hear more stories of interesting cars being brought back onto the road, rather than lost in the mists of time. Oh, we also hear that RM has “been in touch” with the mystery dealer in Portugal.

Around the dealers

Competition cars currently for sale here and abroad

1971 Porsche 914/6 GT Rally 

In 1969-70, Porsche’s racing department built 12 914/6 GT cars for factory entered-events, and of these, three were built for the Rally Monte Carlo. This particular example is the third car, which was assigned to Gerald Larrousse for the event. Having driven from Warsaw to earn extra points, Larrousse retired with a broken clutch lever. Later that year the car was raced by Vic Elford in the Targa Florio. It has been fully restored and is race ready. 

POA, www.janluehn.com, Tel: +32 2 53 94 620

1995 Simtek S951

Legends Automotive is offering for sale both Jos Verstappen and Domenico Schiattarella’s Simteks. The cars are described as being in great condition, and Schiattarella’s has done as few as eight test laps since an engine and gearbox rebuild. Both chassis come with a large spares package.

POA, www.legendsracing.co.uk, Tel: 01451 821611

1954 B Type Connaught B 

Chassis B2 was the Grand Prix works team car and was driven by Les Leston in the famous 1954 Syracuse GP. Also driven by Archie Scott Brown, the car is incredibly original and has competed in recent historic events such as the Goodwood Revival and Monaco Historique meetings.

POA, www.hallandbradfield.co.uk, Tel: 020 7589 8787

1988 Porsche 962

This example of Porsche’s famous racer, chassis No 962.C-02, started its extensive 1988 season with pole position at Daytona, finishing second overall. Sponsored by Miller beer – the livery it wears today – the car returned the following year to win in the hands of Andretti, Bell and Wollek.

POA, www.fiskens.com, Tel: 020 7584 3503